Like all pro leagues, the NBA is a game of dollars. In this career, the tenure is short; many NBA players won’t see 10 years in the industry. Even the league’s top crop may only see 15 to 20 years of service.
So this is where it gets tricky; how do you get an individual who has a limited career window to take less money than he’s worth? If the player is a veteran who has bought into the system and city, maybe he will take less money to help the team. Clearly that’s not Kobe Bryant. Players on rookie deals don’t have any choice in the matter and always provide teams with some flexibility. Maybe the player has an injury history, or off-court disciplinary problem that lowers his market value.
With all these factors in mind, let’s count down the 25 biggest bargains in the league.
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25. DeMarre Carroll
$2,500,000 / 2,500,000
Although a rather unknown name by the public masses, Hawks fans have come to love the play of DeMarre Carroll. The fifth-year wing is averaging career-highs in minutes, points, assists, steals and rebounds. He’s also shooting career-high percentages from the field and three-point line. In the month of February, Carroll averaged 15.3 points and shot 51 percent from the field. The best part of Carroll’s current success is the Hawks have him under contract for the 2014-15 season at the same beautiful rate.
24. Jimmy Butler
$1,174,080 / 2,119,214
The Bulls have continued to compete to the surprise of everyone, including the Bulls front office, who tried to pull the plug earlier this season, sending Luol Deng to Cleveland. Clearly Joakim Noah has been the key cog in Chicago but Jimmy Butler is second on the team in win shares. Despite still being on his rookie deal, Butler has emerged as one of the league’s best defensive wings. If he can continue to develop his offense he may be a star in this league.
23. Kemba Walker
$2,709,720 / 3,452,183
The former UConn star has really come into his own as an NBA player. Although his overall skill was initially questioned, Walker has begun to silence his critics. Walker’s shooting percentages are still far from ideal but his on-court intangibles and leadership continue to be vital to a young and under-gunned Bobcats team. Walker and Al Jefferson have the Bobcats circling .500, sitting in the seventh spot of the Eastern Conference.
22. Jamal Crawford
$5,225,000 / 5,450,000 / 5,675,000
He’s a purely offensive player. He’s a combo guard and he’s a highlight-maker. When Crawford once said he’d never really worked to improve his game over the offseason until now I lost my mind. Imagine if this guy gave basketball his all? The Clippers’ sixth man can put points up in a hurry. He’s incredibly quick off the dribble, even at the age of 33. He’s also a solid playmaker and deadly shooter from deep. The Clippers look to him to jump start the offense on the rare off nights for Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
21. Monta Ellis
$8,360,000 / 8,720,000 / 9,080,000
Previously Monta Ellis and former teammate Brandon Jennings were unfortunately nicknamed the “chuck brothers”. This year a fresh start in Dallas has changed a lot. Ellis has added a more conservative style to his game playing along Dirk Nowitzki and company. While he is still a streaky scorer, he has been a definite positive for a Mavericks squad that truly needed a second option to play alongside Nowtizki. Ellis is on a very reasonable three-year deal and will allow the Mavericks to play around in the offseason.