On July 10th, 2013, the Detroit Pistons signed Josh Smith to a 4 year/$54 million contract. Smith played his last game for the Pistons on December 21st, 2014, and was waived using the stretch provision the following day. Six years later, the Pistons are finally done paying Josh Smith.
Using the stretch provision, a team can reduce the yearly cap hit, but prolonged the payments on a contract. Instead of paying Smith $13.5 million for two and a half years, they paid him $5 million per year until 2020. That would make sense if you free up cap space for a free agent or a trade. But the Pistons are living in NBA purgatory for more than a decade and have little to show to justify the stretch.
The Pistons effectively subsidized every team he played for since. When Smith was leading the Rockets against the Clippers in one of the most improbable playoff comebacks in NBA history, he was doing so on a $2 million contract. The reason the Rockets got Smith for $2 million was that he knew there was $5 million coming from Detroit.
That’s why the Grizzlies refused to waive Igoudala – Memphis told Igoudala they are not paying him to play against them. After being used to match salaries in a trade, Igoudala informed the Grizzlies he won’t play for them, and they should waive him. The assumption was Igoudala would sign for the Lakers or Clippers and play in games against the Grizzlies. Memphis waited it out and traded Igoudala to Miami in a three-team trade that got them, Justice Winslow. That’s what good front offices do.
So, are there other “Josh Smith’s” out there? You’d think teams saw the colossal mistake the Pistons did with Josh Smith and learned a valuable lesson. You’d be wrong. Stretch candidates are apparent the moment they are signed. GM’s in trouble reaching to save face and try to keep their job. You are correct – 2016 was the year, 4 years for $72 million were the contracts. Plural.
Four for SeventyTwo
It’s the summer of 2016; the cap spike was upon the NBA. Jim Buss and Phil Jackson were leading the Lakers and Knicks. After striking out on major free agents, Buss and Jackson signed two of the worst contracts in recent NBA history. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah signed for four years, $72 million.
Deng played 57 games for the Lakers – 56 in ’16/’17 and 1 in ’17/’18. On September 1st, 2018, the Los Angeles Lakers waived and stretched Deng. Despite the fact he played his last Laker game on October 19th, 2017, Deng will be receiving $5 million per year until the end of ’21/’22.
Joakim Noah played even less; 53 games for the Knicks – 46 in ’16/’17 and 7 in ’17/’18. The Knicks waived and stretched him on October 13th, 2018. and will be paying him $6,5 million per year until the end of ’21/’22.
There are 450 active NBA roster spots. According to Hoops Hype, Josh Smith was the 198th best-paid player in the NBA (79th best-paid forward). Joakim Noah was the 174th best-paid NBA player this year (25th best-paid center), and Deng was the 202nd best-paid NBA player this year (81st best-paid forward). Smith and Deng are retired; Noah played 5 regular-season games (50 minutes total) and a total of 1 minute and 52 seconds in the playoffs.
It turns out NBA teams are, at times, the best retirement funds in the world.