*Originally written 07/25/2020
Ever heard of an NBA player — or any pro athlete for that matter — who thinks they’re overpaid? Didn’t think so. So, I set out to identify the players who have a high paying salary coupled with woeful on-court production in the 2019–20 season. The likes of Nicolas Batum and Blake Griffin, who might’ve been suitable candidates, are not eligible due to being injured for the majority of the year.
I also generated an overall 2019–20 season production grade for each player to be paired with their contract for this year. Keeping in mind the NBA’s average salary is $6.7 million and the median is $2.6 million, let’s dig into my list of the most overpaid players from around the league.
5. Rudy Gobert
Don’t get me wrong, Rudy Gobert is the last guy you want to see when barreling towards the rim. An absurd 9-foot-7 standing reach and high defensive IQ have the Frenchman in the Defensive Player of the Year debate every year. While Gobert is a 7-foot-1, 258-pound shot-blocking machine, when it comes to being a two-way player, he’s plagued by limitations on the offensive end.
The one-dimensional Gobert winds up being a liability for the Utah Jazz. This season, Gobert has attempted a grand total of two — count ‘em — two mid-range shots! This boils down to 98.6% of his shot attempts coming inside of 8-feet. Rudy’s inability to stretch the floor in the era of 5-out sets only adds to the evidence that he’s overpaid. His contract of four years, $102 million has him earning over $25 million this season.
Further statistics, provided by FiveThirtyEight, reveal a new rating based on a mixture of basic box score stats, player tracking metrics and plus/minus data to estimate a player’s effect (per 100 possessions). By these calculations, Gobert’s offensive RAPTOR rating is in the negative. And even though he ranks at the top for defensive RAPTOR rating, teams have learned how to neutralize the Stifle Tower. For example, the Houston Rockets implement a stretch-five to space the floor, forcing Gobert to guard the perimeter. This system acts as a countermeasure to Rudy’s paint presence, effectively removing him from the possession.
As the NBA shifts to a pace and space style of play, the range-limited Rudy Gobert surely isn’t worth the amount of money the Jazz are paying him.
2019–20 SALARY: $25.5M
2019–20 Production: B
4. CJ McCollum
CJ McCollum has been a mainstay of the Portland Trail Blazers offensive scheme as their second option for a solid five seasons. However, he certainly gets paid as if he were their number one option, earning $106 million over four years. This makes him the 26th highest paid player in the NBA, raking in $27.5 million this season. When McCollum is on the floor without his running mate Damian Lillard, the Blazers offense sputters. The team ranked higher than the 38thpercentile only once in the last five years.
If it weren’t for his complementary role, CJ’s contributions would be decidedly underwhelming. The greatest weapon in McCollum’s arsenal is his knack for being a shot creator with 65% of his field goals going unassisted. But this is overshadowed by shortcomings in other facets of his game. The diversity of his shot selection lacks variation as 74% of his shot attempts are jump shots. CJ’s inefficiencies are magnified in three-point shots off-the-dribble, averaging a ghastly 24.6%.
The predictability of McCollum’s movements is highlighted by being ranked outside the top 40 in drives to the basketper game — only converting on half of his attempts. To top off his 2019–20 campaign, McCollum has notched an abysmal 3.7 win shares thus far. This puts him in the 97th percentile, equivalent to much lower paid Dwight Powell and JJ Redick. Albeit CJ McCollum makes good on his usage, the overall perception of his contributions, relative to his salary, are overvalued.
2019–20 SALARY: $27.5M
2019–20 Production: B
3. Draymond Green
In 2019–20 Draymond Green unquestionably had his worst season since his rookie year. The three-time NBA champion’s production rates were in the trenches and, with the Golden State Warriors’ season cut short, they’ll be staying there. This caught me by surprise as I expected Draymond to shine in an elevated role with the absence of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. In actuality the opposite occurred, as Green shriveled under the weight of responsibility. Green’s salary for this year is $18.5 million, but by year 2024 it’ll be up to $27.5 million.
From a league best record in 2018–19, to the league’s worst record this season, Green saw a 17.6 point decline in his plus/minus (per 100 possessions). So, the theory that Draymond is only effective as a third option on the Warriors could have some validity.
Now, Draymond can’t solely be blamed for a downturn this drastic with injuries nagging the Warriors roster. But his shooting certainly didn’t help the cause. He shot the ball at a horrific 27.9% rate from three, 38.9% from the field, and 48.9% in true shooting.
On the upside, impressive per-game assist (6.2) and rebound (6.2) averages showed signs of life for the point forward. Despite playing without the Splash Brothers, Green was able to dime up his youthful teammates — five of whom were rookies — and tally his career best assist-turnover ratio (2.71). Even with these playmaking stats Green logged his second worst PER, proving his dependence on his All-Star teammates. All-in-all, Draymond Green didn’t live up to his high-paying salary.
2019–20 SALARY: $18.5M
2019–20 Production: C
2. Terry Rozier
In the 2019 offseason, the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics engaged in a sign-and-trade deal, shipping Kemba Walker to the Celtics and Terry Rozier to the Hornets. Rozier signed a three-year deal worth $56.7 million. He quickly fit the bill of an overpaid player, pocketing a cool $19.8 million his first season. The Hornets were likely blinded by his 2018 playoff performance where he averaged career highs across all main statistical categories. Unfortunately for Charlotte, Terry has not returned to the efficiency level he achieved that post-season.
This season saw mixed results for Scary Terry, averaging a career high 18 points per contest while the Hornets’ offensive rating was better without him on the court. His overall total RAPTOR rating was an uninspired -2.0 which ranks outside the top 200 of players in the league. Rozier is a project; given the right circumstances, he has the potential to be productive. Whether or not he has what it takes to be a consistent starting PG in the NBA is yet to be seen.
To add to the uncertainty surrounding Rozier, with him on the court the Hornets are minus-16 in wins, and negative 6.9 points per 100 possessions. Granted, the Louisville alum posted a career high in assists; he also put up a career worst assist to turnover ratio (1.84). Clearly this season was an adjustment period for the freshly anointed starter. But if he doesn’t gain his footing soon, he may find himself back on the bench.
2019–20 SALARY: $19.8M
2019–20 Production: C+
1. Tobias Harris
It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt that Tobias Harris was thankful for his agent (who’s also his father) after landing a five-year 180 million-dollar deal. This near maximum contract paid Harris $32.7 million this season and ties him for the tenth highest paid player of 2019–20. I think it’s safe to say, while a solid third best player for the Sixers, Tobias is not a top 10 player in the league. The Philadelphia 76ers agreed to resign the free agent over Jimmy Butler with the intention of upping their scoring, specifically their three-point shooting.
Throughout the abbreviated season, Harris has shot a mediocre 36.2% from three, averaging 1.8 made threes per game. The issue is if his jump shots aren’t falling then his offensive options run low, with 62.1% of his field goal attempts being jumpers. Tobias is a very streaky three-point shooter as well, with his three-point percentage fluctuating month to month. From October to November his three-point percentage saw a 14.6% decrease, and December to January saw an 8% increase.
The 6-foot-8 forward, has improved his lateral quickness and avoids getting into foul trouble. But he still possesses defensive deficiencies with a negative defensive box plus/minus. The Sixers also enjoy a higher defensive rating with Harris off the floor. Even though he has the talent to be an X-factor for the Sixers, Tobias will need to polish and refine his game before he lives up to his contract’s value.
2019–20 SALARY: $32.7M
2019–20 Production: B-