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NBA AM: Steph Curry’s Contract is a Bargain

Stephen Curry’s contract is one of the best bargains in the NBA, as the league MVP is grossly underpaid.



Stephen Curry’s Contract is a Bargain

Stephen Curry is one of the best players in the NBA, one of the greatest shooters in the history of the league and one of the most electrifying athletes in the universe. The Golden State Warriors point guard was the NBA’s 2014-15 Most Valuable Player and a unanimous selection for the All-NBA First Team. He broke several records this year – making the most threes in a single regular season and in a single postseason – and led the Warriors to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1975. Curry is a household name and a marketable fan favorite who’s one of the faces of the NBA – as evidenced by the fact that he led all players in All-Star votes this season (with 1,513,324).

But, at the same time, Curry is one of the most underpaid players in professional sports. Curry’s contract with the Warriors is one of the best values in the NBA and he’s an incredible bargain for the organization.

Now, let’s make something clear: Curry isn’t hurting by any means, especially when you factor in the additional money he makes from his various endorsement deals. However, there’s no question that he’s paid relatively little when compared to his superstar peers. And it’s not like he’s on his rookie-scale contract either, like Anthony Davis or other young players. He’s on his second contract and still significantly underpaid.

This season, Curry is earning $10,629,213. While this is a lot of money and many of us would switch bank accounts with him in a heartbeat, keep in mind that Curry is severely underpaid by NBA standards. Yes, Curry’s salary is enormous to most people. But, relatively speaking, it’s far less than what he should be making considering how much money he makes for the Warriors and the NBA, and how much his peers are earning while performing at a much lower level.

Consider this: There were 50 NBA players who had a higher salary than Curry during the 2014-15 season. Among those players were Larry Sanders (before he requested to be bought out and walk away from the NBA after failing multiple drug tests), JaVale McGee (who was waived in March and remains unsigned) and Andrea Bargnani (who is one of the biggest draft busts in recent years). These are just a few of the players ahead of Curry, but there are plenty more who have no business being ahead of the league’s MVP.

Curry isn’t even compensated fairly when compared to players who are at the same position as him. There are 11 point guards earning more than Curry this season, including non-All-Stars like Eric Bledsoe and Ty Lawson. Deron Williams made nearly twice as much as Curry this year, and Rajon Rondo earned significantly more money too. Rondo struggled so badly in the playoffs that the Dallas Mavericks deactivated him, made it clear that he wouldn’t be re-signed this summer and refused to give him a playoff share, yet his paychecks were larger than Curry’s.

And next year, Curry will be ranked even lower compared to the rest of the league’s floor generals since the lucrative extensions signed by Kemba Walker and Ricky Rubio will kick in, and free agents such as Goran Dragic, Reggie Jackson and Brandon Knight may sign deals larger than his this summer (especially since teams are preparing to spend ridiculous amounts of money with the salary cap set to rise in 2016).

Taking a look at all guards, Curry is the 19th-highest paid backcourt player. He made less money this season than players like Eric Gordon and Joe Johnson. And, again, he’ll rank even lower next year.

Perhaps the best evidence of Curry being grossly underpaid is the fact that he’s just the fourth-highest paid player on his own team, despite easily being the Warriors’ most important player. Teammates David Lee ($15,012,000), Andrew Bogut ($12,972,973) and Andre Iguodala ($12,289,544) made more than Curry this year. Next season, when Curry is making $11,370,786, he will drop to the sixth-highest paid member of the Warriors since Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will surpass him. Thompson’s contract extension kicks in (paying him $15,501,000) next year and Green seems poised to ink a maximum-level contract this offseason as a restricted free agent.

The craziest thing is that Curry’s contract will just keep looking smaller (and better for the Warriors) over the next couple of years. Curry has two more seasons on his current deal, as he’s set to earn $11,370,786 for the 2015-16 campaign and $12,112,359 for the 2016-17 campaign.

As previously mentioned, with the NBA’s salary cap set to rise significantly next summer due to the league’s new television deal, NBA teams are going to be handing out enormous contracts this summer (since those deals will soon look like bargains) and next offseason (since every team will have a lot of money to spend). According to agents and executives, many middle-tier 2015 free agents will be asking for more than what Curry currently makes. That means Curry’s deal will be even more of a bargain in two years, when even some role players may be making more than him just because of how much the cap spike will affect the business of the league.

So, how did this happen? Why is one of the league’s best players making less than he should?

The issue was that Curry signed his contract extension at the worst possible time. Remember, injuries were a huge problem for Curry early in his career. He missed many games due to ankle injuries, to the point that he was labeled injury prone and some people doubted that he could be a star-level player in the NBA. In his third season, right before he was set to negotiate a contract extension with the Warriors, he missed 40 of 66 games (in the lockout-shortened year) and he’d already had multiple surgeries on his right ankle. He had also dealt with other ailments that were relatively minor, but still kept him sidelined for short periods of time or limited him on the court, which led to additional questions about his durability.

With so much uncertainty about his health hanging over negotiations, Curry and the Warriors agreed to a four-year extension worth $44 million on Oct. 31, 2012. It made sense for Curry at the time given what he had been through. Because of his injuries, the safe approach was to lock in a long-term, guaranteed contract. The last thing he wanted to do was delay his pay day and risk having another serious injury that would hurt his value even more or – in the worst-case scenario – end his career and leave him with nothing.

Looking back, had Curry not signed the extension and hit restricted free agency after the season (betting on himself the way Jimmy Butler did this year), he likely would’ve been able to sign a much larger deal. That’s because the 2012-13 season was his breakout year, when he averaged career-highs in points (22.9) and assists (6.9). But hindsight is 20/20, and Curry made the smart choice that guaranteed him $44 million.

Curry got his long-term security, and the Warriors received somewhat of a discount since he hadn’t been able to play to his full potential yet or stay on the floor as much as they had hoped.

But believe it or not, some analysts felt that Golden State made a big mistake when they gave Curry the four-year, $44 million deal. Even though Curry had played pretty well when healthy, some people believed that the Warriors were taking a huge risk and that they may have been able to extend him for even less because of his ankle issues. The day that the deal was announced, Warriors general manager Bob Myers addressed the media and essentially had to defend his decision – answering questions about why he took the risk and why he felt confident Curry’s injuries were behind him. Some articles warned that the extension could potentially be terrible for the franchise and haunt them for years. It’s easy to forget now, but Curry faced plenty of doubt about his ceiling and his durability.

The move has obviously been amazing for the Warriors, who have become one of the NBA’s best teams. While Curry’s incredible talent is a huge part of that, his bargain contract has played a role in the franchise’s ascent too. Rather than having a ton of money tied up in their top-tier player, Golden State has been able to spend elsewhere because of Curry’s team-friendly deal.

If Curry had a huge contract, re-signing Thompson to such a large deal would have been more difficult. Retaining Green this summer would be a challenge too, since he’ll likely get a max offer sheet. Freeing up the necessary cap space to sign Iguodala two years ago likely wouldn’t have happened. Even improving their depth would’ve been tough since they likely wouldn’t have had the significant cap space they used to add key role players like Shaun Livingston and Marreese Speights in recent summers. Instead, the Warriors likely would have had little flexibility and limited options to improve their roster.

Golden State is a talented and deep team, yet their total payroll is just $72,585,093. That’s the 16th-ranked payroll in the league and they aren’t even in the luxury tax. Their cap situation would be very different if Curry’s contract was on par with his talent and accomplishments.

Fortunately for Curry, he has achieved ridiculous levels of success and will be get a huge contract in the summer of 2017 (when the cap will be much higher). Barring something crazy, his next deal will be the monster contract that he deserves. In the meantime, he’ll just need to keep cashing those endorsement checks from Under Armour, State Farm, Degree, Express, Muscle Milk and JBL among others.

For a complete list of the top 50 highest-paid players in the NBA for the 2014-15 season, click here. To see each team’s salary cap breakdown, click here.

Magic Players Excited About Skiles Hire

The Orlando Magic have hired Scott Skiles to be their new head coach, the team announced on Friday.

Orlando wanted an experienced, defensive-minded head coach and Skiles is exactly that. He has 13 years of coaching experience and has gone 443-433 in the regular season and 18-24 in the postseason throughout his career. The former point guard also had a successful 10-year playing career in the NBA, including five seasons with the Magic.

Basketball Insiders spoke to several Magic players, who were excited about the hire.

“[I’m] happy for our front office,” point guard Elfrid Payton said via text message. “It’ll be great learning from another former point guard.”

“I’m excited about a new beginning,” small forward Moe Harkless said. “I’ve heard a lot about Scott Skiles and am looking forward to meeting and working with him. Everything I’ve heard about him has been good. I’ve heard he’s a hard coach and he expects a lot out of his players, and that’s the kind of coach we need as a young team. We need to be held accountable and he’s the guy that’s going to do that for us. It’s a new opportunity for me to earn some more playing time too. Last year, I feel I didn’t really play a lot so it’s a opportunity to earn some minutes back and just be able to play my game. I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to working with him.

“Also, he’s a defensive-minded head coach, which I think is perfect for me because I love playing defense and practicing hard. I love all that stuff so having him coming in with his mindset to this team is a great opportunity for myself. Coming into the league, my goal was to be on the All-Defensive Team and that’s still one of my goals. With Scott Skiles coming in and his emphasis on defense, I definitely think he can teach me a lot and help develop me to be that guy.”

Last season, the Magic went 25-57, which was the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference. The front office fired Jacque Vaughn in February after the team failed to live up to expectations and he lost much of the locker room. The organization hopes to make a big leap this season and they’re entering the 2015-16 campaign with playoff aspirations.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




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NBA Daily: Wiggins The X-Factor for Warriors

Stephen Curry will always be the face of the Golden State Warriors, and for good reason. Draymond Green spearheads their defensive attack but the key to their postseason fate lies in the hands of a guy that many people had already given up on.



The 2020-21 regular season was a strange one for many reasons, but especially for the Golden State Warriors. Shortly before the NBA Draft, the team’s championship aspirations took a major hit with the injury to Klay Thompson. The best backcourt in the league would not be on full display this season, but they still had two-time MVP, Stephen Curry, to put on a show.

Curry did just that, dazzling basketball fans on a near-nightly basis. The sensational shots, ridiculous plays and high-drama situations were must-see TV that kept the Warriors in the national spotlight. To that end, Curry captured the scoring title for the second time in his career, averaging 32.0 points per game this season.

With limited options available to fill Thompson’s void, the team managed to add Kelly Oubre Jr to the roster, although it came at a steep cost. His salary is $14.4 million this season but because of Golden State’s luxury tax bill, ESPN’s Bobby Marks noted that adding Oubre would cost an additional $82.4 million, bringing their total to $134 million.

After a career year in Phoenix, Oubre struggled mightily trying to fit in with this group. Sometimes players in new situations can try to do too much at first, or sometimes pass on open shots in order to not seem selfish. Neither of these was the case for Oubre, who simply could not put the ball in the basket. His early-season shooting struggles had the Warriors pegged for the Draft Lottery.

Oubre eventually turned it around and began playing like himself. Another new face in the Bay area was rookie James Wiseman. He too struggled at the beginning of the season, which is to be expected for someone in his situation. The seven-footer from Memphis only played a handful of games in college and was trying to learn the NBA game on the fly. A season-ending injury cut short his rookie season, but he showed promise for the future.

The future is not something that Curry has on his mind. He and Draymond Green are playing to win now. That starts on Wednesday with their highly-anticipated showdown with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The league has quite the matchup to cap the new Play-In-Tournament.

Amid all of the highlight plays from Curry and all of the noise surrounding Green, one player sits in the shadows and is rarely mentioned. Andrew Wiggins was all the rage when he was selected number one overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. The former Kansas Jayhawk earned Rookie of the Year honors but ultimately struggled to find his place in Minneapolis.

After more than five seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wiggins was traded to the Warriors in February of last season. Now having played a full season in a Warriors uniform, Wiggins could be their x-factor in the postseason.

One of the knocks on Wiggins has always been his drive, and his passion to reach his full potential. He has all of the physical tools and attributes to be one of the most prolific two-way players in the league. Sometimes the effort just isn’t there, but that narrative seems to have gone out the window. Wiggins has been playing excellent on both ends of the floor, which has translated to wins for the depleted Warriors.

While many people point to his scoring slightly declining, he still scored 19 points per game despite playing the fewest minutes of his career. He finished inside the top 40 in scoring this season. The real story for Wiggins is his efficiency, which has been incredible. He shot a career-high 48 percent from the floor this season and a career-best 38 percent from three-point range. His 54 percent effective field goal percentage is also the highest of his career.

As they prepare to battle the Lakers for the 7th seed in the Western Conference, Golden State must find ways to get stops on the defensive end. Stopping the likes of James, Davis and Dennis Schroder on the perimeter will be paramount to their success. It is easier said than done, but this is where Wiggins’ value can be felt. The Toronto native will be called upon to match up against James often, with Green defending their big men.

Wiggins finished fourth in Defensive RPM (2.72) this season at his position, 21st among all players in the league. That is by far the best of his career, as he ranked 85th last season among small forwards. He also finished inside the top five in the league in terms of contested three-point shots. That is important for the Warriors going forward, should they face the Phoenix Suns or Utah Jazz in the first round. Utah was the top three-point shooting team in the league and Phoenix was seventh-best in terms of percentage.

As if facing James and Davis weren’t difficult enough, the Warriors will have their hands full no matter which opponent they face next. Both have dynamic backcourts with Mike Conley/Donovan Mitchell in Utah and Chris Paul/Devin Booker in Phoenix. Wiggins will be tasked with trying to slow them down as well. There is elite talent everywhere you look out West.

Golden State finished the regular season with a 110.1 defensive rating, which was top five in the league. They managed to do that despite having a depleted roster and having the third-highest pace (102.2) in the league. Much of the credit will go to Green and Oubre but Wiggins has been a major factor in their defensive schemes.

Curry and Green have combined to play in 235 playoff games during their careers. Wiggins has only appeared in five playoff games, so this will be a new experience for him. The pressure always goes up in the postseason, and the Play-In Tournament is no exception.

Shortly after acquiring Wiggins, Steve Kerr put All-Defense expectations on him. “Defensively, we will ask him to take on the challenge of what that position entails. Guarding some of the best players in the league and adapting to our schemes and terminology.” To his credit, Wiggins has done just that.

Wiggins will not win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award this season. He isn’t going to win the Defensive Player of the Year either. While those accolades matter to a lot of players, Wiggins is just focused on improving and winning games. The Warriors hope to do the same as they return to postseason play.

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NBA Daily: Examining Michael Porter Jr.’s Ascension

Since Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Michael Porter Jr. is averaging over 25 points per game and looks like a future All-NBA player. Bobby Krivitsky examines Porter’s ascent and the questions that come with it.



Since Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Michael Porter Jr. has taken his game to new heights.

In the wake of Murray’s ACL tear in mid-April, Porter’s playing time has gone from 30.6 minutes per contest to 35.7, while his shots per game have risen from 12.6 per game to 16.5. The increased responsibility has fueled his ascent. He’s knocking down 56.3 percent of those attempts. He’s taking 8.2 threes per game and making a blistering 50 percent of them. As a result, Porter’s gone from averaging 17.5 points per game to 25.1. He’s also grabbing 6.1 rebounds and blocking almost one shot per contest.

At the time of Murray’s injury, the Denver Nuggets were in fourth place in the Western Conference. They remain there now, 9-4 in his absence, and they boast the eighth-highest net rating in the NBA.

The only way for the Nuggets to fall from fourth would be if they lost their four remaining games and the Dallas Mavericks won their final five contests because the Mavericks have the tiebreaker since they won the season series. On the more realistic end of the spectrum, Denver sits just 1.5 games back of the Los Angeles Clippers, who occupy the third seed in the West. The Nuggets won their season series against the Clippers, meaning they’d finish in third if the two teams ended the regular season with the same record.

There’s a bevy of questions surrounding Porter’s recent play that need to be asked but cannot get answered at the moment. That starts with whether this is anything more than a hot streak. While it’s impossible to say definitively, it’s reasonable to believe Porter can consistently and efficiently produce about 25 points per game. He was the second-ranked high school prospect in 2017 and entered his freshman year at Missouri firmly in the mix for the top pick in the 2018 NBA draft. That was thanks in large part to his offensive prowess as a 6-10 wing with a smooth shot that’s nearly impossible to block because of the elevation he gets when he shoots. 

A back injury cost him all but 53 minutes of his collegiate career and caused him to fall to the 14th pick in the draft. He ended up in an ideal landing spot, going to a well-run organization that’s also well aware of its barren track record luring star players looking to change teams, making it vital for the Nuggets to hit on their draft picks. 

Porter’s first year in the NBA was exclusively dedicated to the rehab process and doing everything possible to ensure he can have a long, healthy and productive career. Last season, finally getting a chance to play, he showed off the tantalizing talent that made him a top prospect but only took seven shots per game while trying to fit in alongside Nikola Jokic, Murray, Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant.

More experience, including battling against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, an offseason, albeit a truncated one, to prepare for a more substantial role with Grant joining the Detroit Pistons and Millsap turning 36 this year, helped propel Porter. 

But for the Nuggets, before Murray’s injury, the perception was that even though they weren’t the favorites to come out of the Western Conference, they were a legitimate title contender. How far can they go if Porter’s consistently contributing about 25 points and over six rebounds per game while effectively playing the role of a second star alongside Jokic? 

It seems fair to cross Denver off the list of title contenders. But, if Porter continues to capably play the role of a second star alongside Jokic when doing so becomes more challenging in the postseason, the Nuggets can advance past a team like the Mavericks or Portland Trail Blazers. And at a minimum, they’d have the ability to make life difficult for whoever they had to face in the second round of the playoffs.

Unfortunately, the timing of Murray’s ACL tear, which happened in mid-April, means there’s a legitimate possibility he misses all of next season. Denver’s increased reliance on Porter is already allowing a young player with All-NBA potential to take on a role that’s closer to the one he’s assumed his whole life before making it to the sport’s highest level. If the Nuggets are counting on him to be the second-best player on a highly competitive team in the Western Conference next season, it’ll be fascinating to see what heights he reaches and how far they’re able to go as a team.

Theoretically, Porter’s growth could make it difficult for Denver to reacclimate Murray. But given Jokic’s unselfish style of play, there’s room for both of them to be satisfied by the volume of shots they’re getting. Unfortunately, the Nuggets have to wait, potentially another season, but Jokic is 26-years-old, Murray 24, Porter 22. When Denver has their Big Three back together, they could be far more potent while still being able to enjoy a lengthy run as legitimate title contenders.

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NBA Daily: D’Angelo Russell Back on Track

D’Angelo Russell lost much of the 2020-21 season to injury. Drew Maresca explains why his return will surprise people around the league.



D’Angelo Russell was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves last February, just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire season. But we’ve yet to see what Russell can really do in Minnesota.

The Timberwolves acquired Russell in late February in exchange for a future first-round pick – which transitions this season if they pick later than third – a 2021 second-round pick and Andrew Wiggins.

Sidenote: For those keeping score at home, the Timberwolves currently have the third-worst record in the league with five games remaining. It would behoove Minnesota to lose as many of their remaining games as possible to keep their 2021 pick. If the pick does not transition this season, it becomes unrestricted in 2020.

Trying to turn an owed pick into an unprotected future first is usually the wrong move; but in this instance, it’s better to keep the high first-rounder this year with an understanding that your 2022 pick will probably fall in or around the middle of the lottery.

The thinking around the deal was that Minnesota could qualify for the playoffs as soon as this season by swapping Wiggins’ contract for a young, talented lead guard in Russell. It has not played out as planned.

COVID resulted in a play stoppage shortly after the deal, robbing Russell of the opportunity to ramp up with his new team. When the NBA returned to finish the 2019-20 season, the Timberwolves failed to qualify for bubble play – and considering the US was still battling a global pandemic, Russell couldn’t easily practice with his new teammates and/or coaches.

The 2020-21 season began weirdly, too. The NBA proceeded with an abbreviated training camp and preseason. And while this impacted all teams, Russell was additionally hindered by the decision.

Ready or not, the season began. In 2020-21, Russell is averaging a near-career low in minutes per game (28.2) across just 36 games. He’s tallying 19.1 points per game on 43.6% shooting and a career-best 38.8% on three-point attempts. He’s also he’s posting a near career-best assist-to-turnover ratio (5.7 to 2.8).

Despite Russell’s contributions, the Timberwolves have failed to meet expectations. Far from the playoff squad they hoped to be, Minnesota is in contention for the top pick in this year’s draft. So what has gone wrong in Minneapolis?

Russell’s setbacks are fairly obvious. In addition to the lack of preparation with his teammates and coaches, Russell was diagnosed with a “loose body” in his knee, requiring arthroscopic knee surgery in February. As a result, he missed 27 consecutive games. Russell returned on April 5, but head coach Chris Finch revealed that he’d been on a minutes restriction until just recently.

Minnesota is clearly being cautious with Russell. Upon closer review, Russell has been restricted to under 30 minutes per game in all of his first 10 games back. Since then, Russell is averaging 31 minutes per game including an encouraging 37 minutes on May 5 in a four-point loss to Memphis.

Since returning from knee surgery, Russell is averaging 27 minutes per game across 16 games. Despite starting 19 of the team’s first 20 games, he hadn’t started in any game since returning – until Wednesday.

On the whole, Russell’s impact is about the same as it was prior to the injury, which should be encouraging to Timberwolves’ fans. He’s scoring slightly less (18.8 points since returning vs. 19.3 prior), shooting better from the field (44.9% since returning vs 42.6%% prior) and has been just slightly worse from three-point range (37.4% since vs. 39.9 prior). He’s dishing out more assists per game (6.5 since vs. 5.1 prior), too, and he posted three double-digit assist games in his last five contents – a feat achieved only once all season prior to his last five games.

Despite playing more and dropping more dimes, there’s still room to improve. Looking back to his career-bests, Russell averaged 23.1 points per game in 2019-20 in 33 games with Golden State (23.6) and 12 games with Minnesota (21.7).

But his most impactful season came in 2018-19 with the Brooklyn Nets. That season, Russell averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game, leading the Nets to the playoffs and earning his first trip to the All-Star game. He looked incredibly comfortable, playing with supreme confidence and flashing the ability to lead a playoff team.

At his best, Russell is a dynamic playmaker. The beauty of Russell is that he can also play off the ball. He has a quick release on his jumper and impressive range. His game is not predicated on athleticism, meaning he should stay at his peak for longer than guys like De’Aaron Fox and Ja Morant.

And while he’s been in the league for what feels like ever (six seasons), Russell just turned 25 approximately two months ago. Granted, comparing anyone to Steph Curry is unwise, but Curry wasn’t Steph Curry yet at 25. Former MVP Steve Nash hadn’t yet averaged double-digits (points) at 25. Twenty-five is also an inflection point for Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. And the list goes on.

To be fair, Russell was drafted at 19 so he’s more acclimated to the league at this age than most, but his game will continue expanding nonetheless. He’ll develop trickier moves, become stronger and grow his shooting range. And a good deal of that growth should be evident as soon as next season since he’ll be fully healed from knee surgery and have a full offseason and training camp to finally work with teammates and coaches.

So while Minnesota’s 2020-21 season was incredibly bleak, their future is quite bright – and much of it has to do with the presence of Russell.

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