Defining Sasha Vujacic's ValueAfter 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."
posted by David Friedman @ 3:50 PM