What The Hell Is Bill Simmons Smoking?

Posted on February 22, 2011 | 1 Comment

Bill Simmons recently wrote a column, in which he listed the top 25 overpaid players in the NBA. On that list were two Raptors: Jose Calderon (17) and Amir Johnson (20).

My question to Bill is, “have you watched the Raptors AT ALL this year?”

Now, I don’t deny that Jose is overpaid. He’s making $10 million a season, which is MORE than what Rajon Rondo is making this year (not on his rookie contract, by the way), as well as Devin Harris, Mo Williams, Jason Kidd, Jameer Nelson and Andre Miller, all veteran PGs who are, at least, on a similar level as Jose.

But Amir overpaid?

When Amir signed his contract, there was a lot of talk about how it was a bad signing because Amir had never even played 20 mpg in his 5 seasons in the league, and there was a real question of whether he could stay on the floor long enough to earn a contract like that.

Part of the uproar was due to a mistake in reporting what the actual contract was worth. And Simmons seems to be working off the wrong number. He reports that Amir’s contract is $35 million over 5 years when it’s actually only $30 million. Still a lot of money, but a lot less than initially reported.

Now, Amir wasn’t the only player signed this past summer. In fact five other players who signed big contracts this summer also made the list (Josh Childress, Travis Outlaw, Al Harrington, Chris Duhon and Channing Frye) and I don’t think there can really be any debate that those 6 guys are overpaid. Not one of them has performed as well as expected this year, and all of them would prove very difficult to trade, without getting an equally bad contract back.

Of course, Simmons neglected to include Drew Gooden, who signed a slightly bigger contract than Amir, yet is putting up similar numbers.

Amir Johnson

PPG 10.1
RPG 6.9
APG 1.3
SPG 0.8
BPG 1.2
FG% 0.575
FT% 0.803
3P% 0.000
MPG 26.0

Drew Gooden

PPG 10.8
RPG 6.5
APG 0.7
SPG 0.7
BPG 0.4
FG% 0.442
FT% 0.776
3P% 0.231
MPG 23.6

The main difference between Gooden and  Amir, though, is Amir actually plays defense. And Gooden’s good play/bone-headed play ratio is much lower than Amir’s. And Gooden isn’t on the list. Why, I don’t know.

And I’m sure there are others.

Still, I’m not arguing that Amir should be taken off the list because there are others that have worse contracts. I’m actually arguing that Amir should not be on the list because he’s simply not overpaid.

There are a lot of different ways to try and tell how good a player is. PER is one of the more popular ways, thanks to ESPN’s dominance. I don’t completely agree, but it’s certainly a good ballpark figure.

Amir currently has the highest PER on the Raptors, at 18.7, which is above the average PER of 15 (which is the baseline). The average salary in the league is $5.765 million (which is how the MLE is calculated). So Amir is actually making LESS than the average salary in the NBA, despite having a higher than average PER. Hard to say he’s overpaid under those circumstances.

In Win shares, Amir is 44th in the league, which puts him just below Josh Smith, he’s 4th in the league in Offensive Rating, 72nd in defensive rating (just above Landry Fields, Shane Battier and Nicolas Batum), 33rd in Offensive Win Share and 84th in Defensive Win Share. All well above average.

Amir also consistently outproduced his opponent and the team is worse off when he is off the court. A rare occurrence on the Raptors.

Amir is currently fourth in the league Field Goal Percentage, yet it’s on the defensive end that he is best.

In fact, in just about every single advanced stat, Amir is the most productive Raptor, yet is only the 5th highest paid. Neither Bargani, nor Barbosa, neither of whom have very good advanced stats, are on the list yet make more money than Amir does.

Ignoring advanced stats, Amir Johnson was most people’s Raptor’s MVP halfway through the season. And he’s making LESS than the average salary.

Overpaid? Not on your life. Sorry, Bill.

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Join the discussion: 1 Comment


  • Buddahfan

    Johnson is making $5 million this season.

    When you look at a 23 year old player who is currently starting and averaging 29 mpg as a starter the only thing that matters when it comes to his contract is what is doing in the current season.

    Why? Because the odds are that he will continue to get better over the life of his contract.

    So the question really should be.

    Has his production and leadership skills this season been worth $5 million?

    The answer is so obvious even a monkey could get it correct.

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