The NBA’s minimum salary for rookies is almost $500,000, so every player in the league is making some nice money, regardless of whether they’re an 8-time All-Star or twelfth man. In regard to the latter, you normally expect the last man on the roster to be the lowest-paid player on the team. After all, the most energy that they normally exert during games is leaping off the bench to waive their towels when a teammate hits a big shot.
But the truth is that some twelfth men actually make some surprisingly high salaries. These benchwarmers can thank years of collective bargaining for this, with minimum contracts going over the $1 million mark for players who’ve been in the league at least five years. Old contracts that were made at a point when players were much better than their twelfth-man status also weigh heavily into this as well. Taking everything into account, let’s look at five NBA players who rarely see the court, yet make more money than some starters.
1. Andris Biedrins, Utah Jazz – $9 million
In the 2009 NBA season, Andris Biedrins had a career year where he scored 11.9 PPG, grabbed 11.2 RPG and had 1.5 BPG. Based on his numbers, the Latvian wonder seemed to be worth every penny of the 6-year, $54 million deal that he signed the previous summer. But then the injuries started… Biedrins’ 2010 season was derailed by groin and back problems along with criticisms by then-coach Don Nelson. Now on the Utah Jazz after several more injury-plagued seasons, he’s averaging 0.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG in the last year of his lucrative deal.
2. Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons – $8 million
For the first six years of his NBA career, Charlie Villanueva was a solid power foward who had a pretty good outside touch for a 6’11” guy. It was after his fourth year that Villanueva signed a $35 million deal, thanks in large part to the 16.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 34.5% three-point shooting that he averaged in 2009. Now in his ninth season, Villanueva’s production has declined considerably. He’s played in just 13 games so far, and in those games, he’s averaging 9.1 minutes. If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the Connecticut product can still score, putting up 4.8 PPG in these limited minutes.
For a guy who was drafted late in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft, it’s impressive that Keith Bogans has managed to stretch his marginal talent into an 11-year career. But that career seems to be coming to a close since he’s averaging just 2.0 PPG and 0.5 APG in six games for the Celtics this season. However, Bogans is still making some decent money from the deal he signed with the Brooklyn Nets a year ago.
4. Joel Anthony, Miami Heat/Boston Celtics – $3.8 million
Coming off a 2010 season where he played in 80 games and tallied 1.4 BPG, undersized center Joel Anthony signed a 5-year, $18 million deal with the Heat. Anthony continued to be an important reserve for Miami, until the 2012-13 season, when they brought in Chris Bosh. Since that time, he’s been an overpaid benchwarmer who only sees minutes when the game has gotten out of hand. Perhaps he might start getting back onto the court a little more now that he’s been traded to the Celtics.
5. Jannero Pargo, Charlotte Bobcats – $1.4 million
After several years where he was an important reserve for the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets, Jannero Pargo has been warming benches for the past two seasons. Pargo played on three different teams before finally looking like he’d found a home in Charlotte, where he averaged 8.4 PPG in 16.2 minutes a game. No such luck this year, as he’s only appeared in 11 contests, playing 5.5 MPG while backing up Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that Pargo found a way to get paid since he once landed a fairly nice one-year, $3.8 million contract with a Russian team.