The 20 worst free agent signings in NBA history

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls NBA (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls NBA (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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#16. Rashard Lewis: 6 years, $118 million

It’s a shame that Rashard Lewis appears on this list despite being a two-time all-star and one of the best-shooting big men in NBA history. Lewis spent the first nine seasons of his career in Seattle after being drafted out of high school in 1998. At 6’10, he developed into a deadly sharpshooter, which was incredibly rare at the time. Alongside Ray Allen, the pair formed one of the most dangerous pre-Splash Brothers shooting pairings in the NBA.

That changed when Lewis was signed and traded to the Orlando Magic in the summer of 2008. His contract—a 6-year, $118 million deal—seemed astronomical at the time and certainly hasn’t aged well. While Lewis was brought in to be a veteran star who could perfectly complement then-franchise center Dwight Howard, he was instead just a capable role player on several good Magic teams.

To his credit, he did make an all-star team in Orlando and hit a game-winning shot in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. That shot resulted in the Magic stealing Game 1 and eventually the series, robbing us of a Kobe Bryant-LeBron James NBA Finals matchup. Orlando was ultimately beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers, but Lewis averaged 17.4 points per game, and they wouldn’t have made it that far in the playoffs without him.

All that said that one season doesn’t make up for underperforming his contract. Lewis made, on average, $19.6 million over six seasons, during a time when the salary cap was between $57 million and $63 million. That means that he was eating up around 30% of the cap every season, or, as we call it now, a max contract. In four seasons in Orlando, Lewis averaged a respectable but not max-level 16.5 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting nearly 40% from three.

He was later traded to the Wizards to finish out his contract, and over the entire life of the deal, he averaged 15.1 points on 38.9% shooting from three and 5.1 rebounds in 317 games. Those would otherwise be perfectly solid numbers, but not for a player on that type of contract.