3. Alex Caruso — $2.7 million
This is kind of cheating because Alex Caruso is still on his first contract with the Los Angeles Lakers but he is simply a testament to the Lakers’ play development as well as their eye for unconventional talent.
There are so many examples of late first-round and second-round picks that turned into legitimate rotation players either on the Los Angeles Lakers or for other teams after leaving LA. Caruso is the crown jewel, going from undrafted to a legitimate difference-maker on a title-winning team.
Non-Laker fans may roll their eyes at this inclusion as Caruso has admittedly gotten a bit overhyped because of social media but he is really a damn good basketball player. He is not the most gifted on the offensive side of the floor but he is a gritty defensive player that has the talent and hustle to be good both on and off-ball.
Caruso’s defense was a huge reason why the Lakers were able to limit every playoff team they came up against and slow them down from scoring at their usual mark. In terms of defensive player impact plus-minus (PIPM), Caruso’s 1.53 was the sixth-best among point guards who played at least 1,000 minutes before the bubble last season.
That is with Basketball-Index counting LeBron James as a point guard. Without LeBron, Caruso joins Kris Dunn (extremely underrated and paid $4.7 million), Patrick Beverley (paid $13.3 million), Ricky Rubio (paid $17 million) and Eric Bledsoe (paid $16.8 million) in the top five.