NBA writer Mark Deeks made
this great table detailing how much money every NBA team has paid in luxury tax bills since 2002.The NBA’s “luxury tax” is a payment teams have to make to the league if their total team salary exceeds a maximum limit (last year, it was ~$70 million). For every dollar a team is over the luxury tax limit, they have to pay a dollar to the league in tax.
For example, the Lakers’ team salary was ~$99 million last year. So they had to pay $29 million in luxury tax payments.
The luxury tax is a way to create competitive balance while also allowing the NBA’s richest and most dedicated owners (Mark Cuban, etc.) to pay extra for more talent.
20-four of the 30 NBA teams have exceeded the luxury tax limit at one point or another since 2002.
But a handful of teams REFUSE to pay the tax as a point of principle. This places them at a great competitive disadvantage, considering most of the league’s owners are willing to dip into the tax to get better.
Here are the six teams that have paid $0 in luxury tax payments since 2002:
- Charlotte Bobcats (didn’t exist until 2004)
- Golden State Warriors (new owners in 2011)
- LA Clippers
- New Orleans Hornets
- Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle Sonics
- Washington Wizards
None of these are particularly surprisingly. Of these teams, only the OKC Thunder have reached the conference finals over the last decade.
And here are the teams that have paid less than $5 million in total luxury tax payments since 2002:
- Milwaukee Bucks — $4.7 million (haven’t paid tax since 2002-03)
- Atlanta Hawks — $4.3 million
- Chicago Bulls — $3.9 million (only paid tax in 2012-12)
Yes, the Bulls are one of the cheapest teams in the NBA.
The contrast here are the top-5 tax paying teams since 2002:
- New York Knicks — $205.3 million
- Dallas Mavericks — $150.5 million
- Los Angeles Lakers — $113.6 million
- Portland Trail Blazers — $89 million
- Boston Celtics — $47.2 million
To put that in perspective, the Knicks have pad more in luxury tax since 2002 than the bottom 22 tax-paying have paid combined.
They may not spent wisely, but they spend.
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