The break up of the once great Celtics and the fall from grace of the once proud Lakers, has created a turnover of talent in the NBA that is more than just the resurgence of LeBron James. Many players powering teams like the gritty Indiana Pacers to the offensive juggernauts that are the Houston Rockets, are silently becoming stars and changing the face of the league.
These players are becoming noticed because of their productivity this season. When it comes to points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots, and steals (PRABS), the ten most productive players, per dollar of pay, are not your usual household names.
Chandler Parsons, Miles Plumlee, Lance Stephenson, Jimmy Butler and Reggie Jackson could make up a solid starting five, but many people have not heard that much about the them. What makes these players unique is a whole, their combined salaries are just over $5 million a year. For this bargain in terms of pay, this five player group has a guy who averages 17.1 points per game (Parsons), a guy who pulls down 8.4 rebounds per game (Plumlee), and a guy who dishes out 4.2 assists per game (Jackson). It might come as no coincidence that all five players happen to be on teams with winning records that are also vying for the playoffs this season.
In compiling this list, NBA players were compared based upon their averages per game this season in points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots, and steals. This combined average in these five statistics was then averaged per $1 million in pay in order to develop a way of comparing the productivity of a player based on the money that he is being paid.
Move over LeBron, stay on the couch Kobe, this list is full of overachievers who are the current bargains of the NBA. While over 300 players make over $1.5 million per year in the NBA today, it is refreshing to note that not one of these productive players has a salary placing them in the top 300.
10 Miles Plumlee (PHX) - 17.83 PRABS / $1 Million
Current NBA Salary $1,121,520 - Miles Plumlee has certainly come a long way from last year with the Pacers. In just his second year, Plumlee has gone from averaging an anemic 0.9 points per game to a respectable 8.9 points per game as a Suns' starter. Add in the 8.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game and you get the sense that Plumlee has finally started to understand how to play in the NBA.
Plumlee recorded an impressive 40.5" vertical leap at the 2012 NBA draft combine for a guy with a sturdy 6'11", 250 lb. frame. Plumlee has unquestioned athleticism, and has finally provided some skills to match this season. He is in the second year of a 3-year NBA rookie contract worth $3,365,000 and has proven to be worth substantially more since coming over from the Pacers before this current season.
9 Reggie Jackson (OKC) - 18.01 PRABS / $ 1 Million
Current NBA Salary $1,260,360 - Reggie Jackson has been extraordinary this season for the Thunder as he has helped run the offense while Russell Westbrook has been out with injury. His current average of 28.5 minutes played per game, has helped push him to log personal bests of 13.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. The rugged 6'3", 210 lb guard out of Boston College is a physical presence on the court who can also convert when his aggressiveness earns him a trip to the line (86.4% for his career).
Reggie Jackson is capable of doing more than just backing up Russell Westbrook and this stint covering Westbrook has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the league. Jackson is in the third year of a $5,829,000 rookie contract that has proven to be a bargain.
8 Jimmy Butler (CHI) - 19.95 PRABS / $ 1 Million
Current NBA Salary $1,112,880 - Jimmy Butler does it all for the Chicago Bulls with a toughness and athleticism that fits into the Bulls system quite nicely. He has improved on his averages each of the three years he has been into the league. Currently averaging 12.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, Butler has become more than just a part of Chicago's rotation. The former Marquette star helps add to Chicago's defensive prowess with his pesky defense and 1.9 steals average per game.
Jimmy Butler's 4-year, $5.210,000 rookie contract, is good till the end of the 2014-2015 season. At his current pace of production, Butler should be in line for a nice payday at the end of next season.
7 Ryan Kelly (LAL) - 24.89 PRABS / $ 1 Million
Current NBA Salary $490,180 - Ryan Kelly is in the middle of a league minimum rookie contract that is just for this year. Either it's because he is on the injury depleted Lakers or due to his decent all-around game, but Kelly has become a mainstay in the Lakers rotation. He is averaging just under 20 minutes a game and producing 7.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as a rookie in the NBA.
Ryan Kelly might not become an NBA star, but he has the talent, skill set, and experience of being a star in the ACC at Duke, that might give him more than just a long career. Look for Kelly to earn a good deal more next season.
6 Lance Stephenson (IN) - 27.06 PRABS / $ 1 Million
Current NBA Salary $1,005,000 - Lance Stephenson is a beast in transition and a valuable member of the competitive Pacers attack. When he is not driving through the lane with great force, he is rebounding (7.3 per game) with a ferocity that comes thanks to a sturdy 6'5", 230 lb. frame. Lance has improved his game each of the four years he has been in the league, with current averages of 14.0 points and 5.1 assists to go along with his very respectable rebounding average.
Stephenson is in the fourth and last year of a $3,350,000 rookie contract. His incredible production has been one of the reasons behind the Pacers great start out of the gate this season. Stephenson has plenty of value and should be in for a nice payday when it comes time for him to sign on the dotted line.
5 James Johnson (MEM) - 28.05 PRABS / $ 1 Million
Current NBA Salary $634,610 - James Johnson has shown some solid improvement over last year, with personal high averages of 48.5% field goal shooting, 83.3% free throw shooting and 1.5 blocks per game to go along with solid averages of 8.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. He has become a major contributor off the Memphis bench offering a solid 6'9", 250 lb. inside presence to go along with the likes of Zach Randolph. Johnson's development has become important to the Grizzlies with the uncertainty swirling around Randolph when it comes to next year.
James is playing on a one-year contract and has become a mainstay in the Memphis rotation, averaging 21.6 minutes per game. He has provided valuable minutes for Memphis this year, and might have more value to Memphis if Randolph decides to move on.
4 Nate Wolters (MIL) - 28.20 PRABS / $ 1 Million
Current NBA Salary $500,000 - Nate Wolters has become an integral part of Milwaukee's attack so far this season. Milwaukee has not exactly struck fear in the hearts of opponents, but Wolters has certainly benefited from the good amount, 22.4 minutes per game average, of playing time so far this season. The second round selection out of South Dakota State has been out to prove that he belongs in the NBA by averaging 7.0 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game. Wolters has even been a starter for 16 games this season.
Nate's inking of a 3-year, $2,264,000 contract at the beginning of this rookie season, ensures that his services should remain a bargain for at least a couple more years. Right now the question is less about Nate's progress, but more about Milwaukee's progress as a team the next couple of years.
3 D.J. Augustin (CHI) - 28.29 PRABS / $ 1 Million
Current NBA Salary $650,215 - D.J. Augustin was coming off a year he would like to forget in New Orleans where his production fell to personal lows. Currently averaging 11.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 rebounds per game, Augustin seems to be back on track towards becoming an offensive force in the NBA. Thanks to shooting 44.5% from the 3-point line since coming to Chicago, Augustin has also managed to average 14.1 points per game during this current stint. Partially out of necessity and also due to this surge in productivity, Augustin is currently averaging a little over 30 minutes per game, and has become an integral part of Chicago's attack.
Augustin has proven to be quite valuable for the Bulls with Derrick Rose out yet again. Augustin might not only have found a new home, but might also be looking at a significant pay raise when his modest 1-year contract runs out after the current season.
2 Chandler Parsons (HOU) - 30.11 PRABS / $ 1 Million
Current NBA Salary $926,500 - Chandler Parsons has not only become a star player on the Houston Rockets, but in the NBA as well. While James Harden continues to get most of the accolades for making the Rockets one of the formidable forces in the NBA, Parsons just continues to do the things in the background that help the Rockets win games. Averaging 17.1 points, 5.6 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game, Parsons has proven to be more than just a member of Harden and Howard's supporting cast.
A terrific open-court scoring threat with the ability to drive to the basket and throw down eye-popping dunks, Parsons certainly has some game as well as the ability to hit an open three. In the third year of a $3.7 million, four year contract, Parsons has thus far averaged 13.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per year, making this 4-year contract one of the premier bargains in the NBA.
1 Kendall Marshall (LAL) - 43.46 PRABS / $ 1 Million
Current NBA Salary $547,590 - Kendall Marshall has become such a valuable part of the LA Lakers that they felt they could get rid of the fairly consistent Steve Blake. Averaging 10.4 points, a whopping 9.7 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game, Marshall has provided some spark in the moribund Lakers attack. After showing little promise following his selection by Phoenix in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft, the former North Carolina star has found a home and place to prove his worth.
Marshall is in the first year of a league minimum 2-year, $1.463,000 rookie contract. At this pace, if he continues to improve, you can bet his next contract will be worth a good deal more. Marshall is by far the most productive player for the money in the NBA, so far this year.