Who are the most underpaid players in the NBA?

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Last night we brought you the most overpaid players in the NBA, at least according to the Wages of Wins blog.

But who are the best values? Who are the most underpaid according to the Wages of Wins blog? Not necessarily who you think.

Often it can be good player still on a rookie deal. But this list shows that an elite player can be a good value at any price.

First, a reminder how Wages of Wins — the blog of the book by the same name — came to this list: First they figured the cost of an NBA win ($1.58 million, which is total salary paid by the league divided by wins) then used their “wins produced” stat to figure out how much players contributed to a team’s wins.

Here are the top three:

1. Kevin Love (Minnesota). Owners love to tell you about the explosion of crazy expensive contracts, but if they draft a very good player they get years of them at a bargain of a price. The rookie is a steal for the owners if they get a good player. See Love, who averaged 20.2 points and 15.2 rebounds per game and did it for $3.6 million. Of course, his team only had 17 wins, so you can nit pick how many wins he really produced, but he put up good numbers for a low price.

2. Dwight Howard (Orlando). Yes, Howard made $16.6 million, but he anchored the defense and contributed 22.9 points and 14.1 rebounds per game. Orlando won 56 games with a team that at various points had Vince Carter and Hedo Turkoglu playing big roles. That’s thanks to Howard. Put simply, there are not many elite players in the NBA and when you get one they are worth the price.

3. LeBron James (Miami). The same as Howard — yes he makes $14.5 million but you get 24.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. You get a lot of wins for your money. Another point about LeBron (and Howard and other true elite players) — they generate more money in terms of ticket sales, sponsor money, television viewer then they are paid. These elite guys are values to the owners.

The rest of the top 10 are: Landry Fields (who made just $473,000 last season), Kris Humphries (who is now a free agent), Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Al Horford, Kevin Durant, and Dwyane Wade.

Damian Lillard says Paul George being a poor sport: ‘If anything, it was bad defense’

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Damian Lillard made the coldest shot the NBA has seen in years – a buzzer-beating, series-winning, 37-foot pull-up 3-pointer over Paul George.

George called it a “bad shot.”

Lillard on the Pull Up podcast:

It was a good shot.

I think a lot of people don’t know what goes into the moments. That’s because they’re not the ones that’s there. I literally work on those shots. And I don’t work on it so I can just come out and just shoot it for the whole game. I work on it just because, over my career, I know how much attention I’m going to get from defenses. So it’s just like you’re just keeping stuff, adding more things, adding more and more, keeping stuff in your pocket, in case these types of situations do present itself. Even if it’s not something you want to lean on, it’s something that you have there, that you worked on, you spent time doing. So, you’ve got confidence in it when the time does come. That’s why, when I was just standing there, I was like, well, it’s probably not good in a lot of people’s eyes. But I’m comfortable with this, and I’m confident in this. So, to me, it’s a solid shot.

For him to say that’s a bad shot, that’s just kind of being a poor sport. If anything, it was bad defense, because I had the ball in my hands with two seconds, and I wasn’t going to drive, so maybe he should’ve just bodied up.

Whether a shot is good or bad depends on the context. With the game tied, the Trail Blazers wanted to ensure they took the last shot of regulation, make or miss. The Thunder’s defense was set. Lillard has tremendous range.

In a good shot/bad shoot binary, I’d call this a good shot. It certainly wasn’t a great shot. But in that situation, I think it passes the test (though I’m obviously biased by seeing it going in).

The fact that it was such a difficult shot doesn’t take anything away from Lillard. It only adds to the accomplishment.

I’m loving his victory lap. After Portland got swept by the Pelicans in the first round last year, he faced questions about his ability to perform in the playoffs. It’s time to put those to rest.

There’s plenty of room to debate whether that incredible basket was a good shot or a bad shot by process. But Lillard is built for these moments. There’s no doubt.

NBA, Kings investigating sexual-assault allegations against Luke Walton

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Kings coach Luke Walton is being sued for sexual assault. He is not facing a criminal investigation.

Kings release, via NBC Sports California:

The Sacramento Kings and the National Basketball Association announced today that they have commenced a joint investigation into the allegations contained in a civil lawsuit filed Monday against Kings Head Coach Luke Walton.

The Kings have hired Sue Ann Van Dermyden, founding partner of Sacramento law firm Van Dermyden Maddux, who is an expert on employment law with decades of experience in conducting investigations, and Jennifer Doughty, a veteran investigator and senior associate attorney at Van Dermyden Maddux. They will lead the Kings investigatory team.

The NBA’s investigatory team will be led by Elizabeth Maringer, Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, Integrity and Investigations. Prior to joining the NBA, Ms. Maringer served 12 years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, including three as Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.

The Kings and the NBA take these allegations very seriously and will collaborate to conduct a complete and thorough investigation.

In 2016, Derrick Rose was sued – and found not liable – for sexual battery. The NBA did not investigate that situation as the lawsuit unfolded.

Why did the league change its approach now?

Rumor: Jeanie Buss mistakenly CCed Magic Johnson on Rob Pelinka’s emails critical of Johnson

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As he stunningly resigned as Lakers president, Magic Johnson bemoaned “the backstabbing, the whispering.” It seemed he was talking about general manager Rob Pelinka. And maybe he was.

But perhaps Johnson was also referring to owner Jeanie Buss.

Ric Bucher of FS1:

My understanding is is that there were some emails that were exchanged between Rob and Jeanie … about Magic and about what Magic was and wasn’t doing. They were critical emails. And somehow, some way – Jeanie, from what I understand, was CCing or blind CCing Magic on everything. That was sort of protocol, standard issue. Somehow, the exchange between Rob and Jeanie ended up on that string of the blind CCs that were going to Magic. So, Magic now is seeing emails from Rob to Jeanie that were critical of what he was doing.

And maybe most important in all this is that there was no indication that Jeanie was backing Rob up in terms of either going to Magic and letting him know that this was going on or going back at Rob and defending Magic. That was not happening. And so when he talked about the backstabbing, to me, my understanding is that’s what started it. And the fact that Jeanie waved goodbye and said, “Thank you for all that you did,” was that she didn’t necessarily disagree with what Rob was saying.

The problem with this story: It’s believable, and a lot of people want it to be true. I want it to be true! It’s hilarious.

But that opens the door for people spreading it, even if it’s untrue. It’s a lot of fun to pile on the Lakers right now.

Back to the believability. Johnson, even while resigning, has frequently called Buss his sister. Would she really participate in email chains critical of her own brother?

Oh, right.

Klay Thompson: I looked ahead to Warriors-Rockets rematch

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Even after advancing to the second round, the Rockets (except Clint Capela) insisted they weren’t counting on a Houston-Golden State rematch. The Warriors still hadn’t beaten the Clippers yet.

But even Golden State player Klay Thompson, after the Warriors’ Game 5 loss last night, admitted he was looking ahead.

Thompson, via Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“Yup, start with me, I was,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson admitted. “I thought we were going to come out and win tonight, but sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. We’re still in a great position with hopefully only 48 minutes left to close these guys out.”

Players sometimes overlook a game. They rarely admit it.

But Thompson was quite fired up during his postgame interview. He also said:

Build from this game? This game sucked. We lost. Let’s go win Friday. Let’s win big. Let’s freaking win by 30 like we’re capable of.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr also seemed agitated last night. Murdock:

Just before Kerr walked off the podium late Wednesday night, he was asked by a reporter what the identity of his team is going into Game 6.

Kerr, almost taken aback, let out the frustration he’d been holding for much of the session.

“What’s the identity of our club?” Kerr asked back. “Back-to-back champions.

“Like, we’re really good. I mean, we’re hanging banners. What’s our identity? We play fast. We play defense. I don’t know. Maybe we should do an instructional video later, and we’ll send it to you.”

The Warriors’ identity has been raising banners. That won’t remain their identity unless they earn it.

For a team that doesn’t appear to be locked in, I’m not sure talking about their capability of winning by 30 or how great they are is the best course. Maybe that will motivate the Warriors, if they take pride in preserving their elite status. But hungrier teams usually fare better.

I’m just not sure how the Warriors regain that appetite.

On the bright side for them, they might be talented enough to win another title, anyway.