While every championship team has at least a couple of superstars that would lead the franchise to the elusive ring, running alongside them are the grunt players. They are the unheralded ones who might not get into the headlines but who nevertheless play key roles defending the opponent’s main man, hitting the clutch baskets, grabbing the rebounds and running after the loose balls.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had guys like Dennis Rodman, John Paxson and Steve Kerr. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar had Kurt Rambis and Michael Cooper. Larry Bird had the likes of Danny Ainge. In recent times, Kobe Bryant had Trevor Ariza and even Brian Shaw and Rick Fox during his earlier title runs. Lebron James may be the most talented player in the NBA right now, but we all know the value of the likes of Udonis Haslem to the team.
They don’t get the big bucks, but they form the top 10 best bang for the buck NBA players during the previous season.
10 Ray Allen, Miami Heat - $3.2 million
This may be hard to believe, but Ray Allen will only get paid $3.2 million this season. Yes, the same Ray Allen who was part of Boston’s Big 3 that won the title in 2008, and the same Ray Allen who hit the game-tying clutch three point shot in Game 6 that helped the Heat extend the series on its way to back to back crowns. He’s got one of the sweetest strokes in the game and he willingly took a secondary role in a loaded Miami team just so he’ll get a better shot for more rings. Last year, he averaged 10.9 points per game, way below his career average. His value is in the clutch, and he more than proved it last season.
9 Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks - $3.05 million
Considering he never played basketball until the ninth grade, Larry Sanders has certainly come a long way. The power forward from the Milwaukee Bucks was chosen 15th overall in the first round of the 2010 draft. A product of the Virginia Commonwealth University, he put out numbers of 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.8 blocks per game. His points, assists and rebounds production tripled his output from the previous season.
8 Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder - $2.6 million
He plays alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins anchoring the defense, it may be hard for a player to find a role in this talented Thunder team. However, Nick Collison fits the bill. He does not care too much about statistics, though he’s a decent contributor with 5.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He does the dirty jobs, like drawing offensive fouls, of which he is among the league leaders.
7 Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs - $1.89 million
Kawhi Leonard plays for the San Antonio Spurs. Last year, he played a major part in the Spurs’ advance to the Finals, narrowly missing the crown in a thrilling series. Only in his second year, he disproved the sophomore jinx by increasing his average from 7.9 to 11.9 points and 5.1 to 6 rebounds per game. He was even better in the playoffs, with 13.5 points and 9 rebounds per game.
6 Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic - $1.55 million
Tobias Harris is a forward who got traded to the Orlando Magic in the middle of last season, after spending his first two and half years with the Milwaukee Bucks. The 2011 first round draftee averaged an eye-popping 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, around four times better than his numbers in the previous season. Even his assists, steals and blocks per game averages increased significantly after the Magic gave him more playing time.
5 Andray Blatche, Brooklyn Nets - $1.4 million
Andray Blatche plays center and power forward for the Brooklyn Nets. The Washington Wizards chose him in the second round of the 2005 NBA draft. In 2012, he signed up for the Brooklyn Nets. Blatche’s numbers had dipped considerably in his final year with the Wizards after he was benched indefinitely due to lack of conditioning. Last season, he averaged 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in his first season for the Nets.
4 Antawn Jamison, Los Angeles Clippers - $1.4 million
Antawn Jamison is a 15-year veteran who was drafted fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors in 1998. He has played for five teams so far before signing up for his sixth team, the Clippers, this season. He has been a two-time All-Star and one-time Sixth Man of the Year. Last year, he played for the crosstown rival Lakers, where he averaged a career low 9.4 points per game. Jamison hopes to bounce back this year playing alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. His career average is 18.8 points per game.
3 MarShon Brooks, Boston Celtics - $1.21 million
MarShon Brooks is a swingman who was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the first round in 2011. He was immediately traded to the Nets, which were then based in New Jersey. After an impressive rookie season, his numbers dipped the following year. He was then traded back to the Celtics in a blockbuster deal that sent superstars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn. Brooks hopes to bounce back from his 5.4 points and 1.4 rebounds average last year.
2 Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets - $926,500
The Houston Rockets drafted Chandler Parsons in the second round in 2011. Due to the lockout, however, Parsons chose to play in France for a year. Back in the NBA, he was named to the All-Rookie second team. Last season, he averaged 15.5 points per game.
1 DeJuan Blair, Dallas Mavericks - $884,293
The San Antonio Spurs chose DeJuan Blair in the second round of the 2009 NBA draft. His numbers improved steadily during his first three years, but it dipped last season due to the addition of Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. He only managed to average 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds, both lower than the previous year. He hopes to bounce back this year with the Dallas Mavericks.
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