LeBron James is underpaid


LeBron_Heat.jpgWhile LeBron James was still deciding where to take his talents, a fun bar stool/message board discussion was how much would LeBron be offered in a non-capped open market? $30 million a year? $40 million?

But the market is capped, and LeBron will start making $14.5 million this season. Which is a real bargain, according to what Ian Thompson of Sports Illustrated was told.

“I’m projecting for next year he’ll be worth $31 million,” said Rich Steinlauf, a New York-based analyst who has been studying the NBA for three decades.

Steinlauf’s system looks at the impact of a player to determine a worth based on his share of a standard team payroll. Which leads to an interesting conclusion.

Miami’s off-season coup of signing James, Wade and Chris Bosh has given the Heat the league’s most cost-efficient payroll, according to Steinlauf. While some will question the $18.3 million average salary Bosh will earn over the next six years, Steinlauf insists that the Heat are paying him what he’s worth.

Steinlauf is right. I don’t love his system, but he is right about the finances.

Since the dawn of professional sports in America, it is largely the stars that sell the team and make the money. That is particularly true in basketball. The money that a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant or Dirk Nowitzki generate in ticket sales (and with that concessions and parking), in uniform sales, the boost they provide in marketing far outweigh what they are paid. Put simply, LeBron is going to bring in a lot more money to the Heat than what he gets in salary.

Where that table turns is the mid-level guys. While Kobe is generating the income in Los Angeles, Lamar Odom and Luke Walton and even Andrew Bynum are the beneficiaries, not really generating what they make. It’s that way on every team. Really, in every sport.

If you want to make the argument that they are all overpaid because they are playing a sport for a living and we should be paying teachers and firefighters more, then go ahead. But that is a cultural argument about the value of entertainment in our culture and our economic structure. Our top entertainers make a lot of money, but they generate a lot of money and we live in a capitalistic society where you (basically) get paid for what you generate. Fair or not, just or not, that is the reality.

So yes, LeBron James is underpaid.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Markieff Morris will be a happy Sun

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After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.

So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?

Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.

The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.

Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.