Props to Danny Ainge; the Celtics have three of the best contracts in the NBA

Sports Illustrated came out with their list of the "The NBA's 30 Best Contracts" yesterday, and according to them the Celtics are tied for 2nd the league in roster bargains with three. The only team with more were the Golden State Warriors, who have four. SI did a great job breaking the deals into specific categories. Because obviously there's a difference between having an MVP candidate signed at under 10 million versus having an aging role player signing for the veteran minimum, but they can both be massive bargains fiscally.

The first group of entries consisted of guys on max-deals that were signed under previous limits under the former CBA, and due to the length and amounts of their contracts guys like Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, and John Wall (each make in the nieghborhood of $17 million a year) all qualify as bargains when you look at recent max-deals that have been signed. For example, Al Horford signed with the Celtics this summer for 4 years and $113 million. Even though Horford has played well in his first season in Boston, no one would call him underpaid at that amount. With the new CBA coming into effect, those other contracts are going to become even more valuable. Just look at the rumored 5-year $207 million extension that might be awaiting Cousins this offseason.

Now for the Celtics that made the list. First up, The King in the Fourth himself - Isaiah Thomas:

Isaiah lands on this list as what might be (is) the biggest bargain contract in the entire NBA. He landed in the section called "Unspeakable Bargains" alongside Steph Curry and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. I give Isaiah the nod with best contract merely because Curry makes $12.1 million in his final year of his contract this season, and Thomas is set to make just over that for this year AND next, 12.9 million.

They are the only two MVP candidates that weren't signed to max-deals at one point, and Thomas barely makes more than Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception ($5.628). Curry was locked up in Golden State when he was still playing on shaky ankles, and his MVP seasons that would come seasons later were unforeseen. Ainge gets credit here for acquiring who he thought to be an underutilized Thomas, who in just a half season in Phoenix after signing a 4-year $27 million dollar contract fell out of favor with the Suns. That deal turned into a huge bargain as he now leads the Eastern Conference in scoring. Both guys will be getting max-contracts when their current deals are up, but Steph's payday comes a year earlier than Isaiah's.

Next on the list is everybody's favorite lock-down defender, Avery Bradley:

Bradley falls into the category of "discount role players", although I'd argue that Avery is more than a role player. He's still got another year plus of a 4-year $32 million contract he signed back in 2014. That price would have been a bargain had Bradley just continued to play the lights out defense the Celtics were seeing from him when he signed the deal, but Avery has turned himself into a well-rounded player. He's having himself a career year offensively and on the boards, averaging career-highs in points (17.7), three-point percentage (40.9%), and rebounds (6.9). After next season, the Celtics will have some big decisions to make with both Bradley and Isaiah hitting the market. They're both going to command some hefty paydays in 2018.

As for the third Celtic that's signed at a clearance price, that would be Jae Crowder:

After acquiring Crowder in the deal the sent Rajon Rondo to the Dallas mavericks back in December of 2014, Ainge didn't wait long to lock up Crowder long-term. Jae signed a 5-year $35 million contract that following offseason, and with 3 years still remaining on that deal after this season it will continue to be one of the best deals in the league for the foreseeable future. We've talked on the Celtics Life podcast about all kinds of trade scenarios and roster situations going forward, and I've adamantly stated that I can't see the Celtics parting with Crowder in any trades that might come up in the near future in large part because of his contract.

Crowder is a terrific player on his own, but signed at less than $8 million through 2020 makes Crowder a perfect fit on a roster that will be looking to add a couple of max-deals to go alongside Horford's. Isaiah is going to get one next year, whether it's here or somewhere else, and we know Danny wants to add another player of that caliber to the roster. Even though the new CBA is going to give teams more room under the cap, player salaries will be going up too. So to be able to have a guy like Crowder locked up long-term for peanuts it's going to pay huge dividends for the Celtics over the next few years.

Photo Credit - Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via GETTY Images (top), Bruce Bennett/Getty Images (Bradley)

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