This year's NBA season has seen a handful teams with skyrocketing payrolls. Major markets like New York, Houston and Washington fill up the Top 5 list of spend-happy owners. One team in particular, the New York Knicks, are almost always league leaders in spending. According to basketball-reference.com, here are the NBA's fattest payrolls, with the Knicks in the top five.
But they haven't been a championship contender in a long time. With a record of five wins and 34 losses (through Thursday night), the Knicks have the absolute worst record in the league this year, on pace to challenge the worst record in NBA history.
If their winning percentage holds up, they would win just 11 games in the full 82-game season. That would put them barely ahead of the worst team in history, the infamous 1973 Philadelphia 76ers, who could only win nine games, losing a whopping 73. With a rookie head coach and general manager (who each have giant contracts), the Knicks' cost-per-win is atrocious. Through a full season, they are on pace to spend nearly $8 million per win.
82-game pace for cost per win this year
$7.5 million — Knicks
$5.0 million — Timberwolves
$3.5 million — 76ers
$2.8 million — Lakers
$2.7 million — Hornets
Compare that to other historically bad teams and their cost-per-win rates.
Cost per win for selected historically bad teams
$4.98 million — 2008 Miami Heat
$4.95 million — 2010 New Jersey Nets
$4.15 million — 2010 Minnesota Timberwolves
$2.41 million — 1998 Denver Nuggets
$1.10 million — 1994 Dallas Mavericks
Nobody paid over $5 million per win. The Knicks are on pace to demolish that record. To be sure, this is a product of growing NBA payrolls and a fixed 82-game season length. But it does go to the point that the two other atrocious teams this year (Minnesota and Philadelphia) have spent a lot less to hit the bottom.
The Knicks would need to win 17 games on the season—more than triple their current total—to avoid being the worst buyers of wins in NBA history. It's no guarantee they'll get there. Michael Beuoy, who runs the sports analytics site Inpredictable, thinks the Knicks have an 87 percent chance of exceeding the 17-win mark.
"It's a combination of regression to the mean and a weak remaining schedule," said Beuoy. "The Knicks would have a 20 percent chance of beating a league average team, but the Knicks' remaining schedule is far from league average," boosting their expected winning percentage in upcoming games. Beuoy points out a large chunk of games against other woeful Eastern Conference teams. "They've got three games each left to play against Philadelphia, Orlando and Boston; and two each against the Hornets and Bucks."
They'll need all the help they can get to avoid such a historically dubious distinction.