LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Not everyone is lucky enough to make the $25 million that Kobe Bryant will rake in next year from the Lakers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t players deserving of the salary.
Here are the top-five most underpaid players in the NBA for the 2015-2016 season.
5. Dirk Nowitzki, forward, Dallas Mavericks
2015-2016 salary: $8,333,333
The German-born superstar has always been about winning. Nowitzki has taken less money during contract negotiations several times in order to give his organization more flexibility to sign other marquee players.
Despite being named the 2007 NBA MVP and the 2011 NBA Finals MVP, Nowtizki is the third-highest paid player on his own team.
Both Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews make more than the 13-time All-Star selection.
Parsons will haul in $15.3 million in ’15-’16, while free-agent acquisition Wesley Matthews will collect a whooping $16.4 million.
Nowitzki has averaged 22.2 points per game during his 17-year career, while also adding 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
The 7-footer is also shooting an impressive 38 percent from beyond the three-point line for his career and is arguably the best European-born player in the history of the NBA.
He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and one the most versatile big men of all time.
Mark Cuban, the Mavericks owner, said of Nowtzki: “Dirk and I sit and talk about all of this stuff. He knows the strategy, what we’re trying to do, why we’re doing it. He realizes that if he didn’t do it the chances of him being in a championship position weren’t nearly as good.”
4. Stephen Curry, guard, Golden State Warriors
2015-2016 salary: $11,370, 786
The reigning NBA MVP will be the the fourth-highest paid player on his team next season.
Curry will make less than Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and Klay Thompson, despite carrying the squad all the way to the NBA finals in the previous year and also winning the league’s MVP award.
Curry agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract after his rookie contract expired in October 2012.
However, the Davidson product averaged 26.2 PPG and 8.5 APG last season for the Warriors, while also shooting an NBA-best 91 percent from the free-throw line.
Curry has never shot below 42 percent from the 3-point line in any of his six career NBA seasons.
He also ranked third during in the NBA last season with 15.7 win shares, an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player.
Only Chris Paul and James Harden recorded high totals.
When Curry’s contract expires, the Warriors are going to have to open the bank for him if they want to keep him in the Bay Area.
3. David West, forward, San Antonio Spurs
2015-2016 salary: $1,499,187
Perhaps the biggest surprise of this off-season came when big man David West elected to forgo his $12 million player option with the Pacers and instead signed a one-year deal worth $1.4 million dollars with the Spurs.
That is correct, West turned down nearly $11 million to NOT play (and start) on the Indiana Pacers, and instead, be a backup on the San Antonio Spurs behind Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
West’s quest for a ring is something to be admired, with more and more NBA players chasing the money instead of pursuing championships.
This signing is just another example of the Spurs’ front office ability to keep talent in San Antonio for bargain prices.
For his career, West is averaging 15.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 3.4 APG and has been selected to the All-Star Game twice.
2. Andre Drummond, center, Detroit Pistons
2015-2016 salary: $3,272,090
With Dwight Howard constantly being plagued by injuries, Andre Drummond could be the best center in the league.
In perhaps Joe Dumars’ only smart move in his entire stint as Pistons general manager, he drafted Drummond with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
In just three seasons in the NBA, Drummond has averaged a double-double, with 12.1 PPG and 11.8 RPG.
Over the past two seasons, Drummond has averaged over 13.0 points and rebounds a game, making him one of the premier centers in the NBA.
The 7-footer is still on his rookie contract and is the Pistons’ eighth highest-paid player.
The Pistons’ highest-paid player, Josh Smith, who is owed exactly $14 million the next two seasons, was waived by the Pistons last season, only to sign a deal with the Clippers this past off-season.
Despite him playing for another team (his second since being waived from the team), Smith will collect every penny of the $28 million he is owed by the Pistons over the next two years.
Meanwhile, Drummond is owed $3.3 million this season and $4.4 million next season.
The Pistons should cherish what little time they have left with Drummond or offer him a contract extension, because when he hits free agency after the 2016-2017 season, he will be offered max deals from a slew of suitors.
1.Tim Duncan, forward, San Antonio Spurs
2015-2016 salary: $5,250,000
“The Big Fundamental” continues to remain one of the best power forwards in the NBA, despite being 39 and subjected to retirement rumors every year.
Tim Duncan has wowed skeptical critics as he continues to shine for the Spurs, leading them to the NBA finals in 2013 and 2014.
The sure-fire Hall of Famer is the fifth-highest paid player on the Spurs, behind Kawhi Leonard ($16.4 million), Tony Parker ($13.4 million), Danny Green (10.0 million) and Boris Diaw ($7.5 million).
Duncan is arguably the best power forward in the history of the NBA and has won five NBA titles as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
Many go as far as to call him the best player in San Antonio Spurs history.
The soft-spoken Duncan has made 15 All-Star teams and has averaged 19.5 PPG and 11.0 RPG over his 18-year career.
He is the Spurs version of Kobe Bryant, except they pay him $20 million less.
Duncan is a true team player, accepting lower salaries in the past to surround himself with better talent so he can compete for a championship.
This season, in order for the Spurs to sign free-agent LaMarcus Aldridge, Duncan accepted a two-year, $10.8 million deal. While the contract does offer Duncan a player-option for the 2016-2017 season, he could have easily demanded more from the Spurs.
The Spurs would have given Duncan more, too, had he wanted it, but he choose instead to take the smaller deal so the Spurs front office could surround the aging Duncan with younger talent and improve their chances of competing for an NBA title.
Duncan reportedly handed over $20 million to a financial adviser this past off-season, but refuses to let that affect his ultimate goal of winning another title.
“Luckily, I had a long career and made good money. This is a big chunk, but it’s not going to change my life in any way. It’s not going to make any decisions for me,” Duncan said of the losses.
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