Making the Right Choices: Do Top NBA Teams Spend Wisely?

Los Angeles Lakers:

This should come as no surprise to anyone: the Los Angeles Lakers bring out the big guns when it comes to free agents. No franchise in the league has a bigger advantage when it comes to attracting the biggest names, and as much as Dwight Howard wants to wait before signing an extension, in the eyes of this writer, it’s only a matter of time.

The common critique is that because the Lakers are capable of having a higher payroll, smart management isn’t as necessary as it would be in other parts of the league. Common logic would suggest this isn’t true. Just because Mitch Kupchak is in L.A. doesn’t mean that he is a Charlotte Bobcat level GM. I doubt Rick Cho would have the same type of success in Los Angeles.

And to that point, having a higher cap level doesn’t mean that the Lakers should mismanage their money. I believe Mitch Kupchak has done an excellent job of getting the most talent for the money that we have, and Luke Walton aside, has done a great job of not making horrible payroll decisions.

From what we can see, the Lakers have done a decent job of following the regression line, and at the very least, the averages would even out. Of the Lakers’ starters, Kobe, Pau and Metta are all above the trend line. One would expect Kobe to be above (his salary this year and next are ridiculous), but seeing Pau and Metta above would be some cause for some concern.

The good news is that:

1. Pau is still very very good, and is the Lakers’ second best facilitator.

2. Metta came to camp in shape and has exceeded his NBA Rank expectations.

Now here’s the kicker: the Lakers’ three biggest off-season acquisitions all came for cheap. Dwight, Nash, and Jamison all came in under the trend line, meaning that based on their skill level at the end of last season, what the Lakers are paying them this season is well under what they deserve. In essence, bad for them, good for us.

—- Kick off the season with your own Lakers Nation t-shirt! —-

It is interesting to note that both Steve Blake and Chris Duhon are two players that fall above the expected salary rate. It is easy to see now why they’ve been on the trading block for the past few weeks. Besides the fact that they are less than serviceable backups for Steve Nash, they are also being paid more than they’re worth.

The discussion on whether Derek Fisher should come back to the Lakers is interesting here. Unless Chris Duhon and/or Steve Blake are traded, it makes no sense for the Lakers to bring back Derek Fisher, as they would have to pay out the salary for one of these already overpaid players (not to mention the luxury tax), and then pay again for a player that, statistically, is no better than those already on the roster. Overall, the Lakers have done a good job of evaluating the talent on their team, and due to the fact that the only player guaranteed for the 2013-14 roster will be Steve Nash, the Lakers have given themselves a lot of cap freedom to boot.

San Antonio Spurs:

The Spurs, deservedly, have been viewed in the eyes of many as the ideal franchise for relatively small market teams. They’re smart, they’re safe, and they always find ways to keep their team relevant. Include the fact that they have a reputation for strong “character” guys, they portray the pinnacle of NBA management. The graph below demonstrates the same.

It looks as if the Spurs aren’t into big spending, or at least gratuitous spending. The only two significant players that are over the line are Manu Ginobli and Stephen Jackson, and the only one that could be considered overpaid is Jackson.

The Spurs’ superstar players (Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli) all make under $ 15 million, and the rest of the team all earn under $5 million each. In fact, the cluster of Spurs reserves hover around the 5.0 mark, better than most of the league. Compare that to the Lakers reserves, and you can see why people rave about the “team spirit” of the Spurs organization. Of all of our Moneyball contestants, the Spurs look to be on top. They pay their stars relatively fair salaries, they get significant production from their bench, and take very few salary burdens (Jackson).

Next Page: Denver Nuggets and OKC Thunder

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