The 25 Most Underpaid Players In The NBA

By: 08.03.12

Mario Chalmers

Yesterday, we brought you our list of the top 25 most overpaid players in the League. Today, we’re taking a break from condemnation and doling out some praise. Although the number is smaller, plenty of NBAers deserve a little more cash. Whether it’s because they’re on their rookie contracts or they exploded after signing a long-term deal, some guys could have some serious contract gripes. Here are, in our estimation, 25 of those underpaid players, beginning with No. 25.

*All players with an “(R)” next to their name are on their rookie contracts, which are controlled by the league-wide rookie salary scale.

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25. Mario Chalmers – Miami Heat
2012-2013: $4,000,000
2013-2014: $4,000,000 (Team Option)

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh may grab all the headlines, but Mario Chalmers is Miami’s undisputed fourth best player. And even though the big guns rag on him all the time, he produces with solid defense, outside shooting and, more importantly, keeps defenses off balance by taking it to the cup every once in a while. No one thought Chalmers would develop into Miami’s x-factor, but over the past two seasons his value has been undeniable. And, for $8 million over the next two seasons, he’s a bargain.

24. Avery Bradley – Boston Celtics (R)
2012-2013: $1,630,800
2013-2014: $2,511,432 (Team Option)
2014-2015: $3,581,302 (Qualifying Offer)

Bradley’s a tough one to rank, just because we only caught a brief glimpse of his talents – corner threes, running the floor with Rajon Rondo and hounding perimeter defense. And now that he’s coming off of a serious injury, no one’s sure how he’ll respond. Still, for the price Boston is paying, any type of production will make his contract seem minuscule in comparison. But if he does fulfill the potential of his brief flashes of brilliance, he’ll be worth far more than a couple million per year.

23. Jeff Teague – Atlanta Hawks (R)
2012-2013: $2,433,077
2013-2014: $3,469,568 (Qualifying Offer)

Jeff Teague is quietly becoming one of the best young point guards in the NBA. Although he probably could have used a few more years refining his game at Wake Forest, Teague is rounding into the point guard many thought he would become. Hawks GM Danny Ferry has been shedding salary this offseason, so don’t expect him to shell out for Teague when he becomes a restricted free agent next year and is looking at a significant pay day – one well above the almost $2.5 million he’ll make in 2012-2013.

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MarShon Brooks

MarShon Brooks (photo. adidas)

22. MarShon Brooks – Brooklyn Nets (R)
2012-2013: $1,160,040
2013-2014: $1,210,080 (Team Option)
2014-2015: $2,179,354 (Team Option)
2015-2016: $3,201,471 (Qualifying Offer)

Even though the Nets were particularly terrible last season, first round draft pick MarShon Brooks showed he could put the ball in the bucket. Now that Joe Johnson has come on board, Brooks won’t have to shoulder a large part of the scoring load and can play within himself. So expect his 42.8 FG% to rise, and that $2.1 million salary to look exceedingly paltry by 2014-2015.

21. Wilson Chandler – Denver Nuggets
2012-2013: $5,930,414
2013-2014: $6,344,164
2014-2015: $6,757,913
2015-2016: $7,171,662 (Not Guaranteed)

Wilson Chandler isn’t an all star by any metric, but he’s one of the most underrated scorers in the game today. Especially on a team like Denver, which likes to play at a fast pace, Chandler’s talents can especially shine. His NBA hiatus, thanks to a brief trip to China, took him out of the conversation for a while, and when he came back to the League his production took a nose dive. But once he’s back in the NBA flow next season, Chandler will outproduce his cap number and remind the Nuggets why they got a steal.

20. Isaiah Thomas – Sacramento Kings (R)
2012-2013: $762,195
2013-2014: $884,293 (Not Guaranteed)
2014-2015: $1,148,163 (Qualifying Offer)

Jimmer Fredette had to step aside once Isaiah Thomas blew him out of the water and took the starting PG role in Sacramento. As the last pick in the 2nd round, Thomas made the least amount of money of any NBA rookie last season. So to get him for one more year at under $1 million is a fraction of what he’ll earn on the market next year.

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Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings (photo. Cassy Athena)

19. Brandon Jennings – Milwaukee Bucks (R)
2012-2013: $2,493,720
2013-2014: $3,179,493
2014-2015: $4,330,469 (Qualifying Offer)

I’m particularly wary of Brandon Jennings and his type of player – a ball dominating point guard who doesn’t pass the rock well. Sure, he can put it in the bucket, but Jennings’ style of play demands that he’s the star player – except no team is winning anything with him at the helm. Still, he’s worth much more than a few million dollars.

18. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors (R)
2012-2013: $3,958,742
2013-2014: $5,308,674 (Qualifying Offer)

If Curry comes back completely healthy and returns to his rookie season form, the potential is limitless. While Curry doesn’t possess ideal size or quickness, his lights out shooting and basketball IQ outstrips the competition by a long shot. The only reason why Curry isn’t higher on this list is because of that ankle – injury concerns should and do factor into contracts, so we can’t say that his inability to stay healthy hurts his value.

17. Paul George – Indiana Pacers (R)
2012-2013: $2,574,120
2013-2014: $3,282,003 (Team Option)
2014-2015: $4,470,088 (Qualifying Offer)

Paul George seems like a bubble waiting to burst. Until Danny Granger finds a new home, it’s hard to see George exploding into the type of player his skill set could allow him to be. His 12 points and five rebounds per game don’t feel that impressive, so the money doesn’t seem all that out of whack. But George is 22 and locked in for at least two more years. And, since contracts should reflect expected return (although this is his rookie deal, so the terms were more or less decided by the rookie salary scale), do you not expect him to outperform his deal? Absolutely.

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photo. Ishaan Mishra/Getty Images

16. Anthony Davis – New Orleans Hornets (R)
2012-2013: $5,144,000
2013-2014: $5,375,760
2014-2015: $5,607,240

Maybe we’re jumping the gun, since he’s never played in the NBA. But based on his college dominance and Olympic performance, I don’t feel like I’m going out on too much of a limb putting Davis on this list. At worst, he’s an elite shot-blocker and rebounder – which, in my estimation, is worth far more than $5 million a year.

15. Kenneth Faried – Denver Nuggets (R)
2012-2013: $1,311,240
2013-2014: $1,367,640 (Team Option)
2014-2015: $2,249,768 (Team Option)
2015-2016: $3,257,664 (Qualifying Offer)

Rebounding always translates from college to the NBA. During the regular season, the Manimal grabbed 7.7 boards a game in only 22 minutes. In the playoffs, that number jumped to 10.0 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game. Extrapolate that to starters minutes – somewhere in the 30-35 range – and we’re looking at one of the best rebounders in the league. Except he’ll only cost $3.5 million over the next two years.

14. Greg Monroe – Detroit Pistons (R)
2012-2013: $3,217,680
2013-2014: $4,086,454
2014-2015: $5,479,934

Greg Monroe has toiled in relatively anonymity on an awful Pistons squad, his production and development going largely unnoticed. Last season he posted 15.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, as well as a PER of 22.09, 15th best in the NBA. On average, he’ll be making the same amount of money as Mario Chalmers, who, in our estimation, is underpaid. Something seem out of whack to you?

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Dime #70: John Wall

Dime #70: John Wall

13. John Wall – Washington Wizards (R)
2012-2013: $5,915,880
2013-2014: $7,459,925
2014-2015: $9,697,902

We’re all in on John Wall. Even though he hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far, he has the skills to become one of the NBA’s best. And now that Washington has cleaned house and rebuilt the roster around Wall, we’re confident that just under $6 million is a joke for this soon-to-be star.

12. Jrue Holiday – Philadelphia 76ers (R)
2012-2013: $2,674,852
2013-2014: $3,776,891 (Qualifying Offer)

Holiday came into his own this past season, averaging 13.5 points and 4.5 assists on a team loaded with perimeter scoring options. While he may be overestimating his own value by seeking a max contract extension from the 76ers, he deserves to get paid more than a few million per year. He’s only 22 years old, so expect him to progress even further next season and earn good money on the restricted free agent market.

11. Tyreke Evans – Sacramento Kings (R)
2012-2013: $5,251,825
2013-2014: $6,927,157 (Qualifying Offer)

What position does Tyreke Evans play? We’re not exactly sure, but his 16.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game, he’s an all-around player that be the number two player on a championship contender. If he were a restricted free agent this offseason, he would have earned max money, especially if Eric Gordon could. So really, what we have here is a max player playing earning $5 million instead. Quite a big discrepancy in money deserved vs. money made, if you ask us.

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