NBA Teams Getting the Most Bang for Their Buck
A lot of attention this season has been given to the big-money disasters around the league.
The Brooklyn Nets, for example, are spending more in luxury tax than 28 other teams are in payroll. That's pretty crazy, but there are teams on the other side of the coin that have been equally remarkable.
After looking at the league's biggest spenders, it's time to check in on the teams that are getting the most bang for their buck this season.
For this exercise, we'll rank the top 10 teams in the league that are on pace to spend the lowest amount of salary per win extrapolated over 82 games.
Let's take a look at how the most cost-effective teams are getting it done.
Contract info courtesy of ShamSports.com.
10. Dallas Mavericks
Total Salary: $67.3 million
Cost Per Win: $4.8 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $1.40 million
Surprised? In the past, Mark Cuban's teams have spared no expense to field a competitive roster, but this group is filled with sneaky values.
Although many (including myself) questioned the signing of Monta Ellis, he's outperformed his $8 million-per-year salary thus far pretty easily.
The bargains don't stop with Ellis, though. DeJuan Blair is killing it on a minimum contract, and draft-day steals like Jae Crowder are paying dividends.
You can reasonably expect Dallas to climb this list next season and maybe even finish in the top five. That's in large part because Dirk Nowitzki's massive deal worth $22 million is set to expire, and his new deal should be much more favorable to the Mavs, at least if you take Nowitzki's word for it.
"I guess that's something we need to look at next summer when it gets to the point, but I'm sure it will be a significant pay cut," Nowitzki told Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas last year. "At this point of my career, it's all about competing and winning. It's not about money. Obviously, Cuban took care of me for a long, long time."
Dallas may not be able to hang in the top 10 this season in cost per win (Denver is right behind the Mavs), but the future certainly looks bright, at least in this regard.
9. Los Angeles Clippers
Total Salary: $73.3 million
Cost Per Win: $4.31 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $1.36 million
After years of watching Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling let talent walk as soon as it came time to pay up, it's nice to see the team near the top of the league in overall payroll.
That seems to be OK with Sterling, so long as the revenue is positive and the Clippers keep winning games.
The investment for head coach Doc Rivers, both in terms of assets and money, was certainly a good sign to see after the Clippers went cheap by keeping Vinny Del Negro and letting go of general manager Neil Olshey the year prior.
They may be challenged to stay short of the luxury tax going forward, but the allure of playing in Los Angeles next to Paul and Griffin should enable the Clippers to fill out their roster every year with veterans on the cheap, much in the same way the Miami Heat have done.
Speaking of the Heat...
8. Miami Heat
Total Salary: $83.5 million
Cost Per Win: $4.63 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $1.35 million
Not all teams that spend big money do so foolishly. The Miami Heat made a lot of financially savvy moves once the Big Three was established, and it's hard to argue with the results.
If you include the Heat's projected luxury-tax payment of $20.7 million, they are no longer in the top 10. Still, the willingness to pay the luxury tax gives Miami a distinct advantage over teams like Indiana and Oklahoma City.
Depending on the outcome of this season and Dwyane Wade's health, we could be seeing big changes on the horizon. It will be interesting to see what Miami would do with actual cap space, if the situation arose.
For now, though, Miami is sitting pretty here. LeBron James is the best bargain contract in all of professional sports, and with no new CBA on the way, that probably won't change anytime soon.
7. Atlanta Hawks
Total Salary: $57.3 million
Cost Per Win: $4.4 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $1.34 million
We probably shouldn't be surprised that a franchise run by former San Antonio Spurs disciples Danny Ferry and Mike Budenholzer is getting great value out of one of the lowest team salaries in the league.
With Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague all on deals well below what you'd expect given their production levels, the Hawks have an incredibly cheap core to build around. Atlanta could very easily be a sneaky player in free agency next year.
With that inexpensive core and a bench filled mostly with rookie-scale players and cheap veterans, the Hawks have followed the Spurs formula in more ways than one. If Atlanta's drafting gets anywhere near San Antonio's level, watch out for the Hawks in the Eastern Conference down the line.
Atlanta may appear to still be treading water like it did for so many years, but this group has the cap flexibility that those past teams never had. The Hawks are flying down the right path here.
6. Houston Rockets
Total Salary: $63.4 million
Cost Per Win: $3.95 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $1.20 million
This is the new version of Moreyball. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has done a brilliant job of acquiring draft picks and cheap assets to put next to Dwight Howard and James Harden, and the early results are impressive.
It's telling that the league's best lineup in terms of net efficiency includes a player every team could have signed at one point (Patrick Beverley), a second-round pick (Chandler Parsons) and a late first-round pick (Terrence Jones).
Houston may not be able to stay quite this cost-effective forever, as guys like Parsons are headed for big paydays soon. Still, when you hear the rumors of Houston shopping Omer Asik for draft picks, you know the cycle will continue as long as Morey can find ways to acquire picks. Those are the lifeblood of what Houston does.
So long as Morey remains in Houston, you can expect the Rockets to be a fixture on lists like this for a long time. This is a smartly run franchise.
5. Phoenix Suns
Total Salary: $54.3 million
Cost Per Win: $3.88 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $1.14 million
The Phoenix Suns were supposed to be a team that was tanking, but Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and the rest of their young roster had different ideas. It's pretty incredible what the Suns have done with a payroll of $54.3 million.
They are one of the only teams on this list without a max player, which is pretty tough to do. The best values in basketball are typically true max talents and rookie-scale guys, but the Suns loaded up solely with the latter.
With Bledsoe, the Morris twins, P.J. Tucker and Miles Plumlee, the Suns can legitimately field a competitive lineup that makes less than $9 million combined. That's incredible.
As long as Phoenix stays around .500 for the rest of the year, it'll have a spot on this list. Next year may be a little dicier, though, as Eric Bledsoe is almost certainly going to demand a max deal in restricted free agency.
Still, this is an incredible accomplishment for new general manager Ryan McDonough.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Total Salary: $70.3 million
Cost Per Win: $3.51 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $1.02 million
Give the Oklahoma City Thunder all the grief you want for not keeping James Harden, but they've stretched every penny possible under the luxury tax to remain a contender.
With players like Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb providing plenty of production, Oklahoma City has recovered well from the loss of Harden and Kevin Martin while remaining under that dreaded tax line.
Once Kendrick Perkins' contract worth $9.4 million next season comes off the books, OKC should have some breathing room under the cap and the chance to add some talented veterans to the roster.
So long as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are in their primes on the roster, this is going to be hard to screw up. Oklahoma City should contend for titles for at least the next three seasons, and that's not a bad place to be.
3. Indiana Pacers
Total Salary: $69.9 million
Cost Per Win: $3.49 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $1.02 million
Here's another small-market team on the list. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that teams with strict limitations on their spending are using their money more wisely than those in much bigger markets.
It doesn't hurt that the Indiana Pacers have Paul George and Lance Stephenson on such small deals for one more year, either. George and Stephenson are one of the top wing combinations in the game, but this season they'll make less than $5 million combined.
That's more than enough to make a non-tax team great. Indiana will have some issues once George's max extension kicks in next season, but given the state of the rest of the Eastern Conference, you can safely expect the Pacers to stay in the top five of this list going forward.
That starting lineup is just too good.
2. San Antonio Spurs
Total Salary: $63.7 million
Cost Per Win: $3.34 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $979,969
I feel like I should be handing out some sort of lifetime achievement award here. The Spurs have long been able to get their players to buy in to the system, both on the court and on the books.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have all taken discounts over the years, and R.C. Buford and the Spurs front office have done a fabulous job of uncovering gems and making great trades.
Although he's only averaging 22.2 minutes per game this year, Danny Green is still a top-10 shooting guard in the league, and yet he'll make right at $4 million next season. Remember, he turned it on in the postseason last year.
Instead of paying George Hill, the Spurs dealt for four seasons of Kawhi Leonard.
The Spurs do just about everything right. They draft better than anyone, they make smart trades, and they lock up their core members for salaries that are much less than what those players would command on the open market.
San Antonio's blueprint is the one smart teams have and will continue to emulate. Some things don't change, even if the Spurs are temporarily out of the top spot thanks to one of the biggest surprises in the league.
1. Portland Trail Blazers
Total Salary: $62.7 million
Cost Per Win: $2.84 million
Cost Per Win Extrapolated over 82 Games: $903,317
But what about general manager Neil Olshey? After all, it was Olshey who drafted Lillard, hung on to Aldridge amid plenty of trade speculation and hired Stotts last year. It was also Olshey who built a great bench from scratch and stayed patient even with Blazers owner Paul Allen breathing down his neck.
It was certainly hard to see this coming, but the Blazers are currently getting more bang for their buck than any other team in the league. With nearly the entire roster locked up for next year, the Blazers might not be going away any time soon.