Six Pack: The NBA’s Best Bargain Value Contracts
HOOPSWORLD’s Senior NBA Analyst Tommy Beer takes you through his most recent musings on the National Basketball Association in this latest installment of the NBA Six Pack.
The idea for this column was sparked by a debate about whether or not, based on his superb play of late, J.R. Smith’s supremely affordable contract provided the NBA’s best “bang-for-the-buck” value. After digging through stats and salaries, we’ve highlighted the top contracts in the league, based loosely on the production per dollar invested. Players are divided into four separate categories.
Important to note: We didn’t include recent first-round picks that are currently still playing out their rookie contracts, as the standardized rookie pay scale results in some terrific values for players that have already proven their worth but have not yet had the chance to become a free agent…
1. Contracts At Or Near the League Minimum:
* Chandler Parsons – Houston Rockets (2012-2013 Salary: $888,250):
When Houston selected Parsons in the second round of the 2011 draft, it was unknown if he’d ever suit up in a Rockets uniform. Because second-round picks are not locked into guaranteed deals, they often decide to head overseas in an attempt to land a bigger payday. However, the Rockets felt lucky to have landed Chandler and were hoping to keep Parsons stateside. Rockets GM Daryl Morey was able sign Parsons to a four-year (non-guaranteed) deal that pays him approximately $900,000 per season through 2015. Parsons showed flashes a rookie, but has blossomed in this, his sophomore season. He is second on the team in scoring (14.2 ppg), second in rebounding (6.3 rpg), and third in assists (3.7 apg). Parson’s deal will inarguably be one of the best value-based contracts in the league for the next three seasons – he’ll make less than $1.9 million over the next two seasons COMBINED.
* Andray Blatche – Brooklyn Nets (2012-13 salary: $1.1 million)
Back in the summer of 2010, Blatche inked a $35 million extension with the Wizards, but the relationship between team and player soured shortly thereafter. Eventually, Washington was forced to amnesty Blatche, which meant the talented, but often immature and enigmatic big man was a free to sign with another team. Blatche ended up signing a one-year deal with the Nets. He’s stayed out of trouble thus far, and has played well off the bench in Brooklyn. Just how well, you ask? Here is the current Top-10 in PER ranking this season: 1. LeBron 2. Durant 3. Melo 4. Kobe 5. CP3 6. Brook Lopez, 7. Duncan 8. James Harden 9. Andray Blatche 10. Russell Westbrook.
* Matt Barnes – Los Angeles Clippers (2012-13 salary: $1.3 million)
When Barnes signed with the Clips back in September, he was viewed strictly as insurance, considering the depth L.A. boasted at its forward spots. Blake Griffin and Caron Butler were locked in as starters. Lamar Odom and Grant Hill were viewed as the primary backups. However, Barnes has surprisingly established himself as valuable contributor to the Clippers success. Over L.A.’s last 14 games, he is averaging 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and two three-pointers per contest.
Honorable Mentions: Isaiah Thomas, Brandan Wright, Greg Smith, and Kyle Singler
2. Best Bargains At or Under $3 million:
* J.R. Smith – New York Knicks (2012-13 salary: $2.8 million):
Surprisingly, Smith didn’t receive a ton of interest on the free agent market this past summer and eventually re-signed with New York. It’s been a blessing for the Knicks, as J.R. is playing the best basketball of his career at both ends of the floor. By posting impressive numbers in another win over the Spurs on Thursday, Smith recorded at least 20 points and five rebounds in each of his last five games, which is the longest such streak for a player off the bench since the Suns’ Eddie Johnson accomplished it in five consecutive games as a sub in 1989 (Elias Sports Bureau). He is also the first Knick to score 25 or more points in four straight games coming off the bench… Smith has a player option (at just $2.9 MM) for next season, which means the Knicks will have to pony up to keep him in NYC long-term. The Knicks do have his early “Bird Rights,” but will likely see stiff competition for his services if he keeps this up.
* Ray Allen – Miami HEAT (2012-13 salary: 3.1 million):
Allen hasn’t made a major impact in Miami thus far, but does anyone doubt that he’ll knock down more than a few important three-pointers in May and June, when the HEAT are making a push to retain their title. Ray broke the hearts of KG, Pierce and many others in Boston by accepting just the mini-mid-level to join LeBron in Miami.
* Jason Kidd – New York Knicks (2012-13 salary: 3.1 million):
Many pundits mocked Knicks GM Glen Grunwald for signing the nearly 40-year old PG, assuming Kidd was running on fumes and rapidly approaching the end of his Hall-of-Fame career. However, Kidd is somehow still playing at a remarkably high level, and his contributions have been vital to New York’s early season success. Kidd ranks near the top of the NBA in a multitude of categories this season. He ranks 12th in the NBA in 3P% shooting .424 from behind the arc (59-139), fourth in the NBA in assists/turnover ratio at 3.56, first in the NBA in steal per turnover at 1.63 and seventh in steals at 1.86. And the numbers don’t truly tell just how important he’s been for these Knicks, as they don’t account for the leadership, clutch plays, and intangibles he provides.
Honorable Mentions: Reggie Evans and Ronnie Brewer
3. Best Values at $4 million:
* O.J. Mayo – Dallas Mavericks (2012-13 salary: $4.02 million):
After languishing on the bench in Memphis for a couple of seasons, Mayo hit free agency this summer looking for an opportunity to start. Some were skeptical he could thrive as a starting shooting guard; but O.J. has proved any and all doubters wrong by posting some of the most unexpectedly impressive stats in the NBA thus far this season. With Dirk Nowitzki sidelined due to a knee injury, Mayo emerged as the focal point of the Mavs offense. The primary reason for Mayo’s spike in scoring has been his incredible increase in efficiency. Over his previous two seasons as a member of the Grizzlies, Mayo shot just 40.7% from the floor, 36.4% from behind the arc, and 76.4% from the free-throw line. This year in Dallas, Mayo is posting career-highs across the board, shooting 46.7 from the field and 83.9% from the line. Mayo also ranks fourth in the NBA with 78 3-pointers this season and is third in the league in 3-point field goal percentage (.459). His impact on the Mavs moderate success is undeniable: He has averaged 24.4 points on 55.7 percent shooting (.632 3FG) in Dallas’ 13 wins this season and the Mavs are 7-2 this season in games in which he scored at least 25 points and 3-1 in games in which he scored at least 30… With a player option allowing him to re-enter free agency next summer, Mayo will be looking for a major raise.
* J.J. Hickson – Portland Trailblazers (2012-13 salary: $4 MM):
Only four players have recorded 19 or more double-doubles this season: Zach Randolph, David Lee, Dwight Howard, and… yes, J.J. Hickson. The Blazers scooped up Hickson at a discount this summer on a one-year deal, and have been rewarded handsomely. Still just 24 years of age, Hickson will look to cash in with a long-term deal next summer.
Honorable Mention: Tony Allen
4. Best values under $10 million:
* Anderson Varejao – Cleveland Cavilers (2012-13 salary: $8.3 MM):
Andy is being paid a healthy wage, but has been putting up numbers that bests even the league’s highest earners. He is averaging a career-high 14.1 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 steals in 36.0 minutes per game. Varejao is leading all qualifying NBA players in rebounds per game (14.4), offensive rebounds per game (5.5) and defensive rebounds per game (8.9). He has also been setting records left-and-right this season. In early December, he became only the second player in league history (joining Moses Malone) to score 10 points and grab at least 15 rebounds with five offensive boards in 10 straight games. On the season, Andy has 15 games of 15 rebounds-or-more and two games of at least 20 boards.
* Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors (2012-13 salary: $5.7 MM):
Lowry busted out of the gates strongly for Toronto this season, as he joined Michael Jordan and Kevin Garnett as the only players to start a season with three consecutive games with 20+ points, 5+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 3+ steals. Lowry also became just the fourth Raptor ever to score 30+ points and dish out 10+ assists in a game Dec. 5 at Sacramento. However, injuries (he’s missed 12 contests) and attitude issues (he’s had problems getting along with yet another head coach) have limited his playing time and effectiveness of late. Still, when considering the production he provides at a relatively minimal cost (he’s making less than Landry Fields), Lowry is a clearly a valuable asset.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis
5. Dunks of The Week:
I know we are barely a week into 2013, but I’m not sure how anyone will top this dunk by a high school kid (Victor Dukes) down in Arkansas:
We need another angle on that:
J.R. Smith with an incredible reverse Alley-Opp:
Kobe rises on CP3:
D.J. Augustin & Lance Stephenson Alley-Oop:
And, in closing, the “Double Dribble of the Week” award goes to Amir Johnson:
6. Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Week:
* From Elias: DeMarcus Cousins scored 31 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the Kings’ 105-96 victory at Toronto on Friday night. It was Cousins’s fifth consecutive double-double since returning from a two-game suspension for unprofessional behavior… But this was no ordinary double-double. At age 22, Cousins became the second-youngest player in franchise history to post a 30-20 game (that is, points and rebounds), and that covers not only the Kings’ time in Sacramento, Kansas City, and Omaha, but also their time as the Royals in Cincinnati and before that in Rochester, New York. It was for the Rochester team that Maurice Stokes scored 32 points and added 20 rebounds in his NBA debut in 1955 – a 100-98 loss to the Knickerbockers. Stokes was four days younger at that time than Cousins was for his tour de force against the Raptors on Friday night. Of course, Stokes’ career and life took a tragic turn less than three years later.
* Russell Westbrook scored 27 points and Kevin Durant netted 26 points to lead the Thunder over the 76ers on Friday, after they scored 26 and 27 points, respectively against Brooklyn on Wednesday. Westbrook and Durant are the only pair of NBA teammates to each score 25 or more points in each of two straight games this season, and they’ve done so in five pairs of consecutive games.
* From Elias: There are all sorts of different designations for NBA players who fill up the columns in a boxscore – the triple-double, the double-double, a 20/10 guy, and so forth. Roy Hibbert had us scrambling Saturday night after his monster game against the Bucks, when he led the Pacers’ winning effort with 20 points, 15 rebounds (including 11 off the offensive glass) and five blocks. Yes, the old 20-15-10-5 game, representing points, rebounds, offensive rebounds and blocks – something that has not been seen in the NBA since Dec. 5, 2008, when Dwight Howard produced 21 points, 23 rebounds (including 10 offensive) and six blocked shots in a win over the Thunder… Hibbert became the first player in the Pacers’ NBA history to achieve such a game; in fact, it’s only the 29th such game, produced by just 16 different players, in the 40 seasons since the league began recording blocked shots and offensive rebounds in 1973.
* As streaks go, this one is pretty astounding. The Mavericks lost their 10th straight overtime game (their last three of last season and all seven this season) on Saturday night, dropping a 99-96 verdict to the Hornets, a team that came into American Airlines Center with a record of 7-25. Dallas thereby tied the longest overtime losing streak in NBA history; the Warriors (1979 to 1981), the Timberwolves (1992 to 1995) and the Hawks (over 2003 and 2004) also dropped 10 consecutive extra-period contests. Even more remarkable than the streak itself is the rapidity with which it has been achieved: Dallas has lost 10 overtime games in its last 45 games overall – the shortest span of games in which any NBA team has ever lost 10 overtime games.