The term underpaid isn’t the perfect adjective to describe athletes who make a pretty penny when compared to the common person. So I am going to take this somewhere my editors might not want me to go, but we are going to discuss NBA players providing great value in relation to their respective contracts. If you are seeing this then the story avoided the trash bin on my editor’s desktop and congratulations are in order.
One important note… players on their rookie scale contracts are not included, otherwise this list would be pretty ridiculous littered with guys like Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and such. A lot of the actual guys listed have “stolen” money for years from other teams (some still are via amnesty clauses). But based on what their current teams are paying them now they are relative bargains.
[RELATED: The 20 Most Overpaid Players In The NBA]
To make this work, in some of the more extreme cases I will provide a few comparisons which will seem like jabs at other players. Maybe they are jabs but they are listed as a point of reference because some guys around the league make an obscene amount of money for no good reason.
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20. MO WILLIAMS, Portland Trail Blazers: $2,652,000
Williams was one of the last guys left on the market this summer and found the cupboards dry as he searched for deals and a way out of Utah. He had interest in potentially joining the Miami Heat but chose the Trail Blazers instead to play behind point god of the future, Damian Lillard. This was a solid decision by the veteran who went to a team desperate for depth in their reserve unit.
He can be a leadership presence in the locker room as well as a productive player off the Portland bench. He isn’t afraid to take the big shot and gives the Blazers an additional weapon offensively. Not to mention his presence can keep Lillard fresh for a playoff run.
19. CHRIS ANDERSEN, Miami Heat: $1,399,507
He was unceremoniously amnestied by the Denver Nuggets after some trouble with the law for which he was later cleared of. That bit of unfortunate business landed him on the Heat towards the end of last season. Birdman Birdman (you had to know that was coming) came back to the Heat this summer after proving he still had plenty left in the tank. He is still making $4.8 million off the Nuggets but Miami is paying him a very affordable salary of approximately $1.4 million.
Andersen gives Miami an interior presence as well as a high-energy guy that can give them multiple possessions with offensive rebounding. At this point in his career he wants nothing more than to fit in and play the role he is more than capable of filling.
18. MONTA ELLIS, Dallas Mavericks: $8,000,000
I know you’re thinking, “Whoa Dime Magazine guy, what are you talking about?” But hear me out. Ellis has traditionally been a player that GMs and writers despise because he has never been terribly efficient. He has made his fair share of money over the years but signed to a deal with the Mavericks this summer that seems almost atonement-worthy. Think about this, Tyreke Evans of the New Orleans Pelicans will make approximately $11.8 million this season. Honestly who would you rather have? I use Evans as a comparison for similar skills and “inefficiency.”
Ellis is set to play a secondary role behind Dirk Nowitzki and should be a viable piece for the Mavericks for the duration of his contract. His presence will take a lot off focus off of Dirk. Not too many players (not on their rookie scale contract) are going to average over 20 points with five-plus assists and get paid less than $10 million. But that surely looks to be Ellis’ case this year.
17. DARREN COLLISON, Los Angeles Clippers: $1,900,000
After three failed seasons with the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks, Collison was left without a deal of a more lucrative variety. He didn’t get much of chance in Dallas as he fell out of favor with Rick Carlisle pretty quickly. Given the fact the Mavs opted to call Mike James up from the D-League and start him towards the end of the season says a lot about Collison’s tenure in Dallas.
Now it’s like he has decided to play good soldier by becoming a solid backup to compete for a championship with the Clippers. He is in a situation that is familiar to him behind Chris Paul and is nice insurance for L.A. should Paul get banged up. Collison can play with the pace that is needed to feed the two gazelles the Clippers call Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. That should eventually allow Paul to get some rest down the stretch of the regular season. Unfortunately for Collison, Paul has come out of the gate like a man possessed and it’s hard for DC to get much time right now. Patience, young padawan.
16. NATE ROBINSON, Denver Nuggets: $2,016,000
This guy has really turned his career around but his salary hasn’t reflected it over the last few seasons. His production for the Chicago Bulls last season should have warranted him a much bigger deal than he received. Remember his stellar performance in Game 4 during the first round of the playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets? His per 36 minute averages last season were 18.5 points, 6.2 assists and 40 percent from three.
It just seems like Robinson should have gotten a contract in the $5 million range or so but the Nuggets swooped in and got him on the cheap. His impact on the Nuggets has yet to be felt as he has battled some nagging injuries to start this season. Also Denver is dealing with multiple new parts including a new coach in Brian Shaw. But when all is said and done, Robinson will provide excellent value this season.
15. JORDAN FARMAR, Los Angeles Lakes: 884,293
He’s had a pretty solid career with flashes of really good play. Unfortunately when the Brooklyn Nets traded him to the Atlanta Hawks last season, he was then banished to the phantom zone of overseas basketball as Atlanta bought his contract out.
Now he is back in familiar territory with the Lakers with the opportunity to be a contributor off the bench. His ability to play both guard spots is valuable especially with Steve Nash‘s body failing him and Kobe Bryant on the mend from an Achilles injury.
14. DeJUAN BLAIR, Dallas Mavericks: $884,293
A long time resident of Coach Popovich‘s dog house in San Antonio, Blair has finally gotten loose. He came to Dallas this season and is off to a fantastic start, averaging 8.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals in just 20 minutes. Yes he is undersized and is lacking an ACL in both knees but he’s a tenacious rebounder when he gets minutes.
Blair is on a one-year deal and will be looking to rectify his financial status next summer with strong play this season. That only benefits Mark Cuban and Mavericks this year as they try to make their way back to the playoffs.
13. REGGIE EVANS, Brooklyn Nets: $1,695,635
The great rebounding machine that is Evans comes at nice value for the Brooklyn Nets. Capable of defending both the four and five position he gives the team toughness and energy. That is the reason Kevin Garnett insisted Evans be on the roster before agreeing to the trade that brought him to Brooklyn. The quintessential hustle and heart player, Evans averages 13.3 rebounds per 36 minutes (16.3 last season). Evans is a specialist who isn’t trying to be something he’s not. That bodes well for everybody and he continues to be one of the best bargains in the league for what he does.
12. KEVIN MARTIN, Minnesota Timberwolves: $6,500,000
Martin is everything the T-Wolves hoped they would get with Brandon Roy last season except he is healthy. He took just over a 50 percent pay cut from his previous salary to join Minnesota but is primed to have his best season since 2010-11. He comes into a situation where he immediately becomes the second option behind Kevin Love and can enjoy a pass-first point guard in Ricky Rubio.
Martin should average near 20 points per game with solid shooting percentages while aiding Love in Minnesota’s push for a playoff spot. Martin is very much like Ellis to some degree where he goes from overpaid one season to slightly under the next.
11. SPENCER HAWES, Philadelphia 76ers: $6,600,000
I sense your mouse aiming for the X on the page in the right corner but wait. It’s a contract year for Hawes and by virtue of previous seasons he probably shouldn’t be on the list. But he is getting all the minutes he can handle — for what was supposed to be the worst team in the league — and is producing lofty numbers.
In the young season, Hawes is posting 16.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 51 percent shooting in 33.2 minutes per game. All of those numbers are career-highs and should continue well into the season. I feel you may need some comparison on this one… Kendrick Perkins is set to make about $8.5 million this year so uh yeah.
10. JEFF TEAGUE, Atlanta Hawks: $8,000,000
He is another guy in the midst of a career year that should prove to be the norm and not an isolated incident. Teague has been a confident player in the league since being drafted and is getting a chance to show why he carries that demeanor with Josh Smith now in Detroit. His value to the Hawks is apparent to everyone in the organization and his play to begin this season has been lights out.
It’s especially nice to see after he received a contract extension this summer when the Hawks matched what the Milwaukee Bucks wanted to lure him away for. Many times players get paid, figure the hard part is over and coast with minimal effort. But Teague has come out and made a statement, thrusting his name into the conversation for a potential All-Star selection. If his averages stay anywhere near the 18.4 points and 8.7 assists he has opened the season with, he will more than outplay the salary he is locked in for.
9. JAMAL CRAWFORD, Los Angeles Clippers: $5,225,000
Crawford is more than the slick dribbling, 4-point play master we see on T.V. He is also one of the best reserves in the league. He signed with the Clippers last season after a subpar campaign with the Portland Trail Blazers the season before. Thus L.A. was able to bring him in at a cap-friendly salary. Few guys can get hot and carry an offense like Crawford. He also has a sizeable clutch gene, giving the Clippers multiple weapons when games get tight.
8. ANDRAY BLATCHE, Brooklyn Nets: $1,375,604
Here is another guy on the take so to speak. Blatche is still getting paid by the Washington Wizards after being amnestied and will make just over $16 million off of them for the next two seasons. As a result, Blatche is quite popular in D.C. as you can well imagine.
Meanwhile the Nets, with the highest payroll in the league, have Blatche for just about the veteran minimum. How’s that for irony? Blatche is the perfect insurance for the tender-footed Brook Lopez. As a starter last year, he posted 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals on 52 percent shooting in the eight games Lopez missed. He could have left this summer for a larger role (and more money) on another team but chose to stay in Brooklyn.
7. J.J. HICKSON, Denver Nuggets: $5,150,000
To some degree Hickson undervalues himself, or maybe it’s his agent. The former N.C. State product averaged a double-double last season with 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds while playing out of position at center in Portland. Certainly that should have earned him a more sizeable deal. I mean Tiago Splitter signed a contract that will pay him $10 million this year for God’s sake. You mean to tell me Splitter deserves nearly double what Hickson makes? Nah, I don’t buy it.
Nevertheless, Hickson was brought at that price tag to be a reserve in the Noah’s Arc stable of Denver bigs. An injury to JaVale McGee has paved the way for Hickson to duplicate what he did for the Blazers a year ago, which makes him cheap insurance that is already paying out.
6. J.R. SMITH, New York Knicks: $5,565,000
Say what you want about Smith and his “pipe” offering, along with various other Twitter antics, but the dude took less money to stay with the Knicks this year…and that should be commended. I hear the jokes about his playoff performance off in the distance but he helped the Knicks enjoy their best season in years. That can’t be denied.
After winning the Sixth Man of the Year award, Smith should have bolted for a very lucrative deal and potential starting spot. Most players would have but Smith decided to keep his 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists from a year ago in the Big Apple for the next three seasons.
5. RAY ALLEN, Miami Heat: $3,229,050
We all know the story of how Allen turned down more money from the Boston Celtics to join the Heat last season. After his heroic shot in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last year there is little doubt he made the right decision. The best three-point shooter of all time comes at a bargain basement price for the back-to-back NBA champions.
4. LANCE STEPHENSON, Indiana Pacers: $981,349
The man people call “Born Ready” has grown immensely both on and off the court over the last two seasons. After being thrust into the starting shooting guard role because of Danny Granger‘s calf injury, Stephenson has proven to be a vital member of the mighty Pacers.
Most thought that Gerald Green would get the starting nod when Granger went down last year but it was Stephenson and his all-around game that was plugged in. Even when Granger was proclaimed healthy entering this season, Stephenson openly accepted a potential role back to the bench without any push back. It will be interesting to see how things play out when Granger comes back again but Stephenson should be safe for a full complement of minutes regardless. Oh…and it’s his contract year. He should get a nice increase this summer.
3. ISAIAH THOMAS, Sacramento Kings: $884,293
Thomas is one of the most fun guys in the league to watch. The dude is fearless going to the basket and can still J his defenders on the regular. Many teams are kicking themselves for letting this guy be the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Despite his diminutive 5-9 stature he has one of the biggest hearts and best motors in basketball. He is coming off the bench for the Kings, for now, and has a shot at dethroning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith if he can continue his current level of play at 18.4 points and 4.6 assists.
2. STEPHEN CURRY, Golden State Warriors: $9,887,642
Those early ankle issues that plagued Curry to begin his career seem like decades ago now. Unfortunately they certainly played a role in the discussions about his contract extension, costing him the max contract he probably deserved.
Golden State is lucky to have such a stellar player in their organization that cares about the community in addition to his duties on the hardwood. GS is pretty much stealing money here as Curry is proving to be one of the top 10 players in the league right now. No joke.
1. CHANDLER PARSONS, Houston Rockets: $926,500
Remember when Chase Budinger was a thing in Houston? Well the emergence of Parsons last season absolutely merked whatever vibe/value Budinger had, so much so they traded Budinger last season just so they could make room for Parsons to play unimpeded.
With the exception of defense there is very little that Parsons can’t do. He is one of those rare second-round picks to get a multi-year deal. He’s a great locker room guy and his 16.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 rebounds aren’t bad either. All that for a player being paid under a million dollars? That is a bargain basement power purchase deal.
Who do you think is the biggest bargain in the NBA?
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