How NBA salaries might or might not affect a team's record
Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder posts up Jason Kidd #2 of the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 17, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.
Jeremy Hobson: Well the NBA playoffs continue tomorrow after last night's tight matchup between Dallas and Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City won -- tying up the series to one game a piece so far. But it's not a tie at all when you look at the ages of the star players on each team.
One team is young, the other is -- well, let's just say "more experienced." And more expensive.
Larry Coon blogs about the NBA for ESPN.com and he joins us now. Good morning.
Larry Coon: Good morning.
Hobson: Give us a sense of the range of salaries we're talking about when you think about the lowest to the highest.
Coon: The minimum salary in the NBA is about $500,000. That's for a rookie on a minimum salary contract. The average salary is around $6 million. The highest salaries are well over $20 million -- Kobe Bryant, I think, is the highest salary in the league right now and he's at about $24 million.
Hobson: And is it typically the older players that are making those high salaries, and the younger ones that are making the low salaries?
Coon: Yeah, you have to build up over several years to get a salary that's going to be that high.
Hobson: Let's just look at two of the teams that are playing right now in the playoffs: the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Mavs are the oldest team in the NBA, the Thunder are the youngest team in the playoffs -- what's the salary difference for the stars on those teams?
Coon: It's pretty huge. When you have older players, especially older superstars, you're paying a lot of money for them. The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the younger teams in the league. They're right at about the salary cap; they're being well-managed. And as their players start to get older, they're going to have to start spending a lot of money in order to keep those guys.
Hobson: But both of these teams have made it to the playoffs. Are you getting what you pay for here? What's the difference in performance?
Coon: At this point, not much, since they're playing each other. We'll see who wins out and makes the finals. But you only get to keep young guys cheaply for so long. There's a controlled salary structure for high-draft picks in their first few years in the league. After that, they start to make a lot of money.
Hobson: So how do the team managers figure out who to pick? I mean, if you're looking at a LeBron James, a young guy, or a Dirk Nowitzki, who is an older guy -- how do you decide where to spend your money?
Coon: You obviously want the young guys who are going to become great players. There's not a lot of those guys to go around. You have to get lucky and get the right pick in the draft in the right year in order to land a guy like that.
Hobson: Who are you rooting for in this series right now?
Coon: I like everybody. I paid right now to be impartial.
Hobson: Larry Coon, who writes about the NBA for ESPN.com, thanks so much for joining us.
Coon: My pleasure.