NBA HD: Biggest Losses of 2010

In my previous post here at Hardwood, I shed some light on the biggest bargains in the game last season. Superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Dwight Howard found themselves in the top tier but also some young studs who were still paid on the rookie scale such as Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, and Brook Lopez.

To reiterate from that post, I found that teams spent approximately $2.25 million per WARP2 produced in 2010.  So, I converted each player’s WARP2 into a dollar amount by multiplying their production (WARP2) by the price for that production ($2.25M) to calculate a dollar value for their production.  Then, I simply subtracted their salary (source: Patricia Bender’s database) from their dollar value of production to find their net value.  Some players, like Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, were paid a salary that matched their production value. But other players, well, didn’t live up to their pricetag, for various reasons.

Which contracts lead to the biggest loss last season? Last take a look.

Injuries. Injuries. Injuries.

It’s incredibly difficult to project how players will perform six years into the future.  But it’s even harder to foresee how injuries will plague their career down the line.

The cases of Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, and Michael Redd illustrate the devastating effects that a serious injury can have on a team’s books.  The Rockets were set to receive nearly nothing for their $40 million investments in Yao and McGrady but a midseason deal with the Knicks handed McGrady’s albatross over to Jim Dolan in exchange for long-term cap relief. In general, $40 million equates to about 18 wins above replacement so the Rockets 42-win season becomes even more remarkable considering what they lost due to injury.

Boston’s signings of the O’Neals haven’t received a standing ovation from some fans and analysts largely due to the stigma of the $43.2 million they were owed last season.  At those prices, the O’Neal’s were undoubtedly poor investments by their respective teams but they still contributed about $14 million in on-court value.  Despite the 6-win production from Shaq and Jermaine, the contracts sank $30 million worth of deficit on the books, according to this method.  The Celtics will pay just $6.5 million for their services next year, which amounts to about one seventh their pricetag last season.

McGrady and the O’Neals aren’t the only ones who may go from albatross to asset overnight.  Brad Miller and Zydrunas Ilgauskas will see huge paycuts next season and their salary will more closely mirror their on-court production.

Again, I owe a huge thanks to Kevin Pelton for the WARP2 numbers.  Be sure to get your hands on the invaluable 2010-11 Pro Basketball Prospectus when it comes out in the early fall.

Seth Carstens