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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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).
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.
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.
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
Namibia To Kick It Up A Notch
The Welwitschias are committed to world cup glory, and to elevate other structures within Namibian rugby.
Namibia’s 20-year hunt for a victory at the Rugby World Cup will continue in Japan later this year, where Africa’s second best rugby nation face a daunting pool that includes ‘big brother’ South Africa and defending champions New Zealand.
Namibia have shown a marked improvement in recent tournaments and swept to qualification for the 2019 World Cup in emphatic style by lifting the Rugby Africa Gold Cup, a competition that does not include the Springboks.
Under Welsh coach Phil Davies, who will be leading the team for the second time at the global showpiece tournament, Namibian rugby has improved in leaps and bounds, even while the country’s union struggles with funds to keep the game afloat.
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The Welwitschias, as the side are known, have lost all 19 previous games at the World Cup since their first qualification in 1999, but in the last tournament in England scored their most points (70) and conceded their fewest (174) in a pool that also included eventual winners New Zealand.
“We are positive we can continue to make improvements at the World Cup and get that first win,” Corrie Mensah, president of the Namibia Rugby Union, told FORBES AFRICA in an exclusive interview from Windhoek.
“Together with the head coach [Davies], we have mapped out a plan for the build-up to the tournament and already have most of our players together in camp.
“We have a tough program, the guys know they have to work hard to be part of our World Cup plans, but the preparation is there, the structures are in place and we are looking forward to a big year for Namibian rugby.”
The side open their World Cup campaign against Italy, in Higashiōsaka on September 22, before a clash with the Springboks in Toyota, six days later and another encounter against the All Blacks in Tokyo on October 6.
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But the game the team will, realistically, be targeting for their first victory is the match-up with fellow minnows Canada, in their final pool match in Kamaishi a week later.
“Our main objective is to get that first World Cup win,” Mensah says. “That would be a big moment for Namibian rugby and another sign that we are on an upward curve. I think then we could call our tournament a success.
“The second objective is to try and be competitive against the All Blacks, Springboks and Italy. If we can do that, with a fraction of the resources of those sides, then we can say we are punching above our weight.”
Namibia will compete in the 2019 World Rugby Nations Cup in Uruguay in June along with the hosts, Romania and Russia, which will give them three matches against fellow second-tier nations.
They then defend their title in the African Gold Cup, before playing a couple of World Cup warm-up games that have yet to be confirmed.
The team will also play in South Africa’s domestic SuperSport Rugby Challenge, a tournament that has proven vital in giving their players quality, competitive matches that they would, simply, not get at home.
But while the team continues to show improvement on the pitch, Mensah admits that it has been a hard slog off it to keep Namibian rugby’s development goals in place.
“The biggest challenge we face is a financial one and the allocation of grants from World Rugby should be used in the right areas,” Mensah says.
“High performance grants should go to high performance protocols, development funds likewise. Making sure we do that is a major commitment we have made.”
Mensah has also committed to improving other structures within Namibian rugby, away from the senior men’s team.
“We have had major difficulties, with the economic slump in the country, in terms of attracting sponsorship, which has had a major impact on our league structures.
“Women’s rugby is non-existent in Namibia, but it is part of our strategic plan to get it off the ground.
The place to start is with regional teams, which we are seeking to do this year, and then, hopefully, in future that filters down to club sides.”
Mensah is also hoping to improve Namibia’s Sevens structures, with that version of the game growing in popularity around the world.
“With Sevens … it is about creating a whole new culture around it because it is not something that is traditional to Namibian rugby.
“It is part of our three and five-year strategic plans, but again the funding for that kind of development is a challenge. We need to get players into an academy structure and work with them constantly, but that all costs a lot of money.”
In many ways, Namibia, with a population of 2.6-million is already punching above their weight just to be at the World Cup, especially with their fiscal challenges.
But how far they can go in terms of developing rugby in the country is an exciting prospect, and a good showing in Japan will confirm that they are a nation on the rise.
Simidele Adeagbo: What I Learned From The Most Terrifying Winter Olympics Sport
At the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, I became the first African and black woman to compete in the daring sport of Skeleton.
Skeleton, in which athletes hurl themselves on a sled, head first, down a frozen ice track at 80 miles per hour, is considered by some to be the most terrifying Winter Olympics sport. I never imagined I would find myself hurtling down an icy hill on a metal, carbon fiber tray of sorts with no brakes, safety belt or steering mechanism.
But when I discovered the sport about 100 days before the Olympics, I was motivated to take it up in hopes to inspire others, break barriers and shift the narrative around Africa on the world’s biggest stage. I ultimately changed the course of Olympic history and learned about the power of having a vision and pushing the limits to break into unknown spaces.
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At the beginning of my journey, I asked myself two very simple questions. ‘Why Not Me? And Why Not Now?’ I knew that someone had to make history as the first African woman to compete in the sport of Skeleton at the Winter Olympics and I didn’t see any reason why it couldn’t be me and it couldn’t be right then. Despite coming from Nigeria, a place with no ice or snow and having no prior knowledge of Skeleton, I had a vision to become the first African woman to compete in Olympic Skeleton.
We often hesitate to establish a vision for the things we want to do thinking that someone else will do it, while also waiting for a perfect time for it to be done. As best-selling author Mel Robbins notes in The 5 Second Rule, “If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill it.” Through my unconventional path, I learned how to keep my vision alive by taking action instantly.
As I pushed to break barriers, I also learned the value of embracing chaos and how to keep moving forward. In the sport of Skeleton, you’re on the edge of danger and control at any given time. This taught me to expect and appreciate the chaos that comes with life.
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Before every run, I take down the track, I have a game plan. But when navigating down massive twists and turns going at speeds faster than cars travel on the freeway, things don’t always go as planned.
Through my experiences on the Skeleton track, I’ve learned to embrace life’s chaotic, unplanned moments and adapt as needed along the way. In the same way, as I was beginning the sport, I would painfully bump into the walls on my way down the track. These are called “hits”. Hits slow you down and are to be avoided as much as possible. But in Skeleton, just as in life, hits are inevitable.
On this journey, I learned to take the hits, no matter how big or small and keep pushing forward.
Finally, in Skeleton, flying down the track at crazy speeds, you have to make decisions in split seconds and the natural reaction is to panic. However, panicking is counterproductive as it causes the body to tense up and actually slows the sled down. Remaining cool, calm and collected is the best thing a Skeleton athlete can do.
With more time in the sport, I ultimately learned to trust my instincts, relax and enjoy the ride. Perhaps this is the most important lesson of all as this has become my personal ethos for achieving success in life.
By taking action instantly, embracing chaos and relentlessly pushing forward and relaxing and trusting our instincts, we can all apply these winning strategies for high performance in business and life. Who knew you could learn so much from the most terrifying Winter Olympics sport?
Masters Champion Tiger Woods: By The Numbers
The 83rd Masters will go down as one of the most memorable events in modern golf history.
Many fans point to Jack Nicklaus’ unexpected run to a sixth green jacket in 1986 at 46 years old as the ultimate Augusta moment, but Tiger Woods, who has been chasing Nicklaus’ legacy his entire career, might have just topped the Golden Bear.
Woods, decked in his trademark red, won the Masters by one stroke Sunday, holding off a stacked leaderboard of seasoned, elite golfers. It was a moment that many sports fans thought would never happen after a series of back surgeries pushed Woods to the brink of retirement.
Americans love to see their brightest stars fall, and few have fallen from a higher point than Woods, who was the most marketable athlete on the planet for a decade-plus. But the one thing Americans seem to love even more is the redemption story. Sports fans had waited 11 years for Woods to take another step toward Nicklaus’ hallowed record of 18 major titles.
Woods’ Tour Championship win last year was an indicator of what was to come, and he’s once again a marketing force. Woods and Phil Mickelson had a $9 million winner-take-all pay-per-view event in November, and Woods signed a multiyear content deal last fall with Discovery’s new over-the-top streaming service, GolfTV. He will do weekly golf instructional videos and is set to do a series of showdown-type events in Asia as part of the Discovery partnership.
Here are some of the numbers behind Woods and his history at Augusta.
4: Back surgeries for Woods.
5: Wins at Augusta for Woods, but the most recent was 14 years ago. It is the longest gap between Masters wins ever.
11: It has been just shy of 11 years since Woods won his last major tournament (2008 U.S. Open).
11: Number of times Woods has won the Player of the Year award.
12: Woods’ current rank in the World Golf Ranking.
16: Woods’ rank last year among the world’s highest-paid athletes. He earned $43.3 million.
20: Woods has made the cut in all 20 of his Masters appearances.
21: Woods was the youngest Masters champion ever when he won in 1997 at 21 years old by a record 12 strokes.
35: Number of players who had won a major title since Woods’ last Masters win in 2005. That span covered 55 tournaments.
43: Woods is the second-oldest Masters champion, with only Nicklaus having been older when he put on the green jacket.
81: Career PGA Tour wins for Woods, one shy of Sam Snead’s record.
281: Consecutive weeks Woods was ranked No. 1 in the world between 2005 and 2010.
$1.19 million: Payout for a bettor who put down $85,000 at 14/1 odds at William Hill’s Las Vegas sportsbook on Woods to win. “It’s great to see Tiger back. It’s a painful day for William Hill—our biggest golf loss ever—but a great day for golf,” says Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill U.S.’s director of trading.
$2.07 million: Woods’ prize money for the 2019 Masters win.
$20 million: Value of his yacht Privacy.
$20 million: Estimated value of Woods’ PGA Tour pension plan.
$800 million: Estimated net worth for Woods.
$1.5 billion: Cumulative career earnings for Woods, including prize money, endorsements, appearance fees and golf course design fees.
-Kurt Badenhausen;Forbes Staff
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