Welcome back to the Business Casual Basketball "Salary Series."
In these weekly posts, we will take a look at a particular player or team with an interesting salary structure.
For example, certain contracts around the league have with interesting incentives, rare escalating, or declining dollar amounts, or vary significantly from typical market value.
When it comes to teams, there will be a deep dive on their spending habits, how they got to their current position, and what they can do to take advantage of their spending power. Conversely, if they are deep into luxury tax territory, we will look at what they can do to mitigate the damage as much as possible, both short-term and long-term.
For the next few weeks, we're going to zoom in on some of the contract extensions that were signed before this season started and how they will influence their teams heading into next season when they will actually take effect.
The first case that we will study involves Indiana big man, Myles Turner. His rookie contract expires at the conclusion of this season and he is in line for a big raise in the midst of big questions involving the rest of the roster.
Let's see how he fits into this fascinating puzzle.
One major key for sustained success within the National Basketball Association is securing a sustainable identity. Just take a quick look at players and teams across the league that would be receive a 'failing grade' so far this season. Marqueese Chriss has been an unequivocal bust so far in his three year career because he hasn't been able to find those one or two skills that set him apart from others at his position. He was drafted 8th overall by the Suns in 2016 due to his tantalizing athleticism above all else. Many would argue he was drafted much too high for his raw skillset, but the fact remains that he had a boatload of untapped potential as a 18 year old forward. This upcoming clip should go a long way towards convincing you if you're not quite sure who this young man is.
So let's get a full understanding...this guy wasn't drafted top five for nothing. It may seem ridiculous in hindsight because he's been an absolute disaster in Phoenix, Houston, and now the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers already. There's still hope for him, but his window of opportunity is shrinking fast. If he were to find a way to use his size and leaping ability to become an elite rim runner, or tenacious rebounder for instance, it would reverse his fortunes in a heartbeat.
Speaking of the Suns, the whole reason they've finished with under 25 wins for what will be the fourth straight season is because they failed to find that one thing that can give them an edge over the competition night in and night out. It wouldn't kill them to take a look at Sacramento for inspiration here. Sacramento was a league punching bag for what seems like forever before they got their act together this season behind a revamped fast break attack.
All of that to say, you have to discover what makes you different in the game of basketball to truly have a chance of being successful. It's the same strategy you wold follow if you were looking to make a splash as a business man or woman. If you operate just like everybody else, you'll blend into the crowd and you will fail to make a lasting impression.
Finding his niche
Our man Myles Turner has cracked the code in this department and that makes him well worth the four year/$80 million rookie contract extension coming his way beginning in the 2019-2020 season.
Turner has become an invaluable part of the Indiana Pacers core over the last three years, primarily as a result of his game changing defensive ability. In the beginning of his tenure, he might have been miscast as a future primary scoring option and overall dominant inside-out scorer. He averaged 14.5 ppg as a sophomore next to former Pacer superstar Paul George. He finished third on the team in scoring and shot league average from three on low volume. His shooting touch was on full display from day one and it gave many hope that he could grow into a hyper efficient scorer from every area of the floor.
In his third year, he got the opportunity of a lifetime. George was shipped out of Indiana and Oladipo was brought in to take his place. Finally, Turner could become a go-to scorer for the Pacers and decimate defenses with his buttery stroke and fluid footwork! Well, that's not exactly how this story evolved. Funny thing is, his usage rate only increased by 1% from 17.4% with George to 18.4% without him. Last season, he was fourth on the team in shots per game. He didn't even hit 30 minutes per game. As a matter of fact, he played three minutes less per game lass season than he did in 2016-2017.
So what happened? Wasn't he drafted to be a foundational piece of this team? He certainly has the skill and natural talent for it. Was he suffering from the Andrew Wiggins stagnation effect?
First off, it's probably wrong to compare him to the perpetual disappointment that is former #1 pick Andrew Wiggins. He didn't have the insane expectations thrust upon him that Wiggins did. Turner was drafted outside the top ten of the 2015 draft. Therefore, he had a lower overall ceiling to reach to justify his draft status.
Somewhere along the way, probably between year two and three for Turner, he and his team came to a realization. Based on his tendencies and weaknesses, he was not cut out to be a primary scoring option that would average 20+ point per game and have dozens of plays run for him each game.
After watching his game for any extended period of time, his tendency to drift out to the perimeter after setting a screen is incredibly clear. He'll even do this within the normal flow of the game, which is a clear indicator of the habit he's formed in this area. He's more than happy to leave the heavy lifting to frontcourt counterparts Thaddeus Young and Domantas Sabonis. He certainly doesn't prefer to grind and bang inside with the true behemoths of the league.
This pick & pop action he performs here is a staple of his half-court offense for Indiana. As you can see, Young is occupying the paint area, so they strike a nice inside outside balance here for maximum floor spacing.
What made him so rich?
So you may be asking yourself, what did Myles Turner do throughout his first three years in the league to become worthy of this generous gift from the Indiana organization? His career averages don't exactly jump off the page. 12.8ppg, 6.8reb, 1.2ast. That doesn't add up to $80 million. Not at all. See, the trick here is, we have to look beyond the typical numbers to decipher his value to this team. It lies within the less glamorous end of the floor.
Current Wizards forward Jabari Parker once proclaimed that teams offer big money to offensive minded players first and foremost. He was quoted back in July by ESPN saying, "Look at everybody in the league. They don't pay players to play defense." He was correct in that assessment...to an extent. Offensive specialists obviously earn more on average than defensive specialists. Just look at a few numbers involving these two players that fall on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.
- 89th out of 95 qualified power forwards in ESPN Defensive Real Plus Minus raking
- Making $20 million this season
- 1st(!!) out of 96 qualified point guards in ESPN Defensive Real Plus Minus ranking
- Making $11.6 million this season
It's abundantly clear that offense is valued in this league far more than defense. That's been clear for awhile now. What gives Turner the edge over many defensive talents is that he operates as a rim protecting center as opposed to a perimeter stopper like Marcus Smart or Andre Roberson. It's easier to spot the impact that defensive centers have and the defensive stats also favor big men over guards in many cases.
Blocks per game isn't the best indicator of an elite rim protector, because it can't capture the amount of shots a big man influences at the rim and sometimes shot block leaders case them too hard and boost this stat at the cost of overall discipline at the rim.