We glamorize the biggest contracts and superstars because that’s what brings in the biggest revenue for the NBA. There is, however, a variation on most valuable players that general managers are always scouring for and that is the best value players. Draymond Green, for one, went from little-known role player to a starring role on a championship team. Zach Lowe reported on a summer podcast that he, not LeBron James or any other mega-star, was the name tossed around most. Everyone knows who the big stars are, but it takes a keen eye to spot a player who is well out-playing his contract.
So, with the help of basketball-reference.com, I elected to journey into the large databases of contracts and statistics in search of quantifying the best value players. My brute force effort of matching up player’s stats to contracts probably wasn’t the most efficient, but it was certainly exhaustive.
To be sure, there is no clear-cut way to measure value. 2014-15 total win shares was my statistic of choice to measure against 2015-16 contract value. As PER is known to bias offensive and scoring players, I figured that it would overvalue scorers and undervalue defensive players. I am not claiming this to be perfect but it certainly helps give us a good idea of value.
The average dollars per win share (DPS) in the NBA is 1.6 million (1.6m). To factor out the noise, I made a lower qualifying limit of two win shares to be eligible for this ranking. With that in mind, here are the top 10 best value NBA players:
10. Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers - 352k DPS
9. Tyler Hansbrough, Charlotte Hornets - 348k DPS
8. David West, San Antonio Spurs - 348k DPS
7. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks - 315k DPS
6. Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves - 300k DPS
5. Mason Plumlee, Portland Trail Blazers - 294k DPS
4. Tarik Black, Los Angeles Lakers - 272k DPS
3. Robert Covington, Philadelphia 76ers - 250k DPS
2. Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat - 185k DPS
1. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz - 126k DPS