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Forget Curry and LeBron, these players are best bargains in NBA playoffs

Steph Curry and LeBron James will grab most of the headlines going into Thursday's NBA Finals. Curry has won the league's Most Valuable Player Award over James for the last two seasons, while his Golden State Warriors topped James' depleted Cleveland Cavaliers for last year's championship.

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers (right) and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors.
Ezra Shaw | Getty Images

But so far in these playoffs, their teams have gotten better bangs for their buck out of much lesser-known players.

James, the four-time MVP, leads all postseason players with 0.288 win shares, or estimated wins contributed, per 48 minutes played. He also leads the league with 3.2 total win shares in the playoffs, according to

Teammate Channing Frye, a mid-season acquisition for Cleveland, has generated 0.282 win shares per 48 minutes, just behind James and good for third among all postseason players. But Frye took in only $7.81 million in base salary this year, about a third of James' $22.97 million.

Curry was one of the best bargains in the NBA this year, making $11.37 million. He led the league in win shares per 48 minutes in the regular season, but his production has dipped in the playoffs, partly due to a knee injury.

He is third on the Warriors with 0.204 win shares per 48 minutes in the playoffs, behind Anderson Varejao's 0.219 and Andrew Bogut's 0.218.

Bogut made $12 million this year, slightly more than Curry. Varejao, who started the season on the Cavaliers, took in only $458,575. Still, he has played just 52 minutes in the postseason, while Curry and Bogut have logged more than 300.

CNBC also looked at total win shares Golden State and Cleveland players have generated in the playoffs per million dollars of salary. While the sample size is not large, it gives a rough approximation of how much they contribute for the money.