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Bargains at Any Price

By Daniel Strickland on March 5, 2013.

Bill Simmons ranks the most cost effective player contracts in the NBA (“The Best Bargains in the NBA: With the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement in full swing, it’s all about the contracts“). Guess which 3 Spurs made the list.

 

(Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)

 

15. Danny Green (Spurs): 3 years, $11.3 million

You can always find cheap perimeter guys who can defend and shoot 3s. They’re always kicking around.

If you have the kind of system that rewards specific types of players — say, a long-armed defender who makes corner 3s, or a run-and-gun streak shooter — that’s even better. The Spurs realized after their Richard Jefferson catastrophe that they should never pay anyone eight figures other than Parker, Duncan and Ginobili — essentially, they decided to wager on their drafting (Kawhi Leonard) and waiver wire savvy (Green) for that position, hitting the jackpot twice.

What did they see in Green other than the North Carolina pedigree and quality 3-point shooting in college? Hard to say. The Cavs waived him before the 2010-11 season started; nearly a month passed before the Spurs snapped him up, so you can’t say they jumped on him. They waived him a week later, then re-signed him in March of 2011. Less than 13 months later, he was shutting down Chris Paul in the playoffs. This season, he’s been nailing 43 percent of his 3s.

Maybe Memphis believed they could find more Danny Greens, and that the difference between what Gay was giving them (40 percent shooting, 30 percent from 3) wasn’t dramatically different than a past-his-prime Prince, or the two dozen role players and journeymen shooting 36 percent or better from 3 on this list or this one. Should it mean something that the Smart Teams plus Memphis (five of the premier advanced-metrics teams) all came to the same conclusion about overpaying perimeter guys who aren’t All-Stars? I say yes.

 

Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

 

3. Tim Duncan (Spurs): 3 years, $30.4 million

You know what’s amazing about Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan other than the stuff you already knew was amazing? It’s Year 18 for Garnett and Year 16 for Duncan, although Duncan is older by 3.5 weeks (they’re both 36). Including playoffs, they’ve logged over 100,000 minutes combined already. They played 40 minutes a night at their peaks; now they play 30 minutes a night. But check out their per-36-minute numbers for this season and their careers as a whole.

Duncan, 2013: 20.3 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 4.2 SBPG,7 49% FG, 81% FT, 23.8 PER
Duncan, career: 20.6 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 3.1 SBPG , 51% FG, 69% FT, 24.7 PER
Garnett, 2013: 17.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.5 SBPG, 50% FG, 78% FT, 19.4 PER
Garnett, career: 19.0 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.9 APG, 2.8 SBPG, 50% FG, 79% FT, 23.2 PER

Isn’t that crazy? They’re playing 25 percent less, but with little to no difference in per-minute efficiency and no real signs of decline. Even better, they took hometown discounts so their teams could build around them a little more easily. You know, like what Kobe did with the Lakers — only the exact opposite.

(Sorry, I had to.)

 

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

 

2. Tony Parker (Spurs): 3 years, $37.5 million

I’m a humongous Parker fan. I love watching him do his thing. I love the camaraderie between Duncan, Popovich, Parker and Ginobili — they’ve been together so long that it’s almost like watching one of those great married couples that make you say, “Wow, those two really like each other,” only in this case, it’s “those four.” I don’t believe the Spurs are even remotely boring, and anyone who says that doesn’t actually like basketball. I believe the Spurs have been the best NBA team through four months, and that Parker has been their most valuable player — like Chris Paul with the Clippers, Parker is a Formula One driver operating a machine that was specifically built for him. (Other people could drive it, but nobody drives it like him.) And I believe Parker should be making $18-20 million a year like the other franchise guys, so locking him down for $12.5 million for this season and the next two … I mean … that’s highway robbery. But he’s not the MVP, and anyone who argues that is just being silly.

 

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