7 Best Bang-for-Buck Players in the NBA This Season
There is a select group of NBA players outperforming their contracts this season to a point where it's almost criminal.
While players like Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard are certainly underpaid—along with others who are outperforming their rookie contacts—each player on this list has signed at least one contract since his rookie deal expired.
Because an NBA player cannot earn more than a maximum contract, this list also excludes any max player who might be providing more value than what they're actually getting paid.
Included on this list, then, is a collection of stars, starters and role players.
They were all included based on their current salary and where they rank in terms of individual production during the 2012-13 season. The length of their contracts after this season was also considered to varying degrees.
None of the players on this list are earning a salary that ranks among the top 50 in the NBA this season, but all have provided major value to their respective teams.
Note: Players listed according to current salary, not in ranked order.
J.J. Hickson, Portland Trail Blazers
Salary: $4 million
If the Sacramento Kings' chapter of J.J. Hickson's career had never occurred, he wouldn't be earning only $4 million right now.
The Kings did happen, though, and he is.
On a deal that's set to expire after this season, Hickson has been playing his way back into guaranteed dollars since his arrival in Portland.
Thus far this season, Hickson ranks 27th in player efficiency rating.
The 12.4 points and 10.9 rebounds he's averaged this season as a starter are worth approximately twice what Hickson's being paid.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Salary: $5.8 million
Even after a raise next season, the $6.2 million Lowry's scheduled to make does not project to crack the top 100 in terms of player salaries.
The Raptors aren't winning like they'd hoped they would upon his arrival, but at least they signed Lowry to an undervalued contract.
There's pride in that, I suppose, even in defeat.
Lowry is currently averaging 14.2 points and 5.9 assists.
Omer Asik, Houston Rockets
Salary: $8.4 million
For a player who'd averaged 2.8 and 3.1 points over the previous two seasons, it seemed the Houston Rockets overpaid for Omer Asik this summer.
After the Chicago Bulls decided not to match the offer, Houston acquired Asik on a three-year, $25 million deal.
When measuring Asik's production so far, though, it's difficult to argue that he's not an undervalued asset.
This is not the value we've come to expect from the 72nd-highest-paid player in the league, but it is exactly what Asik's been delivering this season.
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets
Salary: $8.7 million
The sharpshooting Ryan Anderson signed a four-year, $36 million contract this summer with the New Orleans Hornets.
In Year 1 of that deal, at least, he's more than lived up to that deal.
On a salary that slots Anderson at 63rd in the league for 2012-13, he's averaging 16.9 points for the Hornets.
As a 24-year-old forward who does the bulk of his damage from the perimeter, there's no reason to expect Anderson to slow down while playing out the duration of his current deal.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Salary: $9.6 million
It's crazy to think that Tim Duncan can be undervalued after all these years in San Antonio.
But he most definitely is.
Earning less than $10 million this season, his performance has far outpaced his salary.
He's doing this while also earning a salary that ranks him 58th in the NBA this season.
While he has 2013-14 guaranteed at roughly $10.3 million, followed by a player option for approximately the same after that, the 36-year-old Duncan continues to be worth more than every penny.
David West, Indiana Pacers
Salary: $10 million
For the modest sum of $10 million, David West is averaging 16.5 points and 7.9 rebounds.
This season is also the last guaranteed year under his deal with the Indiana Pacers.
After finishing with 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds last season, West has had a resurgence this year.
While improving those totals from a season ago, he is also exceeding his career average in points, rebounds and assists.
He's helped the Pacers to the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and provides major value for the dollars invested.
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Salary: $11 million
Rajon Rondo is an undervalued asset.
He has averaged a double-double since the 2010-11 campaign and is also scoring near his career high with 13.4 points per game this season.
In an NBA universe in which fellow point guard Deron Williams will earn more than $17 million this season, Rondo could easily be a max-player based on production.