NBA Best And Worst Contracts Part II: Central Division

Yesterday, we took a look at the Wiggins Factor of teams in the Atlantic Division. We found some great value rookie contracts that set the bar for the very best young value plays in Pascal Siakam, Jarrett Allen, and Mitchell Robinson.

We also found some terrible values, most of them on the Knicks, and established that somewhere around 400 or 500 is the cutoff for when a contract is just a bad use of the money even on a superstar player.

We also found that the standard changes as you rise up the scale; guys on a rookie contract are great value below 50 Wiggins Factor, but that rises to 200 for a rotation player not on a rookie contract and even 250 or 300 on a superstar.

Which is a reflection of the top-heavy nature of any team’s cap sheet, really. Rookie contracts are dirt cheap below the level of lottery picks, superstar contracts cost a mint, and everyone else is held to a standard in between.

Anyway, read yesterday’s piece for the methodology, let’s just get to the data for the Central Division, in descending order of finish last season. As before, team lists are sorted descending by 2018-19 minutes played.

Milwaukee Bucks

Khris Middleton: $30.6M, 409.19

Giannis Antetokounmpo: $25.84M, 147.71

Brook Lopez: $12.09M, 148.50

Eric Bledsoe: $15.63M, 156.52

Wesley Matthews: $2.56M, 48.63

Robin Lopez: $4.77M, 52.92

George Hill: $9.13M, 228.31

Pat Connaughton: $1.72M, 36.03

Ersan Ilyasova: $7M, 188.08

Sterling Brown: $1.62M, 62.93

D.J. Wilson: $2.96M, 142.03

Dragan Bender: $1.68M, 93.89

Donte DiVincenzo: $2.91M, 403.88

Lessons? Besides Giannis being one of the best values in the entire league, with a Wiggins Factor less than six times his salary, there’s also proof that if you get them cheap enough, even guys like Bender and Matthews make solid sense as end-of-the-bench or deep rotation guys.

The entire point of the stat is to emphasize the price of a Win Share, which is fundamentally the price of an actual win.

What we’ve also learned is that Khris Middleton, a borderline All-Star, is a terrible value at $30.6 million and should absolutely not be making more money on the same team than the league MVP. Middleton has a terrible contract.

Most of Milwaukee’s roster is solid value plays. That’s how you win 60 games and try to do it again.

Indiana Pacers

Jeremy Lamb: $10.5M, 132.07

Myles Turner: $18M, 232.18

Domantas Sabonis: $2.66M, 28.92

Malcolm Brogdon: $20M, 314.10

T.J. McConnell: $3.5M, 105.93

T.J. Warren: $10.81M, 167.35

Doug McDermott: $7.33M, 209.03

Victor Oladipo: $21M, 742.92

Aaron Holiday: $2.24M, 209.97

T.J. Leaf: $2.81M, 143.16

Alize Johnson: $1.42M, 3,234.44 (!)

I don’t know what to make of that atrocious 742.92 Wiggins Factor on Oladipo. Part of it is that the stat penalizes injury because the more minutes played, the lower the score (all other things equal), but part of it is that Oladipo had a genuinely lousy .097 WS/48 in 2018-19.

That big, glaring 742.92, the worst Wiggins Factor we’ve seen on a star player so far, speaks to just how much risk exposure the Pacers have as Oladipo returns from injury. If he doesn’t get back to his 2017-18 form in a hurry, he might end up being a millstone around the neck of the team.

Lamb, meanwhile, is a good value, and Sabonis is one of those rookie-contract guys who’s giving a great return on investment to his team.

Sabonis is the only Pacer with a ratio of Wiggins Factor to salary (in millions) below 11. This Pacers team has been slotted as low as seventh in playoff projections, and there are enough red flags when you look at the value they’ve gotten for the price they’ve paid to think that there are a lot of “if” scenarios that have to actually trigger for this team to be any good.

It’s like seeing troubling economic indicators before a recession.

Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond: $27.09M, 222.55

Blake Griffin: $34.23M, 349.55

Reggie Jackson: $18.09M, 296.25

Langston Galloway: $7.33M, 175.89

Bruce Brown: $1.42M, 80.36

Luke Kennard: $3.83M, 123.42

Derrick Rose: $7.32M, 178.17

Tony Snell: $11.39M, 430.01

Markieff Morris: $3.2M, 154.77

Tim Frazier: $1.88M, 73.84

Thon Maker: $3.57M, 183.03

Sviatoslav Mykhaliuk: $1.42M, -167.60

Christian Wood: $1.65M, 207.75

Khyri Thomas: $0.84M, 3,391.02 (!)

Svi Mykhaliuk is just another Laker who stunk in Los Angeles and will stink in Detroit, so he earns that lovely negative number for his Wiggins Factor.

Andre Drummond has a fantastic ratio right around 8 between his Wiggins Factor and his salary, while Griffin sits around 10 in that same ratio. Consider the discussion we just got through having about the Pacers and their team-leading 11 for Sabonis.

What separates Detroit, a team getting great production of wins from its stars, from a team like the Pacers is that nobody else on the Pistons produces a strong ratio of bang to the buck.

And nobody in their right mind should be paying Tony Snell $11 million.

Chicago Bulls

Thaddeus Young: $12.9M, 334.65

Zach LaVine: $19.5M, 570.21

Tomas Satoransky: $10M, 254.39

Ryan Arcidiacono: $3M, 66.90

Otto Porter: $27.25M, 913.26 (!!)

Lauri Markkanen: $5.3M, 159.00

Shaquille Harrison: $0.9M, 51.61

Kris Dunn: $5.35M, 689.10

Wendell Carter Jr.: $5.2M, 230.49

Chandler Hutchison: $2.33M, 341.56

Antonio Blakeney: $1.59M, -226.47

Luke Kornet: $2.2M, 102.83

Cristiano Felicio: $8.16M, 489.24

Oh man…Porter’s contract is a disaster movie. Dunn stinks, especially given his meager salary. And LaVine continues to be overpaid by at least a factor of three—his Wiggins Factor suggests he’s worth no more than about $6.5 million.

Young eats a penalty for going from a good team to a putrid team, but even with that he manages to come out of this with a sub-30 salary ratio. If he matches his production from the Pacers, that ratio will drop below 14.

Nobody on this team is a good value (except Young, if you believe he’ll not see his win shares drop.) Blakeney is a negative-WS guy. And Porter, Dunn, and LaVine are the solid core you need if your goal is to draft in the top five for three or four straight years.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Jordan Clarkson: $13.44M, 612.65

Matthew Dellavedova: $9.61M, 2,561.16

John Henson: $9.73M, 4,406.11

Brandon Knight: $15.64M, -107.89

Kevin Love: $28.9M, 1,794.51

Larry Nance Jr.: $12.73M, 213.08

Cedi Osman: $2.91M, 161.60

Collin Sexton: $4.76M, -79.11

Tristan Thompson: $18.54M, 580.12

Ante Zizic: $2.28M, 95.33

Expensive players with terrible ratios. When LeBron James took off, he left the Cavs as a capped-out shambles of a franchise, and it’s going to take a long time and a lot of roster moves for Cleveland to pick itself up off the floor.

They have three guys with Wiggins Factors over 1,000, including Love, who suffers the malus of frequent injury. They have Sexton, who had one of the worst rookie years in NBA history. And their best player, by a mile, is Nance.

When Larry Nance Jr. is your best player, you’ve got problems.

It’s hard to see how the Cavs fix this without getting great luck in the draft.

COMING TOMORROW: Southeast Division.