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Poor investment (cont.)

Posted: Thursday February 16, 2006 11:16PM; Updated: Friday February 17, 2006 5:32PM
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GOODBYE, A.I.?

Not wanting to follow the Knicks off the luxury-tax cliff, the 76ers have put the word out that they're willing to consider proposals for anybody. A few weeks ago there was talk within the 76ers' camp of making a run at Seattle's Ray Allen, but the idea didn't go far -- not only is Allen not available, but it's hard to imagine that the Sonics would be interested in taking Allen Iverson in return. He doesn't fit in with the clean-cut, buttoned-down image that owner Howard Schultz has created in Seattle since the departure of Gary Payton.

Iverson and coach Maurice Cheeks had their first argument in front of the team last Sunday after a frustrating loss at Washington, but someone who was there says that Iverson has since tried to show he meant no harm. He is showing up for practice earlier and is going out of his way to demonstrate that there are no hard feelings.

Are the 76ers ready to take a deep breath and trade Iverson? All indications are that they'll get through this season before dismantling the roster and starting over. They're a tax-paying team with more than $47 million committed next season to Iverson, Chris Webber and Samuel Dalembert, a trio that isn't in synch. It's going to be an extended rebuilding process, because they probably can't get equal value back for Webber and Iverson, and there are big doubts that second-year swingman Andre Iguodala can score enough to develop into a franchise player.

THE DARKO TRADE

Five thoughts on Detroit's decision to unload Darko Milicic and Carlos Arroyo to Orlando for the expiring $8.7 million contract of Kelvin Cato and Orlando's top-five protected pick in this year's draft:

1. The Pistons essentially are trading Milicic for Ben Wallace. The room created by Cato's expiring number enables them to re-sign Wallace this summer and keep their starting five intact, a major accomplishment in an era in which Shaquille O'Neal, Steve Nash and Joe Johnson walked away from contenders for financial reasons.

2. Was drafting Milicic with the No. 2 pick a mistake by the Pistons? Yes, in the sense that Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade -- the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 picks in the 2003 draft -- have turned into stars. The reality is that they probably would have taken Anthony instead with the No. 2 pick, and he surely would have eaten into Tayshaun Prince's role while disrupting the chemistry of a finely balanced team that went to the last two NBA Finals. Then the Pistons would have faced another potentially divisive decision of which players to dump in the next wave of contracts, because they couldn't afford to keep Anthony as well as their current starting five. Taken altogether, the decision on Milicic may go down as the most successful bad pick in NBA history.

3. The Pistons considered asking for the rights to 6-foot-10 forward Fran Vasquez instead of Orlando's upcoming draft pick, but his refusal to leave Spain and join the Magic as their No. 10 pick raised too many questions about whether he'll ever make the commitment to the NBA.

4. Milicic couldn't be entering a better situation. Because the Magic gave up so little for him, he no longer has to live up to the expectations of the No. 2 pick. The Magic will be happy if he emerges as a secondary option alongside Dwight Howard, who will occupy the opponent's best defender and make life relatively easy for Milicic.

5. Now it really makes sense for the Magic to trade Francis as they build a team to begin peaking around Howard in a couple of years. All they need to net in return for Francis are a couple of solid players, including a younger wing scorer who doesn't have to fill Francis's sneakers as the No. 1 star in Orlando.

The high price of victory

Which teams are getting the most for their money?

The average cost per victory, as of Wednesday, was $2.4 million (based on player salaries totaling $1.88 billion this season divided by the 777 games played thus far).

The leader is no surprise: The Pistons are spending $1.4 million per victory, followed closely by the third-place Spurs at $1.6 million per win.

But this table gives new perspective to the miraculous season the Hornets are having in Oklahoma City: They emerge as the second most efficient team in the league, based on their 28-23 record in spite of the NBA's second lowest payroll (thank you, Chris Paul).

San Antonio and other franchises pay attention to this ratio with the ultimate goal of spending fewer than $1 million per win by the end of the season. Based on current winning percentages, only the Pistons, Hornets and Spurs are on track to limbo under the $1 million level.

This ratio also suggests that it's OK to spend big as long as you win big. Dallas' $94 million payroll is second only to New York's, yet the Mavericks are more efficient than half the league because their expensive talent produces results.

Then consider the Knicks, who are lumped with Charlotte at the bottom of the East standings while hemorrhaging $93 million more than the Bobcats in payroll.

Understand why the Pacers will be looking to trim payroll this summer? They and the Lakers are the only winning teams who rank near the bottom in terms of payroll efficiency. Only three teams are netting a smaller return on their investment than the Pacers.

Cost per win 2005-06
Team No. of wins 2005-06 payroll Cost/win
Detroit 42 $59 million $1.4 million
New Orleans/OKC 29 $41 million $1.4 million
San Antonio 40 $62 million $1.6 million
Cleveland 31 $51 million $1.6 million
Phoenix 34 $56 million $1.6 million
L.A. Clippers 30 $51 million $1.7 million
Miami 33 $60 million $1.8 million
Denver 28 $57 million $2.0 million
Washington 26 $55 million $2.1 million
Utah 25 $57 million $2.3 million
Milwaukee 27 $62 million $2.3 million
Dallas 41 $94 million $2.3 million
Memphis 29 $66 million $2.3 million
Charlotte 14 $34 million $2.4 million
New Jersey 28 $66 million $2.4 million
Golden State 24 $57 million $2.4 million
Seattle 20 $51 million $2.6 million
Chicago 22 $58 million $2.6 million
Sacramento 24 $62 million $2.6 million
Atlanta 16 $43 million $2.7 million
Boston 20 $55 million $2.8 million
L.A. Lakers 26 $73 million $2.8 million
Minnesota 23 $64 million $2.8 million
Philadelphia 25 $74 million $3.0 million
Toronto 20 $61 million $3.1 million
Houston 22 $69 million $3.1 million
Indiana 26 $80 million $3.1 million
Portland 18 $60 million $3.3 million
Orlando 19 $74 million $3.9 million
New York 15 $126 million $8.4 million

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