Last Monday reignited something intangible in the lives of so many, yet left so many more undisturbed. The 2014 NBA media day brought back the larger-than-life personalities and physical transformations and uncomfortable photos of Marcin Gortat posing like a placid cologne model, unsure of whether to flex his bicep, to the league and its fans. The league’s free agency period never really ends, but if it did, the media day would be that moment, as players begin their training camps in the days following it.
This year’s free agency period re-calibrated the league, producing a surge of prodigious power to an Eastern Conference that’s been holistically inferior to the cast-iron franchises out West. While many envisaged LeBron James donning a Cavs uniform this season, few thought Kevin Love would be allowed to abandon the perennial sinking ship that is the Minnesota Timberwolves to join him. Few foresaw Carmelo Anthony re-signing with the Knicks after blasting teammates and his overall situation last year in New York; even fewer saw Paul Pierce leaving his running mate of eight years, Kevin Garnett, to sign a deal in Washington. Consider this: Did anyone think that Pierce would net nearly $2 million less than Avery Bradley this season?
We’ve come to an important crossroad: Looking back is still important, if only slightly, to see how we got here. It’s worth considering how teams conducted themselves financially since the Spurs won last year’s championship.
I excluded training camp non-guaranteed deals (Chris Singleton, Michael Beasley, Earl Clark, Patrick Christopher, Kalin Lucas, etc.), undrafted rookies (Alex Kirk, Shayne Wittington, Luke Hancock, etc.), and traded players (Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley, etc.), but did take extensions, restructured deals and player options into consideration (Dwayne Wade, Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan, etc.)
Win Shares Per 48 Minutes is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player in 48 minutes. They don’t chart a particular facet of a player’s game nor do they describe what makes a player talented, but it’s perhaps the most digestible and simplistic way to show a player slipping or refining from season to season. Last year’s MVP Kevin Durant led the league in WS/48 and James finished third—so it’s not like the metric is grasping for merit.
Using WS/48, we can assess what teams underpaid this offseason on a player, at least, if they’re considering that player in terms of wins/improvement brought to the franchise.
The four most underpaid players for the 2014-15 season:
Paul Pierce | Small Forward | Washington Wizards | $5.3 million | 2014-15 WS/48 projection: 0.131
How is a 10-time all-star and NBA Finals MVP with the fifth-most made three-point field goals in NBA history and a career PER ranked in the top 60 ever netting less than Jodie Meeks, Jason Richardson and Greivis Vasquez?
Dirk Nowitzki | Power Forward | Dallas Mavericks | $7.9 million | 2014-15 WS/48 projection: 0.177
Nowitzki’s future wouldn’t have been nearly as bright had he not chosen to take a substantial pay cut this offseason, allowing for the addition of newcomers Jameer Nelson, Chandler Parsons and Co. The German brings 16 years of league experience, 26,786 points (second among active players) and two MVP awards (2006-07 NBA MVP, 2010-11 NBA Finals MVP) to Dallas for potentially the last three years of his brilliant career. Oh yeah, he also turned down max-deal offers from the Lakers and Rockets for the discount because he’s that committed to Coach Rick Carlisle’s system and larger-than-life owner Mark Cuban’s propriety.
Tim Duncan | Power Forward | San Antonio Spurs | $10.3 million | 2014-15 WS/48 projection: 0.174
The Big Fundamental proved again last season that he’s more than capable of dismantling an opponent’s front court. Also, this: 24,904 points, 13,940 rebounds, 2,791 blocks, 14 all-star appearances and five championships. For less than Eric Bledsoe, Kyle Lowry and Chris Bosh, that’s a steal.
Shawn Marion | Small Forward | Cleveland Cavaliers | Veteran’s Minimum | 2014-15 WS/48 projection: 0.125
Marion has averaged a double-double in four different seasons, enters next season averaging the second-most defensive win shares on the Cavs’ roster (4.03) and gives Cleveland arguably the best duo at small forward in the entire league. He’s getting paid less than one-fourth what Mario Chalmers, Caron Butler and Luol Deng are pocketing next season.
Josh Planos has had his work featured at the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Rivals, Denver Post, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. He currently writes for Wall Street Journal Sports, the ESPN TrueHoop Network and The Cauldron. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter (@JPlanos).