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Monday, July 28, 2008

Defining Sasha Vujacic's Value

After giving serious consideration to following Josh Childress' lead and signing with a European basketball team, restricted free agent guard Sasha Vujacic signed a three year, $15 million deal to stay with the Lakers. Vujacic, who averaged 8.8 ppg in 2007-08 and ranked eighth in the NBA in three point field goal percentage (.437), made $1.76 million last season, so his dalliance with playing for a Russian team helped him to nearly triple his salary. From a purely objective standpoint, it could be argued that the Lakers overpaid Vujacic but that is the nature of the NBA's salary structure, a fact that economists and fans alike repeatedly fail to understand. Sure, the Lakers could have let Vujacic walk and kept their costs down by replacing him with a more affordable player. It is even possible, though perhaps not likely, that they could have acquired a player who has a similar skill set. However, Vujacic has been a Laker for three years now and has played in 32 playoff games. Thus, he has not only been tested under fire but he is very familiar with Coach Phil Jackson's system. Vujacic is comfortable playing with Kobe Bryant and the NBA's reigning MVP trusts Vujacic to make open shots.

Therefore, even if the Lakers could find a similarly skilled player at a slightly lower cost they would in fact be throwing away all the time and money that they previously invested to develop Vujacic into the player that he has become. The Lakers would, in effect, be saving a small amount of money to start that process all over again, with no guarantee that they could develop their new player to the point that Vujacic is already at, nor that they could retain this player's services even if he became as good in the Lakers' system as Vujacic already is (even if the theoretical new player is as skilled as Vujacic it would still take him time to learn to apply those skills in the confines of the Triangle Offense). Meanwhile, the Lakers are paying Bryant well in excess of $20 million a year, which means that the team's primary goal should be to win now.

When all of the relevant factors are correctly weighed, it makes much more sense to "overpay" Vujacic by a small amount than to "save" a few dollars and seriously weaken the team, a move that could rightly be described by the old cliche as "penny wise and pound foolish."

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:50 PM



At Wednesday, July 30, 2008 7:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

he is a good player nuthing special but very good player at what he does you pointed out that in article. he said he would go to eurpe and got 3.5 million more dollars that might help other players get higher contracts since this new european phenemonon is happening possibly childress ben gordon delonte west and highschool player jennings are gone childress and jennings are.

i dont think stars will ever go but do you see this as a problem for nba.

At Wednesday, July 30, 2008 11:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


It is much more of a problem for the NBA owners than it is for the players :)

By that I mean that any time there is another market to drive up the prices then the players will get paid more and the NBA owners will not be happy. I doubt that we will see an elite player (All-NBA First or Second Team) go overseas any time soon and it is unlikely that even an All-Star would leave the NBA (unless perhaps he is from overseas in the first place) but this is truly a viable option for legit rotation players who are not satisfied with what NBA teams offer them.

Objectively the Lakers may have "overpaid" slightly for Vujacic but, as I explained in the post, I think that this was a wise move on their part.


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