Statophile, Volume 13

5 mins read

Salaries are not PERfect Edition:

Trade options

We’re not likely to be active at the trade deadline (ending this Thursday), but I developed a database that compared salary, number of years under contract and Player Efficiency Rating (PER) to see what assets the Raptors’ have versus what the team could acquire. This article shows us how PER is calculated.

TSN’s esteemed basketball writer Tim Chisholm offered these ideas:

  • O.J. Mayo
  • Jonny Flynn
  • Avery Bradley

Mr. Chisholm is correct it looking for “difficult” cases as the reality is Toronto’a assets are either: a) youth they should want to keep or b) difficult contracts to move. This makes the Raptors’ options limited.

Mayo and Flynn are having very tough years and lag in several categories. I believe there is too much risk with both given the Raptors would have to pay at least two more years for either – and they’re certainly not inexpensive deals. Bradley is more intriguing (his MP are so low his stats are meaningless) and his contract makes it a no brainer – the only “little” problem is what Boston would take for him.

PER versus salary

I built a database with every player in the league, their contract length, average salary over that period, PER and other metrics. Here’s a plot of player salary versus PER.

There is certainly some correlation, but its quite weak. Bad contracts, veteran’s minimum deals (e.g. Shaq signing for minimum despite being reasonably effective), rookie scale contracts, players getting max deals for non-elite level players, etc all contribute to this distortion. However, it can still serve as useful analysis on what players appear to be good value versus expensive relative to production.

Trade assets

Here’s a look at the Raptors’ roster and we see there is not a lot of great trade assets.

The “best” trade assets are usually that missing “piece” for a contender to put them over the top OR a large expiring deal which struggling (and/or financial weak) teams will trade for to get longer deals off their books.

Amir Johnson is the most movable piece, but I also believe/hope he is part of the core the Raptors wish to build on. He is still only 23.

Jose Calderon is close, but its likely too long of contract for a contending team to make a big bet on. Leandro Barbosa’s is short enough, but he is likely not productive enough given his salary level. Reggie Evans has endeared himself to Toronto, however he is realistically the most likely to be traded. He is a terrific role player and built for the playoffs. Most importantly, his contract expires after this season. I left Jarrett Jack on the list to show what a good deal that trade was.

I will leave it to the reader to work ESPN’s Trade Machine for options.

The final word on Amir Johnson’s contract

When we compared Amir Johnson’s contract to similar ones this summer (Drew Gooden’s and Travis Outlaw’s), commenter Tristan had a good suggestion. This prompted yet another reason to build this database.

As well, ESPN’s own Bill Simmons just rated Amir Johnson’s contract as the 20th worst in the NBA a few days ago. Really?! Mr. Simmons either needs to watch a couple Raptors games or do a little homework before writing these things. Or he could have simply added Amir just to rile the Toronto fans, which always works. It did with me.

To answer the question, I simply took Johnson’s average salary over his entire contract ($6,050,000) and felt every player that averaged between $5 and $7 million per year would be a fair comparison (i.e. +/- $1 million).

Here is the result:

Class dismissed.

Questions? Email me: [email protected] or find me on Twitter.



  1. Good work as always Mr. Liston. For someone with poor math skills, I’d hate to argue with someone like you (not that I would as I always favoured Amir as a player and always thought that his contract was fair market value). Also, as for Amir’s continued development, it is only going up in my opinion.

    As for the quietness at the trade deadline, it makes sense although I have two players I wish we moved (not going to mention names to prevent further insults here – although people are welcome to guess).

  2. do your advanced stats take into consideration dumb fouls or getting 5 fouls in 20 mins or anything like that? I’m pretty sure the answers is no. The games where Amir gets into foul trouble and can’t stay on the court shouldn’t be ignored, should it?

    • It should not be ignored. Neither should those that do not help on D. Nor should those that do not dive for loose balls.

      As I mentioned previously, Amir Johnson is recording a career low fouls per 36 minutes at 5.3 per. It suggests he most often stays in the game as long as the coach wants him to.

      He has fouled out only 3 out of 55 games. A quick look at his game log suggests only another two games were limited (250)

      Help defense certainly results in more fouls. I’ll take this trade off any day. He’s quite effective when he’s on the floor.

      • Higher than normal foul rate takes place when one person is doing the job of two on most nights. Point taken!

      • ” He has fouled out only 3 out of 55 games ”

        This is where a stats are misleading and a guy like Liston, can use it to misrepresent information trying to prove an ill thought hypothesis.

        Amir might have only fouled out at 3 games but how many games was he in foul trouble ?

        How many games he had to sit out on crutial times during the game while the team needed him ?

        Those are the real numbers that show the impact of Amir fouling at such a high rate.

        But, Good Try 😉

        • “How many games he had to sit out on crutial times during the game while the team needed him?”

          How many? You have reached a conclusion, but didn’t provide the data.
          I’m curious to see the support for your argument as well.

          • LOL, Liston, Come on, you have done all this work and put all this time into it and it would be such a waste if I correct your work. I think you owe it to yourself to put forward the real Data and real information. It is all infront of you but you have choosen to withhold that so you can prove your point.

            It is easy to fool those people who want and like to be fooled. As an example, look at what BC has done. Your current attepmt at this article is a step toward folling people and you have not done an honest work here.

            • i KNOW! i hate it when i get folled.

              seriously though, i get the counter-argument…that while the measure of a player’s ability is taken while they are on the floor, an inability to consistently to remain on the floor cannot be discounted. but i think that’s what the numbers are suggesting…amir is fouling at a substantially lower rate than in years past, and this is borne out in his considerable jump in MP, even with the emergence of ED as a reliable frontcourt player.

              but we should probably remember a couple things:

              he spends almost the entirety of his time on the court beside bargs, who i don’t think anyone is going to argue is a top-flight help defender. so, who’s responsibility does it become then to provide help in paint if andrea isn’t/can’t? is it possible that a healthy proportion of his fouls occur in these circumstances, and that perhaps andrea’s low foul rate can be attributed to the fact that he does play suspect help D? if andrea fouled at a rate more befitting a 5, would we see a drop in amir’s fouling? has the organization made it a point of emphasis that andrea’s offense is too valuable to risk him picking up fouls, and has therefore intimated to him (amir) that it’s his responsibility?

              while he doesn’t spend as much time paired with ED, i think it would be interesting to chart his foul rate when playing with him vs. when playing with andrea. it may not be a large enough sample size to prove trustworthy, and/or the sample data may be skewed (i.e. i can imagine that triano would be putting those two on court together in blow-outs, or when he’s desperate for a stop).

        • John, Steve,
          you guys can easily see Tom Liston’s agenda, here, as I see it. Boring, not original at all. The usual Amir VS Bargs bla bla bla.

          Tom Liston,
          please, you and all the basketball babies out there, stop talking about the famous myth of “diving for loose balls”. It’s old, very old. It doesn’t state well about one’s wits.

          • Sorry you feel that way. I present the analysis and you can interpret how you wish. If you have data that shows otherwise, feel free to present it.
            BTW, this article was not a “Amir vs Bargnani” debate. Only a response to those who said Amir’s contract was a poor one.

  3. …Amir’s our best player atm, which is incredibly sad, but Davis and DD should pass him by season’s end. If he can continue cutting down the fouls, he be underpaid. He didn’t even really have to improve this season to justify his contract, he just had to cut down the fouls, and he’s done that pretty well. But he’s become a great FT shooter, added a solid mid range shot, and has shown glimpses of a faceup game.

    I hope we keep him for a long time, he’s the kind of player every team needs, and our fanbase really undervalues him, imo of course.

    Hey Liston, could you look into a correlation between minutes played and foul rate? The main reason I wasn’t THAT worried about Amir’s foul troubles was because of how few minutes he’s played for his NBA experience.

    If Klezia wasn’t injured (FUU-, I still can’t believe he got freaking MICROFRACTURE surgery…), the Hawks would probably bite on a Calderon/Kleiza, Willams/Bibby swap.

  4. Amir is probably the best signing in the NBA in years. The kid is pure talent with ALL-STAR Potentials in making. The main reason behind the fouls is AB and his bad team defence.

    Removing AB from this team will make Amir much better and will increase his productivity to new levels.

    It is imporant to notice how Amir is efficient in his offence. He is very capable to taking over the games when it is close and we need an effective man to take his guy off the dribble ( Well, he is not fully there yet but with all the potentials he has, I can see him doing that next year).

    His post up moves is growing at an astonishing rate. Again, One should be very impressed when Amir post up guys like Amare, Bogout and .. and easily scores on them.

    I can say this, Amir is what BC is all about. A Magician who knows how to get the right players and how to build a winner at the RIGHT Price.

    Thanks Tom for proving this again.

      • Why Not ???

        The numbers are all there proving the potentials. Look at his PER and compare it with his last year. The growth rate is just incredible.

        You take away AB from this team and give Amir some help on defense and make him the focal point of the offence, then you will see the real result.

        Amir is shooting almost 70% from the floor which is an ALL-STAR number !!!

  5. .
    Great read Tom.

    Only complaint, is that when calculating [salary ($M)/PER], you used average salary, as opposed to current salary. Davis for example is really a 122,239. Average salary in relation to “current” PER is not statistically sound

    • In keeping with my post, here`s the list based on current salary:

      Calderon – Salary($M)/PER = 548,780

      Bargnani – 508,982

      Kleiza – 495,050

      Barbosa – 467,105

      Evans – 393,798

      Johnson – 267,380

      Wright – 223,285

      Bayless – 180,520

      DeRozan – 180,432

      Davis – 122,239

      Weems – 83,764

      Dorsey – 61,912

      League Average – 313,814

    • I wouldn’t mind seeing average salary in relation to average PER as well, but I’ll have to wait to see the post-contract PER averages. I could see how calculating value by using the PER and average salary would be effective when considering that salaries are locked into over the span of a number of contract years.

      They start at one point, and they end at another point. The overall salary of the current contract was [we would expect] awarded based on performance in (a) prior contract(s). What this stat shows is whether or not this year’s portion of the overall contract was a good deal. We won’t know if the entire deal was good or not until it is completed!

      If Amir completes his entire deal as a member of the Raptors, then his PER average would have to be compared to his average salary, and that would have to be compared league-wide once again, in order to determine the value of his deal in terms of dollars to player efficiency rating.

  6. People are not really buying into the PER hype are they? I think Amir is worth his contract but an argument built entirely around PER is weak.

    • exactly. it should be built around ppg, and THAT’S IT! points, people…POINTS. that’s all that matters at the end of day.


      • Hey, let’s face it, most people love points. That’s why Andrea walks on water in this part of the continent.

    • If it was built around adjusted +/- and/or on/off court defensive ratings it would be similar – and perhaps even better.

    • ORat + Usage combined with DPS, which both tend to track individual offensive and defensive possessions much more specifically is another one that really really loves Amir.

  7. Why should we even consider giving the time of day to people who can’t spell words like “crucial” “fooling” “attempt”, who can’t complete sentences, and who don’t provide any argumentation, evidence, or even data to interpret, in their poorly constructed and altogether misguided posts?

    You’re wrong. Get over it.

    • The guy had a point. Saying Amir just fouled out 3 times this season is an irrelevant statistic when he was in foul trouble almost 60% of the games. Liston has the data but chooses not to sure it with you because it contradicts his argument.

      Now, you want to fall for some fancy sentences and bunch of numbers, so be it 🙂
      As the other poster said here already, it is easy to fool people who like to be fooled.

      • Ah, the thing with amir is that he doesn’t seem to let his foul situation affect his D…most guys will ease off to keep from picking up a quick 2nd foul, or their 3rd, 4th etc. Amir tends to just play, which is one of the things he gets criticized for, & rightfully so.

        The argument your making is that even though he hasn’t fouled out of many games, he’s in constant foul trouble, & that impacts his play. I simply don’t buy it.

      • I actually don’t have the proper data. You would have to look at play-by-play data for every Raptor game to date and see when Amir was benched after (e.g.) 2 quick fouls.

        What you can do is look at minutes played as a proxy. Also look at the game log data here:
        And sort the “PF” column. Look at where he had 4 or 5 fouls and also had limited minutes.
        It’ll give you a proxy for when he was in trouble and had to sit for long periods.

        Also notice, he has played >20 minutes in 80% of his games (and some ltd minutes where do to injury)

  8. 1st thing, whenever a team says their doing nothing –THEY’RE DOIN’ SOMETHING–
    2nd thing, if BryCo stays pat and keeps losing without a fight, him and his entire staff are going down in flames… This is only game that Colangelo can win at this year!

    I expect the Raptors to be VERY active… There’ll probably be a lot more 3/4 team deals going through this year which works in the Raps’ favor as they don’t have a lot of face-up equal value for star talent out there…

    I admire the analysis, however at the end of the day, and unless your favorite players on the Raps are not named DeRozan or Davis, I’d be willing to bet they’re being discussed in various trade scenarios at this very second… JUST FACE IT: NBA Basketball doesn’t get a lot worse than the way this year’s team is playing and there should be very little justification to holding onto players, regardless of CBA talks…Not much will change in yearly salaries, but the length of them and the amount of team option years most likely will be the greatest difference…

  9. The next step in Amir’s development is more of a willingness to look to take his man off the dribble. Good things almost always happen when he does that, including a surprising ability (surprising for a big man) to dish. He’s a great finisher, he’ll get to the line more this way (and with his newfound abilities at the line, that’s a good thing), he’ll get his man into foul trouble, force his man to play more defence, thereby tiring him out and making him less effective at the other end, and he’ll open up the floor for the rest of the Raps. Jay needs to make him more of an emphasis in the team’s offense. Oh, and one more thing, and this might seem silly, but I actually believe it to be true: HE NEEDS TO BITCH MORE TO THE REFS. Yes, you heard me right. He’s so damn softsopoken on the court; he never so much as raises his eyebrows, even when called for the most imaginary of fouls. He’s not a rookie any more, which means he has “earned” the right to bitch a bit without beeing teed up. And, sadly, the refs will even fouls out if they know they’re gonna get showed up. In moderation and within reason, of course.

  10. Not arguing with anyone’s points here, but this is Amir’s 6th year in the league, and has always had fouling issues. Was it Bargnani’s fault that Amir fouled so much in Detroit too?

    He’s a good player, and getting better, but you guys talk about him like he’s an all-star (he’s not).

    • He fouled so much in Detroit because all young bigs foul a lot in their first year or two. And no one’s saying he’s an all-star. But (and it’s a big but, I grant you) if he turns himself into more of a force on the offensive end and cuts down just a wee bit more on the fouls, I can see him being an all-star. Absolutely.

    • And yes, a fair amount of his fouls used to be of the stupid variety. Impulsive and quixotic (hey, just trying to raise the level of language on this blog) attempts to strip the ball from someone in the offensive end, that sort of thing. And to his credit, he does that WAY less often this year.

    • I think there might have been one delusional person who said this.

      The rest of the reasonable discussion has been focused on his performance when considering his salary, as compared to players with similar contracts’ performance.

    • Ol’ Dirty Raptor,

      Amir is a saint, and even in Detroit it’s always Bargnani’s fault.
      You can see here, nobody’s concerned with the future. With Bargs gone, Amir is going to score easily 25/30 a game, Derozan will defend like a devil, everybody will send kisses to Ed Davis, and bla bla bla.
      Boring. I’ve got to find out something else to read, for spending some time.

  11. I wasn’t a huge fan of amir’s contract when he signed it (I didn’t think any other team was offering him anything close to what bc gave him) but I think he’s growing into it. He seems like a good kid and he’s developing his game. I think as his game continues to improve he’ll be even better value for the bucks the raps are paying him.

    Regarding Amir’s fouls: for someone who hustles as much as Amir apparently does, its hard reconcile the fact that the dude has some of the softest fouls on the team. I’m not sure if they’re all phantom calls or just that he gets nailed every time he brushes up against the other team, either way, it doesn’t seem like he enjoys breaking out the handcuffs or the lumber to contest any of the 30 layups we give up a game. I mean, you can basically apply this critique to all the raptors but it just surprises me with Amir. Still, he’s a young guy and I’ll continue to have faith/hope that this is a part of his game that will also improve.

    Hacksaw Amir Johnson. I like the sound of that

  12. I love mr Chisolm’s articles but there arent any “small fish” PGs like mayo or flynn that are worth it. for my money, i’d go in a totally different direction. Jose’s big contract and decent play tells me the raps wait on a guard for another year, either the draft or a trade next year when teams circumstances have changed…

    the emergence of ed davis and amir’s progress tells me we need a shot blocking, defence first centre, a third big guy to rotate with davis, johnson… i’d move bargs in a heartbeat, especially with his scoring so high this year. his lack of rebounding and weak side D is terible. You cannot build a winner, championship team with this type of player. HE WILL NEVER BE DIRK.

    and the guy who fits the bill is JaVale McGee. with 9 ppg, 8 reb and a whopping 2.5 blocks in just 26 mins he is the type of young, defence first type that i’d be looking to aquire if i were running the Raps. the wiz were shopping him earlier this year, too. my offer to washington wizards?

    bargs $8.5m
    1st rd pick (from miami)


    McGee $1.6m
    josh howard $3m (expiring)
    Yi $4m ($5m qualifying offer 2011/12)
    Washington 1st rd pick

    or if the wiz wont part with the pick? swap out the pick and howard for nick young. move DDR to the the 3 and play NY at the 2.

    Another alternative is to take McGee and Hinrich for bargs, miami’s pick and dorsey or weems for balast. move DDR to the 3, start KH at the 2, and have him spell Caldy. you could also flip KH to a team like the lakers or another contender for an asset.

    Bottom line, you get rid of the 7 footer who doesnt rebound. and get minutes to davis and amir.

    • Interesting…will be hard to replace the 21 ppg though, but what’s the use without defence. This trade proposal intrigues me…well done.

      • Really….. The Bargnani hate continues and there is not a chance this team wins more then 15 games the next 4 years…. Yi is useless and not a good draft class so you are basically rolling dice…..

        Davis a nice piece, but no idea what he’ll become, Amir a decent player at a good price, but not a star in the making (a good player yes). DD may develop in to a borderline star, but still can’t shoot the 3, which is unacceptable for a 2-3…..

        Just how bad do you want the team to be?

        • dude, you let yi and howard walk clearing about 7 mil for next year. you have the 4th and 5th picks to either trade for a real nba starter who can score or use the picks.

          as for yer comments on davis… have u watched him play plately??? he is showing exactly why he was pegged as top 6 pick before he broke his wrist in his last yr in college. he rebounds, blocks, and is very athletic. he will be better than amir and will supplant him. i expect his prime years numbers to look like this 18ppg 12reb and 2blk. put a defencive centre next to him (like mcgee) and the raps can stop the parade to the hoop we see every game. defence wins titles. and this a way to get there.

          defence is the true commodity in this league because quite frankly nobody plays any. you can get scoring any day of the week. finding a wing who can score either in the draft or via the two picks i suggest we’d have is the way to go. u might be able to sign aaron brooks for pretty cheap in the off season to get you by until a drafted PG develops…

          as for bargs 20 ppg? anything good he does is negated by what he surrenders. i am so sick of guys falling in love with these fwds with a gaurds game. so he can shoot the three? who cares when he goes a whole game with two rebounds as he has done repeatedly. bargani is a gutless, no heart player who has been caudled. he is not, i repeat not ever gonna be a dirk nowitski. i say dump him now while he is at least scoring.

        • Really? At just exactly what clip does Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and… many others… shoot the three?

  13. Liston, while reading some of these comments, the thought occurred to me that I wish there was a “Dislike” button, too. FYI, you’re my favourite article on raptorsrepublic, along with the “Morning Coffee”. Keep up the good work! Our ‘core’ is Amir, Ed & DeMar, everyone. Get used to it … I wouldn’t cry if we lose Andrea, Reggie, Leandro, Linas, Julian, Sonny or Soloman. I’d prefer to keep Alexis, José & Jerryd.

  14. Great post as usual Tom. I really appreciate the follow through on my comment!

    While most of the comments help create valuable discussion, it’s really too bad that we have to deal with the offensive and ignorant ones too. But I guess that’s the nature of most comment boards on the internet.

  15. The fact that your model shows a bad ratio for Barbosa means that it is underestimating the value of players at the higher end of the salary spectrum. I would say that the contracts of barbosa, calderon and bargnani would be considered decent returns for the money or ‘market value’.

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