NBA Free Agency 2012: 15 Players Who Will Outperform Their New Deals
The NBA is laden with players who will fail to meet contractual expectations, but what about those who will outperform their newest deals?
Though the NBA offseason can often be characterized by the bevy of cumbersome contracts that get signed, there are plenty of players poised to earn their keep—and then some.
Whether it's a talented athlete who signed a modest deal to play for a contender , an undervalued free agent with a penchant for going above and beyond or simply a budding star who will prove himself invaluable, there are always those who will exceed contractual expectations.
So, while a bounty of the most recent issued contracts are pacts the recipients will never live up to, there are a handful of players who will provide more bang than their buck implies.
Ronnie Brewer, SG, New York Knicks
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Contract Value: One year, $1.1 million
Ronnie Brewer isn't getting paid much by the Knicks, but with Iman Shumpert out and J.R.Smith best served coming off the bench, he's all but guaranteed to be the starting shooting guard for New York.
While Brewer averaged a lukewarm 6.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season, his value stems from the intangibles he brings to the court.
Not only is Brewer a smart scorer, but he's a deliberate defender as well. Everything he does defensively is calculated and, more often than not, effective.
For a player who was originally slated to make $4.7 million next season, Brewer is a lock to defend and outsmart his way to a season worthy of more compensation than the veteran's minimum provides.
Randy Foye, G, Utah Jazz
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Contract Value: One year, $2.5 million
Kurt Heilin of NBC Sports' ProBasketballTalk was bold enough to refer to Randy Foye's union with the Jazz as "not a game-changer." Oh, how wrong he was.
Foye is no All-Star, but he's instant offense and a three-point specialist Utah signed for just a shade over the league minimum.
Last time I checked, 11 points per game on 38.6 percent shooting from deep is worth much more than that, even for a guard void of exceptional court-vision.
Foye came at a bargain price, and considering what he is capable of doing on the hardwood—attacking the rim and burying three-pointers—his signing is most certainly a game-changer.
One that will exceed his pay grade's implied level of performance, in fact.
Brandon Bass, PF, Boston Celtics
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Contract Value: Three years, $20 million
Brandon Bass is going to be worth every penny the Celtics spent re-signing him, and then some.
Bass flourished alongside Kevin Garnett last year, averaging a career-best 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, significantly extending his range on the offensive end of the ball.
Defensively, the power forward made great strides as well. He became much more aggressive when protecting the rim and boasted improved timing that rendered him a legitimate threat to block shots.
At 27, and with another three years of playing next to Garnett on the horizon, Bass hasn't even come close to broaching his full potential.
He'll easily continue to bolster his already improved numbers, ensuring his deal remains one of the modest contracts issued all summer.
D.J. Augustin, PG, Indiana Pacers
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Contract Value: One year, $3.5 million
D.J. Augustin's averages of 11.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season may have been the product of playing a prominent role on a basement team, but even if he fits that bill, he will have no problem exceeding the production his new contract warrants.
Augustin, while raw in some facets of the game, is a strong scorer with a level head on his shoulders. He's great at protecting the ball, has exuded exceptional court vision and continues find ways to get to the rim despite being vastly undersized, even for a point guard.
Is the 6'0" distributor a future star? His sub-par athleticism and defensive awareness suggest no, but his existing arsenal guarantees his play will be worth more than $3.5 million.
Just wait and see.
Danny Green, G, San Antonio Spurs
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Contract Value: Three years, $12 million
By the end of next season, Danny Green's average annual salary of $4 million will seem like nothing.
The versatile guard has flourished as a member of the Spurs, feasting off open outside looks and expanding his offensive horizons to include dribble penetration.
That said, Green really pushes his value over the top on defense. He's a tough perimeter defender who's great at anticipating first steps and ball-fakes.
Green will be a 12-points-and-five-rebounds per game performer almost immediately, and that notion, along with his understated defense, dictates he outplay the value of his new contract.
Darell Arthur, PF, Memphis Grizzlies
Photo via usatoday.com.
Contract Value: Three years, $10 million (Player Option for Year 3)
Re-signing Darell Arthur was a stroke of genius by the Grizzlies, especially at such a reasonable price.
Arthur is a fundamentally sound athlete, with an efficient jump shot and willingness to get his hands dirty on the glass. He's also rather swift for a big man, which allows him to defend a wide-variety positions on a consistent basis.
At 24, the power forward has an extremely high ceiling. He possesses the mental toughness of fellow teammate Marreese Speights, but with a defensive conscious and nicer touch around the basket.
Subsequently—if it doesn't seem so already—Arthur's average annual salary will be considered a joke not too far down the road.
Chauncey Billups, G, Los Angeles Clippers
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Contract Value: One year, $4.3 million
Chauncey Billups will be 36 and recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon when the NBA season tips off, but the man remains an unstoppable scorer.
Before going down last season, Billups was averaging 15 points and four assists per game, right on par with his career postings of 15.5 and 5.5, respectively.
And while age and health are a factor moving forward, Billups is a dangerous shooter playing alongside one of the league's most selfless point guards in Chris Paul.
Regardless of how old or fragile Billups may be, such a pairing spells disaster for opposing defenses, while also ensuring the veteran combo-guard scores more than $4.3 million worth of points.
J.R. Smith, SG, New York Knicks
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Contract Value: Two years, $5.6 million (Player Option for Year 2)
Volatility is hardly ever underpaid, but J.R. Smith is an exception.
Though the erratic shooting guard converted on just 40.7 percent of his field-goal attempts in 35 games with the Knicks last season, he's liable to catch fire at any time and is instant offense off the bench.
The oft-scrutinized Smith, unbeknownst to many, is also a solid off-ball defender, who makes a living in transition off lackadaisical passes by the opposition.
Self-destructive serial tweeting aside, Smith's offensive fearlessness and two-way versatility is—and will continue to prove to be—worth plenty more than $2.8 million per year.
C.J. Watson, PG, Brooklyn Nets
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Contract Value: Two years, $1.98 million (Player Option for Year 2)
C.J. Watson signed with the Nets for the league minimum, which, for players with five years of experience, is a shade under $1 million per season.
That's correct, for less $1 million per year, Brooklyn inked a backup point guard who averaged 9.7 points and 4.1 assists per game last season. And while Watson is likely to have fewer—if any—opportunities to start with the Nets, that's production he should have no trouble duplicating given ample playing time.
Yes, Watson disappeared in the playoffs last season—24.1 field-goal percentage says it all—and yes, he has a tendency to spiral out of control when the ball is in hands, but he's a better than decent backup.
And he's most certainly going to perform at a higher level than his meager—by NBA standards, anyway—salary suggests.
Antawn Jamison, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
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Contract Value: One year, $1.4 million
Antawn Jamison made $15 million last season, but now he's taking his 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game to the Lakers for the veteran's minimum salary.
While he won't be jacking up 16-plus shots a night, he will still receive his fair share of touches as the face of the second unit and is likely to appear infallible from the outside when playing alongside the selfless talents of Steve Nash.
Despite being capable of posting gaudy point totals, though, all he essentially has to do to meet the expectations of his new contract is be as colorful a sideline cheerleader as Juwan Howard was for the Heat last season.
Needless to say, barring an unforeseen season-ending injury, there's no chance Jamison doesn't outperform the value of his latest contract.
Gerald Green, SG, Indiana Pacers
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Contract Value: Three years, $10 million
Gerald Green's rise to relevancy has been anything but smooth, yet it is a officially a reality nonetheless.
The shooting guard is an athletic freak who can score from anywhere on the court and has the ball-handling skills that rival that of a point guard's. And though there's plenty of room for growth on defense, Green is a standout when it comes to manning the passing lanes.
So, while Green could prove to be a half-year wonder—whose success was the product of playing for a horrendous Nets team—Indiana is essentially paying just over $3 million a year for 12.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, and those are numbers that already surpass the expectations of such a contract.
The Pacers made out like bandits here.
Lou Williams, G, Atlanta Hawks
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Contract Value: Three years, $15.7 million
Lou Williams averaged 14.9 points and 3.5 assists per game while posting a PER above 20 last season, yet he will be making nearly $2 million less annually than Landry Fields—8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game—of the Raptors.
Though the combo-guard leaves much to be desired on the defensive end, he puts up points in a hurry and is one of the NBA's most lethal three-point shooters.
And now that Joe Johnson is in Brooklyn, Williams will be asked to assume an even more prominent offensive role than the one he had in Philadelphia.
With that in mind, Williams will prove to outshine the mid-level exception he was signed for, as his numbers are prepared to go nowhere but up.
O.J. Mayo, SG, Dallas Mavericks
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Contract Value: Two-years, $8 million (Player Option for Year 2)
Holy discounted pay-rate.
O.J. Mayo was slated to make about $7.4 million next season in Memphis, but after the Grizzlies declined to extend him a qualifying offer, the Mavericks swooped in and picked him up for slightly more than half that.
Past off-court issues aside, Mayo has star potential and the ability to finally actualize it now that he's poised to assume a stable role in Dallas.
The explosive shooting guard is an especially deft ball-handler and passer, moves without the rock extremely well, can score from anywhere on the floor and plays suffocating perimeter defense.
Barring a serious injury, Mayo will undoubtedly build upon his 12.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, putting his newly signed deal to shame.
Jerryd Bayless, PG, Memphis Grizzlies
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Contract Value: Two years, $6.2 million (Player Option for Year 2)
The Grizzlies needed a backup point guard and landed one of the best on the open market, at minimal cost to them.
Jerryd Bayless averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 assists per contest in just over 22 minutes per game last season. He's a phenomenal slasher with the potential to be a great facilitator and, in all likelihood, an eventual starter in this league.
How could Memphis pass up such an asset, especially at a hair more than $3 million per year?
It couldn't, which is why it didn't, because the Grizzlies—like the rest of us—know that Bayless is a budding young talent that will contribute far more than his underwhelming salary dictates.
Ray Allen, SG, Miami Heat
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Contract Value: Three years, $9.5 million (Player Option for Year 2 and 3)
Ray Allen is 37 and becoming more one-dimensional by the day, but his shooting prowess remains a lock to outperform the modest contract he signed with the Heat.
Despite being plagued by injuries and a continuously varying role last season, Allen still managed to score 14.2 points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from behind the arc.
Though Mike Miller's NBA Finals are heroics are still fresh in everyone's mind, Miami needed a more dependable shooter. While Allen is likely to receive far fewer three-point opportunities than he is used to, dependability is a virtue he'll forever possess, which you simply cannot put a price on.
And even if you could, it would certainly be worth more than $3 million per season.