The Most Overpaid and Underpaid in the NBA in 2009-10

Posted on November 23, 2010 by


Thomas Van Riper – of – just published a story examining The NBA’s Most Overpaid Players.  The story relies upon Wins Produced and the (somewhat crude) methodology I have employed in this forum in the past. 

The method can be described briefly as follows:  From the salary numbers of Patricia Bender we see that the NBA spent $1.976 billion on players in 2009-10.  The players produced 1,230 regular season wins, so the “value” of each regular season win is $1.607 million.  Consequently, LeBron James – who produced 27.2 wins for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season – has a “value” of $43.75 million.  Since LeBron was only paid $15.78 million by the Cavaliers, King James was underpaid by almost $28 million.  And that means LeBron was the “most underpaid” NBA player in 2009-10.

The Van Riper story, though, focuses on the “most overpaid”.  And his story even has a great slideshow.  In this forum, the best I can do is provide a table.  So here are the fifteen most “overpaid” NBA players (following the Van Riper story, minimum of 60 games played). 

And here are the fifteen “most underpaid” players:

A few of these players – like Kevin Durant – labored under their original rookie deal.  So it is easy to understand why these players are underpaid.  Players like LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Carlos Boozer, though, are highly paid veterans who are still underpaid.  This is because the NBA has placed a cap on individual salaries, a cap that appears to restrict the earning power of the most productive NBA talent.

Will this change with the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA)?  It seems unlikely that the cap on individual salaries will be removed.  The owners enjoy “exploiting” (where exploitation is defined as a worker receiving a wage that is less than their economic value to their employer) players like LeBron.  And the majority of NBA players — who are not as productive as LeBron — are not going to fight to get King James more money. 

What the owners hope will happen is that the players will agree to a CBA where the contracts paid to the “overpaid” talent can somehow be terminated.  That is something I think the union will fight to prevent from happening.  And that fight is one reason we might not have a complete NBA season in 2011-12. 

– DJ