Quick! Who are the top five highest paid players on the Pistons right now?
Andre Drummond ($22.1 million), Tobias Harris ($17.2 million), and Reggie Jackson ($14.9 million) should not surprise you, but the next two on the list, newly signed Jon Leuer ($10.9 million) and Boban Marjanovic ($7 million), very well might. The next two players on the list, Aron Baynes ($6.5 million) and Ish Smith ($6 million) aren't starters either, which has led many around the league and some on this very site to wonder: Why are these guys getting paid so much?
The answer is: It's all relative. It can be hard wrapping your head around the meaning of these numbers because of how much the league has changed in the last ten years. When the Pistons won the championship in 2004, their opening day salary breakdown looked like this:
|Darvin Ham||$813,679 [minimum, counts $688,679]|
|Tremaine Fowlkes||$638,679 [minimum]|
|Detroit Pistons||Total: $53,317,832|
*Midseason, Detroit traded Sura, Rebraca, Atkins and Hunter, for Rasheed Wallace ($17 million) and Mike James ($638 thousand). Hunter was waived by the Celtics and re-signed with the Pistons soon after. Hubert Davis was waived in January.
When you look at those numbers compared to the current team, there's no way that the current players should be making this much more than those Goin' to Work Pistons:
Shoot, Josh Smith is getting paid more not to play for the team than Chauncey Billups was paid as the Finals MVP! Andre Drummond is making more than than the entire starting lineup did combined!
The problem with this way of thinking is that you can't compare the numbers to get a good perspective on how much these guys are worth. You have to compare the salaries of the players to the total amount of money that is available:
|Total Salary Cap||$43,840,000||% of salary cap||Total Salary Cap||$94,143,000.00||% of salary cap|
|Richard Hamilton||$6,500,000||14.83%||Andre Drummond||$22,116,750||23.49%|
|Bob Sura||$6,266,666||14.29%||Tobias Harris||$17,200,000||18.47%|
|Ben Wallace||$5,500,000||12.55%||Reggie Jackson||$14,956,522||15.89%|
|Chauncey Billups||$5,000,600||11.41%||Jon Leuer||$9,836,066||10.45%|
|Corliss Williamson||$5,000,000||11.41%||Boban Marjanovic||$7,000,000||7.44%|
|Zeljko Rebraca||$4,200,000||9.58%||Aron Baynes||$6,500,000||6.90%|
|Elden Campbell||$4,000,000||9.12%||Ishmael Smith||$6,000,000||6.37%|
|Chucky Atkins||$3,900,000||8.90%||Marcus Morris||$4,625,000||4.91%|
|Darko Milicic||$3,595,800||8.20%||Kentavious Caldwell-Pope||$3,678,319||3.91%|
|Lindsey Hunter||$3,000,000||6.84%||Stanley Johnson||$2,969,880||3.15%|
|Hubert Davis||$2,956,250||6.74%||Reggie Bullock||$2,255,644||2.40%|
|Mehmet Okur||$1,100,000||2.51%||Henry Ellenson||$1,704,120||1.81%|
|Tayshaun Prince||$971,160||2.22%||Lorenzo Brown||$1,015,696||1.08%|
|Darvin Ham||$813,679||1.86%||Ray McCallum||$980,431||1.04%|
|Tremaine Fowlkes||$638,679||1.46%||Darrun Hilliard||$874,636||0.93%|
|Rasheed Wallace||$17,000,000||38.78%||Michael Gbinije||$650,000||0.69%|
|Mike James||$638,678||1.46%||Josh Smith||$5,400,000||5.74%|
|Total (before trade)||$53,317,832||121.62%||Total||$108,215,113||114.95%|
*There are discrepancies about the yearly breakdown for Boban and Ish's contracts depending on where you look on the internet, so I went with what you see. I used this for the historic salaries and this and this for the current numbers. Percentages are partially from spotrac.com and partially my own math.
There are many takeaways from this comparison:
-The championship team started the season with five players making more than 10% of the cap, compared to just four on this year's team. There were also nine players making at least 8%, compared to just five on this year's team.
-The salaries were more evenly distributed on the championship team, while this year's team has a greater range of differences.
-The championship team really hit on some cheap late picks, finding starters that were making less than 3% of the cap. This year's team is also relying on low paid players to start with Marcus (5%) and KCP (4%).
-Marcus Morris is getting paid less this year than Bob Sura did twelve years ago, and less than Josh Smith is being paid to stay away from this team.
-For those that worry about Andre's big cap hit, look at Rasheed! 39% of the cap today would come out to $36 million this year and $42 million next year. The next year Rasheed signed a contract that started at $9.7 million and grew to $13.9 million, which was 22%-24% of the cap in those years.
We can also take away the names of the players, and just look at the positions they play:
|2nd String PG||6.84%||6.37%|
|2nd String SG||14.29%||2.40%|
|2nd String SF||11.41%||3.15%|
|2nd String PF||9.12%||10.45%|
|2nd String C||9.58%||6.90%|
|3rd String PG||8.90%||1.04%|
|3rd String SG||1.46%||0.69%|
|3rd String SF||1.86%||0.93%|
|3rd String PF||-||1.81%|
|3rd String C||8.20%||7.44%|
*For the 2003-2004 team, I went by minutes played. This was tricky because of injuries, and both Atkins and Hunter played a similar about of time. Nevertheless, it's a snapshot.
Here are the totals:
-Dumars spent more resources on his backcourt than SVG. A big part of that is the fact that all the shooting guards on the Pistons are still on their rookie contracts, while Dumars had two starters in the backcourt on their veteran contracts.
-Dumars had starters on some great deals, and a lot of money in his bench. SVG has built the other way, starting with his Top 5 and then fleshing out the bench from there with guys on good deals.
-Josh Smith strikes again.
The final step is consider the deal the Pistons made this summer by comparing them to the rest of the deals made:
|PG||Salary||Cap %||SG||Salary||Cap %|
|Mike Conley||26,540,000||28.19%||DeMar DeRozan||26,540,100||28.19%|
|Rajon Rondo||14,000,000||14.87%||Dwyane Wade||23,227,384||24.67%|
|Jordan Clarckson||12,500,000||13.28%||Bradley Beal||22,116,750||23.49%|
|Jeremy Lin||11,483,254||12.20%||Allen Crabbe||18,500,000||19.65%|
|Austin Rivers||10,852,713||11.53%||Evan Fournier||17,000,000||18.06%|
|Matthew Dellavedova||9,607,000||10.20%||Evan Turner||16,393,443||17.41%|
|Deron Williams||9,000,000||9.56%||Manu Ginobili||14,000,000||14.87%|
|Jerryd Bayless||8,612,440||9.15%||Jamal Crawford||13,253,012||14.08%|
|D.J. Augustin||7,250,000||7.70%||Arron Afflalo||12,500,000||13.28%|
|Ish Smith||6,000,000||6.37%||Eric Gordon||12,385,364||13.16%|
|Brandon Jennings||5,000,000||5.31%||Courtney Lee||11,242,000||11.94%|
|Greivis Vasquez||4,347,826||4.62%||Joe Johnson||11,000,000||11.68%|
|Seth Curry||2,898,000||3.08%||Gerald Henderson||9,000,000||9.56%|
|Randy Foye||2,500,000||2.66%||Garrett Temple||8,000,000||8.50%|
|Isaiah Canaan||1,015,696||1.08%||E'Twaun Moore||7,962,529||8.46%|
*Tyler Johnson's deal with the Heat was a "poison pill" deal, where his first two years are just under $6 million per year, and the last two are about $19 million per year. Allen Crabbe's RFA deal with the Nets was apparently not structured that way.
-For a backup guard, it looks like the Pistons are getting Ish Smith on a pretty good deal compared to the rest of the league. If he ends up being a 3rd string point guard playing 2nd string minutes, a la Steve Blake, maybe it's not as great of a deal.
-KCP is going to get PAID. Backups are making $18 million+. Extending him sooner rather than later will be a difference of millions with the cap jumping again.
|SF||Salary||Cap %||PF||Salary||Cap %|
|Kevin Durant||26,540,100||28.19%||Dirk Nowitzki||25,000,000||26.56%|
|Chandler Parsons||22,116,750||23.49%||Ryan Anderson||18,735,363||19.90%|
|Harrison Barnes||22,116,750||23.49%||Pau Gasol||15,500,000||16.46%|
|Nicolas Batum||20,869,565||22.17%||Jeff Green||15,000,000||15.93%|
|Luol Deng||18,000,000||19.12%||Marvin Williams||12,250,000||13.01%|
|Kent Bazemore||15,730,338||16.71%||Miles Plumlee||11,685,393||12.41%|
|Solomon Hill||11,241,218||11.94%||Jon Leuer||10,991,957||11.68%|
|Jared Dudley||10,470,000||11.12%||Mirza Teletovic||10,500,000||11.15%|
|Maurice Harkless||8,988,764||9.55%||Meyers Leonard||9,213,483||9.79%|
|Lance Thomas||6,191,000||6.58%||Trevor Booker||9,046,455||9.61%|
|Matt Barnes||6,125,000||6.51%||Dwight Powell||8,314,607||8.83%|
|Wesley Johnson||5,628,000||6.98%||Anthony Tolliver||8,000,000||8.50%|
|Richard Jefferson||2,500,000||2.66%||Darrell Arthur||7,131,783||7.58%|
|Luc Mbah a Moute||2,203,000||2.34%||Andrew Nicholson||6,088,993||6.47%|
|Quincy Acy||1,050,961||1.12%||Luis Scola||5,500,000||5.84%|
-Jon Leuer's deal seems to be right in line with what the league is paying for a backup big man. The guys making significantly more than him are largely starting, and the guys making less are projected to play less.
-Marreese Speights = Super Saver Deal of the Summer?
-Andre Drummond is just a great deal for the Pistons. No one signed this summer is close to his age at center, unless you count Meyers Leonard. He is going to get at least two max-level deals during his prime. Boban was signed to a nice deal, but his salary slots better as a 2nd string player than 3rd. The nice thing is that when he likely takes that 2nd string role next year, his salary stays the same and only takes up 6.5% of the cap.
-Baynes will probably double his yearly salary by opting out next year as long as nothing catastrophic happens.
The numbers on the deals that new Pistons signed this summer seem pretty big: $22 million for a starter, $11 million, $7 million, and $6 million for mere backups. When you take a look at it by percentages of the cap though, the deals are much more reasonable: 23.5% for an all-star, 11.7%, 7.5%, and 6% for backups. The salaries signed are in line with what the league has done historically. They also match up with what the rest of the league is doing now, if not even a little bit of a value in some cases.
Three Things to Take Away
1. SVGI not AFI.
2. Marcus Morris should never ever be traded.
3. The ghosts of Josh Smith and Joe Dumars live on.