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Study: Rockets have second-best cost per win over last decade

It’s a neat study to look at, and it may just challenge some of your perceptions about team ownership.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Dallas Mavericks
Here’s a pic of the Rockets guarding Luka, just because...
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With a lot of questions about Houston Rockets current owner Tillman Fertitta’s willingness to spend money in order to take advantage of his team’s title window, it’s a good time to take a look at recent study done by that breaks down the most (and least) overpaid NBA teams of the last decade. According to the site:

“We calculated each NBA team’s total player salary over the past 10 seasons and divided it by the number of wins over that same period to learn how much each team spent for each win... We collected player and team salary data from, as well as player and team statistics, such as win shares and the number of wins, from Data were collected from the 2007-08 season through and including the 2017-18 season... Player salaries were not available for all NBA players over the past 10 seasons, so players with nonexistent data were excluded. All data are based on means alone, and no statistical testing was performed. This content is exploratory, and future research should approach this topic in a more rigorous and academic manner.

The Rockets finished with the second-lowest (read: second best) salary per win in the NBA over the last decade, averaging $1.52 million per win. Also of note is that their 543-343 record, good enough for a .613 win percentage, which was also second-best of the last decade.

The San Antonio Spurs were top in both categories, leading the league with 621 wins and spending just $1.42 million for each of them. The New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves were the worst in terms of cost per win. Here’s the full list:

In addition, my personal favorite part of the study is a graph, where you can see each NBA franchise broken down by their payroll and their wins, and the Rockets are firmly in the “Low Pay/High Win” section, which I guess is technically ideal if you are the one in charge of running the front office. And since Houston GM Daryl Morey started with the Rockets in 2007 — right when this study started — this basically correlates with his entire career in H-town.

The thing that sticks out to me is that Houston is squarely in the “Low Pay” category for the years of this study, primarily under the ownership of Les Alexander. It’s also important to note that this year, under new owner Feritta, the Rockets are currently the fifth most expensive team in the NBA, according to USA Today.

It’s interesting looking at perceptions compared to reality, because in this case, Alexander never had the reputation of a cheap owner, but as you can see, he routinely spent less than many of the other teams in NBA. While Feritta’s already cultivating the reputation of a frugal owner for Houston’s efforts to stay under the luxury tax, but reality shows him spending more than 25 other teams this season. Just a little food for thought.

Anyway, thanks to for bringing this study to my attention. Make sure you check out the full write up here, where you can find all of this info listed here, plus a cool breakdown of the most overpaid teams by year, with their highest-paid players.