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Worst contracts among NBA playoff contenders: Where do deals for Ben Simmons and Rudy Gobert rank?

Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

What makes a terrible NBA contract? Is it the player’s age? Declining skill-set? Role on the team? One-dimensionality? Let’s assume it’s all of those factors.

With that in mind, we’ve parsed through the worst and most impactful contracts in the NBA, specifically those saddled by playoff teams or non-Lottery teams with playoff aspirations. And we’ve found the five contracts that will do the most damage by limiting financial flexibility towards their team’s cap space while continuing to pay a player once they are way past their prime. The reverse-legacy contracts have been omitted, which have gained infamy for just how gruesome they were for an extended period of time (think John Wall and Russell Westbrook). But two current stars have taken their place.

With that in mind, let’s examine how late-stage capitalism has infected even the NBA, inflating
players’ worths and making lowering so desperate for relevance they are willing to mortgage
future flexibility for a few measly games above .500 seasons now. So let’s get into it.

5. Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat

duncan robinson
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
SeasonCap hitAge
2025-26 (Player Option)$19,888,00031

Unlike the other four contracts on this list, this was bad from the moment the ink dried on the paper. Duncan Robinson is a one-dimensional specialist. Even worse, his defense has been so atrocious since signing this deal that Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra has completely removed him from the rotation. He is only averaging 16.1 minutes per game, the lowest since his rookie year, while not starting a single game and only scoring 6.2 points per game. His 52.6 2-point shooting percentage and 49.8 eFG percentage are career lows. Worst of all, the very thing that got him into the NBA in the first place, his three-point shot, is only being hit on 32.7 percent, the lowest since his rookie season. He’s played in only three of the past nine games, playing less four minutes each time. To pay Robinson, a traffic cone on defense, an average of $18 million per over the next three seasons is a masterclass of ineptitude.

4. Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets

ben simmons
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
SeasonCap HitAge

Of the players being paid “max” money, over $30 million annually, Ben Simmons is the worst deal in the NBA. He seems completely uninterested in playing professional basketball. He’s one of the most arrogant and overrated players in the league and the poster boy for the whiney, immature divas some ex-NBA players have derided the league for catering to. Simmons, who missed last season because of back and mental health issues, just cut ties with his long-time representation, Klutch Sports, citing wanting a “fresh start.’ It’s likely Simmons is eventually bought out by the Nets and will find his true worth on the buyout market. When no team reaches out with even a minimum deal, Simmons will be left with his millions of dollars and thoughts to sit alone at home with.

3. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

jimmy butler
Allison Farrand-USA TODAY Sports
SeasonCap HitAge

This is the hottest inclusion on the list. Butler belongs in a different conversation than the underperforming and underwhelming players alongside him here. Butler is one of the best two-way players in the NBA. He’s a dawg and solely responsible for the Heat being in the playoffs, period. But his contract is horrible for the Heat’s long-term flexibility. They will be paying Butler an average of $51 million in the last two years of his deal. That’s terrible value for a guy who has logged a ton of minutes and has carried an overwhelming amount of responsibility for the team’s offense and defense. This season, Butler is averaging 22.8 — the second-highest average of his career — and the Heat are still barely five games over .500. They have a slew of terrible contracts (see Robinson above), and none handicap their ability to maneuver in free agency greater than Butler, who is a star, but not a superstar-level player.

2. Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves

rudy gobert
Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
SeasonCap HitAge
2025-26 (Player Option)$46,655,17333

The Rudy Gobert trade from Utah to Minnesota is the early favorite for the worst trade in the 21st century. The Timberwolves gave up five years of draft control and a slew of solid young players, including one of the top three rookies, Walker Kessler, who is already replacing much of Gobert brought to the Jazz defensively. The Timberwolves with Gobert are sixth in the Western Conference at 39-37 (they finished No. 7 last season at 46-36). To give up one of the largest trade packages, one that crashed the NBA trade market for a player who barely impacted their record, is atrocious. Looking at his per-season stats, he’s down across the board in points (13.8), rebounds (11.6), and blocks (1.4). But it gets worse when you look at the advanced metrics, where he is averaging significantly worse this season compared to last in VORP (1.3), Box Plus/Minus (0.8), Defensive Box Plus/Minus (0.5), Offensive Box Plus/Minus (0.3), PER (19.4), True Shooting% (.682), True Rebounding (21), Block % (4.1), Defensive Win Shares (3), Win Shares (6.9), and Win Shares Per 48 Mins (.178). That’s a drop of nearly every advanced metric on offense and defense, and the Wolves still have to pay him almost $44 million per year over the next three years.

1. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

bradley beal
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
SeasonCap HitAge

The Wizards are the kings of handing out atrocious contracts. Remember Davis Bertans, John Wall, Gilbert Arenas, and Andray Blatche? Each of these moves reeked of the desperation of a franchise holding on to mediocrity. Even with Bradley Beal on the roster, the Wizards would have to win their final nine games to finish at .500, and they are unlikely to make the Play-In Tournament. But, like Arenas and Wall before him, they have failed at building a winning roster around their best player. Beal surpasses all other previous bad contracts as the fourth-highest player in the NBA this season. Even worse, when he’s 33 and well past his prime, he will be paid an astonishing $57 million. That is absurd business for a player already in decline after numerous injuries. His scoring output has dropped to 23.2 ppg this season just two years after averaging over 30 ppg in back-to-back seasons. The Wizards are set to miss the Play-In this season and don’t look to be much better next season. The only thing they can count on? They will be paying Beal well more than his worth while they sink further into mediocrity.

Lee Escobedo covers the NBA for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @_leeescobedo

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