Most casual NBA fans can list off the players who command the highest salaries. But how many people know which guys are paid the most for each minute they spend on the floor?
PointAfter set out to determine just that. While lengthy absences due to injuries or suspensions are always magnified when the athlete in question is a star with a big contract (ahem, Blake Griffin) teams can also waste plenty of payroll space on lesser-known players who barely receive any court time while earning millions.
The type of players highlighted in this article range from pricey veterans to underused journeymen. If they didn’t step on the court again this season, they’d all rake in at least $18,000 for every minute played in 2015–16. Even so, they’ll still likely end the regular season with at least $10,000/minute pay rates. Not bad, huh?
To rule out the dozens of minimum-salary players who only receive a handful of minutes over the season, I set minimums of 10 games and 100 minutes played for the 2015–16 season, while also ruling out guys who’ve suffered significant injuries.
Notes: 2015–16 salary figures are courtesy of Basketball Reference. All statistics are updated through games before All-Star Weekend.
5. J.J. Hickson, Nuggets
Salary per minute: $18,405
2015–16 Salary: $5,613,500
The Nuggets have welcomed an influx of young frontcourt players over the past couple years, bearing fruit from scouting on young European centers Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne. The emergence of that trio has rendered the services of J.J. Hickson largely irrelevant.
Note: The first “2011–12” entry on the above graph references Hickson’s time in Sacramento, while the second represents his tenure that season in Portland.
The 27-year-old has been out of Denver's rotation for a while now, playing a grand total of 13 minutes since Dec. 8. With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, Hickson is reportedly being dangled before Thursday’s trade deadline.
4. Kobe Bryant, Lakers
Salary per minute: $18,954
2015–16 Salary: $25,000,000
Countless pundits have debated whether Kobe Bryant earns his lucrative $25 million salary, which makes him the league's highest-paid player. Heck, even U.S. men's soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann weighed in a couple years ago.
While Bryant's current on-court production certainly doesn't merit such a pay grade, there's no question he's the guy luring Lakers fans to Staples Center seats this season. Kobe's retirement tour is the main focus for Los Angeles right now, so it really doesn't matter how much he's paid.
3. David Lee, Celtics
Salary per minute: $32,965
2015–16 Salary: $15,493,680
David Lee was the highest-paid player on Golden State last season despite averaging 18.4 minutes in 49 games. The champs rectified that by offloading Lee to the Celtics during the off-season, but the two-time All-Star has fallen out of favor in Boston, where he’s an expensive benchwarmer once again.
Lee has played just two games in 2016, and none since Jan. 10. Like Hickson, he’s also reportedly on the block ahead of the Feb. 18 trade deadline. The question is: Who wants to take on the expiring contract of a defensive sieve who's having the worst offensive campaign of his career?
2. Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers
Salary per minute: $33,122
2015–16 Salary: $9,638,554
The injury bug has seemingly taken a permanent residence on Anderson Varejao, and won't let go at any cost. The Brazilian has suffered season-ending injuries before the All-Star break in four of the last five seasons.
Even during that lone "healthy" season in 2013–14, Varejao lost his starting role to Andrew Bynum, was sidelined for a month due to back soreness and finished the year coming off the bench behind Spencer Hawes.
"Wild Thing" simply isn't the guy Cleveland inked to a six-year, $48 million deal back in 2009, but is still guaranteed $10.3 million in 2016–17 thanks to an extension he signed in November 2014.
That's a lot of cash for a seven-footer who’s converted just 40% of his shots in the restricted zone this year, and has averaged under 10 minutes of playing time in 30 games this year.
1. Jason Thompson, Warriors
Salary per minute: $37,610
2015–16 Salary: $6,431,250
A longtime Sacramento King, Jason Thompson was traded to Philadelphia in a salary dump last off-season but never suited up for the 76ers. Instead, he ended up back in California after a swap for Gerald Wallace saw him land with the defending champions in Golden State.
Thompson hasn't been needed much by the Warriors—why mess with what works?—and is basically occupying the same role Lee did last season, except at a salary about $9 million cheaper.
That financial maneuver enabled Golden State to re-sign Draymond Green last summer, letting the Warriors continue their unparalleled dominance of the league this season—even if Thompson isn’t necessarily a dynamic contributor.