An NBA game is won and lost on the hardwood, but an NBA season hinges on what happens off the floor. In a league where Bird rights, max contracts and marquee free agents tend to steal the headlines on social media, general managers and front office staff know that it’s actually that one bargain-basement player on a sub-value, affordable contract that can free up cap space and truly swing a championship.
We don’t think these guys get enough credit, so here is SportsTips.com’s list of the Top 5 Best Value Contracts in the NBA for the 2019-20 season.
*NOTE* for the purpose of this list, players still on a rookie contract have NOT been considered.
5. Dwight Howard, C, Los Angeles Lakers
2019-20 Salary: $2,564,753
2019-20 has been a season of redemption for Dwight Howard.
The 15-year journeyman has finally found a home in LA, and his basketball – and that of his team – is flourishing as a result. The 34-year-old center is putting up numbers of 7.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, an assist and a block in every game, but it’s the intangibles that have been most impressive.
Howard provides an invaluable foil for the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, giving James the pick-and-roll partner he needs when Davis is on the bench, and giving Davis the rest he so desperately needs.
The Lakers are Howard’s fifth team in as many seasons and it’s fair to say he’d been written off by the NBA community prior to this season beginning. The fact that he’s now a genuine contributor on a championship-calibre team, all while being paid less than 296 other NBA players, is a remarkable comeback story. Kudos to Rob Pelinka for trusting in Lebron’s uncanny ability to pull teammates in to line.
4. Carmelo Anthony, F, Portland Trail Blazers
2019-20 Salary: $2,159,029
Speaking of redemption stories… Come on down Carmelo Anthony!
‘Melo’s career was on the rocks after putting up disappointing numbers for a couple of franchises in consecutive seasons, and consequently one of the greatest scorers in NBA history found himself effectively ‘homeless’ in the NBA parlance. After a shocking start to this year, the Trail Blazers needed to break glass in case of emergency, and they turned to ‘Melo.
It’s turned out to be a fantastic move for both parties. Anthony has managed to play himself in to a guaranteed deal for this year, and it’s hard to see Portland letting him go given he’s averaging 15.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and playing almost 33 minutes per game on a team that has given itself an outside chance of sneaking in to the playoffs.
Importantly, stats that actually matter – like true shooting percentage and PER – are up across the board for ‘Melo; a sure sign that he’s putting in work to improve his game.
At a salary of just over $2M this season – 331st in the league – Anthony is an absolute bargain.
3. Giannis Antetokounmp, C/F/G, Milwaukee Bucks
2019-20 Salary: $25,842,697
You might be surprised to see Giannis Antetokounmpo – the reigning MVP – on a list of value NBA contracts. You shouldn’t be.
The Greek Freak is the 42nd-highest paid player in the league this season. He’s earning less money than the likes of Steven Adams, LaMarcus Aldridge and Hassan Whiteside, despite being well on track to win his second MVP award in as many years.
You’ll have heard all the stats already, but Giannis might just be putting up the most efficient season in NBA history. He’s averaging 29.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, a block and a steal in less than 31 minutes per game, and currently is set to put up the largest PER (31.95) in the HISTORY of basketball.
This is the third year of a four-year, $100 million extension signed with the Bucks after his rookie contract. When Giannis hits unrestricted free agency at the end of next season he’ll be eligible to sign a five-year, $253.8 million contract, the largest in NBA history.
Milwaukee need to make the most of Giannis while they have him on a contract that statistically might be the biggest bargain of all time.
2. Davis Bertans, F, Washington Wizards
2019-20 Salary: $7,000,000
The Latvian Laser has turned himself in to one of the hottest three-point shooters in the league, and the Wizards are reaping the rewards.
Bertans signed with San Antonio for a two-year, $14M deal in free agency in 2018 but was then inexplicably traded from the Spurs to Washington in July of 2019 in exchange for DeMarre Carroll. The same Carroll who was recently bought out and sent to Houston after contributing precisely nothing to his new team.
Bertans, meanwhile, is averaging 15 points, 4.7 rebounds and a couple of assists per game for the Wizards. More importantly, though, he’s shooting a scorching 43.5% from three (9th overall in the league) on nearly 8.5 attempts per game and has a true shooting percentage of nearly 63%.
Of the top ten in the league by three-point shooting percentage, only Duncan Robinson (8.2 attempts per game) and Bojan Bogdanovic (7.3 attempts) are taking anywhere near the volume of threes Bertans is.
Bertans is set to hit free agency at the end of this season, and the smart money had the Wizards looking to cash in with a trade while they could. Instead, they held on to the 27-year-old Latvian, with the clear goal of re-signing him to a longer term deal. That should tell you all you need to know about how highly-valued Bertans is within the NBA.
1. P.J. Tucker, C/F, Houston Rockets
2019-20 Salary: $8,349,039
Tucker signed a four-year, $31.9 million deal with Houston in 2017. At that point it’s hard to envisage that either party foresaw even the slightest possibility that, less than three years later, he would be the team’s starting center as they try and make an unlikely tilt at a championship.
While Tucker provides the Rockets with a plethora of vague intangibles like “hustle” and “grit”, his major quantifiable asset is his durability. In one of the more mind-blowing stats in the NBA at the moment, the burly 34-year-old – who consistently finds himself matched up against the likes of Rudy Gobert and Anthony Davis on defense – has missed just one game of basketball in the last four seasons.
Tucker just does not miss games. He also tends to impact them in a disproportionate way when he’s on the floor; Tucker was the eighth-ranked forward last season in defensive box plus/minus (1.8), he’s hit 46% of his threes in Houston’s last two playoff runs and statistically the Rockets are more than 20 points better off per 100 possessions in the playoffs when Tucker is on the floor.
Daryl Morey’s mad science experiment officially hit its zenith with the trade of Clint Capela at the deadline. Houston’s championship hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of Tucker, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. It’s telling that a guy getting paid less than $8.5M is talked about in the same breath as those two perennial All-Stars.
Written and produced by SportsTips.com
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