It’s pretty safe to say the Miami Heat got every penny’s worth out of Dwyane Wade in the regular season after reacquiring him.
Wade put an exclamation mark on his legend in south Florida by having one of his best career games, pouring in 28 against Philadelphia in Game 2 of their first round series as Miami knotted it up 1-1. As the Sixers mounted a comeback late in the game, Wade also made a couple clutch shots to stifle it.
The Cavaliers and Heat paid the 36-year-old Wade a bargain $2.3 million this season, and he repaid both clubs, averaging 11.4 points and 3.4 assists in 67 games (23 minutes average floor time).
His story, while not the only exceptional one this year, was and is inspirational for his team as they duke it out in the post-season.
For every Wade, though, there is a Chandler Parsons, the Memphis forward who gets paid better than DeAndre Jordan and Giannis Antetokounmpo but doesn’t play anywhere near like them.
Those players and teams that didn’t give the fans their money’s worth are numerous. Here are 20 we think merit special attention for being disappointing overall.
20. Los Angeles Lakers
After yet another mediocre season in 2016-17, there seemed to be cause for optimism in the off-season when the team drafted Lonzo Ball and added Detroit SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, C Brook Lopez. They also had improving home-growns in Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram. As well, at the start of the season Kyle Kuzma, who they traded for on draft day last year, outplayed second overall pick Ball and through much of the season was a Rookie of the Year contender. However, the 2017-18 Lakers won just nine more games than the deplorable ’16-17 squad, which, anyway it’s sliced, is a disappointment. They clearly didn’t compete well against Western Conference foes, going 19-33 and they owned a dismal 3-7 mark in their last 10. Breaking things down further, the Lakers owned just a 9-27 mark against the 10 teams which finished ahead of them in the standings (including a lousy 1-3 record against the Clippers). This team could have competed for a playoff spot and the excuses have run out.
19. Gorgui Dieng – Minnesota Timberwolves
Prior to the 2016-17 season, Senegalese center and member of the 2013-14 NBA All-Rookie Team Gorgui Dieng signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the T-Wolves. He was coming off a career year in 2015-16, where he averaged 10.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks, in 27.1 average minutes mostly off the bench. He played up to the expectations attached to that money in 2016-17, averaging 10.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 82 games, all starts. This season, though, he played second fiddle to Karl-Anthony Towns, starting none of his 79 games and posting numbers well below what everyone expected him to achieve. His points went down to 5.9 and his rebounds to 4.6, while he averaged less than half the blocks he made in 2016-17 at just 0.5. The only defence of his disappointing numbers could be that he played just 17 minutes per game, but that is flimsy as well.
18. Tyson Chandler – Phoenix Suns
The Suns were the worst team in the NBA this season, for good reason. They didn’t shoot particularly well, nor did they play staunch defence, allowing a league worst 113.3 points per game against. C Tyson Chandler, the second highest paid player on the Suns, deserves special mention for mailing it in this season, when he did play. Battling injuries in 2017-18, Chandler still started all 46 games he appeared in, but outside of his rebounds, he could hardly be credited for earning his $13 million per year contract. Yes, he did pull down an admirable 9.1 rebounds per game, however, this season was his worst offensively since he signed a four-year, $52 million pact before the 2015-16 season. His 6.5 points per game were the lowest since 09-10 with Charlotte and far less than what he posted in the same number of games in 2016-17. If the Suns are to rise again, they need way more out of Chandler.
17. Nerlens Noel – Dallas Mavericks
All the promise Nerlens Noel had in his first two seasons with Philadelphia is slowly circling the bowl now that he is in Dallas. The often injured former first round pick of the New Orleans Pelicans and member of the 2014-15 NBA All-Rookie Team has been a major disappointment through 52 games (18 starts) with the Mavs since being traded there in the middle of last season. He whined his way out of Philly, lamenting his lack of playing time, and in 51 total games with the Sixers and Mavericks he averaged 8.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. This season, he played in just 30 games, starting six and compounded his problems by getting suspended five games for violating the NBA drug policy. In those 30 contests for a terrible Dallas Mavericks team, Noel averaged just 4.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks. He was on a one-year deal at just a shade under $4.2 million and will likely be looking for work next fall.
16. Denver Nuggets
Even though the Nuggets missed the playoffs by the slimmest of margins, this campaign can’t be viewed as anything but a disappointment. They have missed the post-season five straight times after qualifying in the 10 previous seasons and with a little push should have made it back this year. The Nuggets went from 30 wins in 2014-15 (their worst season since 2002-03), to 33 victories in 2015-16, 40 in 2016-17 and finally 46 this year. They lost the pivotal 82nd game to Minnesota, 112-106 in overtime, to have the last playoff spot slip through their fingers. A couple of players who didn’t play up to expectations can be singled out. PG Emmanuel Mudiay, so good in his first two seasons with Denver, never got untracked this year and was traded to the New York Knicks. Back-up center Mason Plumlee didn’t fare well off the bench, seeing every one of his offensive and defensive numbers take a big dip from 2016-17.
15. Al Jefferson – Indiana Pacers
In a most surprising, and very good, year for the Indiana Pacers there was one disappointment. And that was the play of third-string center Al Jefferson. On the second year of a three-year, $30 million contract, Jefferson played in just 36 games, starting one. While he can’t be blamed for being injured for more than half the season, Jefferson can take criticism for the lack of production in relation to his high salary (the optics of which are worse when compared to the numbers put up by Myles Turner). Jefferson recorded 7.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and just 0.6 blocks in his 14th NBA season. Making matters worse for the veteran is the fact he may not see any floor time in the playoffs for the Pacers, given that both Turner and Domantas Sabonis are healthy.
14. Dion Waiters – Miami Heat
The disappointment in Miami is directly related to the consistent injury woes faced by high-priced shooting guard Dion Waiters. To make matters worse, the season-ending surgery to repair instability in his left ankle was also performed to correct a pre-existing Navicular bone fracture. Waiters played in just 46 games during the 2016-17 season with Miami, and posted a career high 15.8 points per game, along with 3.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. The team rewarded him, despite his history of leg injuries, with a rich, four-year, $52 million contract. This season, he appeared in just 30 games (all starts), his lowest total in six seasons. If not for his lack of time on the floor, the Heat wouldn’t necessarily have had to brought back Dwyane Wade (though he hasn’t hurt them). Waiters numbers weren’t bad when he was in, but they all dropped slightly, to 14.3 PPG, 2.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
13. Jared Dudley – Phoenix Suns
The Suns had more than just one passenger en route to a league worst 21-61 record. Veteran forward Jared Dudley, he of the $10 million cap hit, was largely missing in action this past season. In 48 games, none of them starts, Dudley put up the worst stats of his 11-season career. He contributed just 3.2 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists to the cause. Now, he did play just over 14 minutes per game, but as the third highest paid player on a young club, one would think he could have chipped in just a bit more. In 2016-17, his second go around with Phoenix, the well-traveled Dudley played 64 games and registered 6.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists to the cause. Those numbers weren’t spectacular, however, the precipitous decline this season doesn’t bode well for his prospects in 2018-19 (the last year of his current three-year, $30 million contract).
12. New York Knicks
Another year, another disappointing finish from the perennially mediocre New York Knicks. They won just 29 games and finished 14 games out of a playoff spot, missing the Big Dance for the fifth year in a row. Now, not much was expected of the Knicks going in, but even this team managed to disappoint despite the bar being set so low. It seems that every year this team searches for identity, any kind of identity. For instance, instead of giving first round pick Frank Ntilikina more playing time — especially in a down year — they signed 34-year-old veteran Jarrett Jack to run the floor. He wasn’t a total bust, but his numbers didn’t far eclipse Ntilikina’s. Then, in a move that can only be termed short-sighted, they traded for under-performing PG Emmanuel Mudiay from Denver. His numbers went up slightly, but not enough to warrant keeping Ntilikina’s butt stapled to the bench for more minutes than he had on the floor. We’ve just scratched the surface to what ails the Knicks, who got coach Jeff Hornacek fired.
11. Mike Conley – Memphis Grizzlies
The sigh of disappointment and disillusionment in Memphis is in direct relation to the number of games star guard Mike Conley actually played and how much money the team threw at him. The Grizz inked Conley to a five-year, $152.6 million deal in 2016 and the following season he responded with career highs in points (20.5) and rebounds (3.5), along with 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals. He also shot a career high 40.8 percent from beyond the arc and 46 percent from the field. Fast forward one year and Conley plays in just 12 of Memphis’ first 13 games before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury. When he went out, the Grizz were 7-6. But, they would win just 15 of their remaining 69 games to finish second last overall. When he did play, Conley contributed 17.1 points and 4.1 assists. Memphis has to be hoping his Achilles injury (which repaired a bone protrusion), isn’t debilitating.
10. Cristiano Felicio – Chicago Bulls
What to do with Brazilian national Cristiano Felicio going forward? That has to be the question on the minds of the Chicago Bulls brain trust, considering the third highest paid player on the team’s roster isn’t a starter and has not gotten appreciably better in three seasons. After signing a brand new four-year $32 million contract for the rebuilding Bulls, Felicio regressed in some areas after being given more starts. In 2016-17, pre-contract, Felicio played 66 games (zero starts), averaged 15.6 minutes, scored 4.8 points and added 4.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals and 0.3 blocks. This season, in 55 games (16 of them starts). Felicio got 17.8 minutes of floor time, scored 5.6 points per game and chipped in 4.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.3 steals and 0.2 blocks. So, while he did “improve” some, he also regressed and finds himself playing behind the likes of rookie Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez and Bobby Portis.
9. Bismack Biyombo – Orlando Magic
At one time considered to be one of the next big things at center — after one good season and playoffs with Toronto — Bismack Biyombo has landed with a thud in Orlando. After his coming out party with Toronto, where he was great in a reserve role during the 2015-16 season and the 2016 playoffs, the Magic inked him to a four-year, $72 million contract. For that, he put up nearly identical numbers in central Florida, which on the face of it isn’t bad, but for the highest paid player on the club, not all that impressive. All the most important stats for a big man have fallen off, like rebounds (7.0 in 2016-17 to 5.7 in 2017-18) and points (6.0 to 5.7). He also played second fiddle to starting center Nikola Vucevic, who makes $4.75 million less per season than his Congolese confrere.
8. Memphis Grizzlies
The malaise that infected the Grizz wasn’t due in whole part to Mike Conley’s season ending injury. Sure, he was an integral part of their success as a star point guard, but this is a team that made the playoffs in seven straight seasons, only to finish with a dismal 22-60 record. Which means the rest of this sorry squad has a lot of ‘splainin to do. Outside of rookie forward Dillon Brooks, third-year PF JaMychal Green, veteran C Marc Gasol and shooting guard Tyreke Evans there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about in Tennessee. They didn’t score a lot — second last with just 99.3 points for per game — and were middle of the pack defensively, allowing a 13th best 105.5 points per game. What hurt them in the scoring department was an absymal 35.2 percent efficiency from three-point territory. And that 6-35 road record, well, it was by far the worst in the NBA.
7. Joakim Noah – New York Knicks
As if the Knicks weren’t disappointing enough, their big ticket acquisition in 2016, Joakim Noah, has been a total bust in the Big Apple. After signing a monster four-year, $72.6 million contract with New York in July, 2016, Noah played all of 46 games and sat out the rest through a combination of injury and suspension by the league for violating the drug policy (which carried over to this season). He scored 5.0 points per game and grabbed 8.8 rebounds in 2016-17. This year, Noah saw action in a paltry seven games, none of them starts and by January, after a heated argument with now fired coach Jeff Hornacek, he went into exile from the team. So, for $17.765 million this season, the Knicks got 5.7 minutes average floor time from Noah, along with 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds. What a sorry mess this team has become, if Noah’s deplorable contribution is any indication.
6. Chandler Parsons – Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis gets particular attention here for not only being a disappointing team, but housing a few under-achieving players. While we did single out Mike Conley for general disappointment, his was due to a grievous injury. As for Chandler Parsons, he was a disappointment in more than just sitting out. In his first five seasons in the league, Parsons established himself as a fairly reliable starting small forward, earning a big four-year, $94.4 million pact with Memphis prior to the 2016-17 season. It should be noted he had off-season surgery that year, so heading into camp in 2016 he was damaged goods. He barely played in 2016-17 (19.9 average minutes in 34 games) and didn’t score half the points he did in 2015-16 with Dallas (13.7 to 6.2). His rebounds and assists fell, too, but some were willing to cut him some slack. This season it was much the same thing, only he didn’t start much in 36 games and his playing time fell from 19.9 minutes to 19.2. He was only able to chip in 7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists when he was available to hit the floor. The Grizz are on the hook for two more years at a collective $49.2 million.
5. Carmelo Anthony – Oklahoma City Thunder
Yes, we are calling out ‘Melo for not quite living up to expectations in OKC. And we’re being kind in that assessment. The Thunder are paying the 10-time All-Star and former scoring champion just under $25 million to give them the kind of all around game he gave Denver and New York for 14 seasons. Yes, the team barely made the playoffs with a Big 3 that includes Anthony, fellow newcomer Paul George and Russell Westbrook, but Melo’s contributions were quite muted. For starters he scored less than 20 points per game for the first time in his career, averaging a very un-Anthony like 16.2 (his career average is 24.1). Every major stat across the board took a dive, hence why the new and improved Thunder looked discombobulated at times. Anthony does have a shot at redemption in the playoffs and in the Thunder’s Game 1 victory over Utah he was good, chipping in 15 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
4. Detroit Pistons
When the Pistons brought in Blake Griffin just before the deadline this season, it was thought a playoff spot was a lock. When the Pistons reeled off five straight wins after the big trade with the Clippers, moving their record past .500, all seemed plausible. However, the systemic problems that existed pre-Griffin reared their ugly head and Detroit won only three of its next 16 games to sink nine games below .500 and really no hope of getting in. Other than Andre Drummond, who led the NBA in rebounds with 16 per game, many of Detroit’s starters under-performed, including Griffin (more on him later). Veteran point guard Reggie Jackson missed 37 games due to injury and struggled from three-point range, his averaging dropping from 35.9 to 30.8 in one season. Third-year forward Stanley Johnson also failed to improve significantly, despite being given his most starts and most average playing time. The Pistons missed making the playoffs by four full games. Not acceptable.
3. Blake Griffin – Detroit Pistons
One player does not a team make, but Pistons fans have to be greatly disappointed that the trade for expensive forward Blake Griffin didn’t translate to a playoff berth. We aren’t placing all the blame for the Pistons’ failure at Griffin’s feet, however, when he commands a shade under $30 million to play basketball every year, more was expected. He did play 25 games with the Pistons, missing the last seven with a bone bruise in his foot, and for the first part of his short tenure so far he struggled. After being acquired on Jan. 29 and sitting out a start against Cleveland, Griffin was only mediocre by his standards in a pivotal month of February that saw the Pistons go 6-6. He shot just 25.8 percent from beyond the arc and averaged only 18.3 points per game. He was better in early March, however, the Pistons lost seven of their first 10 to fall well out of any playoff conversation. Oh well, there’s always next year.
2. Tristan Thompson – Cleveland Cavaliers
Every team has got to have a bad boy and in The Land, that guy is Tristan Thompson. The Toronto born veteran center has recently made more headlines for allegedly cheating on pregnant celebutante wife Khloe Kardashian than for any kind of worthwhile contribution to the Cavs’ cause. He soaks up $16.4 million a year and isn’t even a starter. He appeared in 53 games this season and started just 22, with all of his offensive and defensive statistics going down the drain. From 2016-17 to 2017-18, a look at his stats lines saw his points go from 8.1 to 5.8, rebounds from 9.2 to 6.6 his blocks from 1.1 to 0.3 and his shooting percentage from 60 percent to 56.2. In Cleveland’s shocking game 1 loss to Indiana in the first round of the playoffs, the team had so much faith in his talent they put him on the floor for two minutes. Let’s just say the only highlight reel plays he’s been making are the grainy mistress-related surveillance videos of him on TMZ.
1. Isaiah Thomas – Los Angeles Lakers
How far Isaiah Thomas’ star has fallen, so fast. From being a superstar in Boston who played hurt (he is having off-season hip surgery) to a so-so 15 games in a Cavs uniform after being dealt for Kyrie Irving and then 17 mostly forgettable games with the Lakers, Thomas’ days are now numbered. He’s listed as no. 2 at the point guard position behind Lonzo Ball and at 29 getting past his prime, the outspoken Thomas better have a full recovery from surgery if he hopes to prolong his career in any meaningful way. In Cleveland, where it was hoped that he would be as good a floor general as Irving, he didn’t fit in on a team mostly run by LeBron James and was part of the malaise that infected the team for a good part of the year. L.A. might be the place to get things going again, but we are skeptical.