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

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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.

Draymond Green is texting Joel Embiid advice during playoffs

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In Game 1 of their series, the Philadelphia 76ers — without Joel Embiid — blew the doors off the Miami Heat, winning by 27. It’s the kind of game that can lead a young team to overconfidence.

That’s when Draymond Green texted Joel Embiid some words of advice, reports Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.”

Green was right, but it’s one of the harder things for young players to understand, how much the ground can shift game-to-game in the playoffs. For the first four games especially, matchups and strategies will change night-to-night, and around Game 5 that tends to settle down and become more about execution (and talent).

For the Sixers, everything in their series changed with the return of Joel Embiid. Unhappily wearing a mask, Embiid’s defensive presence in the paint slows the Heat attack and allows things like Philly’s Game 4 comeback win on the road. Now Embiid’s about to make his home playoff debut in Game 5 Tuesday night, with a chance to close out the series.

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.”

Beyond the first round, in an East where the expected best teams — Toronto and Cleveland — have looked vulnerable, the door is open.

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.