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 matching the
OKC is slated to pay Kemba Walker just over $27 million in
2022-23, which is just a smidge less than the $29,750,000 they'll
shell out to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Walker has never (and likely
will never) suit up for the Thunder after they bought his contract
out last summer.
Walker's deal remains on the books, though, in the form of "dead
money," a terminology for one of the more uncommon scenarios in NBA
When an NBA franchise negotiates a buyout with a player whose
contract is not up, they're still on the hook for any guaranteed
money remaining. Teams have two options: Continue to honor the
contract over its original duration, or use the Stretch
The Stretch Provision is what it sounds like; the released
player has his salary "stretched" to be paid in smaller increments
over a longer period — specifically, twice the number of years
remaining on the contract, plus an additional year (here's a
great explainer on the provision
inside of our free agency glossary). Remember the monster salaries
handed out in 2016 and 2017 free agency? Some of those players were
waived and stretched, meaning they're still receiving checks.
Fifteen teams held dead money entering the 2021-22 NBA
offseason. This year, the number is down to nine, according to
salary figures at Spotrac and Basketball Reference. Perhaps teams are
getting smarter with how they hand out contracts or how they buy
Here's a breakdown of the dead money deals heading into 2022-23,
and some players who you might be surprised are still earning a
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER ($28.4 million in total dead
Kemba Walker ($27.4 million) — Walker joined the
Thunder last offseason in the trade that sent Al Horford back to
Boston. OKC also received a first-round pick that it dealt to
Houston and a 2025 second-round pick. The team released Walker less
than two months later before he ever suited up, and decided to
simply play him the two remaining years as they stand instead of
stretching out his salary. He'll be off the books by next
Kyle Singler ($999,200) — Here's a great blast
from the past. Singler played in Oklahoma City for three seasons
and change as a reserve, but never stuck in the rotation. He signed
a five-year deal worth $25 million in 2015; by 2018, the Thunder
decided to waive and stretch him, and he has not played an NBA game
since. Singler has received just under $1 million each season since
2018-19. This is also his his last year on the books.
DETROIT PISTONS ($11.8 million in total dead
DeAndre Jordan ($7.8 million) — The Pistons are
actually paying Jordan for the money remaining on a four-year,
$39.6 million contract he signed with the Brooklyn Nets back in
2019. Brooklyn traded Jordan to Detroit in a minor move last
September, and the Pistons bromptly bought him out. Jordan then
signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, so he actually
earned money from two teams in 2021-22. This is his last year
receiving cash from Detroit.
Dewayne Dedmon ($2.9 million) — This is one of my
favorite crazy scenarios, and I want to break it down. Let's travel
back to 2019, when Dedmon signed a three-year, $40 million contract
with the Sacramento Kings. Things didn't work out, so the Kings
traded him that season to the Atlanta Hawks, who then moved him
again to Detroit in the 2020 offseason.
The Pistons then waived and stretched Dedmon four days later
with two years remaining on his deal. So that meant, instead of
paying him just over $13 million for two years, they're sending him
a tad under $3 million for five years — all the way
out to 2024-25. Dedmon will receive five years of money from the
franchise without ever playing a game for the Pistons. It's a rare,
but cool situation (for the player, at least) that we only see one
other time this year.
Zhaire Smith ($1.1 million) — I feel for Smith, a
former first-round pick who had one of the most devastating strokes of bad luck
absolutely derail his NBA career. He was acquired by Detroit in the
2020 offseason, but later waived and stretched. This is his last
season on the payroll in Detroit.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS ($8.9 million in total dead
Nicolas Batum ($8.9 million) — Charlotte is in the
final year of playing Batum the remaining money from a five-year,
$120 million contract he signed in that 2016 free agency frenzy.
Batum played through three seasons on that deal, but never found
his footing with the Hornets. They waived and stretched his final
deal in November 2020. Batum has received just under $9 million in
each of the last three seasons from Charlotte while re-emerging as
a stellar rotation player with the Los Angeles Clippers.
BROOKLYN NETS ($3.9 million in total dead
Jevon Carter ($3.925
million) — Carter comes off the books after
next season, but it still must hurt for the Nets to see how he
helped out the Milwaukee Bucks. Brooklyn acquired Carter, along
with Day'Ron Sharpe, in the trade that sent Landry Shamet to
Phoenix. Carter averaged just 12 minutes per game before being
released and signing with the Bucks two days later. He then shot a
scorching 55.8% from long range in Milwaukee, while boosting the
bench unit with his strong defense.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS ($2.8 million in total dead
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 with the team and was then
traded to the Nets, where he appeared in 10 contests in the same
2016-17 season. Brooklyn then sent him to Portland in a swap for
Allen Crabbe in the offseason; Portland released Nicholson just
over a month later.
Nicholson still had three seasons left on his contract, and the
Trail Blazers decided to stretch it, meaning they'd pay him for the
next seven years. Since 2017-18, he has received
just over $2.8 million each season — and will continue to get that
bag until the 2024 offseason — without ever playing for Portland.
That's how it's done.
DALLAS MAVERICKS ($1.8 million in total dead
Tyrell Terry ($1.8 million) — Dallas releasing
Terry last fall was a somewhat surprising move when it happened.
Terry was the No. 31 overall pick to the Mavericks just one season
prior in 2020, and he had his supporters in the NBA Draft
community. For whatever reason, Terry's slow start underwhelmed the
franchise to the point where they flat out released him from his
rookie contract a year later. He then signed with the Girzzlies on
10-day and two-way contracts.
HOUSTON ROCKETS ($456,074 in total dead
DJ Augustin ($333,333) — We're now getting into
the minutae of dead-money deals that will scarcely affect teams
financially. The journeyman Augustin played 34 games with the
rebuilding Rockets last season. His 2022-23 season is only
partially guaranteed, hence the small payout.
Troy Williams ($122,741) — This salary ties all
the way back to 2017, when Williams signed a three-year contract
with Houston. Williams played a partial season in 2017-18 before
having the last two years on his deal waived and stretched. He then
joined the New York Knicks, New Orleans Pelicans, Kings and Phoenix
Suns, but never latched on anywhere long-term.
TORONTO RAPTORS ($125,000 in total dead
Ish Wainright ($125,000) — Wainright signed a
two-year contract with Toronto last offseason and impressed at NBA
Summer League, but was waived in October. Both years were partially
guaranteed. Wainright bounced back on a two-way contract with
Phoenix that the Suns eventually turned into a standard NBA
BOSTON CELTICS ($92,857 in total dead
Demetrius Jackson ($92,857) — Jackson's contract
is another bizarre situation. He signed a four-year deal worth $5.5
million with the Celtics as a second-round pick in the 2016 NBA
Draft. The first year, Boston paid him $1.45 million. The second
year only had $650,000 in guaranteed salary, the third year had
zero guarantees and the fourth year was a team option. Stay with
Boston decided to waive and stretch Jackson in 2017, the last
day that his $650,000 would be guaranteed. He still technically had
three years left on the contract, so the (relatively) tiny
guaranteed salary of $650,000 would be stretched across seven whole
seasons. Jackson has made $92,857 since the 2017-18 season and will
make that salary through 2023-24.
NBA players make more money than ever before on five-year
maximum contracts. So it's pretty unbelievable that the longest
active contractual obligations in the league right now (extensions
nonwithstanding) are eight years in length, heading to two players:
Andrew Nicholson and Demetrius Jackson.