In the modern, super-max era of basketball, teams are handing out big-money deals with aplomb, but only some of them are really getting a bang for their buck while others get stuck with albatross contracts on their books.
At the moment, 27 players are signed to deals that can be qualified as max contracts, and we at HoopsHype decided it would be fun to rank all of them from No. 1 to No. 27.
Now, how much these players earn will have no bearing on this ranking. We’re solely going by how we think these players should be sorted based on their current form and their overall level of production this season.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
27. CHANDLER PARSONS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Contract: Four years, $94.4 million
The fact that Chandler Parsons has been hurt almost constantly since signing his max contract with the Memphis Grizzlies back in the summer of 2016 left us with no choice but to rank him last on this list. Parsons has missed a whopping 150 out of a potential 239 contests dating back to 2016-17, mostly due to lingering knee issues that have prevented him from regaining his excellent early-career form.
Parsons is averaging 6.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game as a Grizzly, shooting 39.5 percent from the floor and 33.5 percent from beyond the arc. His contract won’t expire until after the 2019-20 season.
26. HASSAN WHITESIDE, MIAMI HEAT
Contract: Four years, $98.4 million
Since losing his starting job to the younger Bam Adebayo back in early March, Miami Heat big man Hassan Whiteside is averaging 9.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 16.8 minutes nightly. That steep dip in production has drastically dragged Whiteside’s numbers down, as the athletic center is now posting his worst season since 2014-15.
Overall, Whiteside can still be a force on the glass and on defense when he’s locked in, but consistency issues have plagued the big man for far too long, leading to the lineup change by head coach Erik Spoelstra. Whiteside has a player opt-out option on his deal for next year, but considering he’ll earn $27.1 million in 2019-20, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll choose to exercise it.
25. GORDON HAYWARD, BOSTON CELTICS
Contract: Four years, $127.8 million
A catastrophic leg injury is to blame for Gordon Hayward failing to live up to his max contract. He missed basically all of 2017-18, and his play this season hasn’t provided much to write home about.
Hayward is averaging 10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game this year, shooting 33.0 percent from three and 45.0 percent from the floor overall. Even coming off the bench against second units, Hayward has struggled to make an elite impact, outside of an impressive performance or two.
Still, at least the talented forward has flashed moments of greatness in the past, so hopefully another year removed from the injury once 2019-20 rolls around, Hayward can start living up to the rich contract given to him by the Boston Celtics.
24. ANDREW WIGGINS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Contract: Four years, $147.7 million
The way injuries have hampered Hayward and Parsons, a lack of consistent effort and a lackadaisical attitude have killed Andrew Wiggins throughout his career. Some thought that maybe this year, after the dramatic way Jimmy Butler’s departure unfolded, a fire would be lit under Wiggins, one that would help propel him towards reaching his immense ceiling.
That hasn’t been the case. If anything, Wiggins’ play has regressed even further.
In 2018-19, Wiggins is putting up 17.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest while shooting a paltry 40.4 percent from the floor. The advanced stats have always disliked Wiggins and yet, this season, he has managed to put up career-worst marks in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), Box Plus/Minus (BPM) and Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48).
The only saving grace for the Minnesota Timberwolves is that Wiggins is still just 24, so it’s way too early to give up on him entirely. But if his play doesn’t start to improve next season, Wiggins’ contract could end up looking like one of the worst in the entire Association.
23. HARRISON BARNES, SACRAMENTO KINGS
Contract: Four years, $94.4 million
Averaging 16.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game this year, Harrison Barnes is a nice player being paid like an elite one.
Regardless, unlike some of the players below him in this ranking, at least Barnes can be relied upon to show up on a nightly basis, knock down some shots from the outside and defend multiple positions. He may run hot and cold at times, but Barnes is much more consistent than a Wiggins or a Whiteside, which is why he places higher than them on this list.
Barnes will never be mistaken for a star, but he’s a pretty good two-way complementary piece who understands his role, and performs it to the best of his abilities every time he steps on the floor.
22. OTTO PORTER, CHICAGO BULLS
Contract: Four years, $106.5 million
If Otto Porter hadn’t gotten traded to the Chicago Bulls midway through 2018-19, he definitely would have ranked near the bottom of this list. But the move to a team where the ball is actually swung around and not dominated by just two players has allowed Porter to prove he’s more than merely a 3-and-D specialist, as the Georgetown product now has the freedom to do more with the rock in his hands.
And with that newfound freedom, Porter has performed well.
As a Bull, Porter is averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game on excellent 48.3/48.8/90.6 shooting splits. The points and assists would both be career-highs if extrapolated for the season, and should excite Chicago fans as to Porter’s potential after a full offseason and training camp with the team.
21. MARC GASOL, TORONTO RAPTORS
Contract: Five years, $113.2 million
At the time he signed his max contract back in 2015, Marc Gasol looked like he was worth every penny. After all, he was just two seasons removed from a terrific Defensive Player of the Year campaign, coming off a 17.4/7.8/3.8 year and, by all accounts, looking like one of the best centers in the NBA.
Today, though, the deal doesn’t look as team-friendly, as Father Time seems to have caught up to the big Spaniard just a bit.
Memphis traded Gasol to the Toronto Raptors at this year’s deadline, with Toronto hoping the big man will give them a boost during their impending playoff run. However, so far the returns from Gasol have been only decent. The 34-year-old is putting up meager averages (8.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game) as a Raptor, but his swing rating (+5.0) should give Toronto hope that his addition will pay off once the games start to matter more.
20. KEVIN LOVE, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Contract: Five years, $113.2 million
Had it not been for an injury that forced him to miss most of this season, Kevin Love probably would have ranked higher on this list. However, a foot ailment will ultimately allow Love to see action in just over a quarter of this season’s games, rendering it impossible to place him any higher than we did.
Nevertheless, when he’s been able to suit up in 2018-19, Love has proven to still be an All-Star caliber big man. Putting up 17.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.5 three-pointers per contest, Love is easily the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best player, and one of the top power forwards the Eastern Conference has to offer. What’s more, his stats are far from empty, as the UCLA product boasts an impressive +7.5 swing rating on the year, proving how valuable he is for Cleveland when he’s on the floor.
On the other hand, Love has typically been an injury-plagued player throughout his career, a problem that likely won’t get much better as he gets further into his 30s. Couple that with the fact his four-year, $120.4 million max extension won’t even kick in until his age-31 season (in 2019-20), and you have serious cause for concern about how that contract will look a few years down the road.
19. ANDRE DRUMMOND, DETROIT PISTONS
Contract: Five years, $127.2 million
The NBA’s leading rebounder three out of the last four years, Andre Drummond has blossomed nicely for the Detroit Pistons, becoming one of the better big men the Eastern Conference has to offer.
Drummond’s numbers on the year – 17.3 points, 15.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.6 steals per game – show that the center can fill the stat sheet like few other bigs can, and his swing rating (+8.6) proves his impact is felt every time he’s on the floor. If he can maintain this level of consistency in the future, Drummond’s best days could still be ahead of him, as the UConn product is merely 25 years old and already a two-time All-Star.
18. AL HORFORD, BOSTON CELTICS
Contract: Four years, $113.3 million
Boston Celtics big man Al Horford may not put up huge numbers, but his impact is felt in every facet of the game whenever he’s on the floor. Horford is putting up 13.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per contest this season, shooting 53.1 percent from the floor and 35.5 percent from three. Mundane numbers, for the most part.
However, his swing rating (+2.1) is a positive for the 10th year in a row (mostly thanks to his rare blend of defense and playmaking for a big man), proving that he’s a game-changer for Boston.
17. MIKE CONLEY, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Contract: Five years, $152.6 million
The Grizzlies have a decision to make regarding Mike Conley’s future with the club this summer. They decided against trading him away at February’s deadline, but could revisit talks this offseason, per reports.
It makes sense why, too. Although Conley, averaging 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game in 2018-19, is still playing some of the best basketball of his career, Memphis is in the midst of a rebuild, so paying the 31-year-old north of $67 million over the next two seasons just doesn’t make sense for the outlook of their team.
Regardless, Conley is still one of the league’s upper echelon floor generals, so the Grizzlies shouldn’t have a shortage of suitors if they do decide to move him this summer.
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