Berri’s 10 most overpaid players list has hits, misses


It’s a fun mental exercise to make us feel smarter than GMs — who are the 10 most overpaid players in the NBA?

Dave Berri — the co-author of The Wages of Wins and the economics professor who has consulted with NBA teams — came up with a list for CNBC that got a lot of play over the weekend. It’s got some obvious hits, but there are some misses as well.

Berri has his own system for valuing players called “wins produced.” I think it’s a flawed system (as is the still superior PER by John Hollinger) because any system that tries to distill the contributions of a basketball player down to one single number will not work. There is no single Holy Grail number out there. Defense isn’t accounted for well, to use the easy example and not get bogged down in math. These metrics (I use PER) make a nice snapshot but are not a complete picture.

That said, Berri uses his wins produced to figure out come up with how overpaid he was — how much money did he make divided by how many wins did he produce.

It’s an interesting list. But I have issues with a few guys on here.

1. Rashard Lewis (Wizards). He made $21 million last year and nobody sane will argue this is not the worst contract in the league. The Wizards chose not to use their amnesty on him and if they don’t next year they can pay him $23 million in the final year of his deal (they may try to use that as trade bait). Lewis played in 28 games last season averaging 7.8 points per contest and shooting below 40 percent.

2. Kobe Bryant (Lakers). Kobe is open to being on a list like this because he made $25 million last season (and $27 mil next season and $30 mil the season after that). And while Kobe has started to slide back from his peak he was still second in the league in scoring at 27.9 points per game, can play a complete game when he wants to. He is a lock as an All-Star. Also it should be noted that is actual value to the Lakers franchise in marketing and draw far, far exceeds what he gets paid. To me, that keeps him (and a few others below) off this list.

3. Antawn Jamison (Cavaliers). He made $15 million last year for a struggling Cleveland team and while he’s not bad — 17.1 points but shooting just 40 percent — he doesn’t board or do a whole lot else. He’s average at this point in his career but got paid handsomely to be that.

4. Amare Stoudemire (Knicks). He made $18.2 million last year but you can certainly argue he was overpaid as he was marginalized by the system — this has become Carmelo Anthony’s Knicks team and everything runs through him. Stoudemire kind of got the scraps once Mike Woodson turned the team over to ‘Melo. For the Knicks, he is overpaid. But he still shot 48 percent, scored 17.5 per game and in the right system could be a powerful force.

5. Chris Kaman (Hornets). He made $12.2 million last season at the end of a deal he got with the Clippers and he was overpaid. That said, Kaman has value as a solid NBA big — he scored 13.1 points per game last season, is an efficient shooter who plays within himself and is a solid rebounder. He has value, just not $12.2 value.

6. Mehmet Okur (Nets). I have no problem with this, he made $10.9 million last year and was so useless that when traded to Portland at the deadline a Blazers team that could use some help inside cut him rather than have him play for them.

7. Corey Maggette (Bobcats). No argument here, the oft-injured wing player was paid $10.2 million to come in and score for Charlotte and he played in just 32 games. He scored 15 a game when he did but shot just 36.7 percent.

8. Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks): He made $17.3 million last season and he’s on Berri’s list but not mine. Granted, Nowitzki was not as efficient this season as the title year but still 21.6 points per game and a guy who can knock down threes. No, not a lot of rebounds or much else, but is that why anyone signs him. A PER of 21.8, I can live with that. Plus, like Kobe, his value to the franchise far exceeds his salary.

9. Deron Williams (Nets): He made $16.6 million on a dreadful Nets team last season. He scored 21 points per game, averaged 8.7 assists per game and shot 40 percent from the field. I think this is less about Williams and more about who is around him to help, but Berri puts him on his list anyway.

10. Tyrus Thomas (Bobcats): He made $7.3 million last season while giving Charlotte 5.6 points per game on just 36.7 percent shooting. He was part of a long list of Bobcat problems last season.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.