Buying Wins in the NBA

The following is from Meerae Park.  Meerae is a business major at the University of California, Irvine and founder of the UCI Sports Analysis Collective.  In his free time, he enjoys statistical consulting, sports discussion, and Kobe hating.He specializes on all things money within the NBA.  You can reach him at meeraep@uci.edu.

Which NBA teams are buying wins at the cheapest price?  The answer (or at least, “an answer”) is in the numbers.

The Data

  • 13-14 payroll numbers provided by Basketball-Reference.com
  • Wins are also from Basketball-Reference.  This has been adjusted to what we would see over 82 games (so a team with 20 wins after 41 games would have 40 wins in the table below)
  • Wins Projected (from DJ).  This is how many wins we would expect in 82 games given the team’s curre Efficiency Differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency).  This is essentially the team’s projected Wins Produced
  • Both Wins and Wins Projected is based on standings as of Sunday night (February 2nd)

The Analysis

  • Using the data described above, “Dollars per Win” was calculated for each team (i.e. payroll divided by Wins over 82 games)
  • Using the data described above, “Dollars per Wins Projected) was calculated for each team (i.e. payroll divided by Wins Projected)
  • In terms of wins and projected wins, the average team spends about $1.65 million per win
  • The most efficient team – in terms if $/Wins – is the Portland Trail Blazers
  • The most efficient team – in terms of $/Wins Projected – is the San Antonio Spurs
  • The least efficient – by either approach – is the Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bucks are spending more than twice the average team for each win.

 

Team

2013-14

Payroll

Wins

(over

82 games)

Wins Projected

(from

efficiency differential)

Dollars

per Win

Dollars per

Wins Projected

San Antonio Spurs

$64,363,059

59.3

59.6

$1,085,030

$1,080,192

Indiana Pacers

$70,436,491

64.2

62.1

$1,097,588

$1,133,658

Phoenix Suns

$58,512,913

50.6

50.6

$1,156,479

$1,156,898

Portland Trail Blazers

$63,214,586

59.3

53.8

$1,065,669

$1,174,645

Oklahoma City Thunder

$71,781,364

63.6

60.8

$1,128,783

$1,181,449

Atlanta Hawks

$57,359,097

44.6

45.2

$1,287,082

$1,269,567

Golden State Warriors

$67,544,935

49.5

52.5

$1,363,397

$1,287,197

Houston Rockets

$65,744,839

53.6

50.5

$1,227,705

$1,302,083

Minnesota Timberwolves

$68,495,356

40.1

51.8

$1,706,936

$1,321,590

Los Angeles Clippers

$74,537,077

55.8

56.2

$1,336,748

$1,325,525

Toronto Raptors

$68,120,831

43.6

47.9

$1,561,795

$1,421,301

Dallas Mavericks

$67,731,565

46.1

44.8

$1,468,435

$1,513,030

Miami Heat

$84,329,619

58.8

55.6

$1,433,541

$1,516,765

Denver Nuggets

$67,324,401

40.1

42.4

$1,679,378

$1,588,232

Memphis Grizzlies

$68,590,481

46.3

42.8

$1,479,907

$1,603,199

New Orleans Pelicans

$63,157,428

35.7

36.8

$1,771,489

$1,716,896

Washington Wizards

$70,944,938

41.0

40.0

$1,730,364

$1,772,180

Detroit Pistons

$61,897,253

33.9

34.0

$1,827,518

$1,819,938

Charlotte Bobcats

$61,659,841

35.1

32.9

$1,754,548

$1,873,556

Sacramento Kings

$62,834,557

26.2

33.5

$2,400,995

$1,874,875

Chicago Bulls

$81,800,226

41.0

40.5

$1,995,127

$2,021,747

Orlando Magic

$55,078,516

21.8

25.8

$2,531,752

$2,130,967

Boston Celtics

$71,484,789

26.8

30.1

$2,669,783

$2,377,819

Utah Jazz

$56,818,345

27.9

23.8

$2,035,413

$2,386,071

Cleveland Cavaliers

$61,089,456

27.9

25.3

$2,188,418

$2,414,514

Philadelphia 76ers

$47,119,495

25.6

19.0

$1,838,810

$2,482,776

New York Knicks

$89,740,656

33.1

35.3

$2,707,196

$2,541,550

Los Angeles Lakers

$79,911,554

27.9

26.6

$2,862,685

$3,003,436

Brooklyn Nets

$102,608,995

36.4

33.0

$2,815,491

$3,108,427

Milwaukee Bucks

$51,175,131

14.0

14.5

$3,666,511

$3,520,672

 

Some other notes:

  • Despite spending $84 million, the Heat are getting more wins per dollar spent than the average NBA team.  Obviously it helps to have LeBron (who is still a bargain despite his pay).
  • Many of the most efficient teams — Indiana, San Antonio, Portland, Oklahoma City – are in small markets
  • Many of the least efficient teams – New York, Brooklyn, LA Lakers – are in large markets
  • Payroll only explains 7% of Wins and Wins Projected.  As one can see, spending in the NBA doesn’t tell us much about who is going to win.

Obviously, a future post could look at the most productive players per dollar spent.  Hopefully that can be posted soon.

- Meerae Park (with help from DJ)

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