Total Player Value: Money Talks
What are NBA players really worth?
by Abe Schwadron / @abe_squad
Derrick Rose should have made $20 million more than the Bulls paid him last season. At least, that’s what the 22-year-old guard was worth during his MVP campaign last season, according to Total Player Value, a basketball analytics site that evaluates every player and assigns them a suggested yearly salary value.
Rich Steinlauf, a former college draft analyst and advisor to several NBA teams in the ‘90s, runs TPV. Steinlauf combines traditional statistics with players’ impact beyond the box score to determine just how much each NBA player is worth, in millions of dollars. Steinlauf makes personal adjustments based on instinct to account for fourth quarter performance, games played, off-ball defense and more.
Some of the results are not surprising: TPV lists Michael Redd, Rashard Lewis, Eddy Curry and Gilbert Arenas among the most overpaid players in the League last season. Other evaluations are more revealing, though. Along with Rose, Steinlauf lists Dwight Howard and LeBron James as two of the League’s most underpaid players.
How is that possible? In his analysis of the NBA lockout, Steinlauf suggests that the top fourth of NBA players (by performance) are grossly underpaid, while the remaining 75 percent of players are generously compensated for underperforming.
TPV tracked players throughout every game of the 2011 postseason, too, illuminating potential value from underrated free agents-to-be. Steinlauf noted, for instance, that Marc Gasol could be a free-agent bargain this summer. Gasol outperformed his contract by more than $10 million during the Playoffs, and outplayed Tim Duncan of the Spurs.
Steinlauf started his career in 1988 as a college draft consultant, eventually working with a handful of NBA teams to chart Playoff games, including for the 1995 NBA Champion Houston Rockets.
But Steinlauf grew frustrated of his inability to keep track of the entire League on a daily basis. He began searching for a way to transform his scouting skills to a mainstream method of evaluating NBA players—and one that fans and teams alike could understand.
Total Player Value was birthed prior to the ‘08-09 season, when Steinlauf ranked players on a 1-100 scale, LeBron leading the League with a 98 grade and the worst players ranking as ones, twos and threes. But after one season, Steinlauf knew something had to change.
“I liked scale, but it hit me that it would be far more interesting to fans, and more valuable to teams, to translate those grades into salaries,” he said. “My natural instinct told me this would be a more catchy version.”
Steinlauf says fans can enjoy TPV for a daily pro hoops digest that is “easier than reading a box score,” and hopes eventually to bring his valuations to an NBA team’s front office. “I believe I can help save an owner money and help him improve his team.”