NBA's Best Risk vs. Reward Contract Bargains at Each Position
The best bargains in the NBA are rookies and superstars. This is due to mandatory contract restrictions, the likes of which often lead to the underpayment of the sport's most thrilling talents.
A superstar is restricted to what he can make on a "max" contract. If the cap didn't exist, Mikhail Prokhorov would probably pay LeBron James hundreds of millions of dollars to pack his bags for Brooklyn.
The same kind of value exists on LeBron's former team. Cleveland only has to pay Kyrie Irving on his rookie salary scale until 2016, even though every team would happily offer him three times his salary.
This article will focus on the Association's values that don't happen via shrewd negotiation. Instead, we're spotlighting the bargains that come from sheer general management savvy.
Great value can be found in the following risk vs. reward contracts.
Point Guard: Stephen Curry
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This could all change with a twist of the ankle, but the Golden State Warriors got an injury discount on Stephen Curry. The 24-year-old point guard has been playing some of his best basketball this season, averaging close to three threes per game while going 45 percent from long distance.
It's often ignored, but Curry's 44 percent career three-point mark qualifies him for second-best of all time. Steve Kerr holds the three-point percentage record, but Kerr benefited from a closer three-point stripe in the mid-'90s.
If Steph can keep up his production and health, his four-year, $44-million extension represents a fantastic figure for Golden State.
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen
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Ray Allen's awesome play has been lost in the shuffle of a somewhat disappointing Miami Heat season thus far. The dean of distance is making 46.7 percent of his shots from deep while attempting nearly four threes per game.
Allen creates space on the floor for LeBron, helping to develop a Miami attack that's based, in part, on hitting corner trifectas. The elder statesman is currently setting a career high in true shooting percentage in his peripheral role.
At roughly $3 million a season with a two-year commitment, Ray is more than worth it.
Best of all, Allen has been clutch. In close games, opposing teams had better watch out for this:
Small Forward: Andrei Kirilenko
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David Kahn was roundly mocked for giving Andrei Kirilenko roughly $20 million over two years. Well, who's laughing now?
The versatile Russian has been a godsend while Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio have missed time with injuries. Kirilenko has a sterling PER over 18, and much of his value comes on the defensive end.
He is capable of guarding four positions and playing everything from shooting guard to center on offense. Kirilenko is mired in the muck of an injury-riddled Wolves season, but he has been absolutely brilliant.
Imagine if the Boston Celtics had paid him this money instead of breaking the bank for Jeff Green.
Power Forward: Ryan Anderson
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This stretch four tweener is quickly becoming one of the better values in the NBA. Ryan Anderson demonstrates what a boon such a player can be, though I wish the New Orleans Hornets would give him more playing time.
Anderson currently leads the league in made three-pointers, shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc. His floor spacing opens up lanes for teammates to drive, though it's an open question as to whether they (see: Austin Rivers) can take advantage of such opportunities.
At four years, $34 million, it's a mystery as to why the Orlando Magic didn't want to retain the league's reigning Most Improved Player.
Anderson currently claims a PER over 20. That's All-Star-level production and well worth the money.
Center: Tim Duncan
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If people cared about the Spurs, they would marvel at what Tim Duncan has pulled off this season. Though listed at power forward, he simply isn't one. On a majority of evenings, Duncan guards the opposing team's center and does an admirable job.
The old man cut his salary roughly in half last summer, signing a three-year pact worth around $30 million, but hasn't cut his production. If considered a center, Timmy leads the league's pivots in PER at over 25.
His team isn't half bad either. Due in large part to Duncan's efforts, San Antonio is near the top of the Western Conference yet again.
When the "Big Fundamental" was making max money, he was a bargain for the Spurs. Now he represents a ridiculous value for his organization.