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Which NBA teams have dead money contracts for the 2022-23 season?

Last year, the Detroit Pistons’ highest paid player was not a member of their active roster: Blake Griffin. This offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder will come close to that milestone.

OKC plans to pay Kembe Walker just over $27 million in 2022-2023, which is slightly less than the $29,750,000 they’ll shell out to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Walker was never (and probably never will be) a match for the Thunder after they bought him out last summer.

However, Walker’s deal remains in place in the form of “dead money” terminology for one of the most unusual scenarios in NBA roster management.

When an NBA franchise negotiates a buyout with a player whose contract has not expired, they are still on the hook for any remaining guaranteed money. Teams have two options: continue to honor the contract during its original term, or use an extension clause.

Stretch Provision is what it sounds like; a released player has his salary “stretched” to be paid in smaller installments over a longer period – specifically, double the number of years remaining on his contract, plus an extra year (here’s a great explanation of the position in our free agent glossary). Remember the monstrous salaries handed out in 2016 and 2017 by free agents? Some of these players have been denied payouts, which means they are still receiving checks.

Fifteen teams had dead money going into the 2021-22 NBA offseason. That number has dropped to nine this year, according to wage data in Spotrak as well as Basketball Handbook. Perhaps teams are getting smarter about how they give out contracts or how they buy players.

Here is a breakdown of the dead money trades in 2022-2023, and some of the players, which may surprise you, are still on the payroll:

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER ($28.4 million dead money)

Kemba Walker ($27.4 million) – Walker joined the Thunder last offseason in a trade that sent Al Horford back to Boston. OKC also received a first round pick which went to Houston and a 2025 second round pick. The team released Walker less than two months before he was ever dressed and decided to just play him for the remaining two years as they are instead of increasing his salary. He won’t be on the list by next offseason.

Kyle Singler ($999,200) – Here’s a great blast from the past. Singler played three seasons with Oklahoma City and rotated as a reserve but never got stuck in the rotation. In 2015, he signed a five-year, $25 million contract; by 2018, the Thunder decided to ditch it and stretch it out, and he hasn’t played an NBA game since. The singler has been making just under $1 million every season since 2018/19. This is also his final year in the books.

DETROIT PISTONS ($11.8 million dead money)

DeAndre Jordan ($7.8 million) – In fact, the Pistons are paying Jordan for the money left on a four-year, $39.6 million contract he signed with the Brooklyn Nets back in 2019. Brooklyn traded Jordan insignificantly to Detroit last September, and the Pistons quickly bought him out. Jordan then signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, so he actually made money from two teams in the 2021-22 season. This is his last year of receiving money from Detroit.

Duane Dedmon ($2.9 million) – This is one of my favorite crazy scenarios and I want to break it down. Let’s go back to 2019, when Dedmon signed a three-year, $40 million contract with the Sacramento Kings. It didn’t work out, so the Kings traded him that season to the Atlanta Hawks, who then traded him back to Detroit in the 2020 offseason.

The Pistons then waived Dedmon and renewed him four days later with two years left on his contract. This meant that instead of paying him just over $13 million for two years, they sent him just under $3 million over five years. up to 2024-25. Dedmon will receive five years of franchise money without ever playing a game for the Pistons. This is a rare but cool situation (at least for a player) that we only see once this year.

Jair Smith ($1.1 million) – I sympathize with Smith, a former first-round pick who had one of the most devastating blows of bad luck
completely ruin his NBA career. He was acquired by Detroit during the 2020 off-season but later waived and stretched out. This is his last season in Detroit.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS ($8.9 million total dead money)

Nicolas Batum ($8.9 million) – Charlotte is playing his final year in Batum on the remaining money on a five-year, $120 million contract he signed in 2016 during the free agent frenzy. Under this deal, Batum played three seasons, but never found his footing in the Hornets. They abandoned his latest deal and renewed it in November 2020. Batum has received just under $9 million in each of his last three seasons from Charlotte, re-emerging as a star in the rotation with the Los Angeles Clippers.

BROOKLYN NETS ($3.9 million dead money)

Jevon Carter ($3.925 million) After next season, Carter will be off the roster, but it must still be painful for the Nets to see him help the Milwaukee Bucks. Brooklyn acquired Carter along with Dai’Ron Sharp in a deal that sent Landry Shamet to Phoenix. Carter averaged just 12 minutes per game before being released and signed with the Bucks two days later. He then hit 55.8% from long range in Milwaukee, bolstering the bench with his strong defense.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS ($2.8 million dead money)

Andrew Nicholson$2.8 million) Nicholson is my dead money goat. In 2016, he signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the Washington Wizards, played 28 games for the team before being traded to the Nets, where he appeared in 10 tournaments during the same 2016-17 season. Brooklyn then sent him to Portland in exchange for Allen Crabb during the off-season; Portland released Nicholson just over a month later.

Nicholson had three more seasons left on his contract, and the Trail Blazers decided to renew it, which meant they would pay him for another one. seven years. Since the 2017-18 season, he has received just over $2.8 million each season — and will continue to receive that amount through the 2024 offseason — without ever playing for Portland. Here’s how it’s done.

DALLAS MAVERICKS ($1.8 million dead money)

Tyrell Terry ($1.8 million) – Dallas letting Terry go last fall was a bit of a surprise move when it happened. Terry was the Mavericks’ 31st overall pick just one season prior in 2020, and he had supporters in the NBA draft community. For some reason, Terry’s slow start didn’t impress the franchise to the point where they released him from his rookie contract a year later. He then signed the Girzzlies to 10-day and two-way contracts.

HOUSTON ROCKETS ($456,074 in total dead money)

DJ Augustin ($333,333) – Now we’re getting into the minutiae of dead money deals that are unlikely to impact teams financially. Journeyman Augustin played 34 games for the rebuilding Rockets last season. His 2022-23 season is only partially guaranteed, hence the small payout.

Troy Williams ($122,741) – That salary goes back to 2017, when Williams signed a three-year contract with Houston. Williams played a partial season in 2017-18 before his contract for the final two years was terminated and renewed. He then joined the New York Knicks, New Orleans Pelicans, Kings, and Phoenix Suns, but never landed on anything for long.

TORONTO RAPTORS ($125,000 dead money)

Ish Wainwright ($125,000) – Wainwright signed a two-year deal with Toronto during the off-season and impressed the NBA Summer League, but was waived in October. Both years were partially guaranteed. Wainwright returned to a two-way deal with Phoenix, which the Suns eventually turned into a standard NBA deal.

BOSTON CELTICS ($92,857 dead money)

Demetrius Jackson ($92,857) – Jackson’s contract is another strange situation. He signed a four-year, $5.5 million contract with the Celtics as a second-round pick in the 2016 NBA draft. In his first year, Boston paid him $1.45 million. In the second year, the guaranteed salary was only $650,000, in the third year there were no guarantees, and the fourth year was an option for the team. Stay with me, here.

Boston decided to back out and stretch Jackson in 2017, the last day his $650,000 would be guaranteed. He technically still had three years left on his contract, so the (relatively) tiny $650,000 guaranteed salary would be stretched out over a full seven seasons. Jackson has earned $92,857 since 2017/18 and will continue to receive that salary through 2023/24.

NBA players are making more money than ever before on contracts for up to five years. So it’s unbelievable that the league’s longest current contract commitments (not counting renewals) are eight years for two players: Andrew Nicholson and Demetrius Jackson.

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