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NBA’s Most Overpaid Players 2019: Wiggins, Jabari And 8 Others Who Underperformed

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The NBA may be a star-driven league, but its financial structure ensures that building a roster requires more than identifying talent. It’s not just about finding the right player; it’s about finding the right player at the right price.

With team values continuing to climb, owners can afford to pay an underachieving player. The real pain is in the opportunity cost: What could you have gotten for that money instead? How else could you have beefed up your roster?

It’s no surprise, then, that teams continue to search for new inefficiencies and measures of value, in a statistical revolution.

As with any bet, though, occasionally you gamble and lose.

Here are some of this season’s big losses.

How We Determined Who’s ‘Overpaid’

The inventor of the methodology we’re using here is David Berri, a sports economist at Southern Utah University and a former Forbescontributor. The number-crunching involves a few thorny decisions, but the premise is beautifully straightforward.

Figure out what a player should be making. Compare that against what he is actually making. The difference between the numbers is the amount by which he’s overpaid (or underpaid). Rinse and repeat.

Berri’s big contribution is the method he devised to produce the first estimate—what a player should be making. We start with the fact that, under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, players as a group are guaranteed roughly 50% of basketball-related income. Because we don’t yet know the BRI figure for the 2018-19 season, we’ll use last season’s: BRI was $7.147 billion, and the players’ share was $3.645 billion, according to Larry Coon’s NBA Salary Cap FAQ.

If we assume that teams are paying players to win, we can divide the players’ income by the total number of regular-season games (1,230) to produce an estimate of the value of a win: $2.963 million. (Yes, for the purposes of this analysis, we’re ignoring the fact that teams sometimes may not want to win or may be paying players for a reason other than winning, like boosting ticket sales. We’re also ignoring playoff games in computing the value of a win because players are paid out of their salaries solely during the regular season.)

From there, if we multiply our win value by the number of wins a player produces, we arrive at that player’s value for the season—his “expected” salary.

We have many win estimates to choose from in this player analysis, but all of them have the same basic goal: boil down a number of statistics (like points, rebounds and turnovers) into one number to measure how many wins a player contributed to his team. All of these metrics have their strengths and weaknesses, so in this analysis, we will be taking the average of three win estimates to try to minimize the blindspots of any one of them. Our three inputs: Wins Produced, a metric created by Berri and listed at BoxScoreGeeks.com; a wins estimate based on the metric Value Over Replacement Player, which is calculated by Basketball-Reference.com and is itself based on the metric Box Plus/Minus; and Win Shares, another metric calculated by Basketball-Reference.

Of course, these metrics are limited by the inputs they’re using; if the metric doesn’t account for something that’s inherently hard to quantify—for instance, a player’s ability to man up on defense—then that metric won’t fully capture a player’s value. But while it’s easy to point out that problem, it’s not so easy to solve it. We’re left with an imperfect measure.

Because these metrics are assessing a player’s contributions relative to a theoretical replacement-level player, they can be negative—that would suggest the player is actually worse than a replacement the team could pluck out of, say, the G League. In our analysis, though, a negative win estimate would make the player’s expected salary a negative number, suggesting the player was actually paying the team to play. While many fans might take that deal, we’ve substituted in zeroes whenever a metric turns negative so the lowest an expected salary can go is $0.

For player salaries, we are using data from Spotrac. Importantly, we are using the player’s cap figure—which is what the team is actually paying him—rather than his base salary. In the vast majority of cases, those numbers are the same, but when they differ, the cap figure will provide a more accurate measure of value.

Who We Considered For The ‘Honor’

We could perform this analysis on all 530 players who appeared in an NBA game this season, but because players accumulate wins across games, our overpaid list would be dominated by players who barely saw the court, many of them because of injury. To avoid that, we added in minimum thresholds of 41 games and 500 minutes played. Those are fairly arbitrary numbers, but they do measure a large enough portion of the season that a player’s real value should start to come through.

We also excluded players whose contracts are governed by the rookie salary scale. That left us with 257 players to analyze.

We compiled the data. We crunched the numbers. These are the 10 players who appeared to be the most overpaid.

Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 3.
Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 3.YONG TECK LIM/GETTY IMAGES

10. Chris Paul

Point guard, Houston Rockets
  • Wins Estimate Average: 7.4 (6.5 VORP wins, 6.6 Win Shares, 9.1 Wins Produced)
  • Expected Salary: $21,906,447
  • Cap Figure: $35,654,150
  • Difference: $13,747,703

Paul is having a reasonably productive season—with 9.1 Wins Produced, he is tied for 45th in the league despite playing only 58 games—but his Win Shares and VORP wins figures are easily career lows and are noticeably down from the 10.2 and 11.6 he posted last year, when he also played 58 games. If he could stay healthy, this contract wouldn’t look so bad—he still has two years to go, plus a player option for 2021-22 at $44,211,146—but he’s missed 69 games across the last three seasons. Can the Rockets really count on having him for a full season?

Wesley Matthews of the Indiana Pacers in a game against the Denver Nuggets on March 24.
Wesley Matthews of the Indiana Pacers in a game against the Denver Nuggets on March 24.MICHAEL HICKEY/GETTY IMAGES

9. Wesley Matthews

Shooting guard, Indiana Pacers
  • Wins Estimate Average: 1.6 (0.8, 2.7, 1.4)
  • Expected Salary: $4,849,443
  • Cap Figure: $19,135,259
  • Difference: $14,285,816

Matthews’ current contract might not look so bad—he counts $512,746 against the Pacers’ cap—but that’s only because he was waived by the Knicks in February. For this analysis, we combined his two cap figures, as well as his on-court production across his three stops this season.

Kent Bazemore of the Atlanta Hawks in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans on March 26.
Kent Bazemore of the Atlanta Hawks in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans on March 26.JONATHAN BACHMAN/GETTY IMAGES

8. Kent Bazemore

Shooting guard, Atlanta Hawks
  • Wins Estimate Average: 0.5 (0, 0.7, 0.9)
  • Expected Salary: $1,580,267
  • Cap Figure: $18,089,887
  • Difference: $16,509,620

Bazemore hasn’t come close to living up to a deal he signed in 2016—the year the salary cap spiked and the value of contracts surged. Bazemore still has a player option for next season; count on him taking the $19,269,662.

Tim Hardaway Jr. of the Mavericks in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in February.
Tim Hardaway Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on February 25.BRIAN ROTHMULLER/ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES

7. Tim Hardaway Jr.

Shooting guard, Dallas Mavericks
  • Wins Estimate Average: 0.7 (0, 1.8, 0.3)
  • Expected Salary: $2,074,100
  • Cap Figure: $19,200,127
  • Difference: $17,126,027

The Mavericks took on Hardaway’s pricey contract as a cost of acquiring Kristaps Porzingis. On top of his $17,325,000 base salary, he earned $1,875,127 when the Knicks dealt him as a result of a trade kicker.

Hardaway averaged a career-high 18.1 points this season, but he didn’t get there particularly efficiently, shooting .393 from the field and .340 from 3. With another year on the deal and a player option for 2020-21, he won’t be coming off Dallas’ books as soon as the team might like.

Allen Crabbe of the Brooklyn Nets in a game against the Denver Nuggets on November 9.
Allen Crabbe of the Brooklyn Nets in a game against the Denver Nuggets on November 9.MATTHEW STOCKMAN/GETTY IMAGES

6. Allen Crabbe

Shooting guard, Brooklyn Nets
  • Wins Estimate Average: 0.3 (0, 0.8, 0.1)
  • Expected Salary: $888,900
  • Cap Figure: $18,500,000
  • Difference: $17,611,100

Crabbe’s contract is another from the fateful summer of 2016. He appeared in just 43 games this season because of injuries and had middling numbers when he did play, shooting an abominable .342 on 2-pointers. Coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, he seems likely to pick up his $18,500,000 option for next season.

Otto Porter Jr. of the Chicago Bulls in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies on February 27.
Otto Porter Jr. of the Chicago Bulls in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies on February 27.BRANDON DILL/ASSOCIATED PRESS

5. Otto Porter Jr.

Small forward, Chicago Bulls
  • Wins Estimate Average: 2.8 (2.7, 3.2, 2.5)
  • Expected Salary: $8,296,400
  • Cap Figure: $26,011,913
  • Difference: $17,715,513

Porter, whom the Bulls acquired from the Wizards in February, is a good player, shooting .429 on 4.3 3-point attempts a game over the last three seasons. But he is more of a complementary piece, not the No. 1 option his contract would suggest. With a player option for 2020-21, the Bulls may be paying him $55,739,813 over the next two years. (Then again, who else are they going to spend their money on?)

Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics in a game against the Washington Wizards on March 1.
Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics in a game against the Washington Wizards on March 1.MADDIE MEYER/GETTY IMAGES

4. Gordon Hayward

Small forward, Boston Celtics

  • Wins Estimate Average: 4.4 (3.2, 4.9, 5.1)
  • Expected Salary: $13,076,707
  • Cap Figure: $31,214,295
  • Difference: $18,137,588

Hayward is still scraping off the rust after returning this season from the leg injury he suffered in the 2017 season opener. If he can get back to the form he showed with the Jazz in 2016-17, this contract won’t be a problem. That season, he was worth 10.8 VORP wins, 10.4 Win Shares and 12.5 Wins Produced, for an average of 11.2. That translates to an expected salary of more than $33 million (using this season’s win value figure).

Jabari Parker of the Washington Wizards falling in a game against the Bulls on March 20.
Jabari Parker of the Washington Wizards falling in a game against the Chicago Bulls on March 20.JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES

3. Jabari Parker

Power forward, Washington Wizards
  • Wins Estimate Average: 0.5 (0, 1.4, 0.2)
  • Expected Salary: $1,580,267
  • Cap Figure: $20,000,000
  • Difference: $18,419,733

Parker ended up on the Wizards in the big-money swap for Otto Porter Jr. Parker, though, performed little better than a replacement-level player this season. In a particularly bad sign, his Defensive Win Shares figure exceeded his Offensive Win Shares figure with both of his 2018-19 teams—and this is not a player known for lock-down defense. The Wizards hold a club option for next season that they will almost certainly decline.

Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings in a game against the Wizards on March 11.
Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings in a game against the Washington Wizards on March 11.ROB CARR/GETTY IMAGES

2. Harrison Barnes

Small forward, Sacramento Kings
  • Wins Estimate Average: 1.2 (0, 3.6, 0)
  • Expected Salary: $3,555,600
  • Cap Figure: $24,793,702
  • Difference: $21,238,102

Barnes is the fifth player on this list to have changed teams this season, joining the Kings from the Mavericks in a February trade that earned him a $686,444 kicker. His shooting percentages perked up after the move, and his Win Shares Per 48 Minutes figure rose to .084, from .059. But that won’t be enough to justify the $25,102,513 salary Sacramento will have to pay him next season if he exercises his player option. He would probably offer more value at power forward, but the Kings have a big-man logjam.

Andrew Wiggins looking to get past Portland Trail Blazers forward Jake Layman in December.
Andrew Wiggins looking to get past Portland Trail Blazers forward Jake Layman on December 8.STEVE DYKES/ASSOCIATED PRESS

1. Andrew Wiggins

Small forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Wins Estimate Average: 0.2 (0, 0.6, 0)
  • Expected Salary: $592,600
  • Cap Figure: $25,467,250
  • Difference: $24,874,650

Wiggins essentially played at a replacement level this season; his $592,600 expected salary is about $1 million lower than the minimum a player of his experience could have been paid. In fact, his VORP figure was -0.6, suggesting he actually cost his team about 1.6 wins relative to a replacement player. The really bad news: This was just the first year in a five-year extension, with his salary rising all the way to $33,616,770 for 2022-23.

-Brett Knight; Forbes Staff

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30 under 30

Applications Open for FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 class of 2020

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FORBES AFRICA is on the hunt for Africans under the age of 30, who are building brands, creating jobs and transforming the continent, to join our Under 30 community for 2020.


JOHANNESBURG, 07 January 2020: Attention entrepreneurs, creatives, sport stars and technology geeks — the 2020 FORBES AFRICA Under 30 nominations are now officially open.

The FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list is the most-anticipated list of game-changers on the continent and this year, we are on the hunt for 30 of Africa’s brightest achievers under the age of 30 spanning these categories: Business, Technology, Creatives and Sport.

Each year, FORBES AFRICA looks for resilient self-starters, innovators, entrepreneurs and disruptors who have the acumen to stay the course in their chosen field, come what may.

Past honorees include Sho Madjozi, Bruce Diale, Karabo Poppy, Kwesta, Nomzamo Mbatha, Burna Boy, Nthabiseng Mosia, Busi Mkhumbuzi Pooe, Henrich Akomolafe, Davido, Yemi Alade, Vere Shaba, Nasty C and WizKid.

What’s different this year is that we have whittled down the list to just 30 finalists, making the competition stiff and the vetting process even more rigorous. 

Says FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil: “The start of a new decade means the unraveling of fresh talent on the African continent. I can’t wait to see the potential billionaires who will land up on our desks. Our coveted sixth annual Under 30 list will herald some of the decade’s biggest names in business and life.”

If you think you have what it takes to be on this year’s list or know an entrepreneur, creative, technology entrepreneur or sports star under 30 with a proven track-record on the continent – introduce them to FORBES AFRICA by applying or submitting your nomination.

NOMINATIONS AND APPLICATIONS CRITERIA:

Business and Technology categories

  1. Must be an entrepreneur/founder aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Should have a legitimate REGISTERED business on the continent
  3. Business/businesses should be two years or older
  4. Nominees must have risked own money and have a social impact
  5. Must be profit generating
  6. Must employ people in Africa
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Sports category

  1. Must be a sports person aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be representing an African team
  3. Should have a proven track record of no less than two years
  4. Should be making significant earnings
  5. Should have some endorsement deals
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Creatives category

  1. Must be a creative aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be from or based in Africa
  3. Should be making significant earnings
  4. Should have a proven creative record of no less than two years
  5. Must have social influence
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Your entry should include:

  • Country
  • Full Names
  • Company name/Team you are applying with
  • A short motivation on why you should be on the list
  • A short profile on self and company
  • Links to published material / news clippings about nominee
  • All social media handles
  • Contact information
  • High-res images of yourself

Applications and nominations must be sent via email to FORBES AFRICA journalist and curator of the list, Karen Mwendera, on [email protected]

Nominations close on 3 February 2020.

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Sport

The Springboks And The Cup Of Good Hope

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After their epic win beating England at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan on November 2, the Springboks returned home to South Africa, undertaking a nation-wide tour, in an open-top bus, holding high the Webb Ellis Cup. In this image, in the township of Soweto, they pass the iconic Vilakazi Street with throngs of screaming, cheering residents and Springbok fans lining the street. The sport united the racially-divided country. For the third time in history, the South African national rugby team was crowned world champions.

Image by Motlabana Monnakgotla

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Déjà vu: South Africa Back to Winning

Our Publisher reflects on the recent Springbok victory in Yokohoma, Japan

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Rugby World Cup 2019, Final: England v South Africa Mtach viewing at Nelson Mandela Square

By Rakesh Wahi, Publisher
FORBES AFRICA

Rugby is as foreign to me as cricket is to the average American. However, having lived in South Africa for 15 years, there is no way to avoid being pulled into the sport. November 2, 2019, is therefore a date that will be celebrated in South Africa’s sporting posterity. In many ways, it’s déjà vu for South Africans; at a pivotal time in history, on June 24, 1995, the Springboks beat the All Blacks (the national rugby team of New Zealand) in the final of the World Cup. The game united a racially-divided country coming out of apartheid and at the forefront of this victory was none other than President Nelson Mandela or our beloved Madiba. In a very symbolic coincidence, 24 years later, history repeated itself.

South Africans watched with pride as Siya Kolisi lifted the gold trophy in Yokohama, Japan, as had Francois Pienaar done so 24 years ago in Johannesburg. My mind immediately reflected on this extremely opportune event in South Africa’s history.

The last decade has not been easy; the country has slipped into economic doldrums from which there seems to be no clear path ahead. The political transition from the previously corrupt regime has not been easy and it has been disheartening to see a rapid deterioration in the economic condition of the country. The sad reality is that there literally seems to be no apparent light at the end of the tunnel; with blackouts and load-shedding, a currency that is amongst the most volatile in the world, rising unemployment and rising crime amongst many other issues facing the country.

Rakesh Wahi, Publisher Forbes Africa

Something needed to change. There was a need for an event to change this despondent state of mind and the South African rugby team seems to have given a glimmer of hope that could not have come at a more opportune time. As South African flags were flying all over the world on November 2, something clicked to say that there is hope ahead and if people come together under a common mission, they can be the change that they want to see.

Isn’t life all about hope? Nothing defies gravity and just goes up; Newton taught us that everything that goes up will come down. Vicissitudes are a part of life and the true character of people, society or a nation is tested on how they navigate past these curve balls that make us despair. As we head into 2020, it is my sincere prayer that we see a new dawn and a better future in South Africa with renewed vigor and vitality.

Talking about sports and sportsmen, there is another important lesson that we need to take away. Having been a sportsman all my life, I have had a belief that people who have played team sports like cricket, rugby, soccer, hockey etc make great team players and leaders. However, other sports like golf, diving and squash teach you focus. In all cases, the greatest attribute of all is how to reset your mind after adversity. While most of us moved on after amateur sports to find our place in the world, the real sportspeople to watch and learn from are professionals. It is their grit and determination.

My own belief is that one must learn how to detach from a rear view mirror. You cannot ignore what is behind you because that is your history; you must learn from it. Our experiences are unique and so is our history. It must be our greatest teacher. However, that’s where it must end. As humans, we must learn to break the proverbial rear view mirror and stop worrying about the past. You cannot change what is behind you but you can influence and change what is yet to come.

I had the good fortune of playing golf with Chester Williams (former rugby player who was the first person of color to play for the Springboks in the historic win in 1995 and sadly passed away in September 2019) more than once at the SuperSport Celebrity Golf Shootout.

Chester played his golf fearlessly; perhaps the way he led his life. He would drive the ball 300 meters and on occasion went into the woods or in deep rough. Psychologically, as golfers know, this sets you back just looking at a bad lie, an embedded or unplayable ball or a dropped shot in a hazard. For a seasoned golfer, it is not the shot that you have hit but the one that you are about to hit. Chester has a repertoire of recovery shots and always seemed to be in the game even after some wayward moments. There is a profound lesson in all of this. You have to blank your mind from the negativity or sometimes helplessness and bring a can do and positive frame of reference back into your game (and life). Hit that recovery shot well and get back in the game; that’s what champions do.

We need to now focus our attention on the next shot and try and change the future than stay in the past.

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