Low Team Salaries and Playoffs

From the FanPosts. -- TZ

This season would make a great TV series. Is Westphal good enough or has he lost the team? Does Tyreke's injury affect his play, has the NBA caught up with him or are the recently surfaced personal issues the problem? Is DeMarcus Cousins as immature as we feared or is he just the scapegoat of a really disorganized team?

Well ... I don't care for now. This FanPost's only goal is to find the relation between low team salaries and playoff appearances.

When I started collecting data, I had in mind a full NBA analysis with statistical correlations between salaries and regular season records. As the data quickly piled up, I realized that something like that would take weeks and it should be done in a university somewhere around the world as an essay or even a dissertation. So I narrowed it down again and again and again and here it is.

What I'll try to show here is which of the 5 lowest paying teams since the 04-05 season, have managed to reach the playoffs; how and why they did it.

I couldn't find any website with an annual team salary archive so I used Wayback Machine and Hoopshype. When things got tough, Hoopsworld also helped. A team salary changes throughout the season because of trades, waived players etc, but unless a serious salary dump or a use of a trade exception happens, the total is not affected much.The salary data for the first 4 seasons were picked up some days after the trade deadline. The rest of them are based on salaries listed in Hoopsworld after the end of the regular season.

Note: English is not my first language, I'm sorry in advance for any errors I missed.


In each pic you can see the bottom-5 team salaries and the final regular season overall position based on the record.



Salary cap: $43,9m

The Nuggets had the 5th lowest team salary and managed to finish with the 9th overall record. The two cornerstones (PG and C) were filled by a couple of underpaid solid players: Andre Miller ($5,7 mil) and Marcus Camby (6,5 mil). Kenyon Martin's $10 million salary wasn't a burden since the leader of the team, Carmelo Anthony, was still a sophomore with a $3,5 mil paycheck. They reached the 1st round of the playoffs.



Salary Cap: $49,5m

The Chicago Bulls reached the playoffs for the 2nd time after Jordan's retirement. The 05-06 team reminds me in a way last season's Milwaukee Bucks: a bunch of above average players with no star, but well organized by a good coach (Scott Skiles). The difference back then was that Gordon, Hinrich, Deng, Nocioni and Chandler were all in their rookie contracts, hence the 3rd lowest team salary in the league.  They lost 2-4 to Miami in the 1st round.



Salary Cap: $53,1m

With Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, TJ Ford, Jose Calderon all in rookie contracts and Anthony Parker earning just 4 millions, the Raptors had no problem qualifying to the playoffs with the 9th overall record in the weak Eastern Conference. They were eliminated in the 1st round.

Just like the Raptors, the Orlando Magic young stars Howard and Nelson were under their first contract. No player was paid more than $6 million that season apart from Grant Hill. They were the last team to clinch a playoff spot in the East. They also reached the 1st round.



Salary Cap: $55,6m

Utah is an excellent example of how a team should work on and off the court. They had the 5th lowest salary in the league even though they owned 3 well paid players (Boozer, Kirilenko, Okur). Deron was young enough to be paid just 4 millions and mature enough to lead them to the playoffs. The rest of the roster was comprised by below average players (Harpring, Korver, Brewer etc) who however knew very well how to fit in Sloan's system. And let's not forget rookie Paul Millsap who was selected late in the 2nd round. His salary was approximately half a million dollars.

Orlando Magic's youngsters were growing up. Howard and Nelson were still in their rookie contracts and Grant Hill was finally off the books. Rashard Lewis was overpaid with a max contract, but the team still had one of the lowest salaries in the NBA. They lost 1-4 to the Pistons in the 2nd round.



Salary Cap: $58,7

The Utah Jazz changed almost nothing. The players matured, developed more chemistry and made the playoffs again with one of the lowest team salaries. They were eliminated by the Lakers in the 1st round.



Salary Cap: $57,7m

How can a team have the 3rd lowest salary in the NBA with Darius Miles earning 9 mils, Przybilla 7 mils and still make the playoffs? Two reasons: 1) By having Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldrige in rookie contracts (oh, Greg Oden too). 2) By owning the very efficient and relatively cheap Andre Miller and Marcus Camby... just like the 2004-2005 Denver Nuggets.

The Thunder didn't stay in the bottom of the league for three seasons (2005-2008) for nothing. They were lucky enough to draft Kevin Durant. Westbrook and Green didn't look bad at all as well. They made the playoffs last season with the 2nd lowest salary in the NBA where they unfairly lost to the Lakers in the 1st round.



Salary Cap: $58m

The Bulls are the only team this year in the bottom-5 salary ranking, with a playoff record (8th in the league). The reason is the same once again. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are still in their rookie contracts. Boozer and Deng are paid $26 million, which is approximately as much as the rest of the roster salary put together.


10 out of the 35 lowest paying teams the last 7 seasons made the playoffs (including this season's Bulls). The Jazz and the Magic did it twice with more or less the same core so you could say it is 8 teams. What do these teams have in common?

9 out of 10 teams have/had one superstar in a rookie contract (Carmelo, Howard, Deron Williams, Roy, Rose, Bosh, Durant).

6 out of 10 teams have/had at least one more young player in his rookie contract with all-star (or close) potential (Aldridge, Westbrook, Jeff Green, Gordon, Deng, Nelson, Noah). Not including Bargnani and Millsap in their rookie year.

6 out of 10 teams have/had at least one all-star caliber (or close) veteran player (Rashard Lewis, Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, Kirilenko, Okur).

8 out of 10 teams have/had both young talent(s) and good veteran(s) around him/them.

2 out of 10 teams had no good veterans at all: The 2005-2006 Bulls and the 2009-2010 Thunder. But both of these teams have at least 4 very talented players in rookie contracts (Durant, Westbrook, Green, Harden / Gordon, Hinrich, Deng, Chandler, Nocioni)

Just 4 out of 10 teams were actually under the cap.

0 out of 10 teams were under the cap by more than $2 million. The Kings this year are $14 million under the cap.

The Sacramento Kings have no good veterans. We only have one proven all-star caliber sophomore and a very talented rookie who has been playing in the NBA for just 2 months. We cannot be compared to any of the above teams who made the playoffs the past 7 years because it is way too early.

The team salary is ridiculously low. The only team that had as much space as the Kings are the 04-06 Charlotte Bobcats because 2004 was their founding year and all their players were acquired through the expansion draft. Just think about it, right now we have the salary of an expansion team and we already have two players with all-star talent. I had no idea I would end up with this conclusion, but the future in the books looks bright indeed.

Merry Christmas!

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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