Plus/Minus Versus NBA Team Salary

The concept of plus/minus is simple: for teams, it’s essentially point differential; for individuals, it’s the point differential when they are playing versus when they are not.

Here’s a graph that plots plus/minus per 100 possessions for NBA teams this past season (data from NBA.com), versus each team’s salary (data from Patricia Bender).

If you look closely at the graph, you can see a natural demarcation between teams that spend money more efficiently than teams that don’t spend money as efficiently.

There is a line that exists between the Brooklyn Nets and the Houston Rockets.  Every team above that line spends their money more efficiently than the teams below it.  And in some cases, the teams above that line spend their money way more efficiently than the teams below it.

Take the Oklahoma City Thunder for example, who had the highest plus/minus in the NBA this past season.  They spent less than $70 million in salary.  They spent roughly what the Orlando Magic spent in salary, and they had a plus/minus per 100 possessions that was more than 15 points higher.

Obviously, teams that spend more money tend to have higher plus/minuses.  Not surprising.  However, this graph just underlines the importance of how you spend your money (which sounds like a stupidly dumb thing to say, but lots of these teams still don’t get it).  The Los Angeles Lakers spent nearly twice that of the Houston Rockets, and the Rockets still had a higher plus/minus than the Lakers (because Daryl Morey is a f     ing genius).

Topics: Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder

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