If you’re an NBA general manager, the one thing you don’t want on your payroll is dead money. That’s basically the amount you’re paying a player who is no longer on your team because you were forced to waive him.
Dead money is also the only type of cap weight that’s immovable; once you add dead weight to your payroll, it’s there until it expires.
We can use Joakim Noah and the New York Knicks as an example.
Presently, Noah is the player with the most dead money left on a payroll, as the Knicks still owe him $19.3 million after waiving him midway through October 2018. At that point, the big man had two years and $37.8 million left on his deal. New York decided to stretch and waive his contract, lowering how much dead money (and how much of a cap hit) their salary cap will have every year, but extending how long they will have dead money on their payroll. For each of the next three seasons, through 2021-22, the Knicks will have to pay Noah $6.4 million per year, money they can’t use on signing other players. (Not a bad deal for Noah, though.)
However, the Knicks are somehow still not the team with the most dead money on their books. That dubious honor would belong to the Milwaukee Bucks, who owe a total of $21 million in dead money. That money belongs to three big men in Jon Leuer, Spencer Hawes and Larry Sanders, none of whom are in the NBA anymore.
After those two clubs come the Memphis Grizzlies, who are pretty much paying four players – Miles Plumlee, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley and Dakari Johnson – not to be there. Plumlee is actually the player with the most dead money owed to him in 2019-20, as Memphis will pay him his full $12.5 million cap hit this year.
Other players with huge dead-money cap hits in 2019-20 include Timofey Mozgov (courtesy of the Orlando Magic, who are working with the league to get his remaining salary removed from their books), Deron Williams (via the Brooklyn Nets) and Josh Smith (from the Detroit Pistons), who hasn’t played anything close to a full season since 2014-15.