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Ranking The 10 Most Untradeable NBA Contracts This Season

Ranking The 10 Most Untradeable NBA Contracts This Season

Poor business decisions are a fact of life. “Cats” the movie lost somewhere around $100 million, Navient is paying back $1.7 billion in student loan debt across America, and Mike Smith and Dick Rowe of Decca Records passed on the Beatles, losing more than $600 million in record sales.

The NBA is no exception. Many awful contracts are lurking throughout the association.

Some deals result from bad injury luck, while others are simply mind-boggling missteps. Either way, a lousy, high-priced contract can hamstring an organization for years, making roster building in free agency incredibly difficult.

Typically, when a management group misfires on a player’s agreement, they do their best to move on with a transaction, passing their mistake onto another team. Sometimes the contract is so bad, a deal is nearly impossible.

Below is our list of the most untradeable contracts in 2021-2022.


10. Davis Bertans

Davis Bertans Gets Roasted After Going For 0 Points, 0 Assists, 0 Steals, 0 Blocks And 6 Fouls In Game 2

Contract: $16M (2021-22), $16M (2022-23), $17M (2023-24), $16M (2024-25, $5M partial guarantee)

There should be a rule in basketball:

Don’t sign a role player to a massive contract who can’t perform the one job you’re paying him for.

The Washington Wizards signed Bertans to be their floor-spreading three-point specialist. This season he’s connecting on a below-average 33.8% from deep, and he’s playing only 15.7 minutes per game.

Davis Bertans doesn’t do much outside of launching long-range bombs.

He takes only 0.8 shots per game from inside the arc.

He averages 0.5 screen assists per contest.

He ranks second to last in defensive rating (112.5) on a Washington Wizards squad that is 23rd in the league in overall D.

He allows his assignments to shoot 8.7% better than their average field goal percentage.

This is only year two of Bertans massive five-year, $80 million deal, which must keep Washington management up at night scratching their heads wondering what happened to the Bertans who shot 42.4% from deep off 8.7 attempts per game in 2020.

We might never figure out why the Latvian power forward lost his outside touch, but we do know this contract will be nearly impossible to trade without attaching one or two sweeteners onto it.


9. Al Horford

Fantasy-basketball-30-Al-Horford-turns-back-the-clock

Contract: $27M (2021-22), $26.5M (2022-23, $14.5M partial guarantee)

Al Horford is a well-past-his-prime big man who’s being paid like a fringe All-Star to defend and spread the floor. Still, Horford hasn’t been awful this season. He’s surpassed his game total from last year, playing in 35 out of a possible 44 contests for the Boston Celtics, and he’s been a decent rim protector, helping guide Beantown to the sixth ranked defense in the league.

When you’re being paid just under $30 million, a salary that is nearly the same as Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and higher than Jarret Allen and Myles Turner’s, “not being awful” will not cut it.

Here are the numbers:

10.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.4 BPG, 28.1 3P%, 50.3 eFG%

Considering Al Horford’s age, recent injury history, and current production, nearly every GM in the league would hang up immediately if Celtics GM Brad Stevens called with a trade proposal for his starting center.


8. Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward

Contract: $29.9M (2021-22), $30.1M (2022-23), $31.5M (2023-24)

Gordon Hayward’s slash line isn’t bad. He’s averaging 17.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 39.2% from beyond the arc. The problem isn’t necessarily his numbers; it’s the price they come at. The Hornets are paying Hayward nearly $30 million this season, the eighth-highest salary among small forwards in the NBA, for what should be All-Star production, but are essentially high-end role player numbers.

Charlotte management brought in Hayward to be a facilitating all-purpose wing on offense and lock down the opposing squad’s top offensive option on defense.

Hayward has shown this season he’s not capable of running things on the fun end with any type of continued effectiveness. His minutes on the floor without second-year guard LaMelo Ball have been mostly a failure. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Hornets are -2.6 points per 100 possessions when Hayward runs the show without Ball by his side, a number that ranks in the 36th percentile among all 3’s. LaMelo Ball, at 6-7, suits up at the point guard position but is playing the multifaceted game Hayward can’t manage anymore at only a smidge more than $8 million this year and next.

On the less glamorous side, Hayward has slowed down. He’s on the wrong side of 30, and he’s suffered enough leg injuries that his side-to-side mobility has been sapped. On the season, he’s allowing his assignments to hit 1.6% above their normal field goal percentage, and he’s contesting only 5.6 shots per game. Hayward is not terrible on defense, but the Hornets rank 27th in the association in DEFRTG, and the former Butler standout’s inability to harass his man has been one reason they’ve struggled to get stops.

The Charlotte Hornets owe Hayward over $60 million through 2024, a massive salary that is almost impossible for them to move on from.


7. Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon

Contract: $18.2M (2021-22), $19.6M (2022-23), $20.9M (2023-24, not guaranteed)

Eric Gordon is earning $18.2 million this season. He’s due $19.6 million next season and $21 million the year after, but his 2023-2024 salary isn’t guaranteed, making his contract merely awful instead of horrendous.

Eric Gordon excels at precisely one thing: three-point shooting. He’s ranked fourth in the league in long-distance shooting (minimum 3.5 attempts per game) with a 45.5% hit mark.

Should connecting on 2.4 three-point shots off 5.3 attempts be worth nearly $40 million over the next two years?

The Houston Rockets desperately need playmaking. Their starting point guard is 21-year-old Kevin Porter, a third-year performer who’s never played the 1 before this season. Amongst all the non-passing turmoil in Houston, Eric Gordon is averaging 3.3 assists per contest, showing he can’t play the part of a facilitating guard.

Eric Gordon is the definition of a subpar defender. At 6-3, he doesn’t have the size to bother wings in the midrange, and at age 33, he’s lost a step, making him an easy target on the perimeter. Eric Gordon has never had a positive defensive box plus/minus for an entire season in his career, but this year is his worst yet at -2.4. Gordon also fails in the hustle stats, contesting a measly 2.5 shots per contest and getting only 1.0 deflections nightly.

No team wants to pay a premium for a 3-and-? player when there is an assortment of solid 3-and-D athletes out there who come at a much cheaper cost.


6. Eric Bledsoe

Eric Bledsoe

Contract: $18.1M (2021-2022), $19.4M (2022-23, $3.9M partial guarantee)

Eric Bledsoe is only owed $3.9 million next season, making this in-essence the final year of his contract. So, his deal isn’t as unpleasant as it could be. Still, the Clippers are forking over $18 million in 2021-2022 for a player averaging 10.1 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.5 RPG, and a 31.3 3P%.

Bledsoe has been known as a defense-first point guard throughout his career. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem capable of shutting down his man this season. He has a 48.3 defensive field goal percentage through the first half of the year, by far the worst mark on the Clippers. Bledsoe used to go 110% on the less fun end, taking genuine pride in disrupting the opposing team’s actions. Not this year, though. He’s running only 0.83 miles on defense nightly, and his average speed on D has slipped down to 3.59 MPH, 16th on the LA’s other team, and slower than bruising big man Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein. Overall, Dunks and Threes rate Eric Bledsoe 288th in the league in defense.

On offense, Eric Bledsoe has found a decent midrange game, connecting on 46.2% of his tries from 10 to 16 feet. Everything else has been a grind for the 32-year-old point guard. He’s subpar from deep with a 31.3% hit rate, he’s subpar at the rim, shooting a lousy 60.7% from 0 to-3 feet, and he’s a subpar playmaker, averaging only 4.1 assists per contest.

Eric Bledsoe’s shoddy two-way play has translated to horrific overall numbers. Perhaps the most damning comes from two of the Clippers’ most-used five-man lineups featuring Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt alongside yearly All-Star Paul George.

Have a look:

- E. Bledsoe, R. Jackson, N. Batum, P. George, I. Zubac: -9.1 points per 100 possessions, 21st percentile in the NBA

- E. Bledsoe, R. Jackson, P. George, M, Morris, I. Zubac: -6.6 points per 100 possessions, 26th percentile

We can’t blame Eric Bledsoe for all the Clippers’ struggles. They are missing a perennial MVP candidate in Kawhi Leonard. You’d think, though, for almost $20 million this season, they could get above-average defensive play and some type of drive and kick game. Unfortunately, we’re more than halfway through the year and it doesn’t seem likely Bledsoe is going to change, making it nearly impossible for the Clippers to trade him and his overpriced contract.


5. Kevin Love

(via Newsweek)

(via Newsweek)

Contract: $31.3M (2021-22), $28.9M (2022-23)

Kevin Love is having a bit of a renaissance. He’s in shape and uninjured for the first time in what seems like forever, and he’s been a boon for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The advanced stats scream out, “Kevin Love is back!”

Here’s a breakdown:

Dunks and Threes estimated plus-minus rate Love at +4.1 points per 100 possessions over an average NBA player, which lands him in the 96th percentile in the association.

According to Basketball-Reference, he has a 6.9 box plus/minus, easily the highest on the Cavs.

NBA.com’s player impact estimate ranks Kevin Love 10th in the league (minimum 15 MPG), at 16.7

Kevin Love has morphed into a topflight bench player, but at $60 million over this season and next, the Cavs are paying him All-Star wages.

Compare Kevin Love’s $30 million annual salary versus last season’s top-3 finishers in the Sixth Man of the Year voting:

Jordan Clarkson: $12.4 million in 2021-2022

Joe Ingles: $14.0 million in 2021-2022

Derrick Rose: $13.4 million in 2021-2022

Kevin Love is making more than double the best bench players from last year, which is not great value for the Cavs.

The former UCLA standout averages only 21.4 minutes per game off the bench, and when Love is on the court, he can’t anchor a defense. Kevin Love spends nearly all his floor time next to either Jarret Allen or Evan Mobley, hiding on the opposing squad’s worst offensive big man. He also takes close to ⅔ of his shots from beyond the arc, showing you can’t run an offense through him anymore.

Kevin Love’s minimal court time plus his defensive and offensive warts aren’t problems at something like $8 million per year, but for his top-30 wages, he’s not giving close to enough, making any type of transaction unlikely for the Cavs. That is, unless they include one of their young and talented players like Darius Garland or Evan Mobley, which isn’t happening.


4. Danilo Gallinari

Danilo Gallinari

Contract: $20.5M (2021-22) $21.5M (2022-23, $5M partial guarantee)

The other day I tuned into a Hawks game and watched the entire first half, wondering why Danilo Gallinari hadn’t entered the game, only to check the box score at intermission to see he’d played ten minutes. This sums up the Italian sharpshooter’s 2021-2022 season.

He’s averaging 10.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 40.0 3P%, and -1.5 defensive box plus/minus across only 22.8 minutes per game. According to my math, if Gallinari’s making a little over $20 million this year and he’s scoring a smidge over 10 points per game, the Hawks are paying $2 million per one average point this season. Not great value.

Atlanta is the biggest disappointment (the Lakers are a close second) in the league this year. They’re eight games under .500 one year after making the Eastern Conference Finals. The entire team looks lost and lifeless, but Danilo Gallinari might be the worst culprit on the roster. He disappears for entire quarters on offense, and he has a dreadful 113.5 defensive rating on a Hawks squad that ranks 29th in D this year.

The Hawks are forking over $20 million-plus this season. The least Gallinari can do for Atlanta is show maximum effort for his earnings, which would give Hawks management a shot at trading him. As things stand now, it seems unlikely they can dump his massive deal with the way he’s played in 2021-2022.


3. Tobias Harris

Tobias Harris Shut Down 76ers Fans Who Were Booing Him And Then Started To Cheer Him: "Don't F*cking Clap."

(via 6ABC)

Contract: $36M (2021-22), $38.5M (2022-23), $41M (2023-24)

Tobias Harris’s father is his basketball agent. Not only is he a loving dad, but he must be the best negotiator in the NBA. He coaxed a $180 million fully guaranteed deal out of Philadelphia 76ers management, although his son has never sniffed an All-Star selection or averaged over 20.0 points per game.

The 76ers are on the hook for roughly $100 million through the rest of this season and the next two years.

What is that money getting them in 2021-2022?

Tobias Harris averages 18.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 3.8 APG while shooting 31.0% from deep and a 109.6 defensive rating (14th on the 76ers). His numbers aren’t awful, but he has the 13th highest salary in the league and is nowhere near making the midseason classic.

Here’s a list of All-Stars who are earning less than Harris this season:

- Khris Middleton

- Anthony Davis

- Rudy Gobert

- Kyrie Irving

- Bradley Beal

- Paskal Siakam

- Ben Simmons

- Jrue Holiday

- Karl-Anthony Towns

- Devin Booker

- Nikola Jokic

- Joel Embiid

- Chris Paul

And on and on…..

You get the point.

Tobias Harris can’t produce his own shot with regularity, is shooting a below-average mark from beyond the arc, and can’t lock down the opposing team’s best offensive weapon.

The 76ers are paying prime cash for an athlete who probably isn’t a top-50 player. It will be nearly impossible to move the two and a half years remaining on his massive deal which maxes out a $41 million fully guaranteed in 2023-2024, even with a couple first-round picks thrown in to sweeten the deal.


2. Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook Averaged 0.8 Turnovers In The Last 5 Games, But Fans Still Call Him Out: "Low Turnovers Doesn’t Automatically Mean A Good Game For Russ."

Contract: $44.2M (2021-22), $47.1M (2022-23, Player Option)

After Russell Westbrook was traded to the Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the number 22 overall pick in the draft, nearly every NBA expert screamed, “This won’t work! He doesn’t fit next to LeBron!”

Lakers fans ignored the pundits, choosing to spend the summer and fall with hope in their hearts, believing that Westbrook could change his game to fit with LBJ and AD. Halfway through the season, the Lakers sit at .500, fighting just to make the play-in tourney. It’s safe to say all that early hope fluttering around La La Land has morphed into despair.

This season, Russell Westbrook has the fourth-highest salary in the league, but the advanced stats show he’s played worse than an average player. He has a -1.4 box plus/minus, a -1.3 estimated plus-minus, and a -2.2 net rating.

You know about the turnovers and the unforced errors. You also know about Westbrook’s shooting woes, but what hasn’t gotten enough attention is the way he’s become a defensive liability. Watch a Lakers game and focus on the former UCLA point guard. You’ll see he’s in cruise control on the less fun end. He rarely gets a hand up to contest his man’s jumper (only 3.6 contested shots per game), and he never rushes out with conviction toward open shooters beyond the arc.

The Lakers are paying Westbrook superstar money to run their team, but his minutes without LeBron next to him on the court have been a calamity. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Purple and Gold are 5.6 points worse per 100 possessions when “Mr. Triple-Double” runs the team without LeBron James, good for the 24th percentile out of all PG’s.

If you could give Lakers management a trade do-over, they’d instantly take back Kuzma, KCP, and Harrell and let Westbrook stay in the nation’s capital. Instead, Rob Pelinka has dug himself into a five-foot hole where he probably fantasizes about his new point guard turning down his player option for next season.

In the end, if a team is somehow interested in a Westbrook trade, the enormity of the $44.2 million he’s owed this year, make a swap incredibly difficult. Most teams will have to add several players in the deal to make the math work, an unlikely event considering the way the Lakers have struggled this season with their new point guard at the helm.


1. John Wall

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Contract: $44.3M (2021-22), $47.3M (2022-23, Player Option)

Does Houston Rockets GM Rafael Stone lay awake at night dreaming of dumping John Wall’s contract on another team?

Maybe.

Or perhaps he suffers nightmares of Wall’s massive deal tied to his feet in the shape of a ten-pound weight as he tries to swim in the ocean, slowly being dragged down against his will.

Either way, John Wall has the third-highest salary in the league. The $44 million he’s owed this year and the $47 million he’s due next season (his 2022-2023 salary is a player option, but there is no chance he’s turning that money down) make it impossible for Houston management to build a competitive team. Sure, the Rockets can convince themselves that the cash doesn’t matter. They’re tanking anyway, and they need to give the youngsters reps. That’s a ridiculous sentiment. They could have spent Wall’s massive paycheck on a handful of solid young players in last summer’s free agency period.

The craziest part of this whole situation is that Rockets leadership and John Wall sat down and agreed he wouldn’t play this year and probably next. The former Wizards point guard isn’t injured; he’s healthy and could join the team any time.

Last season, he wasn’t awful across 40 games in Houston. He averaged 20.6 PPG and 6.9 APG. If Wall were to lace them up and get back on the court, he’d instantly be the Rockets’ best playmaker. Rookies Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun could see what it’s like to play next to a real-life point guard who, at age 31, still has a solid(ish) drive and kick game left. Instead, Wall might be the highest-paid employee in America who doesn’t have to actually work.

The Houston Rockets find themselves in a similar situation as the Los Angeles Lakers, with Russell Westbrook’s contract. Wall’s salary is ridiculously high. Nearly every team in the association that needs a point guard will have to give up multiple players to land Wall.

As we stated above, Kevin Love has one of the highest salaries in the league this year, but a straight Love for Wall transaction doesn’t work in ESPN’s Trade Machine. The Cavs would have to throw in another player like Lauri Markkanen or Cedi Osman to make the math work.


Will Any Team Manage To Trade One Of Their Awful Contracts

Our list is stocked full of the most unmoveable contracts in the NBA, but the trade deadline is theater at its finest that can be more intriguing than watching the actual games. We know the Rockets would like nothing more than to dump John Wall’s contract on another team. The same goes for the rest of squads that have a player on our list.

The question is: Will any organization deal one of the players above, helping propel their team to the next level?

We’ll have to wait and see. 

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