This season alone, players are receiving more than $2 billion in league salaries (the exact total being $2,048,860,079, according to official NBA payroll figures).
This money is dispersed among 469 players (including 18 who didn't play in a game this season), from the $23,751,934 million that the Celtics are paying to
Here are a few ways of looking at how that money is being spent:
What is the price of winning? Try dividing each team's payroll by the number of wins.
Many teams perform this exercise at the end of the regular season to see if they spent their money efficiently. With two weeks left in the season, I have forecast the final win total for each team based on its winning percentage as of Wednesday morning. This isn't a perfect formula -- it doesn't account for luxury-tax payments, for example -- but it gives a sense for the different strategies of each team and how those plans paid off this season.
Taking a break from the money issue for our weekly response to reader concerns.
A lot of people share your feelings about Riley's recent meanderings. The most common complaint is that Riley as a coach complains loudly when he doesn't get full effort from his players, yet he also finds ways to refresh his energy by leaving his team during the season.
On the other hand, he has turned Miami into a winner over the last decade, and there are many franchises that would put up with his occasional absences in exchange for the championship he delivered two years ago.
A note of warning about Riley's scouting trips: Some of the biggest mistakes in the draft are made when a team depends on the judgments of a top-level executive who doesn't start paying attention until the NCAA tournament. It makes no sense to make decisions based on a couple of performances, whether good or bad. Riley should be wise enough to avoid this blunder, but if he ultimately relies on a few personal observations to overrule the judgments of his scouting staff that has been following these young players for several years, then his decision to attend the college tournaments could imperil, rather than enhance, his team's future.
Players can always be traded. The huge contracts of
The key for New York will be to raise the value of one or both players before trading them. The best example of this came when Portland temporarily salvaged the career of
That one is my fault. I was interviewing the scout by phone while he was boarding an airplane. I could hear him handing his boarding pass at the gate and squeezing down the aisle and trying to place his luggage in the overhead bin all the while he was talking to me, nice guy that he is. That misstatement about James' value was one sentence in the middle of a 10-minute conversation, and I could tell he was distracted at that moment. I made a note to myself to ignore that bit of erroneous information -- then by accident I included it in the final copy.
Now somebody is going to write back and say that I shouldn't be depending on information from people when they can't give their full attention. The truth is, everybody is so busy that you take conversations when you can get them. I've talked to players while they wore headphones or were playing video games. I've talked to coaches on their cell phones while they were driving. This is one of the top scouts in the league and he was trying to do three things at once, and the fault was mine for not properly editing out his mistake in a rare moment of confusion.
So I wondered: Could I assemble a reputable lineup for less than the Suns are paying Hill? I did -- thanks to inexpensive midseason signings and rookie contracts for non-first-rounders. The savior was
Here are the five most expensive payrolls this season and the anticipated win total for each of those teams.
5. Miami Heat, $75.5 million, 14 wins
Here are the five least expensive payrolls this season and the anticipated win total for each of those teams.
30. Memphis Grizzlies, $53.4 million, 21 wins