IN MY OPINION

Bonnell: Charlotte Bobcats forward Tyrus Thomas’ contract among NBA’s worst

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comMarch 24, 2013 

Just about once a week some Charlotte Bobcats fan or another will remind me Tyrus Thomas must represent the worst contract in the NBA.

Certainly Thomas’s deal is in the discussion. He makes $8 million this season and is guaranteed $8.7 million for the 2013-14 season and $9.3 million in 2014-15. As of Friday, Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap hadn’t used Thomas in the last 19 games.

So I decided to rip through each player payroll in the NBA to find comparably troublesome contracts. I chose not to include injured players, since that’s not the fault of the player or the team that signed him.

Many of the really awful contracts have already been wiped off the books by the NBA’s amnesty clause. That allows each team to waive one player and stop counting his remaining salary against the cap. (That only applies to cap measures; the player still gets paid.)

I came up with five contracts that were comparable to Thomas’s deal with the Bobcats. Not surprisingly, most of these guys are big men, either centers or power forwards. The league has always paid a premium for size, so it’s predictable that big men who flop tend to look the most overpaid.

The Not-So-Fab Five, listed in alphabetical order:

Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors center. Owed $10 million this season, $10.75M in 2013-14 and $11.5M in 2014-15: Bargnani was a bit of a reach as the top pick of the 2006 draft. He’s a 7-foot-tall jump shooter and not much else. And Raptors management would be more than happy to find him a new home.

Andris Biedrins, Golden State Warriors center. Owed $9 million this season and $9 million next season: The Warriors signaled they had given up on Biedrins last season when they traded for Andrew Bogut. Biedrins has some offensive skill, but he’s never really held his ground defensively. With Mark Jackson’s new defense-first approach, that doesn’t cut it.

Al Harrington, Orlando Magic forward. Owed $6.7 million this season, $7.1M in 2013-14, $7.6 million in 2014-15: This is a classic example of an old guy out of place on a young team. Remember that four-team megadeal that brought Dwight Howard to the Lakers, Andrew Bynum to the 76ers and Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets? Denver sent Harrington to Orlando as a means to balance salaries in that trade.

Richard Jefferson, Golden State forward. Owed $10.1 million this season, $11 million in 2013-14: Jefferson was a borderline All-Star contributor to a New Jersey team that reached the NBA Finals. The Nets rewarded him with a very lucrative, very long contract that has been dealt three times since – to Milwaukee, San Antonio and Golden State.

Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons power forward. Owed $8.06 million this season, $8.58 million in 2013-14: The Pistons way overpaid to sign Villanueva as a free agent in 2009. He can still play, but they don’t have much use for him as they rebuild.

Five passing thoughts on the NBA and the Bobcats:

With Jannero Pargo playing so well as a fill-in point guard, Ramon Sessions should feel no special urgency to hurry back from a sprained knee. It’s not as if the Bobcats are chasing a playoff spot in April.

There was a time in January when I thought Mark Jackson was a lock to be coach of the year. But the Warriors settled back into the pack of late, and I can’t see them winning a round in the upcoming playoffs.

Scouts looking to check out potential lottery picks in the NCAA tournament needed to get out early this year. Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and Anthony Bennett (Nevada-Las Vegas) were both out of the tournament on Thursday.

• Josh McRoberts has played about as well as the Bobcats could have hoped when they traded for him last month. It will be interesting to see what effort is made to re-sign him over the summer.

The Toronto Raptors represent four of the Bobcats’ total 22 victories from the start of last season through Friday. The Raptors and Washington Wizards are the only two Eastern Conference teams to lose season series with the Bobcats in that span.

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