In an unprecedented summer where the salary cap went up 30 percent and teams were faced with the challenge of spending, many players were overpaid. A few of those players will grow into their contracts and perform up to their value. There will be inevitable busts who will hurt their team’s chances of competing going forward.
The pendulum has swung the other way. Players who were overpaid two or more summers ago are on devalued deals now, many by a third. Contracts signed this summer have already made the value of those team-friendly deals soar.
The not-highest paid players on their own team, in some cases, are players who are the most valuable, and, are often overlooked. Here is a sample.
The Scorer. Isaiah Thomas.
2016-17: $6,587,132. 2017-18: $6,261,395. Unrestricted Free Agent: July 1, 2018.
Finally appreciated, the only All-Star on this list is often the smallest player on the floor by a wide margin. The 5’9, 165-pound floor general single handedly props up the Celtics offense with his hesitation dribbles, pull-up shooting and acrobatic finishing, and is the only player who can reliably create his own shot in crunch time. His numbers on offense help make up for his lack of size and ability on defense but the contract he signed two years ago is almost as valuable. He gets paid under $7 million for the next two years and was acquired in a three-team deal in the 2014-2015 season. Boston undeniably got the better part of the deal as they acquired a top guard in the Eastern Conference. Thomas was one of their best players last year.
Mr. Consistency. Khris Middleton
2016-17: $15,200,000. 2017-18: $14,100,00. 2018-19: $13,000,000. Player Option: June 2019.
Often the best shooter on the floor, Khris Middleton is the two-way dynamite scorer the Milwaukee Bucks would flounder without. His almost 40% shooting from three is crucial for a team that does not start any other quality shooter. He puts up All-Star numbers at over 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists a game while also being a great defender on a team full of them. He may be the most valuable player on the Bucks and were he a free agent this year he would have demanded a max deal. Middleton could start for any team outside of Golden State and his progress and cheap contract at no more than $15 million for three more years gives the Bucks immense flexibility for the future.
The Defender. Jae Crowder
2016-17: $6,286,408. 2017-18: $6,796,116. 2018-19: $7,305,825. 2019-20: $7,815,583. Unrestricted Free Agent. July 1, 2020.
Last season with the Celtics, Jae Crowder put up great numbers for a player with such a modest contract. He is getting paid under $8 million until the 2020 season and this past season put up 14 points and 5 rebounds, while shooting a respectable 33 percent from three. He also guards the other team’s best wing player every night. This contract is insane and will only get better.
The Big Man. Derrick Favors
2016-17: $11,050,000. 2017-18: $12,000,000. Unrestricted Free Agent: July 1, 2018.
After a good first year at Georgia Tech, Derrick Favors drew a lot of interest because of his athletic ability and defensive potential. He has met most of that potential on the defensive side and has made big strides on offense, allowing Utah to unlock their most talented lineups. He is halfway through a 4-year extension that only pays him about $12 million per year. Players at his position, power forwards that play like centers, got close to max deals this summer so it only makes his below market deal that much better for Utah going forward. He averages almost 16 points and 8 rebounds on 51% shooting out to 18 feet. This allows the team to play super big lineups with Rudy Gobert, or much smaller lineups with Favors at center. It could help Utah get back to the playoffs next season.
photo via llananba