The jewels of the clearance rack: Three Celtics' deals that may be the best in the NBA

The Celtics' dynamic back court is more than just effective -- its a steal.
Columns and articles across the web laud the Celtics collection of assets. A treasure trove of draft picks, a cavalcade of young players, a glut of upcoming cap space -- the list (and the adjectives) go on and on. But most of that conversation is framed by what the Celtics might have in the near future -- whether it be a Ben Simmons or, even more unrealistically, Kevin Durant -- but when surveying the collection of parts and pieces, there seems to be one aspect that has gone somewhat ignored -- the great bargains which already dot the roster.

It all starts with the little man with the mid-sized contract, Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics' leading scorer(and like;y its lone all-star) is an asset in so many ways -- he scores efficiently, has raised his assist total every year he has been in the league, and has given the sort of serious commitment to defense he lacked in Sacramento and Phoenix since coming under Brad Stevens' tutelage.

But the greatest asset of all might simply be how criminally underpaid he is. For the 2015-2016 season, Thomas will make only $6.9 million, and the values don't stop there -- the deal he signed with the Suns as a restricted free agent actually declines in value each year, paying him only $12.7 million over the next two years. That is a ludicrous number for a guy who has legitimate all-star talent, and the sum only seems more insane when compared to the money owed to players such as Tristan Thompson ($32 million over the next two years), whose entire value lies in offensive rebounding and guarding power forwards exclusively, or Goran Dragic ($33 million over the next two years) a player with a comparable skill set to Thomas at nearly triple the salary.

The buck by no means stops with Thomas, however, as two other deals stand out as, at this point in time, almost entirely team-friendly; those of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder. Both deals were panned somewhat when they were signed -- and with sound reasoning. When Bradley signed his deal, which pays him roughly $17 million over the next two years, he was an undersized shooting guard with an inability to move over to the one spot and a shooting stroke that had plateaued as average at best.

Most of the positive talk surrounding the Bradley deal centered around the rising salary cap and how his deal would look minute in subsequent years. Yet, with his performance this season (averaging 15.2 points while shooting nearly 40% on threes on a high volume of attempts) Bradley's deal is no longer a bargain in the relative sense -- it is a bargain in the practical sense that Bradley's salary is simply not commensurate with the high level of production he brings to the team.

Crowder was in a similar boat, albeit with a much shorter track record. The gritty small forward hardly played in Dallas, and was entirely a throw-in in a deal that was mostly centered around the acquisition of Brendan Wright and Dallas' 2016 first round pick. However, coming off his minuscule rookie contract, Crowder established himself as an impactful defender who displays enough of s shooting stroke and chops driving to the rim that he has carved himself out a role as a legitimate starter.

Even those attributes may have made Crowder's deal -- which will pay him an average of $6 million a year from 2015-2020 -- seem like a bit of an overpay, but the former Marquette forward has elevated his game to a whole new level in his second season in green. A recent hot streak now has Crowder averaging 13.2 points per game, with a playable 45% mark from behind the arc that has been steadily rising over the last few weeks. If Crowder keeps up those numbers over the life of his deal, and shows no slippage on defense, he will have easily lived up to his contract.

And if he can improve on them even slightly (which seems likely considering how well he has played of late and the intense work ethic which Brad Stevens has often lauded him for), then Crowder's contract may become as akin to highway robbery as Bradley's or Thomas'.

The Celtics have a bright future ahead. They have the draft capital to nurture a homegrown star, the money to reel one in from another team, and the ownership commitment to spend the money necessary to win. However, fans should not just keep their eyes on the horizon when it comes to how this Celtics team has been constituted, because some of the best deals they could possibly make have already been made int he form of Thomas, Bradley, and Crowder.

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All contract details courtesy of hoopshype
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