In the course of reading numerous Sixers previews this week, I've come across way too many people lamenting Sam Dalembert's contract. In fact, some have called him the most overpaid player in the league. Make no mistake, Billy King was a horrible, atrocious general manager and he should've never given Dalembert that contract, but when people talk about Dalembert as being a horrible contract, they almost always miss the point.
Let's just look at the numbers. Since signing his contract, Sam has played in 319 of a possible 335 games, including the playoffs. He started 305 of those games. Simply being on the floor every night is a valuable commodity for a big. Let's take a look at two guys who signed similar contracts in the same summer: Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry. Chandler has played 298 of a possible 350 games, Curry 215 of a possible 328.
Beyond games played, though, let's just look at pure value. It's a pretty simple ratio if you accept win shares as a decent barometer, dollars per win share. Here's how Dalembert ranks among several notable players over the past four seasons.
The table is sorted by cost per win share, and as you can see, Dalembert's salary isn't especially out of line with some of the best in the league. You can say his numbers are skewed because he's played so many minutes as a big man, but when you're talking about dollar value for a player, it's really only cumulative numbers that matter. How many games did the player win for you over the length of his contract? By that measure, Sammy has not been a poor value for the team.
A couple of notes about the chart. First, I tried to only use players who were beyond their rookie contracts, meaning a GM somewhere placed a value on the player, and this is how they performed. Every halfway decent player would be atop this list from their rookie contract because the values are slotted and capped. The players with asterisks in the chart above played at least one year of the past four on their rookie contracts. I included them anyway mainly because I wanted to see how LeBron measured up. Dirk is the king of this metric, of the non-rookie deal guys.
By no means am I saying Dalembert's contract was wise, King overpayed for Dalembert when there weren't really any other bidders. There was no reason for yearly increases and the trade kicker was completely asinine, but we need to admit that the reason everyone says he's overpaid doesn't have much of anything to do with his production. The team would love to get out from under the remainder of his contract, although I'm not sure that's wise. But you can't make hyperbolic statements like "He's the most overpaid player in the league," and be taken seriously. It's a bad contract simply because he's been a headache at times and the team would like to get out from under that contract, but can you honestly say the Sixers could definitely get more production for that $39M than they've gotten from Dalembert?
If Sam Dalembert's contract is the biggest waste of money on the Sixers roster, they're actually in very good shape, production-wise. In reality, Sam isn't even close to the worst contract on the roster. Willie Green, including his second-round rookie contract for one season, is costing the Sixers $2,750,568.33 per win share over the past four seasons and Elton Brand is at $15,286,493.33. Actually, if Brand can get to the Dalembert's $1.9M/WS level over the rest of his career, the Sixers will probably wind up with home court advantage every season (that would be an average of 9 win shares per season.)
One more note, Andre Miller slipped my mind, but he would've been #4 on this list at $1,251,141.54 per win share. #2 if you remove the rookie contract guys.