Tom Ziller of FanHouse has a breakdown of the 11 teams set to pay the NBA luxury tax this summer. The Lakers, Mavericks, Celtics, and Cavaliers are set to pay the highest penalties. The teams with the four best records in the Western Conference are all set to pay the luxury tax. In the East, Atlanta is the only top-four team that will not pay the tax. Of the 11 teams over the cap, only the Knicks would miss the playoffs if they started today.
Looking at this list provides some insight into why the owners want a new CBA in 2011. The NBA has a salary cap that should ensure parity, but in reality the best teams are the ones spending the most money.
The counter-argument to that would be that the top teams spend money because they are good, not that they are good because they spend money. The NBA’s best teams spend lavishly on players to fill out their roster, but almost all of them have a “franchise player” who couldn’t be acquired with money alone.
The top seven spenders are the Lakers, Mavericks, Celtics, Cavaliers, Knicks, Magic, and Spurs. Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, and Tim Duncan were all acquired on draft day by their current teams. Of that group of six, four have won MVP awards, and Pierce has a finals MVP to his name. The argument could be made that the superstars were bringing enough success, attention, and revenue to their teams to justify spending big to make the team around them as good as possible. As the Knicks show, spending like there’s no tomorrow doesn’t always ensure team success.