We’re about halfway through the 2020-21 NBA campaign, which gives us more than a large enough sample size to look back at the 2020 offseason and determine what the best bargain contracts signed last fall were.
Just for clarity, we are solely looking at production and salary for the 2020-21 season for this exercise.
For example, a player who is signed to a minimum contract this campaign and averaging 20 points nightly is exactly who we are looking for – not the guys who are on max salaries and ranking Top 10 league-wide in scoring.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the players we believe are currently signed to the biggest bargain contracts from the 2020 offseason.
Carmelo Anthony (Portland)
Playing on a veteran minimum contract that pays him just $2.6 million in 2020-21, Carmelo Anthony has been one of the biggest bargain signings from last offseason, averaging 13.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting nearly 39 percent from three.
Not only has Anthony been an accurate three-point shooter this season, he hardly turns the ball over and ranks as a ‘good’ scorer, per Synergy Sports, out of the post, on spot-up shot attempts, in isolation and in transition, giving his offensive game a good amount of diversity that has been a big boost for the Portland Trail Blazers on the campaign.
What’s more, despite facing a ton of injuries this season, the Blazers still rank sixth in offensive efficiency, boasting an impressive 115.6 offensive rating, and though a lot of that has to do with Damian Lillard’s excellence as a scorer, Anthony missing just one game all year long and providing solid secondary scoring has also been huge for the club.
And he’s doing it as the league’s 302nd highest-paid player – the definition of a bargain.
Jae’Sean Tate (Houston)
For those who aren’t aware, Jae’Sean Tate is a 25-year-old rookie forward for the Houston Rockets who had spent the last few seasons following his college career at Ohio State in the Belgian and Australian leagues before breaking through with Houston this year.
Over 35 games in 2020-21, Tate is averaging 10.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.9 steals, shooting 54.4 percent from the floor in the process. His energy and high-effort defense on the less glamorous end of the floor have also been noteworthy.
With him on the floor, the struggling Rockets have actually been 2.8 points per 100 possessions better than when he’s on the bench, and for a team that’s getting outscored by 5.1 points per 100 possessions on average this season, that’s an impressive mark.
Tate is putting together that quietly solid rookie campaign, mind you, as the NBA’s 442nd highest-paid player, earning $1.5 million in 2020-21.
That was solid scouting by Houston to bring Tate over from the Australian league, as he looks to be a role player they can keep around for seasons to come, particularly for when they try to field a competitive team again.
Frank Kaminsky (Phoenix)
Frank Kaminsky’s individual numbers this season – 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds nightly and a tidy 41.3 three-point percentage – may not fly off the page like other players, but the now-veteran big man has been a very solid piece for a strong Phoenix Suns team this campaign, both as a starter and reserve.
Kaminsky’s spot-up outside shooting and underrated passing skills have been important for Phoenix, to the point that head coach Monty Williams went so far as to say last month: “With all the injuries that we’ve had, where would we be without Frank?”
And the best part of all that is the Suns didn’t even actually sign him last offseason, instead claiming him off waivers after the Sacramento Kings released his non-guaranteed contract.
Savvy work by Phoenix, who are paying Kaminsky just $1.7 million in 2020-21, which makes him the 56th highest-paid center in the NBA.
Willy Hernangomez (New Orleans)
After starting the campaign out of Stan Van Gundy’s rotation as the third center behind Steven Adams and Jaxson Hayes, Willy Hernangomez has performed well enough to get back into the mix for the New Orleans Pelicans, surpassing Hayes as the backup 5 for a while and even filling in admirably as a starter when Adams missed a few games with injury.
In particular, Hernangomez has been excellent on the glass, averaging 6.7 rebounds per night but 13.8 per 36 minutes, and as an energy big man expected to rebound, set strong screens and clean up messes in the paint, the big Spaniard has done well in his role thus far in 2020-21.
Hernangomez is making just $1.7 million this season, the minimum, and is the 381st highest-paid player in the league, making him a solid bargain for New Orleans.
Bobby Portis (Milwaukee)
Bobby Portis has been a productive NBA player dating back to 2017-18, primarily as a stretch big with solid face-up scoring skills and rebounding toughness, so for a top contender like the Milwaukee Bucks to land him on a two-year, $7.4 million contract (with a player option on Year 2) felt like a coup last offseason when the details of the signing emerged.
And guess what? To this point in 2020-21, that’s exactly what the Portis signing has been: a steal for the Bucks.
This season, Portis is averaging 10.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in just 21.5 minutes nightly mostly off the bench for Milwaukee while, most importantly, knocking down a career-high 48.7 percent of his looks from three.
Portis has been exactly the type of center the Bucks like to place around perennial MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, in the mold of a Brook Lopez and an upgrade over the now-departed Robin.
Milwaukee needed to get creative to make solid signings last offseason considering how much they’re paying Antetokounmpo ($27.5 million), Khris Middleton ($33.1 million) and Jrue Holiday ($25.9 million) in 2020-21, and they were able to do just that when they picked up Portis, who is the 255th highest-paid player in the league.
Chris Boucher (Toronto)
Toronto Raptors big man Chris Boucher has started just two games all season long and plays, on average, fewer than 24 minutes nightly. And yet, he’s still putting up 14.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.7 three-pointers per game, hitting almost 45.0 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
That equates to 21.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 2.6 triples per 36 minutes, which might actually be closer to the type of playing time he should be getting nightly at this point. With him on the floor, Toronto is over nine points per 100 possessions better than when he’s on the bench, proving that his production is far from empty, too.
Even considering Boucher got almost a 310 percent raise from his 2019-20 salary this year, making $6.5 million in 2020-21, there’s no doubt he’s still underpaid based on his insane per-minute impact.
As the NBA’s 176th highest-paid player, Boucher ranks 30th league-wide in Value Over Replacement Player (1.4), 20th in Box Plus/Minus (4.1) and seventh in Win Shares per 48 Minutes (0.227), perfectly exemplifying what a bargain he’s been for the Raptors.
Montrezl Harrell (LA Lakers)
Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell has been solid in his first campaign with the champion Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and shooting nearly 63.0 percent from the floor.
Harrell’s ability as a catch-and-finish player around the rim and as a finisher out of the pick-and-roll has really stood out alongside LeBron James, though his defense still leaves something to be desired.
Regardless, landing a guaranteed high-energy double-digit scorer off the bench for just $9.3 million this season was solid work by the Lakers, especially considering they nabbed him away from their crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers.
Serge Ibaka (LA Clippers)
Of course, the Clippers responded to losing Harrell by using the same salary cap machination (the full mid-level exception) to land his replacement, Serge Ibaka, last offseason.
And Ibaka has been likewise solid for his new club, averaging 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest, providing the Clippers with better paint defense, though worse inside scoring, than Harrell.
As the NBA’s 134th highest-paid player, Ibaka has been providing the Clippers with good value from their 2020 investment.
Jordan Clarkson (Utah)
Considering the state of the modern NBA contract, particularly the high-end ones, Jordan Clarkson definitely qualifies as a bargain at just $11.5 million in salary this season.
Clarkson, the odds-on favorite to take home Sixth Man of the Year, has been downright great for an elite Utah Jazz team in 2020-21, averaging 17.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists and shooting 37.0 percent from three.
Clarkson is doing that, mind you, while ranking outside of the Top 100 in player salaries this campaign, sitting at 109th, making less money in 2020-21 than players like Tony Snell, Taurean Prince and Trevor Ariza.
That’s a huge bargain for the type of production he’s giving a potential Western Conference contender off the bench.
Christian Wood (Houston)
Christian Wood has been forced to miss half the season to this point due to injury, and yet, even in just 17 games, he has proven to be a bargain for the Rockets with his outstanding level of play.
In just that many contests, Wood poured in 22.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 42.1 percent on on 4.5 nightly attempts from beyond the arc, filling in the modern archetype of the floor-spacing, rim-protecting big man beautifully.
Wood, who is signed for two more seasons after 2020-21, is making just $13.0 million in 2020-21, making him the 92nd highest-paid player in the league. While some wondered last offseason if the Rockets were too desperate in giving the 25-year-old a three-year, $41.0 million, fully guaranteed contract, if anything, the opposite has been true: Wood has looked like a bargain for Houston.
Joe Harris (Brooklyn)
It came as no surprise when the Brooklyn Nets re-signed Joe Harris last offseason, as every report indicated the sharpshooter would be the contender’s top priority in free agency – and looking back now, Brooklyn was wise to do that, as Harris is performing quite well under his new contract.
Harris is averaging a career-high 14.8 points in 2020-21 while leading the NBA in three-point percentage at an absolutely ridiculous 50.0 percent mark, as well as in effective field goal percentage (which takes into account field-goal and three-point percentage) at 69.3 percent.
Even more impressively, per Synergy Sports, Harris is producing 1.392 points per possession on spot-up shot attempts, an outrageous mark considering his volume on that type of look, which puts him in the 97th percentile league-wide and in the No. 1 spot among the 30 players with at least 150 such opportunities.
Those otherworldly shooting marks are exactly how a player who isn’t even averaging 15.0 points and doesn’t provide much rebounding or playmaking can be considered a bargain while making $16.1 million in 2020-21.