14. Nene’s Voided Contract of 2019
With the Houston Rockets capped out and facing financial challenges to improve the roster heading into the 2019-20 season, Daryl Morey showcased his genius ability to circumvent the salary cap. Morey essentially found a way to create a “human trade exception” with veteran reserve Nene. To do this, Morey originally signed Nene to a veteran’s minimum contract and added a plethora of incentives he knew the team would be able to control.
This was brilliant because although the incentives on the contract originally increased Nene’s outgoing salary, the controlling team would have essentially been able to part with Nene before February 15th of 2020 and not be responsible for any of the incentives. This would have allowed the Rockets to land several key contributors, as they would have been able to acquire up to $12.6 million in incoming salary.
The contract ultimately got voided by the NBA, which was an unprecedented move, as the Rockets weren’t in violation of any rules when Morey and Nene agreed to the deal. Still, the creativity of Morey to compose such a contract with an aging player who was likely heading into retirement is what still lands that deal on this list. There’s no telling who the Rockets would have landed if the contract hadn’t been voided, but they would have likely had to only part ways with a first-round draft pick, which Morey would have gladly gotten rid of.
If the contract hadn’t have gotten voided, this deal may have ranked much higher on this list, as it could have led to the missing piece for the Houston Rockets to win a championship. But the true brilliance of the deal has been evident even after the contract got voided, because the Rockets are only set to give Nene the veteran’s minimum, and they don’t have to play him, thus he will be unlikely to receive any performance bonuses.