• Ryan Buchanan

No Money, No Problems

The most financially friendly contracts for NBA franchises involve players who are outperforming their contract based on the current market. It may be a rising star on a rookie scale who is performing like an All-Star or a veteran taking a pay cut to play with a championship contender. In the case of the Miami Heat a few years ago, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all took less money to play with each other. Entering the 2015-16 NBA season, these five contracts provide teams the most bang for their buck.

F/C Pau Gasol – Chicago Bulls

2-years – $15,218,280 Million ($7.6M AAV)

*Photo via USA Today

The 2014 offseason featured an aging, and misused Pau Gasol leave the Los Angeles Lakers to sign a 3-year, $22.34 million deal with the Chicago Bulls. That’s right; a former All-Star and future first ballot Hall-of-Famer signed up to earn roughly $7.5 million a year. Having already made over $156 million in thirteen seasons, Gasol was willing to take a pay cut for the chance to play with a championship contender. Gasol’s former team did try to keep the 2-time NBA champion by offering him a 2-year, $22 million contract, but it’s safe to assume that Gasol did not consider the 27-55 Lakers to be championship contenders. His production on his new contract did not disappoint; evidenced by a starting spot on the All-Star team and his highest rebound total in his 14-year career. His third year does, however, include a player option. In the worst case scenario that he opts out, Pau Gasol is a steal at $7.5 million even if it is just for one more year.

G Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors

2-years – $23,483,045 Million ($11.7M AAV)

*Photo via Getty Images

Roy Hibbert, Joe Johnson, David Lee, Nene; what do these players have in common? Well along with only 58 others, these players will be making more money than Stephen Curry this upcoming season. Think about how absurd that is. To give yourself a visual, pick the two best players on each NBA team and assume that both of those players are making more money than the NBA’s MVP and captain of the 2015 NBA champions. The 4-year, $44 million extension was signed in October 2012, after two surgeries on his right ankle. Injury concerns left Steph and the Warriors uncertain as to how long his career would be, so $44 million dollars sounds like a pretty good pillow to lay your head on in a situation like that. This decision by the Warriors front office to extend Curry’s contract early was made at the perfect time. The deal should continue to pay incredible dividends for the Warriors in the next two seasons.

F/C Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs

2-years – $10,850,000 ($5.4M AAV)

*Photo via Getty Images

Most would say that Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward to ever play the game. His accolades go to the moon and back. This year, Duncan is approaching his 3000th block and 15000th rebound of his career. Each of those milestones have been achieved by less than ten people in history. Ever since “The Big Fundamental” took over where “The Admiral” David Robinson left off, Tim Duncan has been a staple in the Spurs lineup and NBA as a whole. The 39-year-old Duncan signed a 2-year, $10.85 million deal in July that will define team loyalty in an era where there is very little. Similar to Gasol, when you make $234.7 million over the course of your career, you can afford to take a pay cut for a chance at another ring. The money saved allowed San Antonio to sign LaMarcus Aldridge and paved the way for David West to sign at a veteran’s minimum. The bubble of respect that the San Antonio Spurs organization floats in continues to mystify basketball fans around the world.

G Elfrid Payton – Orlando Magic

3-years – $8,451,660 ($2.8M AAV)

*Photo via USA Today

Going into his sophomore season, Elfrid Payton is already looking like a point guard of a different breed. Payton stands out; not only for his unique hairstyle, but for his unselfish style of play. He has brought the Magic a defensive presence, a sense of hustle, and a stability that has not been seen in Orlando in a while. Coming out of a mid-major school like Louisiana-Lafayette, most knew very little about Elfrid Payton when he was drafted. After last year’s successful rookie campaign in which he earned the starting job and posted consecutive triple-doubles (a feat that hasn’t been done by a rookie since Antoine Walker), Payton has earned any attention he is receiving. The Magic have three more years of Payton’s rookie contract. In this upcoming season, the Magic will be paying $2.5 million for Payton’s services. In 2016 and 2017, his contract will be dependent on club options, valued at $2.6 million and $3.3 million respectively. Not a bad deal for an All-Rookie First Team and arguably All-Defensive Team snub. His averages last year were in the same realm as guards named Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Chris Paul, James Harden and Stephen Curry during each of their rookie years. Look for Elfrid Payton to impress in this upcoming 2015-16 campaign.

G/F Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

2-years – $4,949,381 ($2.5M AAV)

*Photo via Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 20-year old phenom who has taken the NBA by storm. His long arms and quick instincts make him a gifted defender. His young age gives him the ability to run the floor in Jason Kidd’s system for as many minutes as he needs to. The Bucks saw young Giannis find his groove under the leadership of Jason Kidd in a very short period of time. Coming into the third year of Antetokounmpo’s rookie contract, the Bucks have exercised their first club option in the rookie contract and will pay him a little under $2M this year. If they get what they got from the Greek Freak last year, and presumably more, the Bucks will be getting the steal of the century. If you take Antetokounmpo’s per-game averages from last year (12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.0 blocks), they compare to eight other players in the league, none of which are in Antetokounmpo’s predicament; Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Tim Duncan, Draymond Green, and Joakim Noah. Keep an eye on baklava and falafel sales in Wisconsin next year; this kid could send Wisconsin into a frenzy if he can take the Bucks deep into the postseason.

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