With LeBron James coming out and demanding a max salary, it will be fascinating to see - now that free agency has started - where Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade land in terms of salary and years on their contracts. They obviously opted out to take less money, but how much less will determine the future of the Heat.
People are taking shots at LeBron for saying he wants the max, despite never making the highest salary on any of his teams even when he was clearly the best player on the team. That’s just ridiculous – the best player in the world has never been the highest paid on his own team.
And he should demand the max. He's certainly worth it, and is still in the prime of his career. Not to mention he pretty much carried this last version of the Heat to the NBA Finals. As I wrote previously, the production he got from his supporting cast was the worse he’s ever had. Yes, even worse than that 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers squad.
What if the Heat gave out contracts based on performance last year? Although it still won’t peg LeBron’s true value to a franchise, it can show how much he really did things by himself last year. To do this, I looked at both win shares and our own metric, nERD, which is comparable to win shares. That can show us the production of each player in relation to the overall team performance and give us a percentage. Multiplying that percentage by their total salary number last year - $80,698,486 – we can find out what a player’s salary “should have been” by their production.
Think of it this way: If the Heat ownership paid the players after the season and divided up the $80 million check by what the numbers say about each player's production, here's how the checks would read.
By Win Shares
|Player||'13-'14 Salary||'13-'14 WS||Salary By Production||Difference|
|Chris Bosh||$19,067,500||8.0||$11,889,279||- $7,178,220|
|LeBron James||$19,067,500||15.9||$23,629,943||+ $4,562,443|
|Dwyane Wade||$18,536,000||5.5||$8,173,880||- $10,362,120|
|Udonis Haslem||$4,340,000||1.1||$1,634,776||- $2,705,224|
|Mario Chalmers||$4,000,000||4.8||$7,133,568||+ $3,133,568|
|Shane Battier||$3,270,000||2.4||$3,566,784||+ $296,784|
|Ray Allen||$3,229,050||4.1||$6,093,256||+ $2,864,206|
|Toney Douglas||$1,600,000||0.7||$1,040,312||- $559,688|
|James Jones||$1,500,000||0.7||$1,040,312||- $459,688|
|Chris Andersen||$1,399,507||6.0||$8,916,960||+ $7,517,453|
|Rashard Lewis||$1,399,507||1.7||$2,526,472||+ $1,126,965|
|Norris Cole||$1,191,240||1.2||$1,783,392||+ $592,152|
|Michael Beasley||$1,027,424||1.6||$2,377,856||+ $1,350,432|
|Greg Oden||$884,293||0.5||$743,080||- $141,213|
|Justin Hamilton||$98,036||0.1||$148,616||+ $50,580|
|DeAndre Liggins||$88,429||0.0||$0||- $88,429|
LeBron and Birdman were the only two players who significantly outperformed their contracts. Chalmers and Ray Allen also had good seasons, although the former was vilified after a disappointing playoff run.
The biggest difference is obviously Wade - he made $18,536,000 this season, but only performed like an $8,173,880 player. Teams can consistently find cheap veterans to produce on lower $1 million contracts, like Lewis and Andersen. But when your star players who are getting paid like star players no longer produce like star players, then you're in trouble.
The numbers here are vastly more drastic. Our metric is not so kind to certain players, especially Norris Cole who posted a -5.7 nERD on the year. The number here can be positive or negative, and measures approximately how many wins (plus or minus) a team would have with that player as a starter. So with Cole starting for the Heat, they would be approximated to lose 5.7 games as a result.
Obviously no statistic is perfect, and perhaps Cole is more valuable coming off the bench than he would be as a starter. And the numbers below will be a little shocking because of the negatives. Since the "production salaries" will be negative as a result of their nERD, the difference will be bigger. Win shares measure just wins - even a bad player will probably add something to a win here or there. But nERD attempts to measure wins and losses, and shows how much a detriment an unproductive player making a large contract is.
Also, our metric shows the difference between LeBron's individual production in comparison to the individual production of his surrounding players. There a huge difference between his 20.4 nERD and the second-highest on the team, which is Andersen's 6.7 mark.
|Player||'13-'14 Salary||'13-'14 nERD||Salary By Production||Difference|
|Chris Bosh||$19,067,500||6.2||$17,076,130||- $1,991,370|
|LeBron James||$19,067,500||20.4||$56,185,977||+ $37,118,477|
|Dwyane Wade||$18,536,000||3.6||$9,915,172||- $8,620,828|
|Udonis Haslem||$4,340,000||-0.4||- $1,101,686||- $5,441,686|
|Mario Chalmers||$4,000,000||0.5||$1,377,107||- $2,622,893|
|Shane Battier||$3,270,000||-1.1||- $3,029,636||- $6,299,636|
|Ray Allen||$3,229,050||0.1||$275,421||- $2,953,629|
|Toney Douglas||$1,600,000||-1.1||- $3,029,636||- $4,629,636|
|James Jones||$1,500,000||0.7||$1,927,950||+ $427,950|
|Chris Andersen||$1,399,507||6.7||$18,453,237||+ $17,053,730|
|Rashard Lewis||$1,399,507||-0.6||- $1,652,529||- $3,052,036|
|Norris Cole||$1,191,240||-5.7||- $15,699,023||- $16,890,263|
|Michael Beasley||$1,027,424||-0.2||- $550,843||- $1,578,267|
|Greg Oden||$884,293||0.2||$550,843||- $333,450|
|Justin Hamilton||$98,036||0.0||$0||- $98,036|
|DeAndre Liggins||$88,429||0.0||$0||- $88,429|
Wow. LeBron, by our numbers, would get a cut of $56,185,977. That's ridiculous. And Cole would have to pay ownership $16,890,263 because of his performance.
LeBron is absolutely worth a max contract, although you didn't need this exercise to know that. More importantly, Wade is worth nowhere near the max, and him taking a significant pay cut is absolutely critical for the Heat this offseason. He already opted out of his contract, but we'll see just how much less he's willing to accept.
LeBron is worth it. Pay the man his money and cut everywhere else. It's not like most of the Heat players really matched their worth anyway.