The Most Overpaid and Underpaid Player on Every NBA Team
There are several paths to greatness in the NBA, but it all starts with shrewd salary cap management.
While the assembly of elite talent remains imperative, general managers and ownership groups are endlessly crunching numbers in order to figure out how to piece together championship-caliber rosters at a fair price.
And different franchises aren't afraid to assume drastically different approaches. Case in point: Mikhail Prokhorov previously employed a free-spending strategy that ignored the salary cap, while the San Antonio Spurs' R.C. Buford has convinced key veterans to take pay cuts in the name of long-term prosperity and flexibility.
It's with that framework in mind that we decided to explore the most overpaid and underpaid player on each of the NBA's 30 teams.
In order to determine which players qualified as overpaid and underpaid, we explored a player's statistical production relative to their salary. Additionally, that production and salary was compared and contrasted to similar players around the league in order to provide more clarity.
One vital housekeeping note before we get started: Rookie contracts were excluded from consideration because they're scaled and essentially non-negotiable. As a result, you'll see players like Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond omitted from the "underpaid" sections on their teams' respective slides.
All salary information courtesy of ShamSports.com unless noted otherwise.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.
Overpaid: Thabo Sefolosha - Three years, $12 million remaining
The Atlanta Hawks' salary cap situation is admittedly one of the league's most well-maintained, so we're nitpicking a bit here.
But after Atlanta shelled out $12 million over three years to an offensively limited Thabo Sefolosha, we had to raise our eyebrows a bit.
Yes, Sefolosha is a capable and pesky defender on the wing. However, he appeared so reluctant to hoist threes last season that nearly all of his value on offense evaporated.
As a result, Sefolosha shot just 31.6 percent from three, which represented a 10.3 percent decline from the year prior.
Perhaps he'll flourish more in Mike Budenholzer's three-point-centric offense, but we're skeptical Sefolosha is worth $4 million annually.
Underpaid: Paul Millsap - One year, $9.5 million remaining
It's not often a team's most underpaid player is making more than its most overpaid player, but Danny Ferry did a stupendous job inking Paul Millsap to a two-year, $19 million deal last summer.
An All-Star last season, Millsap averaged 17.9 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 35.8 percent from three.
Due for a raise next summer, Millsap is firmly on the contract-year breakout radar.
Overpaid: Gerald Wallace - Two years, $20.2 million remaining
The Boston Celtics knew what they were getting into when they absorbed Gerald Wallace's ghastly contract in the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce blockbuster last summer, but those financial figures still make our eyes burn.
At this point, it's a universally accepted truth that Wallace's production at age 32 will never justify his hefty pay day.
Consider the following: Wallace appeared in 58 games last season and started just 16 of them. During that span, he averaged 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds, Wallace's lowest marks since 2003-04.
With that sort of statistical output figuring to hold steady—at best—over the next two years, Boston will simply have to play the waiting game until Wallace's deal is off the books.
With Wallace and rookie contracts out of the equation, here are the players we're left to examine:
- Rajon Rondo - One year, $12.9 million remaining
- Jeff Green - Two years, $18.4 million remaining
- Marcus Thornton - One year, $8.6 million remaining
- Avery Bradley - Four years, $32 million remaining
- Brandon Bass - One year, $6.9 million remaining
- Joel Anthony - One year, $3.8 million remaining
The common thread among them? They're either all overpaid or appropriately compensated.
The Celtics have taken on some fairly significant salary cap commitments of late (Wallace and Thornton, to be specific) in exchange for future assets, and it's strategy we're not inclined to argue with given the status of their rebuild.
The good news, though, is the Celtics will have a maximum of $49.4 million on the books entering next summer, per ShamSports, which should give Danny Ainge plenty of wiggle room to move and shake.
Overpaid: Deron Williams - Three years, $63 million remaining (Player option worth $22.3 million for 2016-17)
Picking which Brooklyn Nets contract is the most egregious is an impossible task, because it's really a matter of preference (or lack thereof) at this point.
There's Kevin Garnett's $12 million annual salary, but his deal expires at the conclusion of next season.
And then there's Jarrett Jack and the $6.3 million he's guaranteed over the next two years (only $500,000 guaranteed for year three).
What this really comes down to is a duel between Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
And while Johnson is the team's high-earner at a max salary of $23.2 million next season and $24.9 million in 2015-16, Williams is on the hook for a maximum of $63 million over the next three years should he opt into the $22.3 million player option he has for 2016-17.
Consider point guards like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker are all making less and performing up to a higher standard, and it's hard not to grimace at the money Brooklyn is paying Williams and his shoddy ankles.
Underpaid: Andrei Kirilenko - One year, $3.3 million remaining
This one's not close.
Despite being underutilized by Jason Kidd to the tune of 19 minutes per game last season, Andrei Kirilenko's curiously low salary remains one of the league's best values.
In Lionel Hollins' more physical, gritty scheme, Kirilenko should thrive as a defensive stalwart on the wing, especially with time opening up thanks to the departure of Paul Pierce.
Expect a bounce back effort from the Russian this season.
Overpaid: Marvin Williams - Two years, $14 million remaining
The Charlotte Hornets had plenty of money to spend after striking out on Gordon Hayward, but an average annual salary of $7 million for Marvin Williams feels like a serious overpay.
A two-year deal makes the signing easier to swallow, but for a guy who averaged 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last season to be making $2 million less annually than Lance Stephenson feels a bit outrageous.
With a below-average career player efficiency rating of 13.6, the former No. 2 overall pick will need to flash some improved chops as a stretch 4 (shot 35.9 percent from three last season) in order to make the signing worth the Hornets' while.
Underpaid: Lance Stephenson - Three years, $27.4 million remaining
As mentioned above, Stephenson was one of the summer's biggest bargains at roughly $9 million per year.
In need of a ball-handler who can create for himself and take some pressure off Kemba Walker, Stephenson is a perfect fit for Steve Clifford's defensive-minded Hornets.
Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal has more on Stephenson's potential fit with Charlotte:
Lest we forget just how much he can bring to the table, Stephenson is a shot-creating scoring threat who can facilitate from the 2-guard spot while locking down on defense and establishing himself as one of the best rebounding guards in recent memory. That's a deadly combination, especially if he can be taught to do away with the overdribbling and one-on-one plays that he's so fond of.
Consider Jordan Hill, Jeff Green and Marcus Thornton are all making similar salaries this season and the 2013-14 regular season leader in triple-doubles is an absolute steal at $9 million.
Overpaid: Nikola Mirotic - Three years, $17 million remaining
The Chicago Bulls had to shell out the mid-level exception in order to pry stretch 4 Nikola Mirotic away from Spain and bolster the team's perimeter arsenal.
However, Mirotic has yet to step on an NBA court, and the fact that he's making just $5 million less than an established veteran like Pau Gasol over the next three years is slightly shocking.
Since he'll be tasked with competing for playing time behind the likes of Gasol, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah in a suddenly crowded frontcourt, Mirotic's statistical output may not live up to the generous average annual value of his deal.
Underpaid: Pau Gasol - Three years, $22 million remaining
One of the steals of free agency, Pau Gasol instantly gives the Bulls one of the league's most devastating frontcourt duos.
Slotted next to Noah, the Bulls will boast two of the league's premier frontcourt passers, making the high-low possibilities endless.
Since Noah and Gasol are both capable of playing out of the high-and-low-post, it'll be fascinating to see how opponents try to defend an offense that should rank among the league's most improved.
While he may be 34 years old and past his prime, Gasol and his double-double consistency are a steal at roughly $7 million annually.
Since the Cleveland Cavaliers could afford to sign Kyrie Irving to a max extension that runs through the 2019-2020 season and totals $90 million, it's hard to pinpoint who the team is overpaying.
Truthfully, the team's cap management is solid.
Anderson Varejao is due $9.7 million this season, but only $4 million of that is guaranteed, according to ShamSports.
Factor in the rookie deals of Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson as well as free-agent bargains like Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, and there really aren't any unsightly contractual figures on Cleveland's books.
Underpaid: LeBron James - Two years, $42 million remaining ($21.5 million player option for 2015-16)
We're going to be a little unconventional here. Namely because LeBron James is his team's highest-paid player but can also be considered its most underpaid.
Although he's signed to a short-term max deal, James still won't be the league's most handsomely compensated player this season.
And if you want to know how James felt about his salary relative to his true value during his time with the Miami Heat, check out the illuminating words he relayed to ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz:
That right there is a story untold. At the end of the day, I don't think my value of what I do on the floor can be compensated anyway because of the CBA, if you want this truth. If this was baseball, I'd be up there.
A strong case could be made for Marion, who's signing on with the Cavaliers at the veteran minimum, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, but his on-and-off-court value isn't in the same stratosphere as James'.
Overpaid: Chandler Parsons - Three years, $46 million remaining (Player option worth $16 million for 2016-17)
In order to pry Chandler Parsons away from the Houston Rockets, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson had to throw a boatload of money at the 25-year-old.
The problem, according to Bleacher Report's Dan Favale, is Parsons' annual salary could inflate expectations of a player who's yet to breakthrough into the realm of superstardom:
The spirit of this raise isn't outrageous. Parsons earned under $1 million last season while joining Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and LeBron James—all of whom took home at least $14.7 million—as the only four players to maintain per-game benchmarks of 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and 37 percent shooting from deep.
Somewhat ironically, Parsons will make approximately $14.7 million in 2014-15, which is what Love earned last season. But Love is an established superstar with three All-Star appearances to his credit, while Parsons has yet to prove he can be anything more than a No. 3 option on a fringe-contender.
The Mavericks' bold spirit could feasibly propel them into the top-half of the Western Conference playoff picture, but compared to the team's other studs, Parsons is clearly being overcompensated.
Underpaid: Dirk Nowitzki - Three years, $25 million remaining
Dirk Nowitzki made the Mavericks' signing of Parsons possible thanks to his selflessness, which resulted in the future Hall of Famer accepting a three-year, $25 million deal that fell well below his true market value.
Here's what Nelson, the Mavericks' President of Basketball Operations, had to say about Nowitzki's commitment to winning, via Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram:
As great a player as he is, he’s a great person and he’s got the ultimate commitment to winning. It’s not just putting his money where his mouth is.
You walk in [American Airlines Center] a week ago and he’s dripping sweat doing two-hour morning sessions when most of the other guys around the league are on vacation and hanging out. And he’s got his mind locked in on October training camp of next season.
Coming off of a sensational season at 35 years old that saw Dirk nearly barge back into the 50/40/90 club with shooting splits of .497/.398/.899, it's safe to say he's one of the league's biggest bargains.
Overpaid: JaVale McGee - Two years, $23.2 million remaining
After missing 94 percent of the 2013-14 season due to a fractured right fibula, we can't help but be down on JaVale McGee and his generous contract.
Slated to earn $11.2 million this season, here's a brief list of notable players who will earn less than McGee during the 2014-15 campaign:
- Tim Duncan - $10.4 million
- Paul Millsap - $9.5 million
- Tiago Splitter - $9.2 million
- Lance Stephenson - $9 million
- Mike Conley - $8.7 million
Now, not to totally skewer a player coming off injury, but McGee really shouldn't be making a higher annual salary than any of those established studs. Particularly because McGee has posted career averages of just 8.7 points and 5.7 rebounds to this point.
McGee's ceiling is still remarkably high at 26 years old, and he could prove us wrong if he thrives as Brian Shaw's starting center in the months ahead.
At this stage, though, the Nuggets' second-highest paid player hasn't produced enough (or had the chance to) to justify such a generous salary.
Underpaid: Arron Afflalo - Two years, $15 million remaining (Player option worth $7.5 million for 2015-16)
Paid less annually than Ty Lawson, McGee and Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo is a relative bargain for the Nuggets at $7.5 million per season.
Especially after the 2-guard exploded for a career-high 18.2 points per game last season while posting shooting splits of .459/.427/.815.
While Denver ranked among the league's top-15 in terms of production at shooting guard last season, per HoopsStats.com, there's no denying Afflalo represents a major upgrade over the likes of Randy Foye and Evan Fournier.
With All-Star caliber numbers a season ago, Afflalo should help Brian Shaw's offense break through into the Association's top-half when it comes to efficiency standards.
Overpaid: Josh Smith - Three years, $40.5 million remaining
We could have predicted the Detroit Pistons would regret this one.
Josh Smith's four-year, $56 million deal somehow looks worse now than it did in July, 2013, when Detroit was desperate to add anything resembling star power to its shoddy roster.
However, following Smith's disastrous first season in red and blue, the $40 million-plus he's due over the next three years is going to be a tough pill to swallow if Stan Van Gundy can't overhaul the combo-forward's inefficient ways.
A field-goal percentage of 41.9 last season represented a career-low, while his three-point conversion rate of 26.4 was the third-lowest all-time for a player who attempted at least 250 triples, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
If Van Gundy can get Smith to concentrate on playing effectively below the free-throw line, perhaps the deal won't look so repulsive. But at this stage, it's impossible not to grimace when looking at the risk Detroit has incurred versus the reward it's received.
Underpaid: Greg Monroe - One year, $5.5 million
Now that Greg Monroe has accepted the Pistons' qualifying offer of $5.5 million for next season, according to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, he represents one of the Association's biggest bargains.
Just consider this tidbit from Bleacher Report's Dan Favale: "If Greg Monroe accepts #Pistons qualifying offer, he’ll earn $520,066 less than Jodie Meeks next season."
A starter in all 82 games last season, Monroe proved he could produce where Smith couldn't, racking up 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds a night while shooting 49.7 percent from the field.
Monroe's player efficiency rating also graded out four points higher than Smith's career-low mark of 14.1.
Given the disparity in efficiency, it's a shame Detroit will likely lose Monroe to unrestricted free agency next summer with Smith's contract representing an untradable financial burden.
Golden State Warriors
Overpaid: David Lee - Two years, $30.5 million remaining
Based on simple statistical output alone, it's hard to argue David Lee is overpaid.
Lee's coming off a season that saw him average more than 18 points per game and pull down 9.3 boards per night while shooting the rock at a 52.3 percent clip.
But consider Lee's lackluster defensive chops that were exposed by Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry last March and his salary relative to other superstars, and the $15 million annual pay day doesn't seem just.
With DeMarcus Cousins, Al Jefferson, Joakim Noah and Serge Ibaka all making a smaller annual salary than the one-way force, it's easy to see why the Golden State Warriors were willing to offload him in a package that would have netted them Kevin Love, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Underpaid: Stephen Curry - Three years, $34 million remaining
When Stephen Curry signed a four-year, $44 million deal at the start of the 2012-13 season, it was relatively fair value for a player coming off an injury-riddled season that saw him average 14.7 points and 5.3 assists.
And then he exploded in ways that were unthinkable just months prior.
Curry went on to average 22.9 points and 6.9 assists the following season before posting career highs of 24 points and 8.5 assists last year.
Consider Curry's now an All-Star in the same salary bracket as players like Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat, Jrue Holiday and Larry Sanders, and it's clear the 26-year-old is in line for a major raise down the line.
Overpaid: Trevor Ariza - Four years, $32 million remaining
Trevor Ariza was rewarded handsomely by the Houston Rockets for averaging 14.4 points on 40.7 percent shooting from three while posting a defensive rating of 104 last season.
In fact, the Washington Wizards were 3.7 points better per 100 defensive possessions with Ariza on the floor, according to NBA.com.
But here's the thing: A three-and-D specialist like Ariza may not be worth an average annual salary of $8 million. Especially when you're rewarding past results and not banking on upside.
NumberFire's Bryan Mears provides us with one explanation for Ariza's statistical spike:
Here is the number of minutes per game Ariza played without John Wall on the floor with him: 3.1.
Yes, Ariza played only 8% of his minutes this year without his All-Star point guard. Do you think that could have had something to do with his career year?
Wall created 21.3 points directly from his assists this year, per NBA.com, and that doesn’t even count secondary passes, or “hockey assists.”
With a less capable distributor in Patrick Beverley running the show for Houston, Ariza may see his production dip a bit as James Harden and Dwight Howard dominate touches in Kevin McHale's scheme predicated on a heavy dose of inside-outside action.
Underpaid: Jeff Adrien - One year, $915,243 remaining
At the veteran minimum, it's hard not to love the Rockets' acquisition of Jeff Adrien.
Averages of 6.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in just 18.1 minutes per game helped Adrien post a career-best player efficiency rating of 17.4 last season with the Charlotte Bobcats and Milwaukee Bucks.
Compared to a player like Nick Collison, who made nearly $2 million more and posted lower averages in both categories while exclusively coming off the bench, it's clear Adrien's worth more than a minimum salary.
Overpaid: Roy Hibbert - Two years, $30.4 million remaining
If pre-All-Star break Roy Hibbert shows up for the Indiana Pacers next season, we'll be eating our words.
But if the post-All-Star iteration decides to lumber around the court while averaging 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, Indiana will be in an even bigger world of hurt.
Hibbert was a walking disaster once February passed. And that's putting it kindly.
His teammates called him out in the postseason, and were right to do so.
With so many key pieces missing, the Pacers can't afford for Hibbert to lose his identity as a dominant low-post force yet again.
And with centers Joakim Noah, Al Jefferson and DeMarcus Cousins all making smaller annual salaries this coming season, Hibbert's game figures to be under the microscope in previously unseen ways.
Underpaid: Rodney Stuckey - One year, $1.3 million remaining
Some clarification regarding Rodney Stuckey's salary structure from ShamSports' Mark Deeks before we get started:
Stuckey is actually being paid $1,227,985, the minimum salary for a seven year veteran, but as his minimum salary contract is only for one year and he has more than two years of experience, the team is only billed an amount equal to the minimum salary of a two year vet. The league pays the rest.
At that price, it's easy to see why the Pacers added Stuckey to help fortify their depth on the wing.
Of course, that was before Paul George went down with a season-ending leg injury.
Now, Stuckey and fellow free-agent signee C.J. Miles will be tasked with putting a massive scoring burden on their shoulders.
And while expectations may be the duo's biggest enemy, Stuckey has the raw scoring chops to make his minimum salary look petty.
Last season with the Detroit Pistons, Stuckey averaged 13.9 points while getting to the free-throw line four times per game.
On last year's Pacers, only George got to the charity stripe at a higher per-game rate.
In need of aggressive off-the-dribble scorers below the free-throw line, Stuckey should be able to produce solid numbers in an ever-expanding role.
Los Angeles Clippers
Overpaid: Jared Dudley - Two years, $8.5 million remaining
Acquired in the deal that sent Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix last summer, Jared Dudley felt like a perfect fit in an offense that was looking to stretch the floor more.
Unfortunately, Dudley didn't contribute much to a scheme that accomplished its task and produced the league's top offensive rating.
Not only did Dudley average his lowest total point output since 2008-09, but he shot the three (36 percent) at his least efficient clip since 2007-08.
With J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes all more reliable perimeter weapons, Dudley's place in Doc Rivers' rotation figures to be marginalized yet again next season.
Underpaid: Jamal Crawford - Two years, $11.2 million remaining (year two partially guaranteed at $1.5 million and becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived before June 30, 2015)
According to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, Jamal Crawford's agent says the reigning Sixth Man of the Year is "looking for extension that is 'market value commensurate w/ his current production.'"
Yes, Crawford shot a meager 41.6 percent from the field as a volume scorer, but he also averaged his highest point-per-game output (18.6) since 2008-09 while posting the second-highest player efficiency rating (17.3) of his career.
Going on 35 years old, Crawford isn't exactly a prime candidate for a contract extension.
But given some of the market inflation we've seen this summer (see: Meeks, Jodie or Bradley, Avery), Crawford and his agent have a legitimate case.
Los Angeles Lakers
Overpaid: Kobe Bryant - Two years, $48.5 million remaining
It's tough to do this, but examining the Los Angeles Lakers' payroll, it's hard not to consider Kobe Bryant the team's most overpaid player.
Heck, he's the league's highest-paid player and is set to turn 36 years old before this season starts.
Due $23.5 million this season and $25 million the next, it's tough to see any way Bryant's performance on the court will justify an annual salary that exceeds Kevin Durant's by nearly $5 million and LeBron James' by close to $3 million.
But we get it: Bryant's worth to the Purple and Gold brand is practically unquantifiable after all he's done in a Lakers uniform, and his final contract functioned as recognition of all he's done for the franchise since 1996.
The good news: L.A.'s cap flexibility over the next two years is such that paying Bryant more than double what any other player on the roster is making won't hurt them in the long term.
Underpaid: Carlos Boozer - One year, $3.2 million remaining
Players picked up via amnesty waivers are generally good bets to be listed as underpaid for the simple fact that the majority of their salary is being paid by another team.
In this case, the Lakers are paying Carlos Boozer just $3.2 million of the $16.8 million he's due next season while the Chicago Bulls pick up the remainder of the tab.
At that cost, the Lakers will gladly incur the risk that accompanies signing Boozer. While his defensive deficiencies may be maddening at times, Boozer brings double-double potential and stability at power forward in front of young guns Ed Davis and Julius Randle.
And if it's just a one-year rental, there's no harm in experimenting with a player who averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds last season.
Overpaid: Tayshaun Prince - One year, $7.7 million remaining
The Memphis Grizzlies are almost out of the woods.
With just one year left on his contract, Tayshaun Prince will soon be departing Tennessee and providing the Grizzlies with cap relief they've long been seeking.
Going on 34 years old, Prince is nearly running on empty despite starting all 76 games in which he appeared last season.
A 29 percent shooter from three and increasingly porous defender (defensive rating of 108 last season), Prince's production is tailing off in the way we would expect of a player whose lost a few steps.His career-worst player efficiency rating of 8.2 last season was particularly concerning.
And with well-rounded perimeter options like Quincy Pondexter, Tony Allen, Courtney Lee and Vince Carter slotted ahead of Prince on the Grizzlies' depth chart, it's hard to imagine him challenging for significant minutes this season.
Underpaid: Tony Allen - Three years, $15.5 million remaining
Any time you can pay Tony Allen double what Tayshaun Prince is making in one year over a three year span, you're coming out ahead.
While Allen may not be a statistical juggernaut, he's the glue that holds Memphis' top-10 defense together.
Last season, the Grizzlies were 1.6 points better per 100 defensive possessions with Allen on the floor, and were actually 2.2 points better per 100 offensive possessions with him active on the perimeter, per NBA.com.
But when the playoffs rolled around, Allen really shined. During that span, Allen made a 12-point difference per 100 possessions on the offensive end as the Grizzlies pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder to a decisive seventh game, per NBA.com.
Overpaid: Chris Bosh - Five years, $118.7 million remaining
We know Chris Bosh is going to produce as the centerpiece of Miami's re-tooled offense.
The question is: Will his statistical output live up to the max contract Miami frantically bestowed upon him after LeBron James bolted for Cleveland?
According to Bleacher Report's Dan Favale, the mere fact that we're raising the question is a bad sign:
That Bosh's ability to make good on this deal is even up for discussion means it's too expensive.
Max contracts aren't handed to players who might be worth it; they're given to obvious superstars who, if all things go according to plan, live up to the expectations their price tags set.
This deal was offered to Bosh out of jutting necessity. The Heat lost James to the Cleveland Cavaliers and weren't about to lose Bosh, whose absence would leave them to rebuild around Wade's paper knees.
According to ESPN, Bosh will be paid the same salary as James this coming season, making him the league's sixth-highest paid player behind only Kobe Bryant, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.
Underpaid: Luol Deng - Two years, $20 million remaining
Outside of Bosh, the Heat did a splendid job of making cunning, short-term signings this summer.
A prime example: Inking Luol Deng to a two-year deal worth an average of $10 million annually.
Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes explains why signing Deng was a smart gamble by the Heat:
Financially, Deng's two-year deal is Heat-friendly. It won't tie up any long-term cash, and it looks remarkably affordable considering Deng turned down a three-year contract with the same annual salary from the Bulls last January, per Wojnarowski.
A two-time All-Star and defensive ace with a history of holding his own against the league's biggest guns on the perimeter, Deng should slot in nicely next to a primary ball-handler like Dwyane Wade.
Overpaid: O.J. Mayo - Two years, $16 million remaining
The Milwaukee Bucks are replete with grotesque contracts.
Ersan Ilyasova? Check.
Larry Sanders? To be determined, but last season didn't paint a particularly pretty picture.
But the cream of the crop, so to speak, is O.J. Mayo.
A catastrophe during his first season with the Bucks, Mayo tied a career-low by shooting 40.7 percent from the field while posting a career-worst player efficiency rating of 11.2
The fun didn't stop there.
Mayo actually contributed a grand total of 0.1 win shares last season, which is remarkable considering his offensive and defensive win shares combined to equal 0.0, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
That's all the proof we need.
Underpaid: Kendall Marshall - One year, $915,243 (fully unguaranteed) remaining
Claimed off waivers by the Bucks this summer, Kendall Marshall represents a relative bargain at backup point guard for Milwaukee.
Namely because he's signed to a minimum deal that's fully unguaranteed.
And with Brandon Knight fully capable of playing the off-guard (PER of 20.8 at shooting guard last season, according to 82games.com) in smaller lineups, slotting last season's second-leading assist-per-game distributor in at the point gives Jason Kidd some nice flexibility.
Overpaid: J.J. Barea - One year, $4.5 million remaining
The NBA is replete with quality point guards of all shapes and sizes, which is what makes J.J. Barea's deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves so puzzling.
Brought aboard to back up Ricky Rubio, Barea is now entering the final year of a four-year pact that paid the Puerto Rican $19 million.
And he hasn't exactly proven to be a distributive or scoring savant.
Case in point: The Timberwolves were 10.2 points better per 100 offensive possessions with Barea off the floor last season, according to NBA.com.
One reason why: The diminutive point guard shot 38.7 percent from the field en route to posting his lowest player efficiency rating (11.6) since 2007-08.
Also consider the Timberwolves agreed to terms with floor general Mo Williams on a one-year deal worth $3.75 million, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, and Minnesota appears ready to push Barea out the door.
Underpaid: Kevin Martin - Three years, $21.2 million remaining
We're splitting hairs here because Flip Saunders isn't underpaying many players, but Kevin Martin feels like the most worthy candidate on a Timberwolves team in flux.
One of eight players to average at least 19 points and shoot better than 38 percent from three last season, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Martin is one of the league's best pure scorers.
Boasting so much scoring prowess, it shouldn't surprise that Minnesota was nearly five points better per 100 offensive possessions with Martin on the floor, according to NBA.com.
With Kevin Love on his way out, the door is open for Martin to drop countless buckets as Minnesota's primary playmaker.
New Orleans Pelicans
Overpaid: Tyreke Evans - Three years, $32.2 million remaining
The New Orleans Pelicans decided to stockpile their roster with hit-or-miss offensive talent last summer, and the most questionable acquisition of the lot was Tryeke Evans at $44 million over four years.
Evans' first season in New Orleans was marred by inefficiency from a shooting standpoint as he recorded splits of .436/.221/.771 in 72 appearances (22 starts).
As a result, Evans posted the lowest scoring average (14.5) of his career.
Not only that, but he didn't exactly aid the Pelicans' cause on either end of the floor. According to NBA.com, the Pelicans were 0.7 and 2.9 points better offensive and defensively per 100 possessions, respectively, with Evans off the floor.
With Stephen Curry, Luol Deng and DeMar DeRozan all making a smaller annual salary in the coming year, it's hard to defend the cash New Orleans is shelling out for a seemingly redundant offensive weapon.
Underpaid: Ryan Anderson - Two years, $17 million remaining
A nasty back injury sidelined Ryan Anderson for 73 percent of the 2013-14 season, but his production in 22 games reinforced the notion that he's one of the NBA's elite stretch 4s.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Anderson was one of 12 forwards to shoot at least 40 percent form three last season (minimum 100 attempts), and joined Carmelo Anthony as the only player to average at least 19 points and six rebounds while shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Should he return at full strength, Anderson and his $8.5 million annual salary will look like a bargain when juxtaposed with the deals of less prolific wing scorers like Evans and Eric Gordon.
New York Knicks
Overpaid: Amar'e Stoudemire - One year, $23.4 million remaining
Here's a fun fact for those of you who haven't been keeping score at home: Amar'e Stoudemire will be the second-highest paid player in the NBA this season behind Kobe Bryant.
Since the New York Knicks are still paying off the massive five-year, $100 million deal they signed Stoudemire to in 2010, Phil Jackson and co. were left with very little financial wiggle room this summer, and won't possess the ability to add game-changing pieces until next July.
That's the silver lining in all of this: Stoudemire, as well as overpaid companion Andrea Bargnani (one year, $11.5 million remaining), are both in the final year of their respective deals.
However, with Stoudemire's knees deteriorating at a concerning rate, it's easy to wonder if the 31-year-old can sustain his production from late last season, when he averaged 14.5 points on 57 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds after the All-Star break.
Still, even if those averages hold steady for all of next season, he's not worth $23.4 million.
Underpaid: Pablo Prigioni - One year, $1.6 million guaranteed (year two partially guaranteed at a minimum of $290,000)
Since the New York Knicks possess few contracts that can adequately be labeled as "bargains," we have to stretch a little to find the team's most underpaid player.
In this case, we landed on point guard Pablo Prigioni. Sure, his per-game averages are pedestrian at best, but Prigioni was undeniably the team's best passer last season, one who was prolific from beyond the arc when he gave himself permission to launch.
A 46.4 percent shooter from three last season, Prigioni was a particularly integral component of the team's surprisingly efficient offense (No. 11 overall).
According to NBA.com, New York was a full two points better per 100 offensive possessions with the Argentine on the floor.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Overpaid: Kendrick Perkins - One year, $9.4 million remaining
Underpaid: Nick Collison - One year, $2.2 million remaining
We're going to format this slide a tad differently in order to fully explicate the major chasm in pay between Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison while noting how similar their statistical output is.
As the Oklahoma City Thunder's starting center, Perkins averaged 22.9 minutes per game last season, posting averages of 3.4 points and 4.9 rebounds during his relatively brief time on the floor.
Then there's Collison.
And not only was OKC's offense nearly five points better per 100 possessions offensively with Collison on the floor, but the defense posted an efficiency rating two points lower (99.1) than its season-long mark with him manning the paint.
The story changes quite a bit with Perkins.
According to NBA.com, Oklahoma City was nearly eight points better per 100 possessions offensively with Perkins off the floor, whereas the defense was merely 0.3 points better per 100 possessions with him patrolling the interior.
Overpaid: Ben Gordon - Two years, $9 million remaining (year two fully unguaranteed if Gordon is waived before July 1, 2015)
The Orlando Magic had plenty of money to spend this summer, but they doled it out in rather puzzling ways.
First they claimed Willie Green off waivers.
Then it was another over-the-hill scorer in Ben Gordon.
If that's the case, $4.5 million annually is quite a hefty sum to pay for experience.
Especially for a player who shot a career-worst 34.3 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from three in just 19 appearances last season.
With rookie deals off limits, there really aren't any good options available to choose from.
Excluding Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Aaron Gordon, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton and Andrew Nicholson, we're left with Green and the newly signed Channing Frye.
And since Frye was appropriately compensated (if not slightly overpaid) at $32 million over four years, it's nearly impossible to make a selection here.
Overpaid: Jason Richardson - One year, $6.6 million remaining
Jason Richardson made the only move of note for the Philadelphia 76ers in free agency, opting into the final year of his contract at a cool $6.6 million.
For a guy who didn't step on the court last season thanks to a surgically repaired left knee, that's quite a bit of green.
While Richardson remains determined to return this season, it remains to be seen how healthy that knee is going to be, particularly after he suffered some setbacks during his rehab.
Here's what Richardson had to tell Christopher Vito of The Delaware County Times in March:
Yeah, I had some setbacks. I don’t know. Like I told (Sixers coach Brett Brown) when we talked a month ago, if it’s 10 or 15 or two games, I want to come back. That’s my goal. That’s my motivation. If it doesn’t happen, (my goal is) get ready for next year.
Even if Richardson does lace his kicks up this season, it's hard to imagine head coach Brett Brown giving him significant playing time with so many young guns in need of crucial developmental minutes.
As crazy as it sounds, the Sixers don't have a single player who's underpaid.
And here's why: With the exception of Richardson and Thaddeus Young, every player on the Sixers' roster is signed to a rookie contract.
With the caveat that we aren't counting rookies as underpaid since those contracts are scaled and restricted by the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement, there are legitimately no viable options to explore here.
General Manager Ryan McDonough has rapidly transformed the Phoenix Suns into Western Conference contenders.
More impressive, though, is the fact that he's done so while maintaining one of the league's cleanest payrolls.
According to ShamSports, no one player on the Suns will be making more than $7.5 next season pending the outcome of Eric Bledsoe's restricted free agency.
With the Morris twins still playing on the rookie deals, P.J. Tucker re-signed at a reasonable average annual value of $5.5 million and Goran Dragic slated to make $7.5 million each of the next two seasons, Phoenix has done well to assemble a playoff-caliber squad at an incredibly low cost.
Underpaid: Isaiah Thomas - Four years, $28 million remaining
McDonough waved his magic wand once again this summer, inking scoring wizard Isaiah Thomas to a four-year, $28 million deal.
But that's not all: The Suns will maintain financial flexibility moving forward because Thomas' salary actually decreases over the final three years of the deal.
Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal recently explained why Thomas' salary isn't commensurate with his production, and why defense plays a larger role than you might think:
The diminutive point guard isn't an average stopper, thanks primarily to his height, but he's such a hard-working player on the less glamorous end of the court that he's managed to avoid becoming a complete liability. According to 82games.com, he held opposing 1s to a player efficiency rating of 14.5 in 2013-14, and Basketball-Reference.com reveals that the Sacramento Kings actually allowed 3.9 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor.
Effort pays off, and that's just one more reason why Thomas is massively underpaid. He's a borderline elite point guard who's only 25 years old, and he's making less money per year than Avery Bradley.
With Bledsoe's future uncertain and Thomas capable of scoring in droves, the Suns made a savvy move to lock him up at essentially $7 million annually.
Portland Trail Blazers
Overpaid: Dorell Wright - One year, $3.1 million remaining
Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey has put his club in position to compete in a loaded Western Conference, but he'll soon be shelling out serious sums of cash to LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard in order to keep his two franchise cornerstones in tow.
So for now, we're selecting Dorell Wright as the team's most overpaid player, namely because he failed to produce during his first season in Rip City.
Signed to a two-year, $6 million deal last summer, Wright figured to slot in as an integral perimeter component capable of stretching out opposing defenses.
However, with Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews holding down the fort, Wright's role was marginalized.
Once the league-leader in three-pointers made with the Golden State Warriors (2010-11), Wright floundered in year one under Terry Stotts.
Specifically, Wright posted his lowest point-per-game output since 2005-06 while shooting just 34.2 percent from three en route to a measly win share total of 1.9.
Underpaid: Steve Blake - Two years, $4.2 million remaining (Player option worth $2.2 million for 2015-16)
If $3.1 million for one season of Wright is an overpay, then $4.2 million for two seasons of Steve Blake is a steal.
Signed using the team's bi-annual exception, Blake will bring veteran stability behind Lillard.
A 38.8 percent three-point shooter who averaged 7.6 assists during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, Blake is a steal at just $2.1 million annually.
Particularly when you consider the Minnesota Timberwolves are paying Lillard's former backup $3.75 million for a single season test-run.
Overpaid: Rudy Gay - One year, $19.3 million remaining
The Sacramento Kings are loaded with unsightly contracts. Like Jason Terry at $5.9 million this season. Or Darren Collison at $16 million over the next three years.
But Rudy Gay takes the cake, even if there is just one year left on his deal.
At $19.3 million, Gay will be the league's 10th-highest paid player this season, according to ESPN.
That means he'll be making more than Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and a host of more accomplished talents.
Yes, Gay's efficiency spiked after a December trade to Sacramento, and there's optimism that he'll be able to maintain a respectable player efficiency rating moving forward.
However, the fact he's making nearly $5 million more this season than DeMarcus Cousins seems a tad outrageous.
Underpaid: Wayne Ellington - One year, $2.7 million remaining
We're admittedly stretching a bit here due to the shoddy nature of Sacramento's cap sheet, but Wayne Ellington represents a cost-effective one-year rental for a team desperately in need of quality three-point shooting.
Coming over from the New York Knicks in a trade for Quincy Acy, according to USA Today's Sam Amick, Ellington and his career three-point field-goal percentage of 38.6 will be a welcome addition on the perimeter.
After shooting a career-high 42.4 percent from beyond the arc a season ago, Ellington figures to assume a rotational gig behind Gay, Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas.
That said, it would behoove Mike Malone to entrust Ellington with perimeter responsibilities after his team finished last season ranked No. 27 overall in three-point field-goal percentage (33.3).
And with Jimmer Fredette—the team's top three-point shooter last season— now residing in New Orleans, Ellington's polished stroke should come in handy.
San Antonio Spurs
Intelligent cap management is one way to ensure long-term success, and no general manager has put on a clinic in that regard more than R.C. Buford of the San Antonio Spurs.
Examine San Antonio's payroll, and it's clear no single player is compensated ludicrously.
Could you make the argument that Tiago Splitter is overpaid? Perhaps, but at $9.2 million this coming season, $8.5 million the following year and $8.2 million in 2016-17, it's hard to argue with that value.
Especially when Larry Sanders, JaVale McGee, Kendirck Perkins and Anderson Varejao will make a higher salary during the 2014-15 campaign.
And with Tony Parker, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan all in the final years of their respective contracts, it looks like reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is up for a raise next.
Underpaid: Tim Duncan - One year, $10.4 million remaining
Prior to the 2012-13 season, Tim Duncan took a substantial pay cut that kept the Spurs' vaunted core in tact, which ultimately made their 2013-14 title run a possibility.
The San Antonio Express-News' Mike Monroe explained just how significant the decrease in pay was at the time:
After being the third-highest paid player in the league last season, behind only Lakers star Kobe Bryant ($25.24 million) and Boston’s Kevin Garnett ($21.25 million), Duncan next season will be the fourth-highest paid Spur.
Now, Duncan is the second-highest paid Spur behind only Tony Parker after Manu Ginobili re-upped at $14 million over two years last summer.
Despite patrolling the paint to the tune of 29.2 minutes per game at age 37, Duncan torched opponents by posting averages of 15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game last season.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis and Pau Gasol were the only other players to average at least 15 points, nine boards and 1.5 blocks last season.
Overpaid: Landry Fields - One year, $6.2 million remaining
The Toronto Raptors' signing of Landry Fields at $20 million over three years will go down as one of the worst acquisitions in team history.
Thankfully, though, his deal is about to expire.
Fields has been an outright bust since joining Toronto, and things collapsed entirely during his second season north of the border.
Last year, Fields averaged a putrid 2.3 points and two rebounds in 30 appearances (two starts) while playing 10.7 minutes per game.
Buried on Dwane Casey's depth chart behind DeMar DeRozan, Lou Williams, Terrence Ross and James Johnson, the Raptors are simply too loaded on the wing for Fields to make any discernible impact.
Underpaid: DeMar DeRozan - Three years, $30 million remaining ($10 million player option in final year)
When DeRozan and the Raptors agreed to a four-year, $40 million extension before the start of the 2012-13 season, it was seen as fair value for a rising star.
Now? That deal looks like a slight underpay, if anything.
During his first season as the Raptors' true Alpha dog on the perimeter, DeRozan scored a career-high 22.7 points per game while posting a player efficiency rating (18.4) that was nearly four points higher than his previous career-best.
Coming off an All-Star-caliber campaign, DeRozan should continue to shine bright as the Raptors look to maintain their perch atop the Atlantic Division.
Overpaid: Gordon Hayward - Four years, $63 million remaining ($16.7 million player option for 2017-18)
The Utah Jazz had to overpay Gordon Hayward. There really wasn't another option.
But regardless of necessity, it's pretty clear Hayward is overpaid in the grand scheme of things.
Now Utah's highest paid player at close to $14.8 next season, Hayward finds himself in the same salary bracket as superstars like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, James Harden and Dwyane Wade.
Everyone associated with the club has seen Hayward turn less and less efficient as a shooter in each of his four seasons here. The greater the responsibility placed on him, the greater the inefficiency. The more he shot, the more he missed. The stats don’t lie: 48 percent to 45 percent to 43 percent to 41 percent. Hayward hit just 30 percent of his 3-pointers last season, also a career low. His turnovers have headed the other direction. He averaged nearly three a game in 2013-14.
The defense for paying Hayward a contract that will escalate up to $16.7 million in the final year involves loads of on-court promise and the team's small market stature, but Utah has to hope Hayward makes the leap into stardom sooner rather than later.
Underpaid: Jeremy Evans - One year, $1.8 million remaining
Outside of a 2012 Slam Dunk Contest championship, Jeremy Evans has largely flown under the radar.
A 57.2 percent shooter for his career, Evans has quietly posted an above-average player efficiency rating very season of his career. That production was rewarded with a career-high 18.3 minutes per game last season, time during which Evans averaged 6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds.
And while he attempted a plurality of his shots between zero and three feet last season, Evans was competent from mid-range, knocking down 42.1 percent of his shots between 10 and 16 feet.
Trevor Booker may be in the fold to provide some stability around the rim, but Evans possesses the more versatile skill set laced with upside.
Overpaid: Marcin Gortat - Five years, $60 million remaining
The Washington Wizards didn't have much choice but to fork over major simoleons in order to retain Marcin Gortat's services.
Unfortunately, they may come to regret how the five-year, $60 million deal hamstrings their financial flexibility in the future.
Bleacher Report's Dan Favale has the details:
Big men aren't known for staying productive well into their 30s. The fact that Gortat's salary only increases as he ages doesn't help, either. He'll be earning almost $13.6 million in 2018-19...when he's 35.
For a Wizards team still paying Nene, on the verge of handsomely compensating Bradley Beal and with Durant aspirations in 2016, per The Washington Post's Michael Lee, Gortat's deal won't make sense after two seasons.
Making an average annual salary of $12 million, Gortat will need to match his 2013-14 production over the next few seasons, and then some, in order for Washington's investment to pay dividends.
Underpaid: Paul Pierce - Two years, $11 million
When you sign Paul Pierce to a deal with a lower average annual salary than that of Jodie Meeks, you're doing something right.
At two years and roughly $11 million, the Wizards stole Pierce away from the Brooklyn Nets.
His arrival will not only soften the blow of Trevor Ariza's departure to the Houston Rockets, but it will provide Washington with a reliable crunch-time option who possesses a stellar clutch gene.
According to NBA.com, Pierce shot 46.9 percent from the field and 55.2 percent from three in the last five minutes of games that were within five points last season.
For a team that shot 39 percent from the field during those same situations, according to NBA.com, Pierce will be a welcome veteran addition.
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