Payroll breakdowns: Which teams get the most for their money?
The Bulls are the most financially efficient team, spending just $910,000 per win
The Raptors, the least efficient team, spend a whopping $3.15M per win
More topics: John Calipari rumors, Boris Diaw's team, payrolls and luxury tax
My annual review of money and how it has been spent finds a total of approximately $2.03 billion was obligated to the players, which, by my count, amounts to a reduction of $82.3 million in player salaries since last season.
As you read on, please note that forecasts of total victories were based on winning percentages as of Thursday morning. Luxury-tax fees are not included in these numbers. This list is compiled from the view of management, and which teams did the best with their resources. The players, of course, will have a different view of how wisely the money has been allocated.
1. Chicago Bulls, $910,000 per win. The Bulls are benefiting from a couple of tremendous drafts, as presumptive MVP Derrick Rose (paid $5.5 million this season) and Joakim Noah ($3.1m) are still earning their original contracts. Their payroll won't be quite so attractive in the future -- Noah's salary jumps to $12.0 million next season, and Rose will eventually be a max player -- but the skeleton of an eventual championship team has been assembled. Luol Deng makes an expensive $11.3 million, but he has played in every game and the Bulls could not have finished No. 1 in the East without him. Carlos Boozer is their biggest earner at $14.4 million, while Kurt Thomas ($1.8m), Keith Bogans ($1.6m) and Taj Gibson ($1.1m) provide an excellent return. Each of the Bulls' 11 most expensive players contributed to the team's terrific season.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder, $1.05 million per win. Year after year, this payroll is the envy of all small-market teams. Nick Collison is the biggest earner this season at $13.3m, but his salary drops next season to $3.3m, befitting his important front-court role off the bench. Next is midseason pickup Nazr Mohammed, whose $6.9m comes off the books this summer; in the meantime he'll provide backup size in the playoffs to another February pickup, starting center Kendrick Perkins, who benefited from OKC's cap space to earn an instant raise to $6.7m (enabling him to hop up to $7.1m next season when his newly-signed deal kicks in). We still haven't mentioned Kevin Durant at $6.1m, James Harden at $4.3m, Russell Westbrook at $4.0m and Serge Ibaka at $1.2m. Durant's new contract will vault him to $13.6m next season, and the others will have to be paid eventually -- albeit under a new collective bargaining agreement that is expected to rein in costs for the owners.
3. San Antonio Spurs, $1.13 million per win. The Spurs are under the luxury tax despite the $18.8m salary of Tim Duncan, along with the $13.5m that goes to Tony Parker and the $11.9m to Manu Ginobili. Almost two-thirds of their payroll goes to those three stars, which is how it should be. Richard Jefferson's revised $8.4m (he opted out of a deal that would have paid him $15.0m, which gave him long-term security and enabled the Spurs to drop under the tax threshold this season) and the $4.9m to Antonio McDyess also makes sense for San Antonio management, as does virtually every salary on this payroll. Note that contributors DeJuan Blair ($918,000), George Hill ($854,389) and Gary Neal ($565,000) are all making less than $1m, which goes with the Spurs' long-successful model: Rotate inexpensive role players around the big three.
4. Miami Heat, $1.17 million per win. Surprised? This payroll works, even though it was pulled together on short notice last summer. LeBron James ($14.5m), Chris Bosh ($14.5m) and Dwyane Wade ($14.2m) each took less than the max to play together, and the most expensive player thereafter is Mike Miller at $5m. If Udonis Haslem had been healthy, he would have been an enormous blue-collar bargain at $3.5m. Starting center Erick Dampier is on the books for $713,666, and Mike Bibby signed for $216,110. We must wait for the rules of the next collective bargaining agreement to understand how Miami can add players in the future, but the money last summer was well spent.
5. Boston Celtics, $1.35 million per win. The Celtics are the lone luxury-tax payer among the five most efficient franchises. The only regrettable salary is the $5.8m to free agent Jermaine O'Neal, who has been injured for most of the regular season, though he may yet play an indispensable role during the playoffs. Their four All-Stars -- Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo -- make a combined $52.3m this year, which is more than the entire payroll of the Sacramento Kings ($45.3m). But it makes sense for the Celtics, thanks to the contributions of Glen Davis at $3m and Delonte West at $854,389. But the big question involves their biggest of all bargains: Will Shaquille O'Neal ($1.4m) be healthy for the postseason?
1. Toronto Raptors, $3.15 million per win. Note that the two least efficient payrolls were the two teams abandoned last summer by Bosh and James. Much like the Cavaliers with James, the Raptors had invested in trying to build a winner around Bosh, only to see the building collapse when its foundation was removed. They don't have a player making $10m, and Andrea Bargnani is worth his $8.5m, but the contributions of Jose Calderon ($9.0m) and Leandro Barbosa ($7.1m) are hard to justify on a losing team.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers, $3.11 million per win. Baron Davis ($14.0m) was acquired for the Clippers' draft pick that was included in the package, but he turned out to be a positive contributor. Antawn Jamison ($13.4m) also tried to set a good example, even though he had been brought in to help win a championship one year ago. The long-term piece here is Anderson Varejao ($7.3m) as an agile defender in the paint. Otherwise, most of this roster -- assembled to facilitate LeBron -- will ultimately be refitted.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves, $3.02 million per win. Apart from Eddy Curry ($11.6m), who was released following his midseason acquisition, no one is making more than $5m on this intriguing roster that includes Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson (with Ricky Rubio possibly on the way next season). Much criticism came with the signing of Darko Milicic, but how can he not be worth his $4.3m salary? With a couple of wise moves this team could move onto a promising track.
4. Washington Wizards, $2.60 million per win. The Wizards are actually far more efficient -- they received $6 million in cash payments this season, and while that money doesn't show up on the payroll figures, it brings their actual player costs down to $51.2m (or $2.32m per win). Rashard Lewis is making his $19.6m, but the Wizards are happy to be out from under an even larger commitment to Gilbert Arenas, who was moved to Orlando for Lewis. Lewis, Andray Blatche and No. 1 pick John Wall are the only long-term commitments making more than $5m next season, though the Wizards will have to make decisions on free agents Nick Young and Josh Howard.
5. New Jersey Nets, $2.37 million per win. Their ranking here is irrelevant, thanks to their midseason coup of trading for Deron Williams (who is well worth his $14.9m). The long-term commitment to Travis Outlaw may be regrettable (he makes $7m this and every season through 2014-15), but everything else is reasonable. The Nets are set up to build around Williams and center Brook Lopez ($2.4m as part of his continuing rookie deal).