Basketball’s Most Cap-Friendly Players Reside in Boston

In a sport that employs a salary cap, it is critical that a team’s general manager try to focus on value when determining how much money to pay each player. The 2015-16 Boston Celtics have excelled in this regard, as they have two of the most team-friendly contracts in the entire NBA.

Among all players with at least four Win Shares (WS) this season, per, the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder have the 6th and 7th best ratios of salary per WS. The rest of the Top 10, using this metric, are comprised of six players who should see a big bump in earnings next year (three pending free agents, another with a player option and two who have already signed large extensions that will increase their salaries by at least threefold); the probable Rookie of the Year, Karl-Anthony Towns, who is playing on a fixed entry level contract; and some guy named Stephen Curry, last year’s MVP, who is putting together a season that statistically rivals almost any in the history of the sport.

Thomas (via sign-and-trade) and Crowder (via trade and subsequently re-signing with Boston), both came over to the Celtics last year and are locked into their current deals through at least 2018. This season, each of them is making about $650 thousand per WS, which is about half that of the average player with four or more WS ($1.36 million). With these two relatively inexpensive contracts, Boston has synthetically created cap space for the next few years.

On the flip side, Brandon Knight ($4.4 million per WS), Wesley Matthews ($4.1 million per WS) and Marc Gasol ($3.3 million per WS) are just a few of last year’s free agent crop that, through half a season, are struggling to justify their new contracts. The league’s best ratio to date belongs to Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, who is making just under $110 thousand for each of his 4.8 WS. As a pending free agent, however, it’s unlikely he will be in a similar position next year.

NBA Players With At Least 4 Win Shares (WS)

Player Team Contract Status Salary*/WS
Hassan Whiteside Miami Pending Free Agent $109,704
Andre Drummond Detroit Pending Free Agent $373,565
Damian Lillard Portland 5x Salary in 2017 via Ext. $528,101
Stephen Curry Golden State Signed thru 2017 $592,369
Zaza Pachulia Dallas Pending Free Agent $648,559
Isaiah Thomas Boston Signed thru 2018 $650,762
Jae Crowder Boston Signed thru 2020 $685,003
Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Rookie Contract $763,421
Anthony Davis New Orleans 3x Salary in 2017 via Ext. $806,048
Pau Gasol Chicago Player Option in 2017 $849,143

* Salary figures are pro-rated using team games played through January 23, 2016

(photo by Rene Schwletzke)

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