Measuring the spending of NBA teams in 2014-15: dollars per win (end of year edition)

The playoffs are already in full swing, but let’s take a break from the action and take a look at how efficient NBA teams were at spending this year. As I did last year and at the All-Star break this year, I measured the spending of NBA teams by calculating their dollars per win. After updating all the teams’ win totals and salaries, I recalculated their dollars per win to determine how they did by the end of the year.

Most teams’ salaries stayed about the same, except for the Nuggets and Sixers (due to the Javale McGee trade). Here are all the teams and the breakdown of their wins and spending, in descending order of wins. Once again, a big thanks to Hoopshype for all the team salary data.

Golden State Warriors: 67 wins
Team Salary: $73,611,166
Dollars/Win: $1,098,674.12

Atlanta Hawks: 60 wins
Team Salary: $58,320,278
Dollars/Win: $972,004.63

Houston Rockets: 56 wins
Team Salary: $72,672,094
Dollars/Win: $1,297,715.96

Los Angeles Clippers: 56 wins
Team Salary: $85,336,906
Dollars/Win: $1,523,873.32

Memphis Grizzlies: 55 wins
Team Salary: $75,072,226
Dollars/Win: $1,364,949.56

San Antonio Spurs: 55 wins
Team Salary: $70,750,209
Dollars/Win: $1,286,367.44

Cleveland Cavaliers: 53 wins
Team Salary: $82,592,827
Dollars/Win: $1,558,355.23

Portland Trail Blazers: 51 wins
Team Salary: $69,936,842
Dollars/Win: $1,371,310.63

Dallas Mavericks: 50 wins
Team Salary: $77,022,225
Dollars/Win: $1,540,444.50

Chicago Bulls: 50 wins
Team Salary: $67,414,682
Dollars/Win: $1,348,293.64

Toronto Raptors: 49 wins
Team Salary: $81,074,903
Dollars/Win: $1,654,589.86

Washington Wizards: 46 wins
Team Salary: $73,613,498
Dollars/Win: $1,600,293.44

New Orleans Pelicans: 45 wins
Team Salary: $80,012,866
Dollars/Win: $1,778,063.69

Oklahoma City Thunder: 45 wins
Team Salary: $80,458,440
Dollars/Win: $1,787,965.33

Milwaukee Bucks: 41 wins
Team Salary: $57,536,309
Dollars/Win: $1,403,324.61

Boston Celtics: 40 wins
Team Salary: $62,218,516
Dollars/Win: $1,555,462.90

Phoenix Suns: 39 wins
Team Salary: $62,352,005
Dollars/Win: $1,598,769.36

Brooklyn Nets: 38 wins
Team Salary: $87,817,289
Dollars/Win: $2,310,981.29

Indiana Pacers: 38 wins
Team Salary: $74,793,526
Dollars/Win: $1,968,250.68

Utah Jazz: 38 wins
Team Salary: $60,305,972
Dollars/Win: $1,586,999.26

Miami Heat: 37 wins
Team Salary: $75,813,041
Dollars/Win: $2,049,001.11

Charlotte Hornets: 33 wins
Team Salary: $66,792,937
Dollars/Win: $2,024,028.39

Detroit Pistons: 32 wins
Team Salary: $65,429,511
Dollars/Win: $2,044,672.22

Denver Nuggets: 30 wins
Team Salary: $56,820,307
Dollars/Win: $1,894,010.23

Sacramento Kings: 29 wins
Team Salary: $73,408,914
Dollars/Win: $2,531,341.86

Orlando Magic: 25 wins
Team Salary: $59,629,210
Dollars/Win: $2,395,168.40

Los Angeles Lakers: 21 wins
Team Salary: $77,546,500
Dollars/Win: $3,692,690.48

Philadelphia 76ers: 18 wins
Team Salary: $54,188,944
Dollars/Win: $3,010,496.89

New York Knicks: 17 wins
Team Salary: $81,369,219
Dollars/Win: $4,786,424.65

Minnesota Timberwolves: 16 wins
Team Salary: $69,378,954
Dollars/Win: $4,336,184.63

Like what happened last year, many of the worst teams experienced the biggest change in their dollars/win values, but still had high numbers due to the few amount of wins they had. It was the opposite effect for the best teams- they saw a very little change in dollars/win despite winning a lot more games. One change from last year was that many teams in the bottom five in wins still had a high team salary, therefore resulting in a very high dollars/win for the end of the year.

Top 5 worst ratios

1. New York Knicks ($4.79 million/win)
2. Minnesota Timberwolves ($4.34 million/win)
3. Los Angeles Lakers ($3.69 million/win)
4. Philadelphia 76ers ($3.01 million/win)
5. Sacramento Kings ($2.53 million/win)

A couple of these teams are tanking and really didn’t care how many games they won, and therefore, it didn’t really matter what their dollars/win value was. But other teams had some serious injuries that derailed their seasons early on and they were just unable to recover. All five of these teams were in the bottom six teams in terms of wins, therefore showing a negative correlation between wins and dollars/win. The Knicks, Timberwolves and Lakers all had a worse ratio than the team with the worst ratio last season (Bucks: $3.63 million/win). The Sixers and Lakers were on the end of year lists in both years, and four of the five teams on this list were on the bottom five list at the All-Star break. So basically, the same teams remained at the bottom.

Top 5 best ratios

1. Atlanta Hawks ($0.97 million/win)
2. Golden State Warriors ($1.10 million/win)
3. San Antonio Spurs ($1.29 million/win)
4. Houston Rockets ($1.30 million/win)
5. Chicago Bulls ($1.35 million/win)

Not surprisingly, all of these teams are top teams in the entire league and four of the five and still alive in the playoffs. Only the Spurs have been eliminated, who had the highest ratio at the end of the season last year at $1.02 million/win. While the Hawks had a lower ratio than any other team at the end of last year, the range between the top five teams was greater ($0.38 million compared to $0.17 million last year). Only the Hawks and Warriors stayed in the top five compared to the midway point, remaining in the same spots. Considering the Warriors and Hawks also finished first and second respectively in the NBA this year, it makes sense that they’d be that high for the best ratios. Unlike last year, there’s more of a mix between Eastern and Western Conference teams in both the top five and bottom five lists.

Top 5 biggest decreases in ratio

1. New York Knicks ($3.38 million/win)
2. Los Angeles Lakers ($2.26 million/win)
3. Brooklyn Nets ($2.03 million/win)
4. Boston Celtics ($1.70 million/win)
5. Minnesota Timberwolves ($1.67 million/win)

Once again, it’s not a surprise that three of the five teams on this list are also on the top five worst ratios list. If they had a terrible ratio at the All-Star break, it’s a lot easier to improve the ratio with a few extra wins. Even though the Knicks only won seven more games, they decreased their dollars/win by a significant amount, much more than any team last year. The Knicks also were the most improved team in this category last year, decreasing by $1.81 million per win. The Nets and Lakers were also on last year’s list. When a team has a higher team salary, it’s also more likely that they can decrease their dollars/win over time because there’s more salary to work with. Teams that already have a really low team salary will likely have a good dollars/win ratio all season, but have trouble decreasing it by a lot over the year.

Overall, the Hawks were the most efficient team after spending less than $1 million per win, an amazing feat. A lot of the teams that spent the most money also had the worst ratios, showing that spending a lot doesn’t always equate to wins. For the teams with the worst ratios, they’ll need to rework their roster to get more out of their high paid players, or get rid of them. For the teams with low ratios, they’ll likely keep doing what they’re doing.

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