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.