Asking if an economist can watch a basketball game seems like the beginning of a bad joke — one that David Berri is well familiar with. Berri, a professor of economics at the University of Southern Utah, runs Wages of Wins, a website devoted to looking beyond conventional wisdom to explain how sports work. Berri and his team routinely use economic methods to crunch and analyze data, which often turn out results different from what’s commonly accepted in sports media.
The collective recently examined which National Basketball Association teams were “buying wins at the cheapest price.” Though this may seem difficult to chart, the data and approach behind the results were actually quite straightforward: Payroll was divided by wins over 82 games and by projected wins — wins expected in 82 games given the team’s offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency. Both wins and projected wins were based on the teams’ most recent standings at the time. Per those parameters, here are the eight NBA teams that spend the least cash on winning games.
1. Portland Trail Blazers
With $63.2 million for their 2013-2014 payroll, the most efficient team at the moment is the Portland Trail Blazers. Economically, they spend $1.07 million per win, much, much less than the average of $1.65 million per win.