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NBA ROI: Analyzing Return on Investment for the 2022 Offseason’s Biggest Contracts

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The NBA is full of supermaxes and big deals, but not all of them pan out. Which of the highest-paid players from the 2022 offseason are giving their respective teams the most bang for their buck? Boardroom explores.

Return on investment (ROI) is defined as the amount of profit, before tax and after depreciation, from an investment made, usually expressed as a percentage of the original total cost invested. 

Labeling an NBA player as a return on investment can sound dehumanizing, but in the case of professional sports, how much a team pays a player and what said player pays the team back in production can quite literally be expressed as a percentage. Typically, the highest spenders find themselves toward the top of the standings. In fact, since 2017, only the 2019-20 Lakers were able to win a championship and not be a top-10 spender in the league.

But as we all know, it’s not that simple. Just as much as there’s a chance of a player outplaying his contract, the ROI a team gets on one’s contract could come back to bite it when that money could have been allocated elsewhere.

Back around the time supermaxes became an actual thing in the NBA — Stephen Curry was the first to sign a “supermax” in 2017 under the league’s CBA — one executive told me to watch the percentage of the cap because it’s more important than the actual number. In the case of a supermax, one player can take up 35% of a team’s cap before they dip into the luxury tax. Simple math will tell you it doesn’t make sense to give the wrong player such a deal; that becomes even more clear to owners when a large luxury tax bill is involved.

Thus, while ROI may not be a fair way to say it, business is business. And this business, in particular, our beloved NBA, continues to boom with higher team valuations, an inevitably larger media rights deal, and larger player contracts by the year. By July 2, six of the top 10 contracts of all time were handed out amid a $5 billion offseason spending frenzy. 

So, how have the top-five highest-paid players from the 2022 offseason shaped out thus far? Let’s take a look.

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Nuggets C Nikola Jokic: $270M

  • Type: Designated Veteran Player Extension (“supermax”)
  • Years: 5
  • Free agency: 2028
  • Nuggets Attendance: No. 12

The Joker won two consecutive MVPs and has hardly entered the “prime” of his career at 27 years old. He continues to do uncanny things on the court, averaging 24.7 points, 11 rebounds, and 9.2 assists while leading the Nuggets to be No. 1 in the Western Conference as of this writing.

His supermax (+8.3%) kicks in after this season — an annual pay bump from $32.4 million to $46.9. He’ll top out at $62 million when he’s only 33 years old. The Nuggets spent $354 million on seven players this offseason, the second-most in the NBA.

Wizards SG Bradley Beal: $251M

  • Type: Extension
  • Years: 5
  • Free agency: 2027
  • Washington’s Attendance: 30th

Beal’s season has been somewhat derailed by a thigh and recent hamstring injury, but he’s still a bucket-getter, scoring 23.3 points on a career-high 51.5% shooting, though his 16.8 field goal attempts are his lowest since 2015-16. That’s the last thing you want when you pay someone this much, but you can’t control injuries and there’s really nobody to blame for that.

Washington is 4-8 without him; 8-12 with him. Its path forward is a bit uncertain, as it sits at the bottom of the standings despite spending $295 million (sixth-highest) this offseason and owning the 12th-highest active cap in the league ($149.9 million).

Note: Jokic and Beal are the only players to ever sign a contract worth more than $250 million.

T-3 Suns SG Devin Booker: $224M

  • Type: Designated Veteran Player Extension (“supermax”)
  • Years: 4
  • Free agency: 2028
  • Phoenix’s Attendance: T-5th

Booker’s earning $33 million this year and can’t be traded until the end of the season. After that, his annual pay jumps to $50 million in 2023-24 and tops out at $62 million when he’s 30 years old. He’s earned every last bit of his pay, averaging a career-high 28 points per game in 2022. He’s a leader and quickly ascending as a top player not only in the West but in all of basketball. 

His Suns are in the thick of things for the No. 1 seed in the West, a result of development, continuity, roster construction … and heavy spending. They paid six players for a league-high $364 million and became a top-10 spending team for the first time during James Jones’ GM tenure started in 2019.

T-3. Timberwolves PF Karl-Anthony Towns: $224M

  • Type: Designated Veteran Player Extension (“supermax”)
  • Years: 4
  • Free agency: 2028
  • Minnesota’s Attendance: 25th

KAT has the exact same contract as Book does, and the Timberwolves went bonkers with their summer revamp, spending $284 million while trading for Rudy Gobert, who’s in the second year of a five-year, $205 million contract. They’ll likely shed D’Angelo Russell’s $31 million next season and make way for an Anthony Edwards rookie extension. Minnesota rode a high under new owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who poached an elite GM in Tim Connelly on a five-year, $40 million contract.

KAT’s averaging 20.8 points this season — the lowest since his rookie season. Like Beal, his season has been plagued by injury (calf), making it harder for the Wolves to find a rhythm together. They’re 6-4 without him and 10-11 with him.

5. Bulls PG Zach LaVine: $215.2M

  • Type: Extension
  • Years: 5
  • Free agency: 2027
  • Chicago’s Attendance: 19th

The Bulls are spiraling and Lonzo Ball hasn’t played a game this season. LaVine signed a max deal this past summer, and he’s only one of three players on the books for the next three seasons (including this one). As the ship continues to sink, the Bulls — and LaVine specifically — continue to come up in trade rumors. Reports indicate that frustration is mounting as LaVine and the Bulls aren’t seeing “eye-to-eye.”

The explosive guard’s production has taken a hit following another knee surgery in May, averaging 21.7 points per game, his lowest since 2017-18. Frustration is mounting with the losses and LaVine’s value might be the lowest it’s been in years because of his huge contract and tough start.

Return On Investment 

If we’re basing things off sheer production, availability, and team performance, Jokic and Booker are off to the best start among the top-five highest-paid players this season. There are, of course, other things to take into account, such as jerseys sold, ticket sales at home, opposing teams’ ticket sales when said team is in town, and how much buzz they’re creating in the NBA world that ultimately makes the player, team, league, and so many cities/ businesses more money.

Supermaxes don’t always work out. Some achieve greatness, some fall short, and some even get traded. It was once a foreign concept, but now, handing our large contracts is the norm.

Who’s due next? Find out here.

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