The NBA’s most overpaid players
During the 1970s, the Rev. Ed Vischer was a prominent high school basketball coach in Long Island, N.Y., leading powerhouse Lutheran High to a string of state and national rankings.
Among Vischer’s many keen observations: Skills come first; size is overrated. “It’s not how big you are, it’s how good you are,” he would say, simply but assuredly. Apparently, the message still hasn’t reached the personnel folks in the NBA.
Teams continue to invest big dough in big bodies, often with meager results. For every high draft pick used on a Shaquille O’Neal(notes), there’s another used on an Andrew Bogut(notes). Teams often view many 7-foot types as “projects,” envisioning the future dominance that could flow from so much height and wingspan as the player’s skills improve with coaching. But a lot of these players flop or, at best, become nothing more than decent players for big money.
|In Pictures: The NBA’s most overpaid players|
A comparison of statistics to pay shows that all of the 10 most overpaid players in the NBA play in the front court. Leading the pack is Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum(notes), a first-round pick out of high school four years ago who’s churned out nine points and six rebounds in 21 minutes per game as a pro. Despite putting up meager numbers during his first three seasons, the Lakers, still intrigued with Bynum’s “project” potential, invested four more years and $58 million in him after the 2007-08 season. The project may yet pay off – Bynum improved to 14 points a game last year while averaging the most minutes (29) of his four-year career. But his numbers have a long way to go to catch up to his contract.
To measure the league’s most overpaid players, we compared major career statistics (primarily minutes played, points and rebounds per game) to players’ current contracts. Since varying contract lengths yield different per-season salary numbers, both total contract value and per-season pay were used in the analysis. Bynum, for example, is measured against other players on the basis of both the $58 million the Lakers invested in him and by the average $14.5 million he rakes in per year.
Obviously the statistical formula misses some of the subtleties – team play, ball movement, defense – that can sway a player’s value one way or another. But like their counterparts in other sports, basketball players’ pay is primarily driven by the big stats.
And it’s the big men who collect the most money without putting up the big stats. Bynum is one of six centers on a top 10 list that includes Charlotte’s DeSagana Diop(notes) (almost $7 million a year, 15 minutes a game), Dallas’ Erick Dampier(notes) (over $10 million annually for eight points and eight rebounds a game) and Chicago’s Jerome James(notes) (a part-time player finishing up a three-year, $30 million deal).
Who’s the most overpaid guard? Keep looking and you’ll eventually find Sacramento’s Beno Udrih(notes) at No. 22. He can thank a five-year, $30 million contract (about twice the NBA’s median salary) for eight points and three assists per game for getting him there. But Udrih is a rarity. Because they aren’t big, guards are more likely to be judged by how good they are. As Vischer always said, that’s what matters.
The top five: