The differences between the NFL and the NBA are too numerous to mention, but here's another one: whereas the NFL sees a relatively large number of undrafted free agents go on to enjoy successful football careers, that's not usually the case in the NBA. With a lot fewer roster spots, there's not often room on the bench for someone who doesn't get his name called on draft day.
That said, there are certainly some notable exceptions to that rule. Ben Wallace was the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year four times. Brad Miller was a two-time All-Star at center. Bruce Bowen just had his jersey retired in San Antonio, where he earned three NBA Championship rings. Fellow Spur, Avery Johnson, also got a title and made his way into the NBA coaching ranks. Three-point standout Raja Bell, 26-year old rookie Darrell Armstrong, and 5'5" point guard Earl Boykins also had lengthy NBA careers.
But what does the next generation of undrafted NBA stars look like? You don't see anybody who wasn't drafted earning eight-figure contracts like Kobe or Dirk or LeBron. In fact, there are less than a dozen undrafted players in the Top 200 on the salary list for this season. Here are the top ten most well-paid undrafted players who are currently on an NBA roster (apologies to the 11th man, Bosnia's own Mirza Teletovic), along with their salary for this season.
10 T9. Alonzo Gee, Cleveland Cavaliers: $3.25 million
9 T9. Gary Neal, Charlotte Bobcats: $3.25 million
8 Joel Anthony, Boston Celtics: $3.8 million
7 Udonis Haslem, Miami Heat: $4.34 million
6 Timofey Mozgov, Denver Nuggets: $4.4 million
5 Jose Barea, Minnesota Timberwolves: $4.687 million
4 Chuck Hayes, Toronto Raptors: $5,722,500
3 Jose Calderon, Dallas Mavericks: $6,791,570
2 Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers: $6,875,480
1 Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets: $8,374,646
Everybody has their opinion about the Linsanity craze, but one thing's for sure: it certainly wound up paying well. Lin burst onto the scene in New York the 2011-12 season, when he came from bench obscurity to score 18.2 points and dish out 7.7 assists per game in a 25-game span when he started for the Knicks. After that year, conventional wisdom was that Lin would re-sign with the Knicks, until Houston came calling and offered a three-year, $25 million contract. Many people forget that Lin was also "undrafted" out of high school, receiving no scholarship offers. He went on to play at Harvard, and after graduating in 2010, he played in the summer league when no team drafter him. After that, he was signed by Golden State, but sent down to the D-League three different times. He was claimed off waivers in late December of 2011 by New York, and the rest is history.
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