Monday, June 17, 2013

Unsolved Mysteries: NBA Edition #9

We have reached question 9 in Kevin Pelton's 10 questions to solve in the NBA

Question 9:  What is the market value for player performance?

Obviously this question is asked a lot especially when people wonder why athletes are paid millions of dollars to play a sport.  What warrants a high salary?  Is Lebron James really worth $50 million like he thinks (or $40 million according to Pelton)?  Are a lot of players overpaid?

I like Pelton's use of WARP (wins above replacement metric), but I don't think this necessarily encompasses all what a player is worth.  In addition to the number of wins a player can provide a team, there are the other aspects of revenue management that need to be included.  Such things are the ability to generate ticket sales, sponsorship opportunities (as we will start to see on backboards next year) and other revenue-generating circumstances. 

Are players paid what they are worth -- I think it really comes to a comparison to other players.  It's not the dollar amount that is of interest (although a GM or owner might say otherwise), but rather it is how much a player makes compared to others.  Lebron should have the highest salary in basketball, but chose not to in order to help form the Big 3.  Therefore, does it really matter if players are paid what they are worth (Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in 2013)?  It only really matters that players aren't overpaid (Kobe anyone?) and organizations aren't "losing" money on their supposed stars.  

If it came down to player performance through various statistics (personal and +/-) and WARP, sign me up!  Otherwise (and unfortunately) it seems to come down to perception, mania (Lin and Terry), agent skills and greed that drive salaries up and down -- and pure stats lose the battle here... 

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