For the past few months, I've been meaning to evaluate which Grizzlies earned their paychecks this past season, but I just never got around to doing it. Last week I read Ziller's excellent piece on the best and worst of the 2010 free agents, and my interest was renewed. Additionally, we'll be discussing individual player performance in our ongoing roundtable series, and I thought we should probably have some analysis of their past performance to refer to.
Before I begin, I warn you about a few things. To begin with, I'm not a "math" person; I've spent my entire academic and professional career in the humanities, and I intend to keep it that way. Fortunately, Basketball-Reference exists, and did most of the leg work for me. To judge player performance, I used Win Shares. As a metric, Win Shares isn't perfect, but, overall, I feel it gives a good indication of a player's performance. Thanks to Ziller we know that the average Win Share is worth $1.47 million. So how did our Grizzlies fare?
(Games Played, Win Shares, and 2010-2011 Salaries taken from Basketball-Reference)
First, I must mention that in the case of Hasheem and Shane, I simply used their combined statistics for both Memphis and Houston, as I wasn't sure exactly how much of their salary was paid by Memphis. Also notice that I've taken out Win Shares/48 and replaced it with Win Shares/Games Played because this will come into play later. Finally, let me stress that these figures are for the regular season only.
The thing that should really stick out to you is how much of a good value Marc Gasol was for us. I'm not sure how much he'll command in free agency, but I'm guessing that it will be in the $7-9 million range. Even at that salary he's still a great deal. This chart also vindicates Mike Conley's much maligned extension. If he can continue to produce at this level, then he'll be worth his paycheck. The trio of Tony Allen, Darrell Arthur, and Sam Young were a huge boon for Memphis this season. Allen (who was #10 on Ziller's list of best bargains) was a fantastic signing, especially considering that we have him locked up for more 2 seasons. Darrell is a restricted free agent this summer, and I'm a bit worried about whether we'll be able to keep him. I wouldn't put much stock in Grevis and Xavier's numbers; I think both of them will improve a lot this offseason.
More than anything else, this chart absolutely highlights the importance of the rookie contracts. Part of the reason why Mike, Darrell, Sam, and Marc were so underpaid is because they're still on their rookie contracts. Ziller demonstrated that rookies represent the biggest value in the NBA. This is why we cannot trade our draft picks away, especially now that we'll have Zach's, Mike's, Rudy's, and (presumably) Marc's massive contracts on the books.
Unfortunately, we do have a few black eyes in the budget as well. The OJ Mayo detractors have even more ammunition when they argue that OJ should be traded. However, it's worth noting that for the first two seasons of his career, OJ was massively underpaid. I personally think this season was a fluke and he'll show improvement next year. As much as I like Hamed, his pay doesn't justify his production, though again this comes with a caveat--using WS/G, I calculated that Hamed would've been worth his contract if he would've played in at least 57 games. So Memphis shouldn't resign him unless they're serious about using him. Surprisingly, Zach represents a drain on the franchise. I wouldn't take this seriously; many star players, including Kobe and Dirk, are overpaid using this formula. Remember that this doesn't take into account the merchandising, ticket sales, leadership qualities, and force of personality that Zach brings to this franchise. I feel confident saying that most fans are willing to overlook the fact that he might be overpaid.
Rudy is worth taking a deeper look at. On the surface, he was a big minus for us, but remember that he was having a career-best season until he was injuried. Also recall that he's been incredibly durable over the course of his career, having played at 78 games every season execpt this one. It turned out that had he not missed 28 games, Rudy would have been overpaid by just over $1 million. Not too bad for someone who many think is massively overpaid.
Overall, our Grizzlies look really solid going forward, provided that everyone keeps up their level of play and the front office can continue to draft solid players.