The NBA does not provide fair and equitable salaries to every player. The overall system is incredibly balanced, with players as a whole receiving 51 percent of basketball-related income (BRI). On an individual level, however, some players make out while others are squeezed; that’s the reality of the league’s salary cap.
Maximum contracts cap the salaries of players on the top end, so that the very best players in the league make less than their elite contributions. Minimum contracts at the bottom end ensure all players are making decent money no matter their contributions. The rookie scale, extension rules, restricted free agency and the timing of cap increases all factor into a league where any one player is not guaranteed to make exactly what they are worth.
Not every player’s salary is created equal
That inequity is how teams can put together contending teams using the same salary cap as every other team. Whether it’s signing a player to a below-market deal and watching them blossom, or drafting a player who is ready to help while still on their rookie deal, the best teams take advantage of the financial inequity to build an elite roster.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are no exception, as they have built their team while multiple contributors are still on rookie deals. Darius Garland’s salary takes a leap this season, and while he is still probably slightly underpaid we’ll leave him off this list; the same for Jarrett Allen, who is incredibly valuable to Cleveland at just $20 million per season, but as a center his value leaguewide is reduced.
There are still three players on the team who are the most underpaid; let’s take a look at why they’re underpaid and what they can bring to the Cavaliers this season.