The worst teams ever to pay the luxury tax (prominently featuring the Knicks)

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18: James Dolan, Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden looks on during the press conference to introduce Phil Jackson as President of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 18, 2014 in New York City.

The worst teams ever to pay the luxury tax (prominently featuring the Knicks)

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The worst teams ever to pay the luxury tax (prominently featuring the Knicks)

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While it certainly helps to have deep pockets, as we have seen from the New York Knicks, spending money is no guarantee of success in the NBA.

Fans of teams in small markets can thank the salary cap for the parity that the league offers. Without these restrictions, teams with the most money would be able to offer the top players contracts so large that it would be challenging to maintain any semblance of competitive balance.

The salary cap is only a soft restriction and teams like New York (worth an estimated $4.6 billion, per Forbes) can still exceed it if they are willing to pay the luxury tax.

Since the luxury tax was instituted in 2002, Knicks governor James Dolan has been hit with the penalty 11 times. But the franchise has very little to show for it as they have missed the playoffs during eight of those seasons.

According to our research, teams have paid the luxury tax 167 times. But in 47 instances, they did not make the postseason. That means luxury tax teams have missed the playoffs 28.0 percent of the time. Overall, among the 21 worst teams record-wise to pay the luxury tax, New York appears five times.

Below are the other most notable seasons in which a team paid the luxury tax but still fell massively short of preseason expectations.

1
Miami Heat, 2007-08

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 17: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat is helped up by Anfernee Hardaway #7 and Alonzo Mourning #33 against the New Jersey Nets during their game on November 17, 2007 at the Izod Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Payroll: $74,767,603 ($91,917,507 adjusted to inflation)
Payroll rank: No. 5
Record: 15-67 (.183)
Net Rating: -9.4

This was mostly a transitional season for the Miami Heat as they traded Shaquille O’Neal midway through the year and, at the conclusion of the season, big man Alonzo Mourning retired and head coach Pat Riley resigned.

2
New York Knicks, 2014-15

Nov 10, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher coaches New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) and New York Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire (1) against the Atlanta Hawks during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. The Hawks defeated the Knicks 91-85.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Payroll: $81,369,219 ($87,446,049 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 17-65 (.207)
Net Rating: -10.1

This was the worst season in franchise history for the Knicks, finishing with a 60-loss campaign for the first time since their inception in 1946-47. The front office released six-time NBA All-Star Amare Stoudemire and traded Iman Shumpert and JR Smith.

3
Los Angeles Lakers, 2014-15

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 19: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a play with Jeremy Lin #17 and Nick Young #0 during their game against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center on November 19, 2014 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Payroll: $77,546,500 ($83,337,839 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 21-61 (.256)
Net Rating: -7.1

This was an incredibly rough season for the Lakers, who struggled to stay healthy. Their lottery pick rookie Julius Randle suffered a season-ending injury during the first game of his NBA career, Kobe Bryant tore his rotator cuff and the Lakers lost 60 games for the first time in franchise history.

4
Minnesota Timberwolves, 2007-08

CHICAGO - JANUARY 29: Antoine Walker #24 of the Minnesota Timberwolves walks up the court after being called for a foul against the Chicago Bulls January 29, 2008 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Payroll: $69,043,895 ($84,880,916 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 22-60 (.268)
Net Rating: -7.3

After trading franchise cornerstone Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics during the offseason, the Timberwolves did not put together a very competitive roster in their first season without their longtime big man.

5
New York Knicks, 2007-08

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 30: Jamal Crawford #11 of the New York Knicks (R) celebrates with team mate Quentin Richardson #23 after scoring the winning shot against the Milwaukee Bucks on November 30, 2007 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Payroll: $96,190,114 ($118,253,832 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 23-59 (.281)
Net Rating: -6.8

The Knicks owed large paychecks to Stephon Marbury and Zach Randolph but failed to make much noise. Following the season, Isiah Thomas was fired as head coach and general manager.

6
New York Knicks, 2005-06

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 14: Quentin Richardson #23, Malik Rose #13 and Stephon Marbury #3 of the New York Knicks stand on court against the Orlando Magic on December 14, 2005 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Magic won 105-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Payroll: $126,631,098 ($166,764,356 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 23-59 (.281)
Net Rating: -6.6

Despite coming into the season way above the luxury tax because of money owed to Allan Houston and Penny Hardaway, among others, the Knicks had the second-worst record in the NBA. After just one season with the organization, head coach Larry Brown was fired at the conclusion of the campaign.

7
Chicago Bulls, 2003-04

DALLAS - NOVEMBER 25: Guard Michael Finley #4 of the Dallas Mavericks puts up a shot against Jamal Crawford #1 and Tyson Chandler #3 of the Chicago Bulls in the second quarter November 25, 2003 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Payroll: $55,489,797 ($77,372,466 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 23-59 (.281)
Net Rating: -6.5

During the offseason, guard Jay Williams was injured in a motorcycle accident and would miss the entire season. This was the final professional season for six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen, who averaged just 5.9 points per game.

8
Toronto Raptors, 2002-03

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 16: (L-R) Antonio Davis #33, Vince Carter #15 and Michael Bradley #5 of the Toronto Raptors look on from the bench during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 16, 2003 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 111-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Payroll: $55,408,207 ($78,890,619 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 24-58 (.293)
Net Rating: -6.3

There were high hopes for this season in Toronto but injuries made it a tough stretch. Their big man Hakeem Olajuwon announced his retirement due to his back issues and star Vince Carter missed a lot of time with an ongoing knee injury.

9
Minnesota Timberwolves, 2019-20

Feb 10, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32, center) and guard D'Angelo Russell (0, left) listen to coaching instruction during a time out against Toronto Raptors in the first half at Scotiabank Arena.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Payroll: $114,202,982
Record: 19-45 (.297)
Net Rating: -4.0

The season was cut short due to COVID-19 but the Minnesota Timberwolves were one of the worst teams in the NBA. Midway through his sixth year with the organization, Minnesota traded away former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins.

10
Miami Heat, 2002-03

Miami Heat head coach Pat Riley gestures as his team plays against the Detroit Pistons during the first quarter of their NBA game at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan, 17 February 2003. AFP PHOTO/Jeff KOWALSKY (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)

(JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Payroll: $57,378,326 ($81,695,690 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 25-57 (.305)
Net Rating: -5.8

Miami had some tough luck this year as Alonzo Mourning, their highest-paid player, missed the entire season due to kidney problems. Meanwhile, their top scorer Eddie Jones also missed nearly half the season due to groin issues.

11
Washington Wizards, 2009-10

December 22, 2009; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas (0) during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Verizon Center.

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Payroll: $73,440,274 ($87,212,893 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 26-56 (.317)
Net Rating: -5.3

This was a particularly rough year for the Washington Wizards, who had high hopes but lost Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for the second half of the season due to a gun-related suspension.

12
Los Angeles Lakers, 2013-14

Dec 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol (16) and guard Kobe Bryant (24) react during the game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. The Suns defeated the Lakers 114-108.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Payroll: $77,423,614 ($84,930,083 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 27-55 (.329)
Net Rating: -6.0

This was the first time that the Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs in nearly a decade. They lost Dwight Howard during the offseason and while Kobe Bryant returned from a torn Achilles, he played just six games after breaking his knee.

13
Toronto Raptors, 2005-06

DENVER - JANUARY 23: Jalen Rose #5 of the Toronto Raptors looks for a teammate against Greg Buckner #7 of the Denver Nuggets January 23, 2006 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Raptors, 107-101. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Payroll: $62,411,884 ($82,192,110 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 27-55 (.329)
Net Rating: -3.2

Perhaps the most notable moment of the season for Toronto is when Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in a single game against them. Looking back, it is surprising to see this team paid the luxury tax considering the noticeable lack of star power on its roster.

14
Atlanta Hawks, 2003-04

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 8: Shareef Abdur-Rahim #3 of the Atlanta Hawks shoots during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Rose Garden on November 8, 2003 in Portland, Oregon. The Trailblazers won 90-83.

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Payroll: $64,497,340 ($89,932,175 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 28-54 (.342)
Net Rating: -4.8

The Hawks were struggling and midway through the season, forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. Head coach Terry Stotts was fired at the conclusion of the season.

15
Memphis Grizzlies, 2002-03

Memphis Grizzlies' head coach Hubie Brown (R) argues his first technical with official Steve Javie (L) during first quarter NBA action 18 February 2003 at the Pyramid in Memphis, TN. Brown was given a second technical and ejected from the game. AFP PHOTO/Matthew CRAIG (Photo by MATTHEW CRAIG / AFP)

(MATTHEW CRAIG/AFP via Getty Images)

Payroll: $61,009,172 ($86,865,318 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 28-54 (.342)
Net Rating: -3.5

This was the second season in Memphis for the Grizzlies, whose head coach Sidney Lowe resigned after just eight games. The highest-paid player on their salary sheet was Bryant Reeves, who was still owed $13 million despite playing his final professional game in 2001.

16
New York Knicks, 2009-10

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 20: Tracy McGrady #3 of the New York Knicks smiles after making a basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 2010 in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Payroll: $85,710,076 ($101,783,713 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 29-53 (.354)
Net Rating: -4.0

Seven-time NBA All-Star wing Tracy McGrady played just half a season for the New York Knicks. He averaged just 9.4 points per game during his 24 appearances with the team.

17
Phoenix Suns, 2003-04

LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 29: Stephon Marbury #3 of the Phoenix Suns drives past Doug Overton #24 of the Los Angeles Clippers during their game on December 29, 2003 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Suns won 113-105. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Payroll: $66,931,770 ($93,326,635 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 29-53 (.354)
Net Rating: -3.8

The Phoenix Suns had made the Western Conference playoffs in 2003 but were sluggish out of the gates the following season. They fired head coach Frank Johnson after starting 8-13. Phoenix later traded both members of their promising backcourt, Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway.

18
Detroit Pistons, 2011-12

Dec 31, 2011; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons power forward Greg Monroe (10), forward Jonas Jerebko (33) and shooting guard Ben Gordon (8) during the second half against the Indiana Pacers at The Palace. Detroit won 96-88.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Payroll: $70,923,605 ($80,482,110 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 25-41 (.379)
Net Rating: -5.0

During their first season under coach Lawrence Frank, the Pistons were not able to make much of a splash after the 2011 NBA lockout. This was the final professional season for Ben Wallace.

19
Portland Trail Blazers, 2006-07

PORTLAND, OR - JANUARY 03: Zach Randolph #50 of the Portland Trail Blazers sits on the bench in a 99-81 loss to the New York Knicks on January 3, 2007 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Payroll: $75,026,386 ($94,714,055 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 32-50 (.390)
Net Rating: -4.8

The Portland Trail Blazers were rebuilding after drafting LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. But they still had a decent amount of money owed to veterans Zach RandolphRaef LaFrentz and Derek Anderson.

20
Minnesota Timberwolves, 2006-07

Oct 9, 2003; Columbus, OH, USA; #21 Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves in action during NBA preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Mandatory Credit:

Joe Robbins-USA TODAY Sports

Payroll: $66,820,673 ($84,355,083 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 32-50 (.390)
Net Rating: -4.0

This was the last season that Kevin Garnett would play with Minnesota before he was traded to the Celtics. Despite him winning NBA MVP just a few seasons earlier in 2004, the Timberwolves failed to surround him with much talent.

21
New York Knicks, 2008-09

Stephon Marbury with the Knicks in 2008. Xxx Knicks Rd388 Jpg S Bkn Usa Ny

© Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

Payroll: $96,643,646 ($113,130,233 adjusted to inflation)
Record: 32-50 (.390)
Net Rating: -2.5

The Knicks had the highest payroll in the league but were in the middle of a transitionary season, trading away two of their leading scorers in Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford and waiving Stephon Marbury.

HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed research to this report

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