Predicting the NBA's Best-Value Contracts for Next Season
If you're talking about value contracts in the NBA, the discussion almost always centers around top superstars like LeBron James, who would be worth virtually any price, or productive players signed to cheap rookie contracts like Damian Lillard. That's where the value almost always exists.
What about the guys in the middle, though? It's much more difficult for teams to find value in free agency or extend players via bargain deals, but it's certainly not impossible.
After eliminating players with rookie or max deals, here's a look at what the best value contracts in the league could be next season.
2013-14 Salary: $3.18 million
It's not every day that you see a player voluntarily take a $7 million pay cut, but that's what Andrei Kirilenko did when he signed with the Brooklyn Nets.
Kirilenko opted out of a deal that would have paid him $10 million dollars this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves to instead join forces with Russian billionaire and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
AK47 is still one of the best players off the ball in basketball. He defends, rebounds and cuts backdoor as well as anyone. For a team heavy on isolation players who need the ball to be effective, Kirilenko's value on both ends should drastically exceed his very modest price tag.
2013-14 Salary: $3.18 million
The early bird gets the worm. The Chicago Bulls targeted Mike Dunleavy right from the start of free agency, and they were ultimately rewarded with one of the best shooters available at a great price.
Three-point threats like Dunleavy don't come along very often. The lanky forward is coming off a year where he shot 42.8 percent from behind the arc, and that shooting should help space the floor for the Bulls quite a bit.
Dunleavy's ability to run off screens adds an element to the Bulls' offense that was largely missing last year, but don't sleep on his rebounding ability and mistake-free approach, either. He's probably worth at least a few extra million than what he's getting paid.
2013-14 Salary: $2.02 million
How did the Indiana Pacers pull this one off?
It helps that the point-guard market was particularly oversaturated, but with shooting at a premium, you would think C.J. Watson could have received twice as much as he did in free agency this offseason.
Watson has shot over 39 percent from behind the arc in each of his last three seasons, and his time with the Chicago Bulls (6.2 assists per 36 minutes) proved he's a capable distributor in addition to being a good scorer.
It wasn't hard for the Pacers to upgrade from D.J. Augustin's poor play, but they deserve a ton of kudos for finding such a good fit at such a pretty price.
2013-14 Salary: $9.50 million
The Atlanta Hawks swooped in and stole Paul Millsap at a huge discount that doesn't sacrifice any future financial flexibility. That's a huge win for the Hawks, but it's surprising Millsap didn't get a bigger deal in a market where just about every recognizable name seems to get one.
Long underrated as a scorer and effective passer, Millsap should replace much of Josh Smith's production on the offensive end at a much cheaper rate. Millsap can also stretch the floor at the 4, and that's a skill usually placed at a premium.
Even if Millsap doesn't improve at all, his career averages and typical production make him well worth his current contract.
2013-14 Salary: $4.25 million
Jared Dudley’s contract has consistently been one of the most favorable in the game. Now that he’s with the Los Angeles Clippers, his value should only increase.
Dudley should have a steady diet of wide-open shots thanks to Chris Paul, and his unselfishness and solid defense should be of great benefit to a team with championship aspirations. Many of the things that Dudley did well were wasted on a bad team in Phoenix, but those should be brought to light this season.
Dudley is a role player, but he’s great at his role.
2013-14 Salary: $1.60 million
One season can change everything. Just ask Toney Douglas, a guy who suffered a massive reputation hit after a brutal outing with the New York Knicks.
Despite the fact that Douglas defends his tail off and has shot over 37 percent from behind the arc in three of his four seasons, that reputation lingers. While he may not be a guy you want playing point guard 38 minutes a night, Douglas can certainly provide unconventional “Three-and-D” production.
Alongside C.J. Watson to the Pacers and the Los Angeles Clippers' acquisition of Darren Collison, this signing was yet another example of the bargain-basement point-guard steals that can be found in free agency. When the supply is high and the demand is low, this is the result.
2013-14 Salary: $1.68 million
We know what the Birdman is all about.
Chris Andersen is a pure energy guy. He's mobile, he'll block shots, and he'll finish at an incredibly efficient rate right around the rim. Andersen was a huge part of the Miami Heat's championship run, and as a backup center, he's a perfect fit.
While Andersen is more valuable to the Heat than he is to other teams, he's a virtual lock to outperform the level of return typically expected of a player earning so little. Let it serve as a reminder: It's always nice to have the combination of warm weather and championship contender in your favor when looking to sign an exceptional role player at a discount.
2013-14 Salary: $3.76 million
When the San Antonio Spurs re-signed Danny Green last offseason, everyone seemed to accept the fact that Green is simply a product of Gregg Popovich's system.
That and Green's history of bouncing around before arriving in San Antonio are the only logical reasons for his ridiculously low salary. As far as "Three-and-D" guys go, you probably won't find a better one in the whole league than Green.
Although we can't possibly expect him to shoot as well as he did in the 2012-13 playoffs for a full season, Green's defense alone makes him worth every penny of his contract before even factoring in his three-point ability.
2013-14 Salary: $2.50 million
How often do seven-footers who can knock in almost 50 percent of their shots from 16-to-23 feet come along? Smith is a big body who can really stretch the floor and serve as a great pick-and-pop option. How much is that worth to an offense?
It has to be more than just $2.5 million. Smith has struggled to stay on the floor because of injuries, but players like him are incredibly rare in the NBA. His overall numbers may not show it, but what he creates for others simply by being on the floor makes him plenty valuable.
2013-14 Salary: $1.40 million
It's one stat. It's not everything. Still, how in the world does a player with a 21.9 PER last season not get a better deal?
Andray Blatche is clearly very talented, and he's a big body. Although he definitely gets lost defensively, he's a solid rebounder who isn't completely one-dimensional because of that skill.
Blatche's 2012-13 performance was more likely an outlier than not. Even with an expected decline on the horizon, however, you could do much, much worse finding a third big for your club.
2013-14 Salary: $2.59 million
One day, Scott Brooks might start Nick Collison, and all will be right in the world. Until then, we'll have to keep appreciating him as one of the best backup bigs in all of basketball.
Collison's front-loaded deal is paying big dividends for the Thunder now, as he is a great defender and rebounder who is routinely among the league leaders in plus-minus rating every single year.
OKC is almost always better when Collison is prominently involved, and for a cash-strapped team desperate to avoid the luxury tax, his production in relation to his contract is virtually unmatched around the league.