Ranking the 11 best players on a minimum contract

In the NBA, teams that perform at the highest level often have players who exceed expectations and produce at a high level while on team-friendly, cost-effective contracts.

With that in mind, we’re going to examine the top 11 most productive players currently on minimum-salary contracts for the 2022-23 season.

As you will, the list features multiple Los Angeles Lakers players, which is quite a turnaround from last season, when they had multiple inefficient minimum guys. It’s safe to say most – if not all – of these players will be on better contracts next year.

Daniel Gafford (Washington)

Daniel Gafford attempts a layup

Daniel Gafford attempts a layup

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

He hasn’t quite broken out like many had hoped he might after promising early returns in his playing career, but Daniel Gafford is still a serviceable big man, capable of a spot start here or there when needed.

On the year, Gafford is averaging 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 75.0 percent from the floor, basically doing all of his damage around the painted area, where his athleticism and length really shine.

Gafford presents a huge threat out of the pick-and-roll, too, where he sits in the NBA’s 87.9 percentileproducing 1.43 PPP on the play type, a higher mark than Clint Capela and Domantas Sabonis.

Earning just $1.9 million this year, Gafford has been a great value contract for the Washington Wizards. The problem is, the team already agreed to an extension with him back in October of 2021, one worth $40.2 million over three years, which kicks in next season.

Washington will have to hope Gafford starts to develop – and quickly, too, as his extension kicks in next season. Gafford could quickly go from a team-friendly deal to… the opposite of that unless he starts to show more to his game than him.

For Daniel Gafford rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

Dennis Schroeder (LA Lakers)

dennis schroeder

dennis schroeder

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The sample size isn’t huge yet but Dennis Schroeder is enjoying a very effective season thus far, averaging 12.7 points and 3.7 assists in 29.2 minutes nightly while shooting 38.5 percent from three, the second-best mark of his career.

He’s been to positive-impact player for the Los Angeles Lakers on the campaign thanks to his scoring and defensive contributions, making him a steal of a contract at $2.6 million for the purple-and-gold franchise.

Schroeder has been particularly effective as a one-on-one scorer, as the German ball-handler ranks in the NBA’s 90.4 percentile as an isolation scorer, producing 1.20 points per possession (PPP) out of the play type, the No. 16 mark in the league among qualified players.

Schroeder may be looking at a pay raise this offseason if he keeps up this level of form.

For Dennis Schroeder rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

KJ Martin (Houston)

kj martin

kj martin

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A source of consistent trade scuttle for months now, KJ Martin has shown his talent level this season for the Houston Rockets, putting up a career-best 10.7 points per game to go with 4.8 rebounds on 55.8 percent shooting.

The son of the 2000 draft’s No. 1 overall pick isn’t putting up empty numbers, either, making Houston 3.3 points per 100 possessions better during his time on the floor in 2022-23.

Martin, an explosive athlete, is at his best as a slasher to the bucket, using his physical gifts best in that area. As a cutter, the third-year pro is producing 1.51 PPP, good for the league’s 86.1 percentile.

His jumper remains inconsistent but at $1.8 million this season and $1.9 million next year, Martin’s contract is a hugely valuable asset for the Rockets.

For KJ Martin rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

Austin Reaves (LA Lakers)

austin reaves

austin reaves

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The second Laker on our list already, Austin Reaves has displayed very solid potential in Los Angeles through a season-plus of service, putting up 10.8 points and 2.2 assists per contest on 48.8 percent shooting, 36.0 percent from three.

Reaves may not be a star, but his mix of playmaking, secondary scoring and effort defensively make him a good role player already, with the potential to develop into more down the road.

With Reaves on the floor, the Lakers have been an astounding 7.7 points per 100 possessions better than when he’s on the bench, a huge number not just for a second-year player, but one on a minimum contract at that.

Making $1.6 million this year, Reaves, not yet 25, is looking at a hefty pay raise over the offseason. The question is: Will it come from the Lakers?

For Austin Reaves rumors, salary info, scouting reports and more, click here.

Jaylen Nowell (Minnesota)

jaylen nowell

jaylen nowell

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A solid backup for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season, Jaylen Nowell is enjoying his best statistical campaign, averaging 11.3 points and 2.7 rebounds mostly off the bench, albeit on quite poor outside shooting.

Nowell is hitting just 28.5 percent of his threes this season on nearly four nightly attempts. Even so, he uses his top-level athleticism and a quick first step to score near the rim. Nowell is known to throw down many a monster dunk thus far in his NBA career.

If he were just to shore up his outside shooting and sometimes-loose ball handle, Nowell would be even more than a steal for Minnesota, who is paying him $1.9 million this campaign before he hits unrestricted free agency this offseason.

For Jaylen Nowell rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

Thomas Bryant (LA Lakers)

thomas bryant

thomas bryant

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

If the sample sizes were larger, Thomas Bryant would surely rank higher on this list, as the Laker big man has been fantastic in his role this season for LA, pouring in 13.0 points and 7.3 rebounds on 66.8 percent shooting through 27 games, 15 of which have been starts.

Bryant’s energy has seemed to liven up a Lakers team that has seen a lot of adversity in the campaign. In particular, his effort on the defensive end and the glass have made Los Angeles a tougher team, particularly down low, where Bryant is also a pristine finisher.

Bryant is making just $2.0 million this year, a number the 25-year-old will eclipse with ease on his next contract as long as he stays healthy. Many forget, Bryant was well on his way to a solid career before suffering a major knee injury. Had it not been for that ACL tear, there’s little chance the Lakers would have been able to pick him up on the minimum contract he is now greatly outperforming.

For Thomas Bryant rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

Jose Alvarado (New Orleans)

Jose Alvarado

Jose Alvarado

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

A fan favorite, at least in New Orleans, Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado has developed into an absolute pest in the NBA, and we mean that in the most complimentary way possible, as Alvarado has carved out a huge role as a backup floor general charged with leading the offense on one and end and tormenting opposing ball-handlers on the other.

Alvarado is averaging 9.2 points, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals this campaign on 33.5 percent shooting from three, making the Pelicans an astounding 13.1 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the floor.

That’s a hugely positive value for New Orleans, which is paying Alvarado $1.6 million in 2022-23 and owns team options on the next two seasons of his deal, one worth $1.8 million and the other worth $2.0 million.

For Jose Alvarado rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

Shake Milton (Philadelphia)

Shake Milton passes the ball

Shake Milton passes the ball

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Now in his fifth season, Shake Milton has yet to break out in a huge way but has instead been steady over the last few campaigns, playing his role as a double-digit secondary scorer and attacker with crafty moves quite well.

Milton is shooting a career-best 36.1 percent from three this season while averaging 10.2 points mostly off the bench for the Philadelphia 76ers, providing the Eastern Conference contender with much-needed firepower out of their reserve unit.

Currently earning $2.0 million for this season, Milton will hit unrestricted free agency this summer, where he’ll surely attract some interest from clubs looking to improve their bench scoring.

For Shake Milton rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

Naji Marshall (New Orleans)

naji marshall

naji marshall

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The second Pelican in our Top 5 here, Naji Marshall is in the midst of a breakout season, putting up 10.2 points and 3.7 rebounds on 43.2 percent shooting, giving New Orleans an aggressive swingman with two-way abilities.

Marshall is particularly effective as a slasher to the bucket, with a quick first step and a solid floater game – and while his outside shot isn’t perfect, it’s far from broken, and he can knock down a three here or three to keep defenses honest.

His energy has been a huge factor in the Pelicans’ great season thus far, as has the fact that Marshall is providing New Orleans with that much production while earning $1.8 million in 2022-23, a steal of a value for the club out of Louisiana .

For Naji Marshall rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

Max Strus (Miami)

max strus

max strus

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Yet another fantastic find for the Miami Heat out of the bargain barrel, Max Strus has given Miami another very adept outside shooter to go with Duncan Robinsonone with more bounce and athleticism who can also do some damage on the occasional off-ball cut.

Although his three-point numbers are down in 2022-23 (he’s shooting just 33.9 percent from three), Strus is enjoying his finest NBA campaign, averaging 13.2 points for Miami while earning $1.8 million.

The question for the Heat is, after paying so many of their previous bargain finds a lot of money – anyone remember how the Tyler Johnson, Hassan Whiteside or Robinson deals have panned out for Miami? – will Strus be the next in line to earn a big-money contract to remain with the Heat?

With so much money moving forward committed to Robinson and Tyler Herroplayers with similar skill sets to that of Strus, we doubt it, making for an unrestricted interesting free agency ahead for the 26-year-old.

For Max Strus rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

Three Jones (San Antonio)

three jones

three jones

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

One of the league’s most slept-on floor generals, Three Joneses is having his best season in the NBA this year, putting up an impressive stat line including 13.5 points, 6.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

Jones, much like his older brother Tyus Jones, is a very collected floor general, one who doesn’t get rattled easily and is able to expertly run an offense and create for teammates or get pull-up buckets on his own when needed. His three-point shooting remains lacking, but Jones makes up for it with a very precise midrange and floater-area game.

Jones is earning just $1.8 million this year, a number far smaller than the money his production and impact would indicate he deserves. The good news for Jones is he’ll hit unrestricted free agency this offseason already thanks to the fact he was a second-round pick.

We foresee a hefty pay raise in Jones’ future.

For Tre Jones rumors, salary info, scouting report and more, click here.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype

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