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NBA Players – The Most Bang for Your Buck?

By Chris Hanes (Detroit Pistons Board Moderator)

February 18, 2004


     After reading several articles on NBA efficiency ratings and what players are the best bargains, I was unsatisfied with my curiosity on the subject.  Some articles were about the who was the best value in the NBA, some were about efficiency and others about your rank on your team.  I found those articles very interesting, but they did not compare players exactly how I wanted them to, so I decided to research the topic further myself.   I decided to devise my own ranking system for NBA players and figure out who really gives you the best “Bang for your Buck.” 





Name Salary
Kevin Garnett $28,000,000
Shaquille O'Neal $24,749,999
Rasheed Wallace $17,000,000
Allan Houston $15,937,500
Chris Webber $15,937,500
Shawn Kemp $14,941,935
Shareef Abdur-Rahim $13,500,000
Stephon Marbury $13,500,000
Ray Allen $13,500,000
Kobe Bryant







     I started by compiling a list of all NBA players during the 2003-2004 season that had significant contracts (more than a minimum contract based on their NBA experience), or those players making minimum money that made a significant impact during the season (determined later to be an efficiency rating of 2.0 or higher).  I did not want to include veterans only signed to fill out the roster or for cases of emergency, but if they did have a significant impact they remained.  When I was finished compiling this list, there were 426 players on it. Salaries were determined from The top 10 salaries for 2003-04 are listed in the graphic at left.  This list of salaries was a nice place to start, with the next step being to find out what those players did with their contracts.


     To determine how well each NBA player really did, I looked up their stats on for those 426 players.  I then calculated their efficiency rating, which is a popular way to determine how effective a player is.  To do this, I used’s efficiency rating formula as follows: {[(Pts+Reb+Ast+Stl+Blk)]-[(FGA-FGM)+(FTA-FTM)+TO]}/Games Played.  These ratings are very helpful in seeing what players are the most “efficient” basketball players.  The top 10 players in NBA efficiency for 2003-04 are listed in the graphic on the right.  Again, it’s a nice list, but it does not reflect how much they are getting paid to put up those numbers.


Name Efficiency
Kevin Garnett 33.0
Tim Duncan 27.4
Elton Brand 27.1
Brad Miller 24.3
Peja Stojakovic 23.7
Carlos Boozer 23.6
Tracy McGrady 23.6
Shaquille O'Neal 23.5
Dirk Nowitzki 23.4
Shareef Abdur-Rahim 22.2



     To compute who gives their team the most for what they are paid, I had to calculate two more figures.  First, I found the average salary for those 426 players ($3,904,090), and divided that into each player’s salary figure.  That gave me a figure that showed what percent that player made of the average salary.  For example, Kevin Garnett made %717 of the average NBA salary, while Mikki Moore made %1 of the average salary and Chucky Atkins made close to %100 of the average at $3,900,000.

      Next, I computed the average efficiency for these 426 players (7.5) and divided that into the each player’s efficiency rating.  That figure showed what percent of the average efficiency rating each player was able to produce.  For example, Kevin Garnett led the NBA with %404 of the average efficiency rating, while Jamison Brewer was the least efficient player at negative %57 of the average rating.

      To determine what NBA players did the most with what they were paid, I subtracted the percent of the average efficiency for each player from their percent of the average salary they made.  This showed who exceeded their pay and who did not, compared to the rest of the NBA.


     So, what NBA player gave his team the most for their money in 2003-04?  Kevin Garnett maybe?  Tim Duncan perhaps?  Nope, it was Carlos Boozer.  Boozer lead the league with a difference rating of 3.00, while Chris Webber was last with a rating of -4.08.  Here are the best and worst buys of 2003-04:


 Best:  Worst:


Name Salary Rating Eff.




Carlos Boozer 0.14 3.14 3.00
Andrei Kirilenko 0.24 2.94 2.69
Zach Randolph 0.30 2.95 2.65
Karl Malone 0.38 2.73 2.34
Richard Jefferson 0.41 2.39 1.99
Pau Gasol 0.67 2.52 1.85
Amare Stoudemire 0.49 2.30 1.81
Michael Redd 0.77 2.43 1.67
Jamaal Magloire 0.44 2.11 1.67
Sam Cassell 1.30 2.93 1.63
Tony Parker 0.22 1.83 1.61
Manu Ginobili 0.37 1.97 1.60
Yao Ming 1.06 2.65 1.59
Kenyon Martin 1.31 2.88 1.57
Peja Stojakovic 1.60 3.16 1.56
Carlos Arroyo 0.20 1.75 1.54
Donyell Marshall 1.18 2.70 1.52
Mike James 0.16 1.65 1.49
Brian Cardinal 0.17 1.66 1.49
Jason Richardson 0.71 2.20 1.48
Brad Miller 1.79 3.24 1.45
Joe Johnson 0.47 1.91 1.44
Quentin Richardson 0.46 1.89 1.42
TayShaun Prince 0.25 1.67 1.42
Mark Blount 0.24 1.66 1.42
Nene Hilario 0.54 1.95 1.41


Name Salary






Chris Webber 4.08 0.00 -4.08
Shawn Kemp 3.83 0.00 -3.83
Grant Hill 3.40 0.00 -3.40
Shaquille O'Neal 6.34 3.13 -3.21
Terrell Brandon 2.84 0.00 -2.84
Kevin Garnett 7.17 4.40 -2.77
Tom Gugliotta 2.99 0.32 -2.66
Allan Houston 4.08 1.78 -2.30
Antonio McDyess 3.46 1.21 -2.25
Anfernee Hardaway 3.46 1.30 -2.16
Rasheed Wallace 4.35 2.25 -2.11
Wally Szczerbiak 2.05 0.00 -2.05
Jalen Rose 3.40 1.62 -1.79
Glen Rice 1.75 0.00 -1.75
Vin Baker 3.46 1.73 -1.73
Chris Mills 1.69 0.00 -1.69
Hakeem Olajuwon 1.62 0.00 -1.62
Tariq Abdul-Wahad 1.58 0.00 -1.58
Michael Dickerson 1.58 0.00 -1.58
Nick Van Exel 3.06 1.50 -1.57
Antonio Davis 3.31 1.77 -1.54
Jason Caffey 1.46 0.00 -1.46
Latrell Sprewell 3.46 2.00 -1.46
Todd MacCulloch 1.39 0.00 -1.39
Brian Grant 3.11 1.74 -1.37
Tim Thomas 3.03 1.77 -1.26



    There are several interesting things to look at on this list.  One thing I notice is that 8 of the top 9 “best buys” of 2003-04 are guys on their rookie contracts that have exceeded expectations.  Only Karl Malone doesn’t, because the 14 time all star signed a minimum contract with the Lakers this off-season.  Some of the other non-rookie contract “best buys” include Sam Cassell, Peja Stojakovic, Donyell Marshell, and Brad Miller.

     Many of the “worst buys” are star players who have been injured all year or retired early.  Guys like Chris Webber, Shawn Kemp, Grant Hill and Tarrell Brandon all cost their team more than 10 million dollars to sit on the bench, or sit at home.  Players like Shaq, Kevin Garnett, Allan Houston, Rasheed Wallace and Jalen Rose are all having great seasons, but simply have too big of contracts to be a “best buy.”  Does that make them a bad player?  No, they are some of the best in the world.  They just make too much.  So much so that you could have the top 10 best buys for the price of Shaq or Garnett.

     Since this is only at the 2004 all star break, it will be interesting to see how players earn their pay the rest of the way.  Guys like Chris Webber and Wally Szczerbiak should return from injuries, and will have the opportunity to earn their pay.  Other players will emerge as “worst buys” as well should they remove themselves from that list.  It also remains to be seen if some of the “best buys” like Carlos Boozer and Zach Randolph can keep up their amazing seasons.

     In addition to analyzing the first half of the season, I also applied this process to the 2002-2003 season.  I wanted to see how the players faired last season, and the change to this year.  I also wanted to see how some of the free agents did, and the correlation between their worth and what type of contracts they signed.  To look at how last year’s results came out, click here.


Efficiency ratings are computed from’s stats and efficiency formula. 


Current salary figures are from







- Next Game


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