The 2014-2015 season hasn’t even started yet, but it’s not too early to bring up a list of players who are going to get paid big bucks next summer or the summer after that, provided they stay healthy and keep producing.
10. Draymond Green – Call me crazy, but Green has been a solid player for the Golden State Warriors in his two seasons. He is also the 436th highest paid player in the NBA. While he has played a very limited role, per 36 minutes, he is averaging 10.2 ppg and 8.2 rpg. If a one-dimensional player like Steve Novak can make $4 million a year at one point in his career, there is no question a guy like Green can make that, too. David Lee is getting older, too. The bigger question is who will pay Green? The Warriors or another team?
9. Tim Hardaway Jr. – It probably won’t be with the Knicks, but it will be with one of the other 29 teams in the NBA. He is a Ben Gordon-ish player, extremely offensively capable. I would say a mix between Gordon and teammate J.R. Smith. He averaged 10 ppg as a rookie and shot 36% from three.
8. Mason Plumlee – He is big, athletic, and a good defender. Teams paid Roy Hibbert, Tyson Chandler, and Omer Asik and two of those players weren’t athletic. His offensive game needs to improve because GMs are now weary of Hibbert’s, Asik’s, and Chandler’s offensive liabilities.
7. Gorgui Dieng – When Pekovic went out last season, and Dieng got a chance, he showed that he can be a rebounding force. He is an underrated defender, as well as an underrated offensive player. He needs to take another step forward this season. He should see a good chunk of playing time in Minnesota.
6. Terrence Jones – He started 71 games last season and averaged 12 ppg on a team with James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Dwight Howard. Nothing but good things are headed this young man’s way. Stay healthy and keep producing. The money will come.
5. Jimmy Butler – It might not be the max contract every player hopes for, and his next contract might not even be with the Bulls, but some team will pay Butler between $7-$8 million per year. He is a gritty defender and has an O.K. offensive game. I was disappointed to see his 3-pt percentage drop 10% from 2013 to 2014, but if he can rebound on the offensive side of the ball, he will get paid.
4. Steven Adams – He was a very nice surprise for the Thunder last season. He is tough, rebounds, and plays pretty good defense. His contract isn’t up for a few more seasons, but if he improves (and he is already better than Kendrick Perkins), he is going to receive a very gratuitous offer from the Thunder.
3. Reggie Jackson – Some team will pay for this guy to be their starting point guard. He is tough and shoots it pretty well. He has filled in pretty well when Russell Westbrook gets hurt. I could see a team doling out the cash for him.
2. Kawhi Leonard – He will deserve a bigger contract than the Spurs might give him, unless it’s the max contract. He was the Finals MVP, and rightfully so. He can defend and his offense took two steps in the right direction last season. The people of San Antonio expect him to lead the team back to the Finals again this season.
1. Anthony Davis – Is there an argument to be made for anyone else at No.1, except Leonard, other than Davis? He will be a MVP candidate this season, and I expect him to lead the Pelicans to the playoffs this season, even if it’s the 8th seed. He is deserving of the money and will get it, and it better be coming from New Orleans.