NBA teams’ spending efficiency: dollars over salary floor per win

Recently, I published my third annual spending efficiency report for each NBA team, measuring each franchise’s “dollars per win” in the 2015-16 season. One interesting comment I received was that the analysis would be more informative if instead of dollars per win, it was “dollars over the salary floor” per win. Only one team (the Trail Blazers) was below the salary floor, and they still managed to make the playoffs, so they would end up with a negative value.

First, here are a couple important numbers:

Salary floor: $63 million
Salary cap: $70 million
Luxury tax: $84.74 million

Now, here’s each team’s ratio of salary spent over the floor per win (in this case, I still denote this calculation as “dollars/win”). All salaries courtesy of Hoopshype:

Golden State Warriors: 73 wins
Team Salary: $93,631,286
Salary Over Floor: $30,631,286
Dollars/Win: $419,606.66

San Antonio Spurs: 67 wins
Team Salary: $87,832,839
Salary Over Floor: $24,832,839
Dollars/Win: $370,639.39

Cleveland Cavaliers: 57 wins
Team Salary: $108,300,458
Salary Over Floor: $45,300,458
Dollars/Win: $794,744.88

Toronto Raptors: 56 wins
Team Salary: $71,337,189
Salary Over Floor: $8,337,189
Dollars/Win: $148,878.38

Oklahoma City Thunder: 55 wins
Team Salary: $96,680,659
Salary Over Floor: $33,680,659
Dollars/Win: $612,375.62

Los Angeles Clippers: 53 wins
Team Salary: $97,019,321
Salary Over Floor: $34,019,321
Dollars/Win: $641,873.98

Miami Heat: 48 wins
Team Salary: $85,764,781
Salary Over Floor: $22,764,781
Dollars/Win: $474,266.27

Atlanta Hawks: 48 wins
Team Salary: $71,661,760
Salary Over Floor: $8,661,760
Dollars/Win: $180,453.33

Boston Celtics: 48 wins
Team Salary: $77,141,919
Salary Over Floor: $14,141,919
Dollars/Win: $294,623.31

Charlotte Hornets: 48 wins
Team Salary: $76,860,006
Salary Over Floor: 13,860,006
Dollars/Win: $288,750.13

Indiana Pacers: 45 wins
Team Salary: $71,605,233
Salary Over Floor: 8,605,233
Dollars/Win: $191,227.40

Portland Trail Blazers: 44 wins
Team Salary: $61,685,814
Salary Over Floor: -$1,314,186
Dollars/Win: -$29,867.86

Detroit Pistons: 44 wins
Team Salary: $85,828,165
Salary Over Floor: $22,828,165
Dollars/Win: $518,821.93

Dallas Mavericks: 42 wins
Team Salary: $75,397,067
Salary Over Floor: $12,397,067
Dollars/Win: $295,168.26

Memphis Grizzlies: 42 wins
Team Salary: $83,223,881
Salary Over Floor: $20,223,881
Dollars/Win: $481,520.98

Chicago Bulls: 42 wins
Team Salary: $87,073,838
Salary Over Floor: $24,073,838
Dollars/Win: $573,186.62

Houston Rockets: 41 wins
Team Salary: $89,792,263
Salary Over Floor: $26,792,263
Dollars/Win: $653,469.83

Washington Wizards: 41 wins
Team Salary: $83,055,155
Salary Over Floor: $20,055,155
Dollars/Win: $489,150.12

Utah Jazz: 40 wins
Team Salary: $63,083,332
Salary Over Floor: $83,332
Dollars/Win: $2,083.30

Orlando Magic: 35 wins
Team Salary: $63,199,651
Salary Over Floor: $199,651
Dollars/Win: $5,704.31

Sacramento Kings: 33 wins
Team Salary: $70,610,560
Salary Over Floor: $7,610,560
Dollars/Win: $230,623.03

Denver Nuggets: 33 wins
Team Salary: $72,589,023
Salary Over Floor: $9,589,023
Dollars/Win: $290,576.46

Milwaukee Bucks: 33 wins
Team Salary: $73,843,541
Salary Over Floor: $10,843,541
Dollars/Win: $328,592.15

New York Knicks: 32 wins
Team Salary: $74,237,021
Salary Over Floor: $11,237,021
Dollars/Win: $351,156.91

New Orleans Pelicans: 30 wins
Team Salary: $82,523,587
Salary Over Floor: $19,523,587
Dollars/Win: $650,786.23

Minnesota Timberwolves: 29 wins
Team Salary: $72,287,243
Salary Over Floor: $9,287,243
Dollars/Win: $320,249.76

Phoenix Suns: 23 wins
Team Salary: $70,095,365
Salary Over Floor: $7,095,365
Dollars/Win: $308,494.13

Brooklyn Nets: 21 wins
Team Salary: $88,013,939
Salary Over Floor: $25,013,939
Dollars/Win: $1,191,139.95

Los Angeles Lakers: 17 wins
Team Salary: $72,169,259
Salary Over Floor: $9,169,259
Dollars/Win: $539,368.18

Philadelphia 76ers: 10 wins
Team Salary: $64,583,220
Salary Over Floor: $1,583,220
Dollars/Win: $158,322.00

Top 5 worst ratios

1. Brooklyn Nets ($1.19 million/win)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers ($794k/win)
3. Houston Rockets ($653k/win)
4. New Orleans Pelicans ($651k/win)
5. Los Angeles Clippers ($642k/win)

Surprised to see the Cavs that high on the list? Well, they spent more than any other team in the NBA season, and even though they made it to the NBA Finals, they were still so far over the salary floor compared to their 57 wins that they ended up with a very poor ratio relative to the rest of the league. The Warriors spent about $15 million less and won 16 more games, so it shows you don’t have to spend the most to win the most. The Rockets and Clippers both also ended up on this list despite making the playoffs. The Rockets went a disappointing .500 this year and were bounced in the first round, a similar fate to the Clippers, who were upset by the Trail Blazers in the first round. These are teams that have been known to spend obscene amounts of money and continue to disappoint people year after year.

However, the most disappointing team by far was the Nets. They spent more than $25 million over the salary floor and still only won 21 games, a pitiful performance. They are in a worse situation than arguably any team in the league with a bunch of overpaid veterans and almost no draft picks. This should be alleviated a bit with Joe Johnson’s behemoth contract finally off the books in 2016-17, but they still owe Deron Williams over $14 million despite him playing this past season with the Mavericks. And as for the Pelicans, they’re in trouble if Anthony Davis can’t stay healthy, as his salary takes a $14 million jump next year, already putting them on the books for about $65 million in 2016-17. And they have a long way to go in terms of being able to make the playoffs.

Top 5 best ratios

1. Portland Trail Blazers (-30k/win)
2. Utah Jazz ($2k/win)
3. Orlando Magic ($6k/win)
4. Toronto Raptors ($149k/win)
5. Philadelphia 76ers ($158k/win)

Somehow, the Blazers managed to create a team that was under the salary floor and still make it to the second round of the playoffs. In fact, their highest paid player was a guy who never played a game for them (Anderson Varejao, $9.7 million). Their incredible backcourt duo of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard only cost them about $7 million combined. While Lillard’s salary alone jumps to over $21 million next year, they still were able to take advantage of a couple of great young, cheap players and make a playoff run. The Raptors are arguably even more impressive, making it to the Eastern Conference Finals and winning 56 games in the regular season despite spending only about $8 million over the floor. In fact, they barely surpassed the salary cap. That’s impressive.

The Jazz and Magic nearly broke even, just barely spending over the salary floor. Both teams are at the point where they’re trying to make the playoffs but haven’t taken that next step yet, but still spent efficiently and didn’t overspend much. The 76ers are the only tanking team to appear in this list, but while they were the team with the worst overall “dollars per win” ratio, it’s interesting to note they have one of the best ratios when only looking at the amount of money spent above the salary floor. So, for what the Sixers were trying to do, it seems like they accomplished it efficiently.


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