This cesspit of a season is finally over, with not much for Wolves fans to look forward to other than the draft lottery on Tuesday and the subsequent draft. Perhaps some fans are enviously watching the playoff games (and seeing how truly far from “it” the Wolves squad is.) Personally, as a fan of basketball and the NBA in general, I have been watching the playoff games with eager anticipation. While not as exciting as the playoffs were last year, overall they’ve still been pretty exciting. You had the upstart Warriors trying to shock the world, and Lebron is doing his best D-Wade impersonation by leading the Cavs to the conference finals. If I had to bet on it, I’d say we are looking at a rematch of the 2004-05 Pistons-Spurs finals.
But that’s not what I’m writing about today. I want to take a look at this team and what our loquacious owner Glen Taylor got for his money. Was it a sound investment? Did he get his money’s worth? Who on this team brought value? Who didn’t live up to their contract? This may be a somewhat quirky way to analyze the money spent and value received this past season, but bear with me. You may think some of my logic and math is asinine, but what statistics aren’t flawed in some way, shape, or form? Lastly, I wish I played in the NBA. A league where an “average” player makes around four and a half million dollars per year? End of the bench “role players” make one, two, (or more) million per season? Sign me up! I am fairly confidant I could set my pride aside and wave a towel during games. I have no problem being KG’s personal battering ram in practice. A cool two million for 6 months of work would sooth my bumps and bruises just fine, thank you. On an aside, do you think players get a check waiting in their lockers every two weeks? Do they simply give Taylor and company their bank account numbers and just have it direct deposited? If so, do they get a little stub showing how much they earned? Does Bracey Wright say, “Damn, I ain’t getting #*&@ compared to KG” every pay period? I truly wonder these things…
The Wolves payroll for the 2006-2007 was a cool $65,648,473. This includes paying Eddie Griffin $2,700,000 to drive around and crash vehicles, and another $78,566 for Vin Tonic…errr Baker, to use towards covering tabs at Bellanote. On the bright side, the Celtics just got done paying their last five million dollar payments to Mr. Baker, for services…rendered? Nevermind that he hasn’t played for them in years. Comparatively, we made off pretty well I guess. Seeing as how the Wolves won 32 games this year, that’s only $2,051,514 per win. It could be worse; the Knicks paid $4,223,682 per win. (Not counting tax implications, which would add about another 2 million more dollars or so per win…) If “salary per win” was any indicator, I’d say the Wolves are sitting pretty compared to the Knickerboxers. For an extra $140 million dollars, the Wolves could have got that additional one win and tied with New York! Alas, don’t forget the other end of the spectrum where the fiscally prudent teams reside. It only cost the Spurs $1.7 million for their 58 wins (not counting playoff victories, and they have lots of them this season.), while the Raptors and Bulls apparently know what they are doing as well, costing them only $1.14 (47 wins) and $1.09 (49 wins) million per win (respectively.) For the Wolves having the twelfth highest payroll, it sure didn’t amount to much this season. The Spurs and Warriors were the two teams closest to the Wolves in total payroll this season. For only an extra $132,000 the Spurs eked out an additional 26 wins. The Warriors on the other hand, spent $534,341 less than the Wolves and somehow won 10 more games. Could it be the personnel? Perhaps they don’t dish out terrible contracts to role players? I’m not sure… but the salary never lies right? As far as I can tell we should have won about 50 games if you compare our team salary to theirs. *Editors note: Yes, all this losing as made me delusional.
Player Value Assessment – KG
Might as well start off with the guy that contributes the most towards our $65 million team salary. As much as I want to, it’s hard to argue against KG providing value for his buck(s). For *only* $21,000,000 he played in five minutes short of three thousand, and added 1,704 points and 975 rebounds. We’ll say he contributed 2,679 “units.” That is $7,838 per unit produced. The league MVP on the other hand, Dirk Nowitzki contributed 2,609 units for a cost of $5,788 per unit. Garnett really isn’t that far behind for someone that barely finished in the top ten in MVP votes. Look at the second highest paid player in the league: Allan Houston. He contributed 0 units for a cost of $20,718,750 per unit produced. The only thing he was good at this season was cashing checks. Let’s look at the fifth highest paid player, who you can somewhat compare to KG, in terms of salary and games played. KG made 21 million and played in 76 games. Webber made $18,307,008 and played in 61 games. Webber came into the league a few years before KG, and both do play the same position. This season KG’s $7,838 per unit looks pretty good compared to Webber’s ($18,307,008/1,319) colossal $13,879 per unit. Alternately, we don’t have to compare KG to just highly paid players. Our very own Troy Hudson only cost us ($5,603,000/323) $17,346 per unit. And that was counting his points, rebounds, AND assists this season. In comparison, KG is a veritable bargain! What does all this tell you? I have no idea. But the numbers are fun.
Player Value Assessment – Ricky Davis
Let me just tell you, it’s a lot more fun to do the assessment when the player gets paid a boatload of money and sucks on the court. With that said, Ricky Davis actually has a decent contract, and had a fairly good “statistical” season. His relatively workable expiring contract is widely regarded as one of his best assets for the upcoming season. Will he be traded? Will he stay? I can’t answer that right now, but his cost per unit of points/rebounds/assists is only $3,067 per unit. (For comparison, KG’s points/rebounds/assists cost is $7,018 per unit.) From this angle it looks like money well spent. However, don’t let this confuse you, as there is no price you can put on his sheer boneheaded stupidity at times. You never know what Ricky Davis you will see on the court for any given game. Will Ricky come out and play hard and make good decisions? Or will he come out turn the ball over, brick jumpers, forget how to play defense, and pout on the court? Honestly, it’s 50-50 with him. You never know what you’ll be getting on any given night. The fact that his contract expires after next season may be one of the biggest reasons as why he could actually be quite tradable. One of the main players we traded for him, Wally Szczerbiak, only played in 32 games this season (due to injury), but still collected a hearty $11,000,000. His cost per p/a/b unit? Only, $17,405. Celtics owner Wyc Grousback can’t be too happy about that. However, in terms of fairness, they were able to dump the next player on us in that trade as well…
Player Value Assessment – Mark Blount
Blount’s contract is listed at $6,125,000, but I know he had a trade kicker involved too. Even if just analyze his contribution with the listed salary, it still ain’t pretty. For being a seven foot “center,” Mr. Blount sure is averse to blocking shots. Being that as a center one primarily counts on you to rebound, perhaps block a shot every now and then, and maybe score a few points. Mark Blount plays more like a small forward trapped in a center’s body. He recorded a mighty 58 blocks, good for sixth highest in his career. He’s only costing us $105,603 per block. Then again, Mark Madsen gets $221,000 per block, so who can judge. I guess his points/rebounds cost per unit is a manageable $4,042 per unit, but his salary isn’t the only thing that will be getting worse over the next few years. He is due over $22,000,000 million over the next three years, not counting his trade kicker. If only he were a bit shorter, we could start him at his rightful position of small forward, and not feel as weird while doing so. I guess it could be worse, we could be paying fellow bigman Adonal Foyle $8,125,000 to ride the pine like Golden State did this season. He only played 475 minutes compared to Blount’s 2,544. His cost per unit: $28,710. Thank you Golden State general manager, I feel slightly better now. Blount is the hands down winner in the contest for big men going nowhere fast.
Player Value Assessment – Randy Foye
Being that Foye is still on his rookie contract, it’s easy to still consider him a “bargain.” We can however, compare him to fellow rookie draftees. Foye’s p/r/a cost is a nice $1,909 per unit. However, the fact that the rookies have a (somewhat) rigid pay scale, skewers things. Luckily for players like James and T-Hud, they get spared from some unsightly comparisons. The player we traded for Foye, this year’s Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy had a very comparable p/r/a cost of $1,868. However, Roy has one more ROY of the trophy in his case than does Foye. The number 1 overall pick, Andrea Bargnani had a p/r/a cost of $4,262. Maybe Toronto should have drafted Roy… But that’s not really fair, as number 11 overall pick, J.J. Redick had a p/r/a cost per unit of $5,537. I guess these numbers show us that we should all be glad the Wolves ended up with Foye instead of Duke wunderkind J.J. Redick.
Player Value Assessment – Mike James
Ah, our big off-season acquisition, Mike James. Before I even begin to crunch numbers, I can guarantee you we won’t like what we see. James p/a/r cost per unit was $4,048. Well, that’s still lower than KG’s you say. I counter by saying that everyone’s cost per unit seems like a bargain compared to KG, but you have to remember that he is getting paid usually around three times anyone else on our team. If James got paid twenty-one million like KG, his cost per unit would be $16,304. There, that’s about right. It’s funny that Mike James was brought in to nail threes and spread out defenses (while occasionally attempting to run our offense.) He did shoot 40+% from downtown last year in Toronto, but he is a career journeyman and he was playing for a contract on an awful team. James hit 80 threes this year, good for 80th in the league. (Coincidence, I think not.) James was pulling down $65,187 per three point basket made. You would think for that kind of money, he would try to hit a few more of them. In comparison, Jason Kapono only made $11,000 per three point basket made. Well, that is just one example you say. I say, here are a few other bargains around the league when it comes to three pointers made in comparison to salary: Luther Head – $5,925, Matt Carroll – $10,702, and Matt Barnes – $7,276. Taking their complete game into assessment, I would easily trade Mike James straight-up for any of those four players. Too bad he won’t be that easy to unload. Things can always be worse though, as we are currently paying “Shaddy” McCants $82,686 per three point basket made. Our best three point shooter by percentage (Marko Jaric – 37.6%) gets $172,656 per three point basket made. Now that’s disgusting. I don’t think these three guys are very good “value” three point shooters. Then again, it doesn’t take a mathematician to tell us that, when we’ve been watching them brick three’s all season long. Where’s Hoiberg when you need him?
Player Value Assessment – Trenton Hassle
At least he tries hard. You can’t say that about everyone on the Wolves. Is he worth his $4,350,000? Probably not. Is he same the defensive stopper that he was before the major offensive rule changes Commissioner Stern has implemented? Definitely not. His p/r/a cost per unit was $2,950. His KG salary comparison inflates to $14,285. Still, it’s better than Mike James and his attitude is infinitely better. I guess you can’t put a price on that. If you compare his cost per unit to other “defensive stoppers” such as Raja Bell and Bruce Bowen, it looks something like this. Hassell ($2,950), Bowen ($4,410), Bell ($2,817) I don’t think anyone will argue with me if I say both those guys play superior defense. It’s certainly not Hassell’s fault that the rules were changed. His defensive effort and intensity is probably still about the same as it was in 03-04, but with today’s rules, he just can’t be as effective. But, his salary is nowhere near as crippling as some of the other guys on our team. Take it for what it’s worth.
Player Value Assessment – Marko Jaric
Marko is the last player to be reviewed who played significant minutes (more than 1,000) and isn’t still on a rookie contract. He is blessed with a $5,525,000 per year contract. His cost per unit equals out to $7,892 by my math. However, his KG salary comparison is a whopping $30,000 (on the dot!) What’s the problem here? I don’t really know. Marko is certainly a better player than that. I think the problem lies in the way the coaching staff utilizes him (or lack thereof.) And when his confidence gets low (due to either lack of playing time, or playing badly) is really when everything goes to hell. I could point out dozens of players around the league with similar salaries that have a far superior cost per unit. But what’s the point, let’s just move on.
Player Value Assessment – Mark Madsen
People like to complain about why we are paying Madsen “so much money” to be the 11th or 12th man on our bench, but let’s be realistic. He’s only making $2,210,000 to wave towels. (Glen Taylor, if you are reading I will be your cheerleader for one fifth of that cost!) That’s about what it will cost for non-rookie end of the bench players in today’s NBA. Still, after watching Madsen play in 56 games this year, I have come to the conclusion that no real “value” was added on the actual court itself. I don’t care that he may bring a “veteran presence” or how well he may “know the offense” or that he “hustles and has desire.” Face, he sucks like a 3 year old with a lollipop. For someone that is 6’9” he grabbed a whopping 87 rebounds in 483 minutes of play. That’s a little over 40 quarters of play. That’s barely two rebounds per quarter of play, and he’s a power forward! Let’s look at David Lee of the Knicks. He played in 58 games compared to Madsen’s 56. They are both 6’9”. Lee played 1729 minutes this season, compared to Madsen’s 473. 1729 divided by 473 = 365% more minutes than Madsen. However, Lee grabbed 602 rebounds, which is 691% more rebounds than Madsen. Madsen also bricked shots at the line at a 51% clip, compared to Lee’s 81.5%. Lee improved his free throw shooting by 24% from the previous season, Madsen by 9% However, Madsen shot 42% two years ago, who couldn’t improve on that? In fact, it sickens me that he only improved his 42% clip by 9% By god, practice your free throws. David Lee’s pay? $990,000, compared to Madsen’s 2.2 million. In case you are still reading, that’s $25,402 per rebound for Madsen, compared to $1,644 per rebound for Lee. Quite a difference in value for a lot less money. Hell, even Matt Bonner outplayed Madsen. He pulled down 156 rebounds in 653 minutes. That’s $12,820 per rebound. His salary? $2,000,000. I guess Madsen does write a pretty decent blog, so maybe he’s worth keeping around. At least I’m not writing about us having Brian Scalabrine on our team. Don’t even get me started on possibly the worst rebounder since David McCarthy. Scalabrine pulled down a preposterous 105 rebounds in an astounding 1027 minutes of game time. His salary? A Madsen-esque 2.79 million per season. I think the most important question that remains to be asked is, who possibly thought it was a good idea to play Brian Scalabrine that many minutes? Oh, that would be Doc Rivers. The same man that got a contract extension for winning 24 games, amidst an 18 game losing streak. To those of you say that Madsen is relatively worth his $2-3 million dollar salary the next few years, I say, really?
Player Value Assessment – The Rest
(Craig Smith/Troy Hudson/Rashad McCants/Justin Reed/Bracey Wright/Eddie Griffin)
The problem with trying to compare or analyze these guys is that they either: 1) Didn’t play enough due to injury (Hudson, McCants) 2) Are on the rookie pay scale (Smith, Wright, Reed, McCants again) or 3) Other (Eddie Griffin)
Smith looks like a keeper and only makes $412,748 per season (due to his second round draft pick status.) He had the third most rebounds on the team (416) for a cost per rebound of only $1,001. That’s David Lee territory right there. He had only 89 fewer rebounds than Blount in a little over 1,000 less minutes of play. Granted Blount couldn’t get 8 boards in a lumberyard, but even I don’t need to tell you how terrible that is for our starting center. Unfortunately, he is undersized and may have a problem contributing much more than he did this season in the NBA. I think teams will start to figure out how to guard him. Still, he’s good for 15-20 energy minutes every game off the bench.
Hudson was “injured” for the majority of this season. In between rapping and whatever else it is that he does, he managed to hit 28 three pointers while committing 40 turnovers. Hmm.
Bracey Wright never really got a fair shake, in my opinion. You can’t tell me that he didn’t deserve more than 190 minutes of play when our very own Rashad McCants “earned” 554. I almost think Bracey could turn out to be better than McCants at this stage in their careers. With a little coaching and someone that believes in him, Bracey could yet be a solid NBA bench player. I just don’t see what it is that everyone likes in McCants. I think his status as a high draft pick clouds everyone’s vision. Yes, he is coming off micro fracture surgery, but he’s no Amare Stoudamire, geez people, stop putting him up on a pedestal. McCants doesn’t play defense, doesn’t even attempt to rebound, as evidenced by his “turning and running down the court every time someone puts a shot up” routine. I think what bugs me most about him is how he stands around on offense right outside the three point line, clapping for the ball like he is entitled for it. I don’t think he could run an offensive set to save his life. And he’s cocky. Way to cocky for his skill set. I don’t see it. Throw him in a trade to dump salary and obtain a big man, if at all possible.
I really like Justin Reed as a person. He’s down to earth and a great guy to talk to. He doesn’t have an ego as far as I can tell, and is incredibly personable. However, he sucks on the court. I’ll be the first to admit it. He’s one of those guys you always cheer for when he makes a basket or does something else of skill on the court. We all cheer for him not unlike the small kid with glasses on your high school team that only got to play in the last game of the season when your team was losing by 40. For $1,300,000 this year and $1,436,500 next season, that’s just not cutting it for 106 points and 46 rebounds.
Eddie Griffin – Best of luck in your next life.