Paying the NBA luxury tax for a winner- the truth behind the myth

Paying the NBA luxury tax for a winner- the truth behind the myth
Image by Midgejong

I guess to the untrained eye, it makes sense that the team that spends the most money on players and pays the NBA luxury tax will have the best team. After all, the best players make the most money, so if your team spends the most money, they should have more good players, right?


100%, absolutely, positively, wrong.

It's a myth. An untruth. A fallacy.

Having the highest payroll in the NBA only guarantees that your team won't be accused of being cheap.

Unfortunately, for the vast majority of folks who believe this nonsense, it just isn't true.

We can start with this season- three of the four teams playing in the conference finals do not even pay the luxury tax. And the one team that does- the Miami Heat- only does so because they have three superstars making a combined $56,808,000, which is over 70% of the Heat's entire payroll. Miami doesn't have another player who even makes the Mid-Level Exception (which is basically the NBA's average salary).

As I have mentioned in previous articles, in the luxury tax era, only 23 of 44 conference finalists have paid the NBA luxury tax- so only 52.3% of teams that made the conference finals in the luxury tax era were teams whose payrolls were above the luxury tax threshold.

And three of those teams- the 2004 Pistons and the 2003 and 2007 Spurs- were less than $1 million over the luxury tax threshold. If this doesn't prove that just like in real life, money doesn't buy happiness, I don't know what will.

But just in case you're still not convinced, let's take a closer look at this year's playoffs:

Of the teams with the four highest payrolls, two of them (Knicks $88,012,698 and Lakers $77,089,935) didn't even make the playoffs. Brooklyn, with the runaway highest payroll in the league ($102,825,181), lost in five games in the second round. (Miami had the third highest payroll).

The teams with the fifth through ninth highest payrolls were:

Los Angeles Clippers - $72,660,813 - lost in the the second round
Chicago Bulls - $71,355,088 - lost in the first round
Memphis Grizzlies - $71,894,258 - lost in the first round
Washington Wizards - $70,301,084 - lost in the second round
Boston Celtics - $70,641,237 - missed the playoffs

So of the teams with the nine highest payrolls in the NBA this season, 1/3 of them didn't even make the playoffs, and only one of them made it out of the second round. The three teams that lost in the second round won a combined five games, and none of them even made it to a Game 7.

Take what you will out of these facts, but if you still think that spending a lot of money will buy your team success... well, you might want to look at the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. Those are the teams that other NBA franchises should be modeling themselves after.

Unless, of course, you can follow the Heat's once-in-a-lifetime formula by getting three superstars to get together and decide to take less money to team up for a championship. Good luck with that one.

(All salary figures courtesy of ShamSports).

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    Don Ellis

    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. He attended Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround, The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters, SportsCenter anchor) . In addition to running and, and writing for ChicagoNow and, he is also a KHSAA and semi-pro baseball umpire. He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. Follow Don on Twitter @Bullsville.

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