Measuring the spending of NBA teams in 2013-14: dollars per win

It’s annoying to me that so many of the teams in the NBA go over the salary cap. And why wouldn’t they if they had the money? The luxury tax doesn’t really affect teams to the point where they stop spending. I’m all for a much higher actual cap as long as it’s a hard cap, but that doesn’t seem to be in the near future. Or, they could just raise the luxury tax to the point where teams stop going so far over the cap. But at this point, it looks like the only thing that will change is an increase in the soft cap next year, only furthering the problem.

Of course, spending money doesn’t always lead to lots of wins, but usually it does. In this post I’ll calculate the dollars spent per win per team and analyze which teams are doing it right and which have failed. Of course, this won’t be totally accurate since the season isn’t over, but I’ll post an end of season update using the same calculations to see which teams did the best overall.

Indiana Pacers: 43 wins
Team Salary: $67,182,414
Dollars/Win: $1,562,381.72

Oklahoma City Thunder: 43 wins
Team Salary: $69,509,373
Dollars/Win: $1,616,497.05

Miami Heat: 40 wins
Team Salary: $80,512,021
Dollars/Win: $2,012,800.53

San Antonio Spurs: 41 wins
Team Salary: $63,565,583
Dollars/Win: $1,550,380.07

Houston Rockets: 39 wins
Team Salary: $57,620,991
Dollars/Win: $1,477,461.31

Portland Trail Blazers: 40 wins
Team Salary: $61,260,350
Dollars/Win: $1,531,508.75

Los Angeles Clippers: 40 wins
Team Salary: $72,692,322
Dollars/Win: 1,817,308.05

Golden State Warriors: 35 wins
Team Salary: $72,321,813
Dollars/Win: $2,066,337.51

Dallas Mavericks: 36 wins
Team Salary: $67,938,658
Dollars/Win: $1,887,184.94

Phoenix Suns: 33 wins
Team Salary: $53,888,959
Dollars/Win: $1,632,998.76

Memphis Grizzlies: 32 wins
Team Salary: $71,581,636
Dollars/Win: $2,236,926.13

Toronto Raptors: 32 wins
Team Salary: $71,429,136
Dollars/Win: $2,232,160.50

Chicago Bulls: 31 wins
Team Salary: $73,102,229
Dollars/Win: $2,358,136.42

Washington Wizards: 29 wins
Team Salary: $69,792,763
Dollars/Win: $2,406,647.00

Minnesota Timberwolves: 28 wins
Team Salary: $68,512,023
Dollars/Win: $2,446,857.96

Brooklyn Nets: 26 wins
Team Salary: $102,032,548
Dollars/Win: $3,924,328.77

Charlotte Bobcats: 27 wins
Team Salary: $63,394,241
Dollars/Win: $2,347,934.85

Atlanta Hawks: 26 wins
Team Salary: $61,023,768
Dollars/Win: $2,347,068.00

Denver Nuggets: 25 wins
Team Salary: $64,993,193
Dollars/Win: $2,599,727.72

New Orleans Pelicans: 23 wins
Team Salary: $66,575,374
Dollars/Win: $2,894,581.48

Detroit Pistons: 23 wins
Team Salary: $62,387,432
Dollars/Win: $2,712,497.04

Cleveland Cavaliers: 23 wins
Team Salary: $65,188,725
Dollars/Win: $2,834,292.39

New York Knicks: 21 wins
Team Salary: $88,094,229
Dollars/Win: $4,194,963.29

Utah Jazz: 21 wins
Team Salary: $56,592,372
Dollars/Win: $2,694,874.86

Sacramento Kings: 20 wins
Team Salary: $62,330,131
Dollars/Win: $3,116,506.55

Los Angeles Lakers: 19 wins
Team Salary: $77,363,178
Dollars/Win: $4,071,746.21

Boston Celtics: 20 wins
Team Salary: $70,747,100
Dollars/Win: $3,537,355.00

Orlando Magic: 18 wins
Team Salary: $56,800,977
Dollars/Win: $3,155,609.83

Philadelphia 76ers: 15 wins
Team Salary: $51,361,203
Dollars/Win: $3,424,080.20

Milwaukee Bucks: 11 wins
Team Salary: $53,287,867
Dollars/Win: $4,844,351.55

So, does it make sense that the Milwaukee Bucks, who have the 2nd lowest team salary in the league, have the highest dollar/win ratio? Of course it does. They’re one of the few teams that is actually under the salary cap, and since the salary minimum is not much further below the cap, it would be impossible for terrible teams to overcome a bad ratio such as that. They’ve spent about $4.84 million per win this year; they only have 11 wins, but they’re also about $3 million under the salary cap, something that very few teams can do. Of course, this number will decrease faster than the other teams because the more wins, the less money per win. But, once a team gets a lot more wins, the ratio will decrease slower because it would take much more wins to decrease by a lesser amount. For example, if the Bucks were to get just 3 more wins and keep their team salary the same, their ratio would drop from $4.84 million/win to $3.81 million/win, a whole $1 million decrease for just 3 wins.

So, here are the top 5 worst ratios in the league:

1. Milwaukee Bucks: $4.84 million/win
2. New York Knicks: $4.19 million/win
3. Los Angeles Lakers: $4.07 million/win
4. Brooklyn Nets: $3.92 million/win
5. Boston Celtics: $3.54 million/win

As just mentioned, it shouldn’t be surprising that the top five teams in this statistic are all bad teams. While the Nets aren’t terrible, they’ve also spent much more money than any other team in the league (they’re the only team spending over $100 million). It also shouldn’t be surprising that the best teams in the league have the best ratios, some of which are even under $2 million/win.

Here are the top 5 best ratios in the league:

1. Houston Rockets: $1.48 million/win
2. Portland Trail Blazers: $1.53 million/win
3. San Antonio Spurs: $1.55 million/win
4. Indiana Pacers: $1.56 million/win
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: $1.62 million/win

The Trail Blazers are so high up there because of how much better they are this year compared to last year. The Rockets actually finish on top because they were able to build a young core of guys around their stars Dwight Howard and James Harden, making the cap hit from those two higher than the rest of their roster combined. The most surprising was the team with the 6th best ratio, which was the Phoenix Suns. They were projected to have a pretty bad year because they were rebuilding and dumped a lot of veterans for young guys. But they have exploded this season and are making a playoff push, giving them a lot of wins and thus decreasing their ratio.

The range of the ratios is about $3.36 million, but that number should greatly decrease as the season goes on. And assuming that most teams win at least one game from now until the end of the season (yes Sixers, I’m suggesting you may not win again), these ratios will all decrease. The top five teams will likely stay about the same, but the bottom five teams could really change depending on who gives up and who is able to squeeze out a few wins.

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