From maximum contracts to players still on rookie deals, Boardroom breaks down the NBA players that carry the most value relative to their current salaries.
Do you remember the show Extreme Couponing? The one where folks compete by couponing their asses off in order to collect the most groceries for the least amount of money? ‘Twas a rather entertaining show, but why? It’s a tedious activity many have done on their own, and likely complained about while doing so.
The reason? People love a great deal. Buying a good, quality product for a fraction of the price is a thrill — an addicting one at that — as demonstrated by a TV series that lasted five seasons from 2010-12, centered around the concept of finding value.
The same goes for NBA general managers. It’s like Extreme Couponing: NBA Edition, except one doesn’t get told where the value is; GMs have to go find it. It’s a difficult job and one I don’t envy. And it’s not just during free agency, either. Value is an all-year goal and an obsession for NBA front offices. This is why there is so much emphasis placed on finding cheap contributors via the draft and on the margins. It’s how front offices build championship teams.
This got us thinking: Which players in the NBA currently carry the most value? Thanks to Spotrac’s handy NBA Value Rankings, in which a mathematical comparison of players’ current salaries against their cumulative “production points” is used to determine a “true value score,” we now know.
Some are expected; some are surprising. Boardroom lays it out below.
The NBA Value All-Stars: Guard
Team: Indiana Pacers
Forget the Value All-Stars; Haliburton has been playing so well this season, he might just be an NBA All-Star.
In his third NBA season — and his first full one in Indiana after the Sacramento Kings traded him last season — Haliburton is averaging 20.3 points, 10.3 assists (leads the NBA), and 4.0 rebounds per game. Additionally, he’s shooting 40.2% from downtown, good enough for three 3s per game. Should these averages hold, Haliburton would become just the second player in NBA history to finish the regular season with 20+ points, 10+ assists, and 3+ 3-pointers per game.
Combine the guard’s productivity with his still being on a rookie contract, and it’s no wonder Haliburton garnered a 99.99 true value score.
Oh, and Haliburton has the Pacers neck-and-neck with the New York Knicks for sixth in the Eastern Conference. This is a team that won a total of 25 games last year.
Of course, this all will be dependent on how much time Haliburton actually misses with an injury he suffered Wednesday night against the Knicks. The team announced he will miss at least two weeks with a left elbow strain and mild left knee bone contusion, but in an effort to manifest, let’s assume and hope that Haliburton will miss minimal time and continue his ascension to stardom in this league.
2. PG Ja Morant
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Similar to Haliburton, this is the last season in which Morant will earn an entry-level salary. But for now, the Grizzlies superstar’s production (and flashiness) on the court far exceeds what he’s raking in. Next season, Ja’s new five-year, $194,300,000 contract extension will kick in, netting him $33,500,000 in Year 1. Due to the new salary being thrown into the equation (with the potential for that to increase even more to the full “Rose Rule” extension), Ja’s place on this list and his TVS could potentially be affected when the next deal is accounted for.
That said, maybe he won’t be affected at all. Sure, he’ll be making over $20 million more than what he’s taking home this season, but his game on the court might make up for it. For the 2022-23 campaign, Ja is averaging career highs in points (27.6), rebounds (5.9), and assists (7.9) per game, all while positioning the Grizzlies atop the Western Conference at 28-13.
Morant missed two games earlier this week due to a thigh injury, but he returned on Wednesday in a win over the San Antonio Spurs. He certainly looked like his normal self, finishing with 38 points, five rebounds, and four assists, but if you need more convincing, just watch him yam it on Jakob Poeltl (I hate to see it done to a fellow Ute … again) like he never left.
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Hey, these guys are human. Here, we have our first non-99.99 score on the list, with Dončić coming in just a tick below at 99.85. This is likely due to his hefty salary of over $43 million, but as evident by his three consecutive All-Star and All-NBA first-team nods, Luka is worth the price tag.
And just when you think he couldn’t get any better, he did. This season, Dončić leads the league in scoring at 34.2 points per game, while maintaining his walking triple-double alert status by also putting up 8.9 rebounds and 8.7 assists. And despite remaining the sole focus of opposing teams’ defensive game plans, he’s shooting over 50% from the field for the first time in his career.
4. SG Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets
5. SG Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies
6. SG Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs
7. SG Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
8. PG Dejounte Murray, Atlanta Hawks
9. PG Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
10. PG LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
The NBA Value All-Stars: Forward
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo has accomplished just about everything one can in the NBA. He’s a six-time All-Star, a four-time All-NBA first-team selection, and a four-time All-Defensive first-team choice. He’s been named MVP (twice), Defensive Player of the Year, All-Star Game MVP, and Most Improved Player. And, most importantly, he’s an NBA champion.
For all those reasons above, as well as his career-high 31 points per game this season, it’s no surprise to see Giannis top the forwards list here. The only somewhat surprising mark is that his TVS doesn’t reach the maximum 99.99 like his guard counterparts above, but with him earning $45.6 million per year, it makes sense.
Despite cracking the 30-point scoring average threshold this season, there’s a debate in NBA circles about whether Giannis is still the same guy that led the Bucks to the championship a few years back. Just the other day, the freight train of a basketball player finished with just seven total points (albeit next to 18 rebounds and 10 assists). Two games before that, it was nine points.
Now, if you take that back two more games, you’ll notice Giannis put up a ridiculous 55-10-7 stat line against the Wizards, so the discourse is very much overblown. But with the guy below him on this list hot on his trail, Antetokounmpo’s reign as the top forward on this list may come to an end.
Team: Boston Celtics
The people are hungry for a fresh face in the MVP conversation, and it feels like Jayson Tatum has been anointed that guy.
This isn’t the first time NBA pundits have thrown Tatum’s name into the discussion. And it’s not that it wasn’t ever worthy before, but there were always just a few dudes who were clearly a rung above — Giannis, Jokic, Embiid, etc. This year? Tatum — who has led the Celtics to an NBA-best 30-12 thus far — more than belongs.
Yes, he’s yet another one of these players who is currently averaging 30+ points per game. And while he’s also had a smooth iso game with the ability to score at all three levels, he’s taken a leap in terms of his creativity and playmaking. He’s always had the body type to be an elite defender, but now he’s finally starting to realize his potential on that end of the court, learning to use his length to be disruptive both on-ball and in passing lanes.
Tatum finds himself in the second year of his rookie extension, so the AAV won’t be going up until at least 2025 (he has a player option for that season). And by the time that happens, Tatum’s game should have continued to improve to make up for that half of the equation. Either way, Tatum has a bit of a runway as he attempts to catch Giannis in the TVS game.
Team: Orlando Magic
So, Paolo is fun (understatement of the year).
I suppose none of us should be surprised with Banchero being the No. 1 pick and somewhat of a unicorn when it comes to his style of play. The guy is a bruising 6-10, 250, yet he can dribble and drive with the ability of a guard or wing. Due to his size, speed, and craftiness, he’s also able to get to the FT line at a near-historic rate. Simply put, he’s doing things as a rookie that we hardly see NBA veterans do, let alone players in their first seasons looking to acclimate to the bigger, faster, and stronger NBA.
Banchero is averaging 21.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game in Year 1, which has led to the Magic playmaker receiving some legitimate All-Star buzz.
4. PF Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
5. PF Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings
6. SF Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors
7. PF Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
8. SF Bojan Bogdanovic, Detroit Pistons
9. SF Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
10. PF Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz
The NBA Value All-Stars: Center
Team: Denver Nuggets
Wait, you mean to tell me the reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player tops this list at his position? Shocker.
As evidenced by TVS scores of the following two names on this list, center is a tough position to crack the 99 club on. But The Joker finds a way. He is on pace to secure his third consecutive MVP award by nearly averaging a triple-double with 24.9 points, 11 rebounds, and 9.7 assists per game.
Voter fatigue might get the better of him this time around, but it’s clear as day that Jokic remains one of the few players in the league who instantly elevates his teammates’ play. And in this exercise, in which we attempt to define what it means to bring “value” to an NBA team, who better than the Most Valuable Player?
That said, no matter how dominant Jokic has been over the last few seasons, we maybe shouldn’t expect him to ever reach the coveted 99.99 TVS. If he’s not there now while he’s making under $30 million, he’ll have a tougher time hitting the mark at the $53,998,000 AAV price tag he’ll cost when his new extension kicks in next season. Unless, of course, he improves even more under the new deal, which seems impossible, but I wouldn’t put it past Jokic.
2. C Bol Bol
Team: Orlando Magic
What a journey it’s been for Bol Bol in the NBA. Son of Manute Bol and with string-bean-like genes to boot, Bol was destined to play basketball. A consensus five-star recruit, he attended Oregon with the idea that he’d bolt for the league after a season due to his high draft stock. An injury cost him much of his freshman season, and it also cost him on the draft boards. Despite regularly being slated to go in the top five prior to the injury, Bol dropped to the second round, where the Denver Nuggets drafted him.
He had an up-and-down couple of seasons in Denver, never really getting the chance to play all that much, partly due to nagging injuries. Bol was then traded to the Orlando Magic at the beginning of 2022, and while he suffered yet another injury there, he came back for the 2022-23 campaign hungry, averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes per game. His previous career highs in those categories were 5.7, 2.7, and 12.4, respectively, so while those numbers don’t jump off the page, they’re a vast improvement from what he was accomplishing with the Nuggets. Oh, and his cap hit is barely over $2 million.
We love to see Bol Bol on this list because it likely means he’s due for a pay raise at some point in the near future. Sure, it might mean he’s knocked down the value scale a bit when you factor in larger money, but I think that’s a compromise Bol Bol is willing to make.
3. C Alperen Sengun
Team: Houston Rockets
I’m just going to let the following video start the conversation on why Sengun finds himself third on this list:
Sure, 10-10-10 is the definition of doing the bare minimum to pass, but hey, he did it. And he’s the youngest to ever do so! That’s something.
Even as one of the best Turkish players in the game, nobody is going to mistake Sengun for an All-Star just yet. However, by holding averages of 14.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game at just 20 years old, he’s proving the potential is there. The Rockets would love for him to reach that point someday, but they’ll certainly take this production at the price they’re paying for their improving young big man.
4. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
6. Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs
7. Nick Richards, Charlotte Hornets
8. Mason Plumlee, Charlotte Hornets
9. Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons
10. Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans
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