Saturday, March 29, 2008

Salary cap hogs and consequences

In one of the articles about the war of words between Shaquille O'Neal and Pat Riley last week, there was a quote from Stan Van Gundy that I thought was particularly insightful:
"I think it is very unfortunate anytime a player leaves a team and sees fit to trash former teammates," Van Gundy said. "I am also always puzzled when a great player takes up a large part of the salary cap and then complains about the talent around him."
Stan Van Gundy probably isn't Shaq's biggest fan (since many people think Shaq's desire to have Riley as his coach led to SVG's "resignation" from the Heat), but his comment about the salary cap seems right on target to me. Shaq, Kobe, Jason Kidd, and Kevin Garnett are all players that in the last couple of years have complained in some way about the quality of the players around them. They're also all players with max contracts taking up significant salary cap space. It isn't that easy to bring in additional talent when you don't have the available cap room.

In general, I wonder whether giving out max contracts is really the best strategy for teams looking to compete for the title. My guess is that it all depends on if you've correctly identified the players who are worth a max contract, and not paying players max money when they're no longer max players. From the looks of it, I'd say teams aren't so good at identifying the correct players.

In particular, SVG's quote makes me wonder about his current team, the Orlando Magic. The Magic signed Rashard Lewis to a max contract this past off-season. Combined with the money they're paying to Dwight Howard (the big money from his extension starts next season), the Magic don't really have much cap room available going forward. At the same time, I think the general consensus (as well as my opinion) is that they're in need of a power forward to complement Howard (and allow Lewis to slide back to his preferred small forward position).

So I'm curious: Does SVG's comment reflect a conversation that he's been having with his two stars this season? Seems possible.


Louis said...

I checked out the two lists you linked to (Highest Salaries and Team Payrolls) and I noticed a few curious things:
1. Chris Webber is on the list as one of the highest paid players. I didn't think he was playing this year.

2. The 76ers did not have anyone in the top 30 in salary and were still 10th in overall Payroll.

3. There were some awful teams paying more than the Sixers, the Knicks to name one, and some really good teams paying a lot less.

Will the Sixers have cap room to bring in a Max-Worthy player next year to put them over the top or is the Team Payroll going to be too high?

Sam Cohen said...

1. Webber attempted a comeback with the Warriors, but it didn't work out. He officially announced his retirement this past week.

2. Webber actually counted for $19 million dollars against the Sixers payroll this year which explains why we had such a high payroll number.

The Sixers will definitely have cap room this summer. You can look at the salaries on the book for next year here:

This list doesn't include salaries that will need to be taken on to resign Louis Williams, etc. But we should still have some pretty significant room. That said, I'm not sure that there are people worth pursuing for max money.