Kayte Christensen: NBA Playoff Team Payrolls – Who’s Getting The Most Bang For Their Buck

We all know, whether it’s in sports or in life, paying through the nose for something does not guarantee results. It’s the whole “money can’t buy happiness (or in this case success)” cliché which is far more than a platitude, it’s simply true.

Now that the NBA playoffs are in full swing I indulged a curiosity of mine to take a gander at where the 16 teams in the playoffs rank in team payrolls.

Some were of no surprise…others kind of blew my mind.

I’ll start with the east because I already knew off hand that the Cleveland Cavaliers have the highest payroll in the league at $128,492,467. Not shocking when you consider the fact LeBron James is the highest paid player in the league making a cool $30,963,450 in 2016-17. That’s roughly 25% of their payroll assigned to one player (24.1% for you people who want to be exact).

Then factor in that between James, Kevin Love ($21,165,675) Kyrie Irving ($17,638,063) and Tristan Thompson ($15,330,435) over 66% of the Cavaliers total payroll is being eaten up by 4 guys. I really have no problem with James, Love and Irving’s contracts. They’re top tier players and you can make an argument that they’ve earned those contracts fair and square. Tristan Thompson on the other hand is stealing money from Dan Gilbert and that ownership group.

This was a guy that held out until right before the start of the 2015-16 season after being offered a 4-year $52 million dollar deal. He held out after averaging 8.5 points-per-game to go along with 8 boards during the 2014-15 season. I mean come on now. Thompson was solid and integral to the Cavs’ success but to give him a 5-year $82 million guaranteed contract is just negligent.

For all the complaining that LeBron James did throughout the regular season about the Cavaliers’ roster not being enough to win another title “if that’s what [they] wanna do” it always shocked me that he didn’t consider that in order to pay his exorbitant (all be it deserved) salary there would have to be sacrifices.

Those sacrifices affected General Manager Dan Griffin’s options to acquire role players to fill out his roster. I’m bad at math but that’s still the kind of math not only can I manage but makes complete sense to me.

The Cavaliers are already paying a hefty luxury tax so what more does James expect from them? I don’t begrudge a player getting paid what he deserves but a player of LeBron’s caliber has made a boat load of money already from his NBA earnings, endorsements, business opportunities, etc.

James’ life-time contract he signed with Nike in May of 2016, which is reportedly worth in the ballpark of $1 billion, alone is enough to live more than comfortably for the rest of his life. So if you’re LeBron James and more titles is what you’re after doesn’t it make sense sacrificing a little of your paycheck in an effort to bring in a “(expletive) playmaker”?

I digress. Now, other than the Cavaliers’ bloated payroll where do the other 15 NBA playoff teams fall?

Drum roll please…..

 

Eastern Conference:

  1. Boston Celtics – No. 20 $93,465,326
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers – No. 1 $128,492,467
  3. Toronto Raptors – No. 7 $108,335,030
  4. Washington Wizards – No. 15 $97,936,632
  5. Atlanta Hawks – No. 16 $96,315,163
  6. Milwaukee Bucks – No. 17 $96,245,877
  7. Indiana Pacers – No. 24 $90,279, 072
  8. Chicago Bulls – No. 21 $92, 522, 306

Western Conference:

  1. Golden State Warriors – No. 8 $107,526,542
  2. San Antonio Spurs – No. 5 $112,017,779
  3. Houston Rockets – No. 23 $90,956,067
  4. Los Angels Clippers – No. 4 $114,756,766
  5. Utah Jazz – No. 30 $80,138,192
  6. Oklahoma City Thunder – No. 22 $91,330,089
  7. Memphis Grizzlies – No. 6 $110,118,520
  8. Portland Trailblazers – No. 2 $110,118,520

A number of things jump out at me when looking at the playoff picture and team payroll…

First off, how in the heck does Portland have the second highest payroll in the league? They literally just got smacked by the Warriors in the first round.

Damien Lillard is the 10th highest paid player in the league. Considering the fact that two years ago he was the lone starter from the 2014-15 Blazers’ playoff team who stuck it out in Portland, led them to a surprising trip to the playoffs and single handedly upset the Clippers in the opening round…they had to pay him and should have.

It’s the fact that Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner are the 2nd and 3rd highest paid players on that roster earning a combined $34,893,443 that concerns me. They had C.J. McCollom’s VERY affordable rookie contract ($3,219,579) on their side this season but that all changes next season when he gets over a $20 million raise.

Problem is their payroll, already the second highest in the league, jumps up to just under $133 million in 2017-18.  And I just don’t see them being any more than a team that gets knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

It makes you wonder what the direction of that franchise is and if they’re going to be able to pay their way into contention during Damien Lillard’s prime. I just don’t know if that is a solid business plan.

I must say though, props to Houston and Utah! The Rockets are a No. 3 seed with 8th lowest payroll in the NBA and the Jazz are a No. 5 seed with the lowest salary in the league. Talk about getting the most bang for your buck.

And both teams are in even better shape next season with a ton of cap space to work with and key players under contract.

Now factor in the Celtics who are 20th in the league in total payroll yet they’ve managed to secure the top seed in the east.

It’s a wonder to see what some general managers and front offices are able to do without financially strapping their organizations and leaving themselves with few options.

Just because you fork out the cash doesn’t mean it’ll end with a championship banner hanging from your rafters. I know, we will file this whole blog under the “NOT breaking news” banner…but at least I got to geek out on NBA salaries for a while!

 

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