Splashy, big-ticket free agent signings make headlines, but subtle pickups often make the difference between winning and losing. Players who can be had at bargain prices may be much more valuable than their contracts indicate. Two ways of evaluating that value are PER and win shares per 48 minutes, a pair of metrics designed to go beyond box score stats and evaluate a player's efficiency and contribution to the team.
Using the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Tracker, I've taken the average annual salary that each free agent signed for this summer and compared it to their PERs and win shares per 48 minutes from 2011/12. I divided the average salaries, listed here in millions, by the PERs and ranked the dividends from largest (most valuable) to smallest. For the second chart, I divided salaries by win shares per 48 minutes and ranked the results from smallest (most valuable) to largest.
Not surprisingly, many of these guys are minimum-salary players. The minimum salary goes up for each year of experience a player has, but teams aren't on the hook for any amount beyond the minimum for a player with two years of experience, which is set at $854K this year. The league provides the rest of the money for the players. The salaries that have been adjusted down to the two-year veteran's minimum appear in yellow in the charts below. In cases where a signee didn't play last season, or appeared in fewer than 10 games, I substituted the PER or win shares per 48 minutes from the last NBA season in which he played at least 10 games, and those stats are shown here in gray.
First, the PER chart:
Now, the win shares chart:
- Eight players appear on both 10-man lists: Patrick Mills, C.J. Watson, Daniel Orton, Nate Robinson, Chris Wilcox, Ronnie Brewer, Ronny Turiaf and Cartier Martin.
- The only teams to have multiple players on these lists are the Nets and Bulls. There's been criticism of the Bulls for their overhaul of the team's bench this offseason, but the numbers Robinson and Radmanovich put up last season suggest they can provide roughly the same value as departing reserves Watson and Brewer.
- P.J. Tucker's appearance on the PER chart might be something of a red herring, since it's based on a 17-game sample from back in 2006-07 with the Raptors, his only NBA experience. Though he played only 83 total minutes, he made the most of them, averaging 13.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per 36 minutes. He's the only player on either top 10 to make less than the two-year veteran's minimum, since he has only one season of experience, but if we took him off the list, the player to replace him would be Roger Mason of the Hornets. Mason's 2011/12 PER of 12.1 divided by his $854K veteran's minimum salary for next year results in a score of 14.169.