There were a number of NBA players who received a large payday during the offseason. Here is a look at the players who have lived up to those huge contracts so far this season.
Article continues below ...
November 7, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors players huddle before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 116-106. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
One of the storylines from the NBA during the offseason was the number of mediocre players who were rewarded with sizable contracts.
Let’s start with Timofey Mozgov. He averaged 6.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in 76 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2015-16 campaign. But in 13 playoff contests, those numbers plummeted to just 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
While NBA fans shook their head in disgust at such deals, there are a number of players who have proven to be worth every penny of their contracts so far this season. That being said, here is a look at a few of them.
Nov 15, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers forward Meyers Leonard (11) during the first quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
5. Dwyane Wade
The story of how Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat parted ways during the offseason has been well documented.
And while the narrative of the hometown kid returning to the city to play professional basketball for the team he once idolized makes for a feel-good story, there were many questions surrounding this move.
How much would Wade have left in the tank heading into his 14th NBA season? Could he really be a difference-maker for the Bulls at this stage of his career?
Well, so far, Wade has proven that he has plenty of miles left, and he has been everything the Bulls had hoped he would be. As of right now, the 12-time All-Star is averaging 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per contest on 43 percent shooting.
Additionally, Wade is shooting 35 percent from three-point range, which is a far cry from the 16 percent clip from a year ago. Yes, there will be instances in which Wade’s minutes will need to be managed as the season progresses.
Yes, there will be occasions when he may sit out the second game of a back-to-back set.
But for the time being, the addition of Wade has paid huge dividends for a Bulls team hoping to return to the postseason.
Nov 8, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black (28) and Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) go for a rebound in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Mavericks won 109-97. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
After all, he was coming off a Finals performance in which he averaged just five points per outing over the last three games while shooting a dismal 5-for-32 from the floor. Secondly, Barnes reached double figures just once in seven preseason games on 27 percent shooting.
Taking that into consideration, this signing had disaster written all over it, right?
While the Mavericks are just 2-8 through their first 10 games, Barnes has been playing on an entirely different level from what we saw last season.
Not only is he averaging 22.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest, he has also more than doubled his career scoring average of 10.4 points per outing.
Furthermore, Barnes is converting 49 percent of his attempts from the floor and has a true shooting percentage of 56.6 percent.
It is also worth noting that Barnes is excelling in a more featured role — something not lost on Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
“I love what I’ve seen,” Cuban said, via CBSSports.com. “Initially, he was being deferential and trying to fit in. And with D-Will and Dirk and Devin being down, our primary scorers, it was like, he has no choice. He knew he had to be that guy and he’s been phenomenal. I mean, when we played the Warriors, he was getting triple-teamed and scoring. His footwork now, his shot, he’s just been able to show so many things that we had not seen before.”
Whether Barnes can continue to play at such an efficient pace remains to be seen. However, if he is able to continue to perform at a high level, the Mavs may have found their next franchise cornerstone.
Nov 15, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) shoots over Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Despite not having a ton of experience on his resume, he finished the 2014-15 campaign with averages of 11.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per contest.
In his first full season with the Heat in 2015-16, Whiteside improved on those numbers, posting averages of 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game. As a result of his outstanding play on defense, Whiteside was named to the NBA All-Defensive second team.
Recognizing the importance of retaining one of the team’s top players, the Heat signed Whiteside to a four-year, $98 million deal during the offseason.
What are the early returns of this move?
Well, Whiteside is averaging 18.2 points, 15.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks on 54 percent shooting from the floor. Not since the days of Alonzo Mourning have the Heat possessed a formidable force at the center position.
While $98 million is certainly nothing to sneeze at, the way Whiteside has been playing, this deal may turn out to be a bargain before it’s all said and done.
Nov 15, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots over Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) and guard Jerian Grant (2) during the third quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
2. Damian Lillard
The Trail Blazers selected Damian Lillard with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft and he has proven to be one of the premier players in the league at his position.
During his first three seasons, Lillard compiled averages of 21.1 points, 6.1 assists and 1.0 steals per contest.
Although the Trail Blazers lost four starters to trades or free agency prior to the start of last season, Lillard continued to excel, averaging a career-best 25.1 points and 6.8 assists per contest en route to helping his team reach the second round of the playoffs.
And in the first season of his five-year, $139.9 million deal, Lillard continues to deliver the goods.
Despite his recent 19-point outing on 7-for-22 shooting against the Chicago Bulls, Lillard is averaging 29.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per contest while converting 47 percent of his attempts overall and 38 percent from beyond the arc.
Yes, the Trail Blazers spent a ton of money to retain his services. But Lillard has proven that he is worth every penny.
Nov 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) dribbles the ball as New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee (5) defends during the third quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 118-107. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
1. DeMar DeRozan
The Toronto Raptors advanced to the their first-ever conference finals in 2015-16. However, DeMar DeRozan struggled with shooting at an efficient clip during the Raptors’ postseason run.
Even though DeRozan managed to convert 50 percent of his attempts against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, he shot just 39 percent from the floor and a horrendous 15 percent from distance.
But in spite of those struggles, the Raptors rewarded him with a five-year deal worth $139 million. Like the other players on this list, DeRozan has not disappointed.
In fact, through Toronto’s first 11 games, DeRozan has scored at least 30 points eight times.
DeRozan is also knocking down 51 percent of his attempts. His 30.1 player efficiency rating is second among shooting guards behind James Harden (30.3). Furthermore, DeRozan also leads the league in scoring with 33.3 points per contest.