Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider) compares WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) ratings and salaries to conclude that 19 players in the NBA are currently playing at a level that is worth more than a standard "Max" contract.
Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum is one of them.
Well, some players are better values than others, but on average teams paid about $1.5 million above the minimum salary for each WARP the previous season during free agency last summer. In 2011 after the lockout, that figure was slightly higher -- nearly $1.8 million. Combining the two markets gives a value of $1.6 million for each additional win.
Based on that figure and WARP projections for the full 2012-13 season, many players in the league (38 in all) are worth more than the lowest max level of $13.7 million. Let's focus instead on players worth more than $16.4 million, since that is now the maximum amount for many star players
Ryan Anderson ($18.8 million on-court value)
Nicolas Batum ($18.3 million on-court value)
Of the 19 players valued at more than the max, 14 are All-Stars. Three others (Curry, Gasol and Pierce) were prominent omissions. That leaves two oddball players, both of whom rate better by WARP than other all-in-one metrics. Anderson and Batum have in common that they both shoot a lot of 3s (Anderson leads the NBA in attempts and Batum is fourth), which WARP rewards because of the value of floor spacing. Both are enjoying strong seasons, and Anderson in particular was a great buy for the Hornets last summer (he'll make $34 million over the next four years, slightly less than Jeff Green), but they're not really max guys.
The Blazers matched a four-year offer sheet from the Minnesota Timberwolves worth $46.5 million to retain Batum.
Earlier this month, Batum received some love for out-playing his deal.
Batum, 24, is averaging 15.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks this season, all career-highs.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter