I know, I know -- putting "NBA" and "overpaid" in the same sentence is redundant. Putting the overpaid NBA list together in past seasons seemed easier, because there've usually been a handful of guys who were so "Gigli" that it was no contest. This year, though, it seems like so many are getting so much for so little.
I don't know -- I haven't done any analysis -- but this could be for two related reasons. One is that lots of long-term contracts, dished out in the flush Clinton years, are just about, but not quite, ready to run out. The second is that during the flush Clinton years, nobody was talking Moneyball, in any sport. Now, the idea of value seems to be slowly, slowly taking a hold on the NBA.
One caveat: We didn't list players who are collecting paychecks for not playing at all -- your Eddie Robinsons and Scottie Pippens. Only players who've put in some reasonable amount of playing/bench time.
10. Keith Van Horn, Milwaukee Bucks ($14,487,000)
By far the highest-paid Buck, Van Horn chews up a quarter of the team's payroll and has only chipped in 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, when he's been healthy. Van Horn's good, but not great, and he'll be 30 by the start of the 05-06 season.
9. Jalen Rose, Toronto Raptors ($14,487,000)
After trying and trying to find some stat or metric that would get Rose off this list, I gave up. The Raptors are losers both with and without him, meaning that their highest paid player -- he makes $9 million more than any other Raptor -- is a money pit. Sixteen points, 2 assists, and three rebounds ... Isn't Rose supposed to be a star? Then I triple-checked. Here's what John Hollinger had to say in his 2004-05 Pro Basketball Forecast: "He shouldn't be starting, even on a team as desperate for offense as the Raptors." And this: "Rose's offense would be acceptable if he played any defense, but he doesn't."
That's a lot of ouches in one evaluation. Rose, 32, has come way, way down since his peak years in 2001 and 2002. But nothing like a bundle of cash to cushion your fall.
8. Tim Thomas, New York Knicks ($12,900,000)
Isiah Thomas acquired Tim from Milwaukee in the middle of last season, and it doesn't appear this was one of the key rebuilding moves the Knicks had hoped for. The 6-foot-10-inch forward muscles his way to 3.4 rebounds a game and adds 10.3 points, his worst numbers since the 1998-99 season. He's only 27, but he's a downgrade from his all-overpaid list buddy, Keith Van Horn.
7. Antonio Davis, Chicago Bulls ($12,925,000)
This is what happens when you're 36 years old and playing in your 12th NBA season: the main news item on your ESPN player page provides this skinny on your current status: "mid-back strain, virus, and ear infection." Davis has managed to play almost 24 minutes a game, but has averaged only six points and 5.6 rebounds, following a near-perfect decline-line from 2000-01. Right after that season, he inked a 5-year, $60 million deal, reaping rich rewards for his pre-millennial performances. Despite his floor presence, the Bulls are doing remarkably well.
6. Dale Davis, Golden State Warriors ($10,068,750)
Davis signed his current deal when he was at his peak ... nine years ago, when he was putting up 10 points and pulling down 10 rebounds a game. He wouldn't be making this kind of cash if not for the generosity of the Blazers, who extended his contract two years ago, for reasons only billionaires like Paul Allen can comprehend.
The highest-paid Warrior has been on a four-year slide, and, despite a recent hot streak, is usually uneffective when playing. Which doesn't happen often, unless -- like now -- the Warriors are desperate for able bodies. Davis is averaging 2.7 points and 4.2 rebounds, and shooting .388 from the field, off-the-charts bad, especially considering his career average of .531.
5. Anfernee Hardaway, New York Knicks ($14,625,000)
Penny's played only nine games since Dec. 1, hobbled most recently by an ankle injury. But even when he's on the court, for his average of 23 minutes a game he's ineffective, averaging 7 points and 1.8 assists. Here's the kicker: as his productivity declines, his salary increases.
4. Allan Houston, New York Knicks ($17,531,250)
The rich man's Dell Curry, Houston's best post-retirement move would be as an original player in the new hit reality series, "Overpaid in the Apple." It's a perfect gimmick -- a bunch of young guys (and a gal or two), with multi-multi-million take-homes, on the loose. Here's the twist: put 'em to work in Pittsburgh. Who will be the first to discover their true mediocrity? Will it be the Wall Street Boiler Room sharks? The fashionistas who design clothes for anorexic catwalkers? Or the Knicks? The tiebreaker: take a snap from Steelers center Jeff Hartings in the face of a Pats blitz. Everyone loses. And Big Ben -- who actually earned his salary -- is one of the stretcher-bearers.
3. Dikembe Mutombo, Houston Rockets ($18,760,000)
We don't like to knock Dikembe, but still. The Rockets only pay him $4.49 million, but he's also banking $14.27 million from the Nets. Meanwhile, the old man plays only 13 minutes a night, averaging four points and four rebounds a game. Not a bad deal for Houston, but that's not the point.
2. Brian Grant, Los Angeles Lakers ($13,233,434)
What a wonderful world it must be ... to play 15 minutes, score three points and grab three rebounds, and collect a cool $161,383.34 for your night's work.
Let's break that down:
$10,750 per minute
$53,800 a point
Two positive notes: Grant plays especially well on Friday nights, when he averages 18 minutes, 5.7 points, 4 rebounds, and 0.5 assists. And he's the most efficient shooter on the Lakers.
1. Latrell Sprewell, Minnesota Timberwolves ($14,625,000)
What do you do when you're overpaid, barely make enough to feed your family, are getting old in a profession where that's not an asset, and are on the last page of your juicy contract?
After you get your foot out of your mouth, you play. It's your contract year, Latrell and you are being found out. You can put in the minutes, and you can dazzle, still. But, bottom line: 12.5 points, 2.45 rebounds, 2.2 assists. Terrible shooting. And a rapidly declining hairstyle.