One way I wish more fans would look at the NBA is in terms of the players as investments. Its one thing, for example, to debate whether Lamar Odom can make the leap from being a good player to a great player. Its another thing to remember that the Lakers have $40 million invested the next three seasons in just that happening.
They have more than $88 million invested in Odom, Vladimir Radmanovic and Kwame Brown. The money available to NBA players is almost beyond comprehension, but it gives you a clue as to what kind of expectations to have and how well one team spends compared to another.
On one hand, the Lakers have four ball-handling guards on a crowded roster for next season in Smush Parker, Shammond Williams, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar. But the total investment in those players over the life of their contracts is only about $6.5 million, most of it in Farmar. Thatll get you 30 games of Kobe Bryant next season.
Its not a perfect system – - the Lakers have a lot more invested in Andrew Bynum than just the $9 million on his rookie contract – - but it is telling. The Lakers had to take back a big salary in the Shaquille ONeal trade and wound up making a $43 million investment in Brian Grant. Thats a big reason why theyve gone 79-85 in two seasons since that trade.
The Lakers also invested some $12 million in Vlade Divac and Aaron McKie as free-agent signings. They have this season with McKie to get any return on that investment; Divacs contract was bought out before last season. Between them, Divac and McKie have combined to play in 29 games for a total of 251 minutes.
One other thing to remember: The Lakers have $106 million invested in Bryant and about $116 million invested in everybody else on the roster. If I were a Lakers fan, Im not so sure I would want to see Bryant on the court during the exhibition season after undergoing knee surgery this summer.
Heres a look at the money the Lakers and Clippers have invested in players. I did the same for San Antonio, Phoenix and New York.