Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics (2015 salary: $6.9 million)
Thomas fired his agent last year. Why? The reigning runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year is locked into a contract that'll eventually pay out less than half of Thomas' market value. It's a ridiculously good deal for the Celtics, who only have to pay approximately $19.6 million over the next three years to one of the most dynamic offensive guards in the Eastern Conference. And his contract was front-loaded, so his salary decreases annually, as the salary cap is going up. He's the best offensive player on the team, but three Celtics will make more in 2015-16. What a bargain.
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Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs (2015 salary: $10 million)
Green is the poster child for what a perfect 3-and-D NBA player (that is, a shooting guard/wing who specializes in 3-point shooting and lockdown defense) should look like. He's a tenacious defender who's consistently among the league leaders in shooting percentage from deep while hoisting about five triples per game. He re-signed with the Spurs on a deal that pays him a flat $10 million for each of the next four seasons, even though he could have taken a significantly more lucrative contract had he been at all interested in leaving San Antonio. The Spurs are as good as they are because guys are willing to sacrifice money to stay in a winning environment, just like Green did.
This one is simple. If the NBA didn't have a salary cap, how much would LeBron be worth? $50 million a year? $75 million? More? With all the revenue he brings in and the fact that he virtually guarantees his team a Finals appearance, there's an easy argument that James is worth more than any professional athlete in any of the major sports. But back to reality: The fact that he shares a max contract designation with multiple other players despite clearly being the best in the game means LeBron's deal is one of the best bargains in basketball by default. If there's a downside, it's LeBron's decision to go year-to-year on his contracts, which doesn't offer the Cavs much long-term security. But when you're The King, you can act accordingly.
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Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (2015 salary: $5.3 million)
Two Spurs on this list feels like cheating, especially when one is Duncan, the ultimate model teammate and franchise cornerstone. San Antonio is just a hodgepodge of contract glory, one discounted deal after the other. Duncan sets the tone in this and every other way, constantly taking cheaper contracts to save cap room for the Spurs. The future Hall of Famer, who's still playing at an All-Star level, took a two-year deal worth a little over $10 million total this summer. To put that in perspective, Duncan's former teammate, Aron Baynes, got more than that from the Pistons in free agency this offseason. Who's Aron Baynes, you might ask if you're not up on your end-of-bench NBA big men? Exactly.
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Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (2015 salary: $11.4 million)
The Warriors better enjoy Curry's contract while it lasts, which is the next two seasons. The 2014-15 MVP and greatest shooter ever is on a contract with an average annual value of $11 million per season. Wait, seriously? That relatively microscopic deal is a relic of ankle injury concerns early in Curry's career, combined with the fact that he hadn't yet become the human fireball he is now. Yet for three of the four years of that deal, Curry will have arguably been the best point guard in the league, assuming he keeps up his current production in 2015-16. He's the fifth-highest paid player on his own team, despite being the Warriors' best player by a country mile. Of course, Curry's due for a massive extension in the summer of 2017. But until then, he's criminally underpaid and easily the best value in the NBA.