Before free agency of 2016, these were the best value players and the biggest drains on team payroll
The Underpaid: 5 Excellent Value Contracts for the 2016-17 Season
Isaiah Thomas: Thomas is a one-man show at times, and he’s coming off his finest season. The four-year deal he signed in a 2014 sign-and-trade transaction now looks incredibly favorable for the Celtics as it pays him $6.5 million and runs through the summer of 2018. The Suns can’t help but regret the decision to deal Thomas, and even Phoenix GM Ryan McDonough now admits that Boston triumphed in the swap. Suffice it to say that Boston will have to spend a good deal more in their next contract negotiation with the nimble guard.
Steven Adams: The Thunder felt comfortable enough to trade away Serge Ibaka in part because Adams played so well in the playoffs. However, Adams will only make $3.1 million next season. By contrast, his teammate Enes Kanter ranks among the league’s top 20 league by earning $17.1 million. Adams is a smart, quick defender as well as an asset when it comes to rebounding and inside scoring. He will be due a significant raise once his rookie contract runs out. There is talk of the Thunder locking him up long-term before the season even begins.
C.J. McCollum: McCollum ran with the starting point guard role in Portland, scoring nearly 21 points per game which tripled his average from 2014-15. He also rose to the occasion during the postseason as Portland defeated the Clippers in round one. McCollum has a bright future alongside Damian Lillard, especially if the Blazers can get him some frontcourt help. The former Lehigh standout is an absolute steal at $3.2 million for next season.
Steph Curry: The back-to-back MVP would be worth nearly any salary, let alone the $12.1 million he will receive as the Warriors attempt to win back the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. He made 51% of shots beyond 28 feet provided that they weren’t desperation heaves from the opposite side of the court. Curry also managed to have the best conversion rate on layups in the entire league. His 2015-16 regular season even put his prior year’s numbers to shame. Simply put, a healthy Curry is one of the most effective scorers of all time.
Karl-Anthony Towns: Rookie contracts can be bargains, even when they involve the first overall pick. The Timberwolves owe their phenom $5.9 million for his sophomore season and should enjoy his play for years to come. Towns averaged a double-double last season including 18 points, 2 assists, and nearly 2 blocks per contest. It’s even more impressive because most rookies are just trying to adapt to the highest level of competition. The forward out of Kentucky preferred to dominate from the start.
The Overpaid: 5 Poor Value Contracts for the 2016-17 Season
Derrick Rose: Rose has only a year left on his contract and will get a change of scenery as he heads to the Big Apple. Regardless, his $21.3 million salary was one the Bulls were glad to be rid of. Injuries have taken their toll on the point guard’s career, and even the Knicks realize he’s not the game changing player he once was. In 2010-11 he finished with a dazzling 12.83 Win Shares, while last season he was barely above replacement level at 0.52 WS.
Nikola Pekovic: The man from Montenegro known as Pek showed some promise early in his career. Unfortunately, he has battled Achilles, foot, and ankle injuries that started in 2013-14. As a result, Pekovic has only appeared in 43 games over the last two campaigns and has not looked worthy of a $12.1 million payout for the coming season on the rare occasions that he can play. Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng have become the primary big men for Minnesota. The Timberwolves have a very expensive backup for two more seasons.
Goran Dragic: Dragic will be paid $15.8 million, a figure that only increases for the three subsequent years assuming his $19 million player option kicks in for 2019-20. Dragic is a serviceable player, but his game seemed to regress after leaving Phoenix for Miami. In 2013-14 with the Suns, he enjoyed career highs in three-point accuracy (40.8%) and points per game (20.8). Meanwhile, 2012-13 was his best year distributing the ball (7.4 assists). Dragic hasn’t been able to match that production level in South Beach.
Omer Asik: Asik ended 2015-16 by scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the Pelicans in a game against Minnesota. Unfortunately, that was by far his best game of the entire season. A guy scoring 4 points per night simply should not be making $9 million or more each year through 2020. The center averaged a double-double for Houston in 2012-13 but hasn’t been nearly as productive since. Fans in The Big Easy are already dreaming of scenarios in which his contract could be traded.
Tyson Chandler: Chandler is a former All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year who is being paid like he still is. Chandler is stuck on a bad roster, so even the limited value he provides now doesn’t justify his $12.4 million dollar salary. He doesn’t become a free agent until the summer of 2019, and it’s hard to imagine him playing longer given his recent injury woes. Last season, he blocked under a shot per game for the first time in his career.
photo via llananba