Rookie-scale contracts are often the best value contracts in the NBA. Players like Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green are providing top production at a bargain price. But each one of these players will soon receive a multi-year, max (or near max) contract (except Green who may receive something close to $8-$10 million per season).
These rookie deals are bargains for several seasons. However, locking up a star for several seasons on a bargain deal for their first major contract is arguably even more valuable. Stephen Curry struggled with recurring ankle injuries early in his career. In May 2011, Curry had surgery on his right ankle to repair ligament damage he suffered during the 2010-11 season. He then only managed to play in 26 of 66 games in the 2011-12 season due to multiple ankle injuries throughout the season and eventually had another surgery in March, 2012.
Curry then signed a four-year, $44 million extension on October 31, 2012. Curry’s ankle injuries were such a big concern that he admitted that the team had “to protect themselves a little bit” in structuring the deal. In fact, were it not for Ty Lawson landing a four-year $48 million extension with the Denver Nuggets, Curry could have ultimately signed a deal that started at $8 million a season. Because of this, the Warriors have Curry locked in until the 2016-17 season. Here’s how his deal looks going forward:
2014-15 – $10,629,213
2015-16 – $11,370,786
2016-17 – $12,112,359
This is a huge deal because it has provided the Warriors with the flexibility to acquire and retain key players like Klay Thompson (signed a near-max extension earlier this season), Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut.
Next, consider that Curry is having an MVP-caliber season. He is number one in the league in Wins Above Replacement (6.36), first in real plus-minus (7.45), fifth in PER (26.92), first in the league in steals per game (2.1) and is leading the Warriors to a league best 26-5 record with a very impressive net rating of 12.1. Curry is doing all of this while comparable players like Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and other top players are earning close to, or more than, $20 million per season.
There are other top point guards like Kyle Lowry and Ty Lawson that are playing on team-friendly contracts as well, but neither is in the elite tier that Curry is. As mentioned above, rookie scale contracts are often the best values in the NBA, especially when a team is fortunate enough to land a player like Davis, Leonard, Butler or Green. But to sign an MVP-caliber player to a team-friendly, long-term contract after his rookie deal expires is arguably more valuable as we see with Curry and his league-leading Warriors.
The Warriors gambled on Curry overcoming his ankle issues a few seasons ago and won big by locking up an MVP-caliber player below market value in his prime. That is why Curry is the best value in the NBA.
– Jesse Blancarte