NBA Players Outperforming Current Contract


With the bulk of the free agency moves behind us, news around the NBA is beginning to slow down as it typically does around this time of year.

However, a huge storyline began to emerge earlier this week as it was reported that the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook were progressing in contract extension negotiations. Of course, the team made the extension official yesterday at a press conference at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The new deal will reportedly pay Westbrook $26.5 million this upcoming season, $28.5 million during the 2017-18 season and $30.6 million in 2018-19. Westbrook will have a player option for the final year, which he is almost guaranteed to waive in order to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

The re-worked deal will be more in line with what Westbrook is realistically worth. He is arguably a top-five player in the NBA and has proven to be extremely valuable to his team. Prior to the new contract, Westbrook would have made $17,769,374 next season, which seems like it would have been a bit of a bargain for a player of Westbrook’s stature.

With Westbrook signing a new contract this week, we began thinking about other players who are on a bargain contract that was signed prior to this offseason. With the cap rising this summer, and again next summer, the value of contracts is changing a bit. These players were signed when the cap was lower, which makes many of them a great bargain right now.

Of course, when talking about players on bargain contracts, Hassan Whiteside must be brought up. Whiteside was one of the most dominant players in the post last season and earned just $981,348. However, he’s no longer in the bargain category, as the Miami HEAT rewarded Whiteside this summer by inking the big man to a four-year, $98 million deal.

Many players who still on rookie-scale contracts will surely be in line for a significant payday as well. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zach LaVine, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope among others have all outperformed their rookie deals and will likely be signing for much more when they hit restricted free agency. For this article, we’ll exclude those players.

Here is a look at several other players that have outperformed their current contracts and are signed onto very team-friendly deals (all salary data can be found on Basketball Insiders’ Salaries Page):

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors:

We’ve all seen the meteoric rise of Curry, who has become one of the league’s best players. He’s won the past two Most Valuable Player awards, won a championship, set the NBA record for most three-pointers in a season and seemingly has it all. Perhaps the most shocking thing is Curry is only due to make $12.1 million next season. The other unbelievable part about his deal is he’ll be the fourth highest-paid player on the Warriors’ roster next season. Of course, when he signed his four-year, $44 million extension in 2012, there were a lot of concerns with how his ankles would hold up. After seeing his success since signing that deal, it’s safe to say that he’s exceeded all expectations and then some.

Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics:

Thomas is one of the most feel-good stories in the league. He was the last pick in the 2011 draft by the Sacramento Kings and has transformed himself into one of the best point guards in the league today. He averaged a career-high 22.2 points, 6.2 assists, three rebounds and 1.1 steals per game last season and is due to make just $6.5 million next season and $6.2 million the following season. His contract for the Celtics is a steal and he’ll be among the best bargains in the league over the next two seasons after emerging as an All-Star.

J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers:

Redick turned in one of the best campaigns of his 10-year career this past season for the Clippers. He averaged 16.3 points per game and shot a staggering 47.5 percent from three-point range, which was second-best in the NBA. Redick enters next season in the final year of his contract and is slated to make $7.3 million. Redick has established himself as one of the best shooters in the league and should be in for a big pay raise next summer if he can remain productive for the Clippers, especially with how much shooting is valued in the NBA today.

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic:

After seeing what some other big men signed for this offseason, it’s looking like Vucevic’s deal is a bargain for the Magic. Vucevic signed a four-year, $48 million contract extension nearly two years ago and is due just $11.75 million next season. Vucevic is one of the better offensive centers in the NBA and has a great mid-range shot. He averaged 18.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game last season. He’s been talked about as an All-Star snub in each of the past two seasons, which proves he’s been highly effective for the Magic. Vucevic even said recently that he wishes he were a free agent right now, but acknowledged there’s nothing he can do about it now.

Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors:

Lowry is coming off of his best season as a professional after averaging a career-high 21.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. Lowry, and backcourt teammate DeMar DeRozan, have helped the Raptors solidify their place as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. He was an All-Star in each of the past two seasons and will be playing for Team USA in Rio. Lowry will be a bargain next season, as he’s going to make $12 million. He holds a $12 million player option for the 2017-18 season, but will likely opt out next summer and become an unrestricted free agent.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets:

The Charlotte Hornets proved successful in locking up Walker for the foreseeable future by signing him to a four-year, $48 million extension nearly two years ago. By agreeing to the extension prior to the 2014-15 season, Walker avoided hitting restricted free agency last offseason . It’s very likely that Walker could have signed for much more if he were a free agent this summer. Walker averaged a career-high 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game last season. He earned $12 million last year and will earn a flat $12 million over the remainder of the three years of his contract. The Hornets figure to have a bargain in Walker for the next three seasons.

Honorable Mention:

Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics:

Crowder has established himself as one of better two-way players in the league. He is coming off of a career-year, averaging 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He signed a five-year, $35 million contract last summer and will make just $6.2 million next season.

Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics:

Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ front office deserve a lot of credit for being able to add quality players at bargain prices. Bradley has become the Celtics’ second-leading scoring option, scoring 15.2 points per game last season. His scoring might drop a bit with Al Horford coming in, but it’s clear he’s on a great deal for the Celtics as he’ll earn just over $17 million over the next two seasons.

John Wall, Washington Wizards:

Although it may seem hard to rationalize adding Wall to this list after he signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension three years ago, it seems pretty reasonable to believe he’d make much more now. Wall is a three-time All-Star and among the best playmakers at point guard. He’ll earn just under $17 million next season and won’t be a free agent until three years from now. Wall infamously noted last summer that Reggie Jackson now makes the same as him – and Jackson has yet to make an All-Star team.  

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings:

Cousins is perhaps the best big man in the game. He averaged a career-high 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last season. He’ll earn just under $17 million next season and $18 million in 2017-18. Cousins had the infamous tweet moments after it was reported that Tristan Thompson agreed to a five-year, $82 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s very possible that Cousins will be one of the highest-paid players when he hits free agency in two years.


Most of the players on this list were just victims of bad timing. Wall admitted as much when discussing Jackson’s contract. He said these players hit the market at the right time, under the new CBA and with the new television deal kicking in.

It’s reasonable to think that if these players can remain healthy and continue playing at a high level, they’ll be taken care of once their time comes in free agency.

Which players would you have added to this list? Hit the comments and let us know!


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About Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer entering his fourth season with Basketball Insiders. He covers the league out of Orlando and Miami, focusing on the Southeast Division.

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