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Berri’s 10 most overpaid players list has hits, misses

Jun 18, 2012, 2:16 PM EDT


It’s a fun mental exercise to make us feel smarter than GMs — who are the 10 most overpaid players in the NBA?

Dave Berri — the co-author of The Wages of Wins and the economics professor who has consulted with NBA teams — came up with a list for CNBC that got a lot of play over the weekend. It’s got some obvious hits, but there are some misses as well.

Berri has his own system for valuing players called “wins produced.” I think it’s a flawed system (as is the still superior PER by John Hollinger) because any system that tries to distill the contributions of a basketball player down to one single number will not work. There is no single Holy Grail number out there. Defense isn’t accounted for well, to use the easy example and not get bogged down in math. These metrics (I use PER) make a nice snapshot but are not a complete picture.

That said, Berri uses his wins produced to figure out come up with how overpaid he was — how much money did he make divided by how many wins did he produce.

It’s an interesting list. But I have issues with a few guys on here.

1. Rashard Lewis (Wizards). He made $21 million last year and nobody sane will argue this is not the worst contract in the league. The Wizards chose not to use their amnesty on him and if they don’t next year they can pay him $23 million in the final year of his deal (they may try to use that as trade bait). Lewis played in 28 games last season averaging 7.8 points per contest and shooting below 40 percent.

2. Kobe Bryant (Lakers). Kobe is open to being on a list like this because he made $25 million last season (and $27 mil next season and $30 mil the season after that). And while Kobe has started to slide back from his peak he was still second in the league in scoring at 27.9 points per game, can play a complete game when he wants to. He is a lock as an All-Star. Also it should be noted that is actual value to the Lakers franchise in marketing and draw far, far exceeds what he gets paid. To me, that keeps him (and a few others below) off this list.

3. Antawn Jamison (Cavaliers). He made $15 million last year for a struggling Cleveland team and while he’s not bad — 17.1 points but shooting just 40 percent — he doesn’t board or do a whole lot else. He’s average at this point in his career but got paid handsomely to be that.

4. Amare Stoudemire (Knicks). He made $18.2 million last year but you can certainly argue he was overpaid as he was marginalized by the system — this has become Carmelo Anthony’s Knicks team and everything runs through him. Stoudemire kind of got the scraps once Mike Woodson turned the team over to ‘Melo. For the Knicks, he is overpaid. But he still shot 48 percent, scored 17.5 per game and in the right system could be a powerful force.

5. Chris Kaman (Hornets). He made $12.2 million last season at the end of a deal he got with the Clippers and he was overpaid. That said, Kaman has value as a solid NBA big — he scored 13.1 points per game last season, is an efficient shooter who plays within himself and is a solid rebounder. He has value, just not $12.2 value.

6. Mehmet Okur (Nets). I have no problem with this, he made $10.9 million last year and was so useless that when traded to Portland at the deadline a Blazers team that could use some help inside cut him rather than have him play for them.

7. Corey Maggette (Bobcats). No argument here, the oft-injured wing player was paid $10.2 million to come in and score for Charlotte and he played in just 32 games. He scored 15 a game when he did but shot just 36.7 percent.

8. Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks): He made $17.3 million last season and he’s on Berri’s list but not mine. Granted, Nowitzki was not as efficient this season as the title year but still 21.6 points per game and a guy who can knock down threes. No, not a lot of rebounds or much else, but is that why anyone signs him. A PER of 21.8, I can live with that. Plus, like Kobe, his value to the franchise far exceeds his salary.

9. Deron Williams (Nets): He made $16.6 million on a dreadful Nets team last season. He scored 21 points per game, averaged 8.7 assists per game and shot 40 percent from the field. I think this is less about Williams and more about who is around him to help, but Berri puts him on his list anyway.

10. Tyrus Thomas (Bobcats): He made $7.3 million last season while giving Charlotte 5.6 points per game on just 36.7 percent shooting. He was part of a long list of Bobcat problems last season.

  1. acdc363 - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Dirk on this list is a joke.

  2. aboogy123456 - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    this list is useless and the definition of how he measures it being overpaid is a joke.

  3. thomaskouns - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    This list demonstrates why you can rarely trust the media’s evaluation/hype on NBA players.

    Scouts who spend 80 hrs a week studying the game and players and have no stake in promoting one player over another are the best source for player evaluation.

    Jordan ended his career with a 490 plus field goal percentage. Kobe is career 440 plus field goal percentage and will be a lot lower than that if he retires at the same age at MJ.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:54 PM

      ENOUGH with the FG% nonsense. It was easier to get to the rim for half of Jordan’s career. The big men are much more athletic as a whole now than they were in the 80s and 90s.

      • skinzfan21 - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:16 PM

        Is this a joke, are you dumb, or did you miss the NBA in the 80’s and 90’s? Maybe its all of the above because in case you didn’t know, the league was flooded with great big men who could dominate on both ends of the floor…….not to mention they were a heck if a lot smarter than the big men in the league today! Who besides Dhoward can matchup athletically with the big guys back then? Do your homework and smarten up……fg% does matter in a league where these players benefit from not having to face physical defense

      • 20dollardinners - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:47 PM

        The league has NEVER been flooded with great big men. At any given point in time there is no more than 10 great big men in the league – which is why the teams who have them tend to dominate. Let’s look back at the last 10 years – Shaq, Tim Duncan, Sheed/Wallace, Garnett, Dirk, Gasol = your NBA champs. We love our point guards and 2 guards – but they are not who really wins it.

        Even in the finals. Certainly Lebron ran the table, but it was Ibaka/Perkins for OKC and Bosh that were the backbone.

    • aboogy123456 - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      All the teams shoot lower field goal percentage and score less points nowadays than when Jordan played. There’s a lot of reasons the defense is better now and it’s tougher to score, but you can simply look at the average score of an nba game and you’ll see it has gone down.

      • prourke22 - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:21 PM

        When Jordan played, you could HAND CHECK. In today’s game you can NOT hand check. Jordan would of averaged more points today than back than.

    • divan22 - Jun 18, 2012 at 5:37 PM

      A bigger factor is the fact that zone defense was ILLEGAL back when MJ dominated.

      Read that sentence again.

      • camnellum12 - Jun 18, 2012 at 6:59 PM

        Why do fans constantly try to compare Kobe and Jordan? And Jordan fans constantly say that Kobe took MJ’s style and always brings up Michael’s FG %. But can people stop saying Kobe stole Jordan’s style, because Elgin Baylor was the first 6’5-6’6 guy to have the high flying game. I don’t understand how fans don’t realize that it’ll transcend forever.

        Elgin Baylor->Julius Erving/David Thompson-> Michael Jordan-> Kobe, Vince Carter,Tracy McGrady and so forth.

        Please stop comparing players from different eras!

    • dal24la - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:36 PM

      And this has what to do with the topic?

      • camnellum12 - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:42 PM

        Because people constantly compare Kobe and Jordan, then bring up that Kobe “stole” Jordan’s style. It’s called evolution of basketball.

      • dal24la - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:49 PM

        oh no I wasn’t talking to you I was talking to “thomaskouns”.
        I liked your post.

  4. skids003 - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    They are ALL overpaid.

  5. Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Take Kobe and Dirk off the list, as well as Williams, and you can argue the rest.

    • wjmoffatt - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:26 PM

      Kobe needs to be on this list, in two years he’ll be making 30 million for one season! Dirk and DWill def need to be off that list though…

  6. teehov843 - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Where’s Joe Johnson? He should be in the top 3!

    • dal24la - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:47 PM

      I stopped taking this list seriously the moment I saw Joe Johnson was not #2. Dude has the richest contract in the league over next 6 years and isn’t/wont be a top 20 player.
      6year contracts should NOT be given out to 29 year olds, especially coming off his atrocious performance in the playoffs vs Orlando.

  7. smackingfools - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Kobe sit out the last game knowing he could get the scoring title. So basically he lead the league in scoring and he’s overpaid? Don’t see it.

    • thomaskouns - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:30 PM

      If you put up more shots than anyone else is how you can nearly league in scoring.

      The real clues to a players effectiveness lie more in his effiency, PER, defense and plus/minus.

      Putting up big numbers is how many media members who claim to be basketball experts judge players where as scouts and front office people know it can be highly misleading and only tells part of the story.

  8. spellingcopfather - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    My top 5 over paided…1.Elton Brand 17mil….2.Carlos Boozer 13mill….3.Emeka Okador 12mill….4.Deandre Jordan 10mill……5.Hedo Turkoglu 11mill.

    • xxbomberxx - Jun 18, 2012 at 5:39 PM

      How can you NOT have Rashard Lewis on that list making 21 milli. and scoring 7 points per?

  9. rajbais - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    So the majority of overpaid players should only consist of those with 8-figure salaries?????

    I am correct in saying this because are several missing players on this list: the Miami Heat bench!!!!

  10. dgbk - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    silly list . how cam kobe be over paid but bring more value than his salary. the big names are added so ppl can talk about. without kobe and dirk it will be 10 rashards on the list.

    • caseybojangles - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:18 PM

      in context, you absolutely can make this argument.

      LBJ and Durant are better players and “only” make $16M. better production AND $9M less = overpaid.

      but point taken…you can make an argument for what’s more important? championships or selling more jerseys, tickets, etc. etc.

      kobe certainly fills the stadium and sells stuff for the lakers that account for far more than his salary BUT its his enormous salary that will prevent the lakers from winning another championship with kobe. $30M??? that’s around HALF the cap space with crazy punitive taxes kicking in for going over.

  11. rajbais - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    Also, “It’s a fun mental exercise to make us feel smarter than GMs”???

    Don’t ever use that quote again!!! Why are you souring on the truth, Kurt??

    There’s no parity or level playing field in the NBA because of GMs!!! The longer they treat max contracts as if they’re mandatory their teams will go nowhere!!! Also, if the GM becomes stupid overnight (hello Joe Dumars and Geoff Petrie) after being successful you are really discrediting the mind of a fan, buddy!!!

  12. knightrider1755 - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    Where is Gilbert Arenas? How could he not make the top ten? He’s in the top five list of highest paid players in the NBA.

  13. rabbdogg - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    um..people when jordan played u had to play man to man defense and he would just kill his man…for most of kobe career the zone defense has been harder to drive to the basket when guys can just stack up a wait on you without having to gaurd their man(outside of the lane) more jump shots..lower shooting percentage..less scoring..

    • liamj55 - Jun 18, 2012 at 5:04 PM

      They could hand check in the 80s and 90s………… PEOPLE GRASP THE DIFFICULTY OF THIS CONCEPT!!!!

    • zxrated - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:09 PM

      I agree that the nba zone has changed things but how do you explain Durant, LeBron and Wade (top NBA scorers) shooting over 50% this past season? Westbrook came in at 46% and no one considers him a great shooter. Kobe is on Carmelo’s level at 43% as an extra high volume shooter this past season, and is in jeopardy of becoming marginalized as a Iverson type at the current pace he’s on.

      I’m a Laker fan BTW, truth hurts. IJS

  14. lakerluver - Jun 18, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    As a LAKERLUVER I have absolutely no issue with Kobe’s salary. The dude earns every penny of it!! This talk about his salary being the reason why the LAKERS can’t add players is asinine. I’m pretty sure the Buss family/Mitch Kupchak knew the ramifications when they gave him that contract. The LAKERS will contend for titles again in the very near future. With the right moves, maybe even next season.

  15. lakerluver - Jun 18, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Good point, RABBDOGG. Guys post crap without having a clue about bball. The Kobe v. MJ comparisons are old and tired. You cannot compare players of different eras.

  16. paulhargis53 - Jun 18, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    No sense of history of the game whatsoever. Everyone thinks today’s players are better than past players.
    It’s a stupid line of thinking, but you’ll never convince them otherwise.
    Willfully ignorant is what they are.

  17. philadelphiafan - Jun 18, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    Where is Elton Brand on this list?! Oh I forgot the list doesn’t actually make sense

  18. asublimeday - Jun 18, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Where. Is. Carlos. Boozer.

  19. bougin89 - Jun 18, 2012 at 8:58 PM

    If I made a top 10 list of most useless/bogus lists, this would be #1.

  20. jengibre23 - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    Kobe dirk and deron should be off but the others I agree with

  21. bleed4philly - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:15 PM

    Dirk and Kobe won titles! That’s priceless!

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