A fun thing we like to do each year at the Wages of Wins Network is look at which players were paid too little and which were paid too much. For fun I’ll start optimistically this year. Above are the top 30 players that weren’t paid anywhere close to their output according to the Wins Produced metric. The method to figure this out is pretty simple. Last year there were approximately $1.94 Billion in salaries for the whole NBA. In a given season there are 1230 available wins, making the simple value of a win around $1.58 million. If we award a player $1.58 million for each Win the produce and then dock them their pay, we can get their net value (sorry for the Econ 101 everyone!)
The first set of players that very obviously stands out (thanks Arturo for highlighting them in green) are players on their rookie contracts. Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose are two players that have been rated at the highest level. This year combined both made less than Jason Richardson. We notice that Chicago and Oklahoma City, two teams considered up and comers, have taken advantage of this fact having multiple productive rookie scale contracts for next to nothing. A huge sting on this note is that Kevin Love – this year’s Most Productive Player (MPP) – made less than the mid level exception usually reserved for “role players”.
The next set of players are those simply too good to get paid their fair value thanks to the salary cap. Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Pau Gasol are all top players on their team and despite getting top dollar are still underpaid. What’s important to notice is that their are only a handful of players at this level in the league. Certainly many teams hope their top paid player (we’ll see a few on them in the Overpaid list) are worth the money but that is simply not the case.
The final set of players are those that contribute to team wins in less obvious ways. Rajon Rondo, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash are all point guards that are very good at passing and other facets of the game. Lamar Odom, Chuck Hayes and Kris Humphries are tremendous rebounders. Unfortunately their contributions to the team aren’t always noticed when it comes to things like play time and pay. Succesful teams tend to have players like these and we can notice that Kidd, Odom and Rondo have all contributed to a successful title run for their team.
Underpaying these players is beneficial to many other parties. The owners get cheaper labor. Other players have a better chance at getting paid well due to the current contract set up. As such when the dust settles on the new CBA it is unlikely that things will change for many of these players. The truth is that a majority of the players on this year’s list were also on last year’s underpaid list and we can almost certainly expect to see a few of them next year.
[Editor’s Note: Some of you may notice a portion of this article was rewritten. A last second change upped the number of players listed from 15 to 30 (lucky readers!) and some of the text didn’t reflect that. Enjoy the added content and sorry for the mix up]