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How Underpaid is Robin Lopez?

As we come to the final season of Robin Lopez' current contract, Blazer's Edge discusses comparable players and contract expectations.

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Robin Lopez will make just over six million dollars this season.

Six million dollars. That's barely more than the mid-level exception. And he's a starting center on a second-round playoff team, a team which missed the playoffs with the other four starters the previous season. Plus he's only 26 years old, about to enter his prime.

Let's face it: Robin Lopez is underpaid. He signed the contract as a younger, unproven player, and has grown into his role in the NBA since then. He's improved in each stop, and seems to have found his home in Portland, a team which needed the exact skills he provided. Centers are in demand in the NBA, and the Blazers have one. They surely want to keep him.

Unfortunately, this is the last season of Lopez' contract. Next summer, he will be an unrestricted free agent. Any team can sign him, and Portland does not have the right to match their offer. Portland will have advantages as his current team (including the ability to add one more year than any other team), but if another team makes a good offer, he can simply walk away. For a young center, this is the absolutely perfect time to maximize your income.

Contract offers in the NBA aren't simply about stats or wins. They're about value and need. When Nicolas Batum signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves, analysts argued whether he was overpaid. But the only real question was, "Did the Blazers value him enough to match". And they did, so they did. We're about to have the same valuation for Robin Lopez, but without the Blazers' ability to match. They'll need to make a good offer from the start.

One way to judge Lopez' value is to compare him to other players with similar value to their teams in the NBA. Centers who are relatively young, and have helped their teams reach success. Centers who, if they were not available, might leave the team with a big hole in the middle, forcing a downgrade. Keep in mind, this is not just about how a current team values their player; another team will make the same valuation decision when considering a contract offer. Just one team needs to value that player high enough to justify a big contract.

Here are a few non-rookie-scale NBA centers who might fall in the vicinity of that range, and their upcoming salary. There are many more to consider beyond these. [Salaries courtesy of Basketball Reference]

- Al Jefferson, CHA. $13.5 million
- Marcin Gortat, WASH. New 5yr, $60 million contract
- Andrew Bogut, GSW. New 3yr, $36 million contract
- Javale McGee, DEN. $11 million
- Omer Asik, NOP. $8.3 million
- Nene, WASH. $13 million
- DeAndre Jordan, LAC. $11.4 million
- Spencer Hawes, LAC. $5.5 million (MLE)

Your turn! What players do you see as the best comparables to Robin Lopez? And, based on those comparisons, how much will Lopez make with his next contract? Considering the other contracts due for the Blazers next summer, do you feel Portland can afford him? Or do you feel they have much choice?

Discuss Robin's upcoming contract in the comments!