The NBA's most overpaid players
By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff

The All-Star starters are all set, and soon we'll celebrate the NBA's best of the best. So it seems a good time to also make note of some players who don't really earn their paychecks.

We've done this before, but this year we're doing it a little different: the only players eligible for the list are those who haven't missed a significant part (or all) of the season due to injuries.

In other words, they're relatively healthy, their wallets are even healthier, and some owner (or two in some cases) is out a couple of days' interest. Here we go. All salaries are this season's based on best estimates from a variety of sources.

10. Wesley Person, Trail Blazers ($7,700,000)
Lord knows the Blazers can use all the Wesley Persons they can get. Person is a good guy for Portland to have on its roster -- he's a veteran and he won't get into any trouble. But he doesn't add anything, really -- when he's at the tail end of his career, and averaging only six points per game?

Wesley Person
Wesley Person can slice and dice -- when he's in the game.
Person's the Blazers' 10th man, playing about 20 minutes a game. But GM John Nash seemed thrilled just to have a guy who he didn't have to bail out of jail in the middle of the night. When Nash traded for Person a few months ago, he said, "His history as a superior perimeter shooter is attractive to us. Equally attractive is the fact that he has a reputation as a real solid citizen and a solid character."

Certainly those qualities are admirable, but are they worth that kind of cash?

9. Eddie Robinson, Bulls ($6,246,960)
Robinson, Chicago's second-highest paid player, makes almost no contribution to the Bulls, one of the worst teams in the NBA. He comes off the bench and puts in three buckets a game, and for this Chicago's committed another $14 million over the next two seasons.

8. Austin Croshere, Pacers ($7,610,000)
The Pacers rewarded Croshere with a hefty contract around the turn of the century, because he had a couple of good seasons. But for the past three years he's been little more than a highly-paid cheerleader while eating up a chunk of salary cap space.

7. Vitaly Potapenko, Calvin Booth and Jerome James, Sonics centers ($15,700,000 combined)
These three guys split center duties for the Sonics, so we decided to add them all up and we came up with this: three big guys making tiny contributions while taking home huge chunks of Seattle payroll.

Vitaly Potapenko
Vitaly Potapenko, part of Seattle's three-headed "monster" at center.
Potapenko, who at $5.7 million is one of the highest-paid Sonics, averages 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds. That's when he plays, which is rarely. Booth, who's started more than half Seattle's games, scores 5.4 points and grabs 4.6 rebounds a game, and is right behind Potapenko on the salary list, making $5.4 million. Jerome James uses his 7-foot-1-inch frame to pull down 3.3 rebounds per game. He averages about 5 points. For this he earns about $4.5 million.

The sad thing for Sonics fans is that all three are signed for next season, too -- with Potapenko and Booth slated for salary boosts.

6. Keith Van Horn ($13,500,000) and Anfernee Hardaway ($13,500,000), Knicks
We've grouped these guys together so this wouldn't turn into an all-Knicks list. Van Horn is the essence of mediocrity, paid a superstar's salary. Hardaway, the essence of lost potential, a 32-year-old five years past his prime. Did Layden take spending lessons from Donald "Oooh, that's shiny" Trump?

5. Kelvin Cato, Rockets ($7,344,000)
Now, to be fair, Cato, a 6-foot-11-inch swingman, is 10th in the NBA -- in technical fouls. What's he so mad about? He's starting, but still gets to relax about half the game (avg: 28 minutes per), and even though he averages 6.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, is guaranteed to make more money next year (and the next, too).

Here's the strange thing, though: even though he was picked 15th in the 1997 draft, there's never been any reason to expect more from Cato -- he's in his seventh NBA season, and having, for him, an above-average campaign.

Allan Houston
Allan Houston -- a sharpshooter, and that's about it.
4. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cavaliers ($13,350,000)
As my colleague, Mike Munoz, put it, "He must get paid based on Scrabble points in his name." Although Ilgauskas was an All-Star last year, it's kind of hard to imagine why a 7-foot-3-inch guy who can't rebound, is only a so-so shot blocker, isn't a good passer (even for a center) and scores 14 ppg is worth Kobe Bryant/Allen Iverson-style green.

Or, to put it another way: Ilgauskas' salary alone accounts for nearly 30 percent of the Cavs' payroll. He makes about 2 1/2 times the amount of the next highest paid Cav, Eric Williams, but leads the team in only one statistical category, blocked shots.

3. Allan Houston, Knicks ($15,937,500)
Houston, the fifth-highest paid player in the NBA, gets big bucks to do one thing: score points. And this he does, fairly well, leading the Knicks with a 19.5 average. There's no doubt -- Allan's a great shooter who's worth good money. But he's a one-dimensional player -- he doesn't dish and he doesn't rebound well, even for a guard. In other words, Houston shouldn't be getting the mega-superstar bucks.

2. Dikembe Mutombo, Knicks ($17,894,738)
Once upon a time, as you know, Mutombo could play. And he can still play great D on occasion. But that doesn't make up for his tiny contributions elsewhere (6 points and 7 rebounds a game). He's the third-highest paid player in the NBA (the Nets pick up about 3/4 of the tab), but is worth, at most, a few million.

Vin Baker
Vin Baker hasn't done nearly enough of this for the Celtics.
1. Vin Baker, Celtics ($12,975,000)
You're not surprised, are you? Seems like just a month or two ago people were talking about Baker's comeback, how he'd lost weight and had been playing like the Vin Baker of -- well, not the mid-1990s, but the late-1990s. But even if he continued, the truth is that Baker would still be on this list -- c'mon, this guy's making more than Tim Duncan? Alcohol problems, 11 points, rehab woes, half-a-dozen rebounds, and what do the fans have to look forward to? Look at this season: his performance has steadily declined. Look at his career: his performance has steadily declined.

Note that Baker doesn't get paid when he's suspended. But he's already made $5.85 million this season.

Also receiving votes:

Juwan Howard, Magic ($4.9 M)
Scot Pollard, Pacers ($5.3 M)
Tim Thomas, Bucks ($11.8M)
Theo Ratliff, Hawks ($10.1M)
Alan Henderson, Hawks ($7.7 million)
Damon Stoudamire, Trail Blazers ($14.4 million)

Thanks to those in ESPN studio production and ESPN Radio who contributed nominations.





 

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