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Which Lakers Earned Their Paycheck?

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With the season coming to an end, albeit a little too early, the Lakers now enter the off-season. This week most of the exit interviews were completed. The players can cash their paychecks and relax for a few months before the next season begins. Just as we did last year, we now take a look at which Lakers earned their paychecks, and which ones did not.

The method I've used to determine what each player's performance was worth was based on data from Basketball Reference. I've used a statistic called "win shares" for the analysis. Win shares are the estimated number of wins contributed by a player. It attempts to capture the entirety of a player's offensive and defensive contributions. I won't explain how it's calculated, but the website has a glossary and an explanation if you're interested.

The idea is to determine how much a single win share was worth and then apply that amount to the win shares for each player. I used both regular season and playoff win shares. I think we can all agree that a win in the playoffs is more important than a win in the regular season, so I multiplied the playoff win shares by three, meaning a win in the playoffs is worth three times the money as a win in the regular season. I totaled the league-wide salaries and divided by the total win shares to determine the value of a single win share. The result is that each win share is worth $1,355,613.

Before we get to the player results, a few caveats warrant mentioning. This determination of a fair salary only reflects the on-the-court game contributions. It does not take into account other items. Kobe Bryant not only contributes wins, but he puts butts in the seats, sells jerseys, draws TV ratings, etc… All of these things have a value to Dr. Buss and thus Kobe’s salary reflects both on the court production and additional revenue generation. This analysis ignores the latter. This analysis also ignores contributions during practice. Each team needs to practice and this is the area where third string players often contribute. This analysis ignores any contributions provided during practice. Finally, their actual salaries have been adjusted on a pro-rate basis to reflect the shortened 66 game season.

Now on to the players…

The Young Projects

Christian Eyenga: 0.0 Win Shares, Actual Salary $317,461, Fair Salary $0

Eyenga was acquired in the Ramon Sessions deal. The raw athletic wing player only saw the floor for 28 minutes in a Lakers uniform. His very limited use in garbage time resulted in no win shares being contributed and thus the indicated fair salary. Dr. Buss can't be angry though as he didn't cost Buss much given his cheap salary and Cleveland picking up roughly two-thirds of the tab. Just write off the salary as "investment expense" associated with acquiring the asset Ramon Session.

Darius Morris: 0.4 Win Shares, Actual Salary $381,193, Fair Salary $542,245

Morris was one of the Lakers' second round draft picks but he couldn't crack the line-up. Other than some early season minutes as Mike Brown experimented with line-ups, he was primarily relegated to the bench. His win shares are probably a little too generous (especially the 0.2 attributed in the post season) but not unreasonable. The cost of Morris to Dr. Buss was minimal and it would appear that his play warranted his small salary.

Andrew Goudelock: 0.1 Win Shares, Actual Salary $381,193, Fair Salary $135,561

Goudelock was the other second round pick for the Lakers. He played well to start the season and earned himself a regular spot in the rotation in January. In February he ran into a slump and eventually worked himself right out of the line-up. Despite showing a promising offensive game and no fear of shooting, his defense left something to be desired. In contrast to Morris, I think win shares were a little punitive to Goudelock. He was assigned only 0.1 win shares and thus fell short of earning his salary. He has the potential to provide a sorely lacking scoring punch off the bench that is worthy of a small salary. Dr. Buss shouldn't mind the investment made into Goudelock this season.

Devin Ebanks: 0.6 Win Shares, Actual Salary $613,474, Fair Salary $813,368

Ebanks began the season as the starting small forward but was quickly replaced by Matt Barnes and then Metta World Peace. During his time on the court, he lived up to the SS&R nickname "Ariza 2.0" as his quickness and athleticism made him a solid defender but his offensive game was severely lacking. His contributions were just enough to warrant his small salary. Dr. Buss thanks you for your services Devin.

Jordan Hill: 1.4 Win Shares, Actual Salary $826,037, Fair Salary: $1,857,898

Hill was acquired in exchange for Derek Fisher plus a draft pick. Thought mainly to be a throw-in player with little risk, Hill proved to be quite the proficient rebounder in the playoffs. He not only led the Lakers with the higher rebound rate in the playoffs, but was fourth in the league. He was particularly effective on the offensive glass where his rebound rate was the best in the NBA in the post-season (and would have been the best in regular season as well). It is rare for such a one-tooled player to be so effective but he is an elite rebounder off the glass. The value of rebounding, particularly offensive, is significant which is why, despite not cracking the rotation until the final week, he more than earned his small salary. Hill looks to have a place with Lakers in the future, especially if he is providing Dr. Buss with a positive return on his minor investment.

The Out-of-Rotation Veterans

Jason Kapono: 0.1 Win Shares, Actual Salary $984,499, Fair Salary: $135,561

Kapono was brought in to be the three-point specialist the Lakers sorely needed to spread the floor. His resume showed he had all the credentials to fulfill the role. Unfortunately his shooting touch abandoned him as the career 43% three point shooter made fewer than 30% of his attempts. The emergence of Goudelock as the better back-up shooting guard quickly resulted in Kapono's removal from the rotation. To say the season was a disappointment for Kapono was an understatement. Dr. Buss certainly didn't get his money's worth here. At least Kapono's salary was quite small to begin with.

Luke Walton: 0.1 Win Shares, Actual Salary $2,928,750, Fair Salary: $135,561

Walton has been one of the worst players in the league for a few years now. From a win shares standpoint, he actually produced negative win shares the last two seasons which means he was doing more harm than good when on the court. This year he still produced a negative win share in total (-0.4) but wasn't completely awful in his limited minutes with the Lakers. He was however Cleveland's worst per minute player but this is of no concern to Dr. Buss, who somehow managed to find a taker at the trade deadline. Walton was still worth nowhere near his salary but at least he won't be collecting a paycheck from the Lakers again.

Josh McRoberts: 1.1 Win Shares, Actual Salary $2,414,634, Fair Salary: $1,491,174

McRoberts was supposed to be a key acquisition for the Lakers future. He was a young up-and-coming power forward who played hard and had a decent outside shooting touch. He was to be a poor man's Lamar Odom at less than half the salary. Unfortunately he never produced like he did in Indiana. In Indiana he made 23 of 60 three-point attempts (38%), but he suddenly became gun shy when it came to shooting the ball for the Lakers. He took only 7 threes on the season (hitting four of them). He rebounds well and plays hard at all times. He was actually somewhat productive when given minutes. Had he been more aggressive on the offensive end he likely would have seen more minutes and played up to his salary. Unfortunately, his passivity led to his fall out of the rotation and thus he did not produce enough to support his salary this season.

Troy Murphy: 1.7 Win Shares, Actual Salary $1,088,341, Fair Salary $2,304,542

Murphy was another gamble by the Lakers front office to acquire both a three-point shooter and a potential replacement for Lamar Odom. Murphy's career suggested he was capable of filling the role as a decent back-up power forward and could clearly shoot the three. He actually shot the ball pretty well (41.8% on threes) but his rebounding rate was severely lacking. His lack of defense was already well known but as long as he rebounded and made threes he would still be a valuable asset to the team. When one of those two skills disappeared, so too did his minutes. He was still surprisingly productive as his three-point shooting helped to alleviate the lack of spacing. His performance may not have met expectations, but it certainly exceeded his modest salary.

That brings us to the end of the non-rotation players. The only players left are the eight that were main rotation players. In part two, we'll look at these main contributors and see who did and did not earn their paychecks.

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