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.