# 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)