James Johnson was recognized this season as one of the most improved players in the NBA and one of the top reserves. And his defense, by many statistical measures, was among the best in the league.
Tyler Johnson averaged 13.2 points, the second most in the league for a player without a start, and he played more minutes than any other reserve in the league. He set a Miami Heat franchise record for most points by a player without a start.
Yet, according to one site, James and Tyler have two of the worst contracts in the league.
Bleacher Report posted its five worst contracts at each position and James ranks fifth among power forwards (although BR admits it was difficult identifying five players at that spot with bad deals) and Tyler is third among point guards (Tyler has played more shooting guard in his career).
The Heat have $110 million tied up in the two players, James re-signing this month for four years and $60 million, while Miami matched Brooklyn’s offer of four years and $50 million to Tyler a year ago.
BR admitted “slotting James Johnson into fifth place is particularly painful,” before continuing, “Miami unleashed Johnson more than it reinvented him. Head coach Erik Spoelstra gave him the freedom to run fast breaks and attack the basket at will – luxuries Johnson has never known without a quick hook. And that extended playing time birthed a new defensive identity.”
But that contract. … BR believes the Heat gave Johnson too much money for too many years for a player whose breakout year came at age 30.
“Is this his reward for waiting out the Gordon Hayward situation? Did the market dictate he get this much money? Has team president Pat Riley gotten — gulp — sentimental since steering Dwyane Wade to Chicago? Whatever this is, it’s expensive, and risky, and it has tied a great deal of Miami’s future to the likelihood a first-time standout continues an upward march into his mid-30s.”
BR was somewhat gentle on Tyler, too, saying “remove money from the equation, and there’s no real reason to shine a negative light on Tyler Johnson.”
Tyler is under an affordable number for one more year making about $6 million in the upcoming season. But then the contract spikes to $38 million combined for the last two seasons.
“Plenty of teams will take a guard who almost splits his minutes at the 1 and 2, on and off the ball, right down the middle without issue. Stir in his defensive hustle, which includes sneaky shot-blocking, and many squads won’t even flinch at paying him $44.4 million over the next three years.”
But BR gets to the real reason Tyler makes the list. … because of the way the contract is structured and the approximately $19 million cap hit the Heat will take in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
“For context: Goran Dragic’s contract also runs through 2019-20. He’ll earn $37.3 million in the final two years—around $1.5 million less than his backcourt partner’s cap hit. (Tyler) Johnson is on the come-up, but that money will be immovable without some serious sweeteners—particularly when factoring in his 15 percent trade kicker.”