September 5, 2012
By Jonathan Gordon
“It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white…the only color that really matters is green.” –Family Guy
The NBA league is filled with the color green. Aside from the Celtics and every other team’s St. Patrick’s Day jerseys, the most prominent green is money. In the 2010-2011season, the NBA produced a league revenue of $4.3 BILLION dollars1. The average NBA team is worth $393 million and spends around $70 million dollars per year on player salaries. So which teams get the most ‘bang for their buck’? Which teams are the most fiscally responsible, paying less and winning more? Which teams are fiscal failures?
The following list, The Five Smartest Teams and The Five Not-So-Smartest Teams, spans the last three seasons. The list is formed by looking at how much money each team spent per win (payroll/wins). Each team is then assigned a rank for that season (i.e. the smartest team spent the least money per win and was given a rank of one). The ranks are averaged over the three seasons, providing a master ranking. And now the grades…
FIVE SMARTEST TEAMS (A+)
5. Los Angeles Clippers Average Rank (8.667)
The Clippers’ rank is greatly helped by their number one ranking from the 2009-2010 season. The Clippers only won 29 games that year; however they did so with the smallest payroll ($32 million) in the league, $44 million below the average. Consider this: the next smallest payroll belonged to Sacramento and stood at $61 million. During this season, the Clippers spent just $1.1 million per win.
4. (tie) Chicago Bulls (7)
The Chicago Bulls brought home the number one ranking in the 2010-2011 season. That year, the Bulls won a league-high 62 games with a payroll that sat in the bottom five of the league and about $10 million below the league average. The Bulls paid only $916 thousand per win, the only team in all three years to pay less than $1 million per win.
4. (tie) Miami Heat (7)
The Heat do not have a number one ranking; their highest ranking was third in the 2010-2011 season. However, they have arguably been the most successful franchise of this bunch, appearing in two NBA Finals and winning one. Despite the public’s consensus that the Heat just throw money around to their superstars, they have actually produced some of the better investments in the league.
2. San Antonio Spurs (5.667)
The Spurs have been consistently well-ranked, a testament to their front office and coaching. In 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, they produced regular season win totals of 61 and 50, respectively. Their 61 was second-best to the Bulls and their 50 tied them with the Bulls for the season-high.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (2)
The Thunder, represented in the 2012 NBA finals, has been the model of consistency, finishing second in our rankings all three years. This, in no doubt, speaks to their front office’s success in recent drafts (Durant, Westbrook, Harden, etc.). By grabbing these youngsters in the draft, the Thunder got them for relatively cheap prices and, yet, received huge returns from them.
FIVE NOT-SO-SMARTEST TEAMS (F-)
5. Detroit Pistons (24.667)
4. Golden State Warriors (25)
3. (tie) Washington Wizards (26.333)
3. (tie) Minnesota Timberwolves (26.333)
1. New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets (27)
The story for these five teams is roughly the same. Bad drafts. Bad signings. Bad trades. Bad players. Bad coaches. Bad seasons. A lot of money. Not a lot of wins.
GETTING SMARTER (Season ranks, in order, from 2010-2012)
Houston Rockets (22, 18, 11)
Houston—we don’t have a problem.
Philadelphia 76ers (26, 19, 14)
All their practice (we’re talking about practice!?) is starting to pay off.
Indiana Pacers (21, 12, 1)
Larry Bird—Executive of the Year (2012)
Phoenix Suns (8, 14, 16)
The future doesn’t look sunny.
Charlotte Bobcats (13, 22, 30)
If only Michael Jordan the Owner was half as good as Michael Jordan the Player.
Los Angeles Lakers (4, 11, 20)
Consistently the highest payroll. Not enough wins to show for it.
There you have it. The smartest and dumbest franchises in the NBA, along with a bonus edition of teams doing their homework and teams headed towards detention.