The Best and Worst Contracts On The Los Angeles Lakers

Chad RidgewayCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2010

The Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA's most valuable franchise, both in terms of profitability and popularity.

Not only do they reside in the bright lights of Hollywood with the most star-studded roster in the league, but they also have the rings to back it up. The Lakers are not only one of the most successful franchises in all of sports, they are one of the most iconic.

Such prosperity can be grown only through the acumen of an owner like Dr. Jerry Buss and the various general managers he's employed. They built two dynasties this past decade, something possible only through a series of outstanding trades, signings, and draft picks.

However, not all contracts are created equal.

Let's take a look at the best and worst contracts on the Lakers' roster, from worst to best.


13) Luke Walton: $21.8 million over four years

Originally a prize coming out of the second round of the draft, Walton is now the bane of the Lakers' salary cap. He averaged 11 points in 2007 as a starter (alongside Smush Parker and Kwame Brown), which was enough to convince management to blow its entire midlevel exception and lock him up for six years.

He's a tremendous passer who's even better in Phil Jackson's system, but they'll be paying him over $6 million in 2013, which is almost Lamar Odom/Ron Artest money. That's more than bad for a, at best, fourth forward off the bench. That's easily the worst contract on the team.

Don't fool yourself. Those Luuuuuuuuke! chants that sound like Booooooo! really are boos.

12) Sasha Vujacic: $10.5 million, two years

Lakers fans thought we had something special. Vujacic still thinks so, and still chucks up a shot every time he catches the ball. In 2008 he shot 43 percent from behind the arc, capping the year with 20 points in Game Three of the NBA Finals.

It was a fluke.

The Lakers had the choice to use their mid-level exception on him or Ronny Turiaf, and they chose Slovenia's favorite son (and Paris Hilton's bff ) while letting our Caribbean brother walk to Golden State.

To add insult to injury, not only is Vujacic ultra-emotional every time he's called for a foul, but his nickname violates the two sacred rules of nicknames: 1) it's lame and 2) it's self-imposed. As such, I'm not even going to type it.

After least after his contract is up he can still make money off merchandise (headbands included!).

11) Adam Morrison: $5.3 million, one year

The worst high draft pick ever because he doesn't even belong in the league. In any role. Anywhere. And he's getting paid more than Kevin Durant. The fact that his contract expires after this season is the only reason he's not the worst contract in the league.


10) Derek Fisher: $5 million, one year

Fish will never be able to command $5 mil a season again. But he has played out his contract with pride and dignity, and the intangible qualities he's brought to the franchise are worth more than any paycheck he's received.

He brought respectability back to the Lakers. Improving the point guard position exponentially when he replaced Smush Parker. Providing a trusting voice when Kobe was sick of the team. And providing a sure, experienced hand in the playoffs.

Last year's championship belongs to him as much as anyone. And who can forget that grin in Game 4 of the Finals?

With that said, it's time for Fisher to sign at a much lower rate, in a mentoring role with much less time on the court. He could be a valuable asset to the franchise for the next 50 years on the bench, and it's soon time to make that transition.

9) Ron Artest: $34 million, five years

We got Ron Ron on the cheap. He was once the league's greatest two-way player and is still it's best wing defender.  He signed for the mid-level exception despite his All-Star talent because he wanted to come to L.A.

We had to compromise a little on the contract, so we gave him the security of five guaranteed years. Artest is an upgrade over Ariza in the short term. He provides a grit and tenacity they've had only in Kobe, while relieving No. 24 of many of his defensive duties.

But five years from now, when Artest is 35 and Ariza is in his prime, that contract is going to be an albatross around the Lakers' cap.


8 & 7) DJ Mbenga/Josh Powell: $900,000 apiece, one year

These guys make the minimum and fulfill their roles. Powell has a nice jumper and Mbenga provides another big body to occasionally spell Pau from bruisers in the league. Plus, the fans love him. You love him even more when you learn more about him .


6) Andrew Bynum: $57.9 million, four years

This contract causes the most contention among Lakers fans. NBA fans in general consider him overpaid, but most Lakers fans disagree. I disagree completely. In fact, he's a little underpaid.

Bynum is the second most important player on the Lakers, right behind Kobe. He's not the second best, as Pau Gasol is still the better player, but he is the foundation of the franchise's blueprint for the future.

Remember, he's still only 22.

The last year of his contract is a team option for $16.4 million. You can bet the Lakers will be picking that up. That will be right about the time we transition from the Kobe years to the Bynum years.


5) Pau Gasol: $91.3 million, five years

Pau isn't underpaid, but he's still underrated.

Absolutely. 100 percent. Underrated. And underappreciated. Still.

Try to think back to what things were like before Pau arrived. Back-to-back first-round losses in the playoffs. Forty-two or so wins a year. And Kobe begging to play on Pluto (seriously ).

In the two seasons since Pau arrived: 80 percent winning percentage in games he's played, two Finals appearances, one championship, one happy superstar, and a franchise positioned to win multiple championships over multiple years.

Case closed.

4) Kobe Bryant: $47.8 million over 2 years

It goes beyond on-court production. The offseason workouts. The fire he constantly lights under teammates. Kobe is why the Lakers are the league's biggest draw on the road. He has the league's top-selling jersey. He's a bigger celebrity in China than Yao Ming.

Dr. Buss knows better than anyone that the product he puts out on the floor can't just be good, it needs to be as big as Hollywood. He needs a star. A star big enough to pull all the stars in Los Angeles inside Staples Center 41 times a year plus playoff games.

That's the reason why Kobe couldn't get traded when he demanded a trade. The Lakers would never accept just cap room. They'd never accept just draft picks. Or just prospects. Or a combination of the three.

They needed a superstar back. And the only one they could get at that time was... Kobe.

He's why fans buy the most expensive tickets in the league to watch the Lakers. He's the one who makes Dr. Buss his money.

However, with all that said, I can't say he's the best contract on the Lakers, because it's pretty simple. Kobe's a max player, so he gets paid the max.

Although that extension still hasn't been worked out, and with the new collective bargaining agreement brewing and a hard cap potentially looming, maybe things aren't so simple after all.


3 & 2 ) Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown: $4.8 and $4.2 million, respectively, over two years

I love these contracts. They are so cheap and both players are so good. The Lakers do have an opening at point guard that Farmar hasn't taken for himself yet. Maybe he's destined to be a backup. Maybe the triangle isn't the best fit for him. Regardless, I like what he brings to the table, especially at that price.

The Shannon Brown love in Lakers Nation is hot and heavy. He could have made more money elsewhere, but signed for the low price of $2 million this season to stay with a winner where he was well-liked and had a defined role (see, what Ariza gave up).

With his Inspector Gadget-like hops (poor dunk contest showing aside) and a spark pluggy effect off the bench, he's combined with Farmar to make our weakness at point guard more palatable, or at least fun to watch.


1) Lamar Odom: $32.8 million, four years

I'm a hopeless Odom romantic. I gushed about him enough in a previous article, but I remain tantalized by his skill set.

He tops off the reason why opposing teams always complain about the "Lakers' length." He's our mismatch. Our game-changer off the bench. And he's been super-underrated in crunch time over the past few years.

Dr. Buss played hardball with Odom this summer over contract negotiations. Fortunately, we didn't lose him. And for a player of his talent, he's on the books for a cool $8 mil per year for four years (with the final year being a team option), which is just long enough to maximize Kobe's final years playing at a high level.

Image taken from HoopsHype.

What do you guys think? Shout out below, I'd love to hear what Lakers Nation has to say on the subject.


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