As the dust settles on the 2019 NBA free-agency frenzy, a picture has emerged of the league's most overpaid and underpaid players.
To own a value contract, a player has to produce at a level that exceeds most of those around him who earn far more. For example, while Chris Paul was a better point guard than Derrick Rose last season, Paul earned $35.6 million from the Houston Rockets, while the Minnesota Timberwolves had to pay Rose just $2.2 million. Rose's 18.0 points and 4.3 assists were a bargain at his price, while Paul's 15.6 points and 8.2 assists didn't come close to living up to his checks.
Since rookie contracts are typically bargains, they'll be excluded from this list. Max contracts are eligible, and the players who land them usually produce at All-Star levels, but that doesn't necessarily mean they carry the most value.
Instead, these are the 10 best value deals based on a player's production vs. contract, taking into account results from the 2018-19 season and the player's projected 2019-20 role.
Since expiring deals (ones with only a year remaining on the contract) all carry value in some way, a player has to be on a multiyear, non-rookie deal to qualify for this list. These deals could have been signed at any time and include those agreed to this free-agency period.
10. Josh Richardson, SG, Philadelphia 76ers
Remaining Contract: Three years, $32.6 million
Richardson was the best player on the Miami Heat last season, leading the team with 16.6 points per game while adding 4.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 2.2 three-pointers and 1.1 steals.
At 6'6" and 200 pounds, Richardson can play four positions and is a versatile defender as well. His 7.9 real plus-minus wins (via ESPN) ranked fifth among NBA shooting guards, ahead of players like CJ McCollum, DeMar DeRozan and Klay Thompson.
After being traded from Miami to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Jimmy Butler deal, Richardson projects as the starting shooting guard in Philly. This transition may hurt his raw stats, as Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons and Al Horford will need touches as well.
On the flip side, Richardson has never played with a passer of the caliber of Simmons, a good sign for his 38.5 percent catch-and-shoot accuracy on threes last season. He's more than capable of playing the role of spot-up shooter, but Richardson can do far more if the Sixers need him to.
9. Ed Davis, C, Utah Jazz
Remaining Contract: Two years, $10 million
Starting-caliber centers in their prime who defend and rebound at a high level should be paid far greater than this.
While the Utah Jazz made plenty of big moves this summer, the signing of Davis has been overlooked after he played such a big role in the Brooklyn Nets' surge to the playoffs last season.
Davis was third in the NBA in rebounds per 100 possessions (22.8), trailing only Andre Drummond and Hassan Whiteside. While Davis will make just $4.8 million next season, Drummond and Whiteside will each receive $27 million.
The signing of Davis to back up Rudy Gobert also means the Jazz boast the top two centers in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus ratings, arguably forming the best defensive and rebounding center position of any team.
While the Jazz won't run any offense through Davis, he'll play his role perfectly as he did while improving the Nets by 6.7 points per 100 possessions a season ago.
Perhaps the best backup center in the league, watch Davis destroy second units on the glass while keeping them out of the paint in Utah for the next few years.
8. Jerami Grant, PF, Denver Nuggets
Remaining Contract: Two years, $18.7 million
As Paul George and Russell Westbrook soaked up all the attention in Oklahoma City last season, another Thunder starter was quietly putting together a career year at age 24.
Grant became an ideal stretch 4, able to hit three-pointers while also putting the ball on the floor and dunking over someone's head at the rim. He averaged career highs in points (13.6), rebounds (5.2), three-pointers (1.4) and three-point percentage (39.2 percent).
With the Thunder now in rebuild mode, Grant finds a new home with the Denver Nuggets following a trade from OKC.
According to Mike Singer of the Denver Post, Grant could be the heir to current power forward Paul Millsap's throne: "The Jerami Grant trade was, in all likelihood, the Nuggets' big offseason acquisition. He fits a need, provides insurance heading into next offseason in case Paul Millsap leaves and is more in line with Denver's timeline. At 25, the Nuggets hope Grant is a staple of their frontcourt for years."
Millsap is 34 and entering the final year of his contract. With Michael Porter Jr.'s injury history, the Nuggets need Grant to be a stabilizing force in their frontcourt while taking some of the quicker, more athletic defensive assignments away from Nikola Jokic.
Coming off a 54-win season, the Nuggets should be even better with the addition of Grant.
7. Rodney Hood, SG, Portland Trail Blazers
Remaining Contract: Two years, $11.7 million
Hood turned down a multiyear contract offer for $7 million annually from the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer and passed on longer, more lucrative offers from other teams to stay in Portland now.
He told reporters:
"I'm totally fine with that. I'm doing pretty well. We didn't have a lot growing up, so I'm still making good money in my opinion. I know I'm not making Dame (Lillard) money, but for me, I'm doing pretty well. As long as you are a happy man, that goes a long way in this league. If you fit somewhere and your family is welcome, that goes a long way, and that's going to show on the court."
Indeed, Hood is worth far more than his $5.7 million salary for 2019-20 as he'll likely be asked to take on a bigger role in Portland's shaken-up roster.
Hood averaged 11.2 points and 2.2 rebounds and shot 35.6 percent from three between the Cavs and Blazers last season. With Enes Kanter's departure for the Boston Celtics, Hood becomes Portland's third-highest-returning postseason scorer behind Lillard and CJ McCollum.
His role should only grow, as Portland traded starting small forward Maurice Harkless in a deal for Hassan Whiteside and saw starting power forward Al-Farouq Aminu sign with the Orlando Magic.
This could mean a starting small forward job for the 6'8" Hood, who has spent 75 percent of his court time in Portland at the 3.
Look for Hood to be a double-digit scorer for the Blazers this season and well outplay his new contract.
6. PJ Tucker, PF, Houston Rockets
Remaining Contract: Two years, $16.3 million
Tucker remains one of the most valuable players on the Rockets, even if he isn't compensated as such.
He signed a four-year, $31.9 million deal with Houston in 2017 and is consistently assigned to guard the opponent's best offensive player.
It's remarkable that at age 34, Tucker has missed just a single game in the last three seasons, starting all 82 at power forward for Houston last year. While being the team's most important defender, he also managed 7.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals and shot 37.7 percent from three.
Tucker ranked eighth among NBA forwards last season in defensive box plus/minus (1.8), finishing ahead of players like Pascal Siakam, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
Over Houston's last two playoff runs, Tucker has improved the Rockets by a whopping 20.3 points per 100 possessions while averaging 9.9 points and 6.9 rebounds and nailing 46.2 percent of his three-pointers.