Which NBA Teams Have the Most Cash Sitting on Their Bench?

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BetMGM @BETMGM May 15, 2024, 12:29 PM

As the NBA regular season closed with its usual display of high-flying dunks, buzzer-beaters, and star performances, the spotlight often remains fixed on the starting lineups. However, just beyond the bright lights of the starting five sits a crucial element of any team’s success: the bench. While they might not grab the headlines, the players coming off the bench play a pivotal role in a team’s strategy and, in some cases, a substantial part of its payroll.

We wanted to know just how much each NBA team puts into their bench, particularly focusing on the salaries of the seven most-played bench players for the 2023-2024 season. For enthusiasts and bettors alike, understanding where teams invest their money can provide deeper insights into their potential performance and betting strategies. Whether you’re looking to place a wager or are simply a fan curious about the financial aspects of basketball, this analysis offers a fresh perspective on how NBA teams value their bench players.

Methodology

For the 2023-24 NBA season, we analyzed the financial distribution between bench players and starters. Given that an NBA team has 12 players in uniform at any given game, we calculated the combined 2023-2024 salary for the seven bench players who have appeared most frequently off the bench for each team, based on NBA data. We also determined the average salary for the starting five players of each team according to its depth chart. Next, we compared the total salaries of the bench players to those of the starters and assessed what percentage of the starting lineup’s salary is equivalent to that of the bench. All player salary data is sourced from ESPN.com.

The analysis compares the total salary owed to players who commonly appeared off the bench to those who typically start, not how much the cap hit is for their current team. For example, if a player was released or traded and appeared in enough games for another team, their entire owed salary for the 2023-2024 season is the figure we used.

NBA Bench Salary Breakdown Across the League

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Our analysis of the salaries of the seven most-played bench players from each team reveals a fascinating financial landscape of the league’s benches. With an average spending of $45.5 million across all teams, certain franchises stand out for their hefty investment in their bench depth, indicating a diverse approach to building competitive and resilient squads.

Detroit Pistons – $69.7 Million

Leading the league in bench spending are the Detroit Pistons, whose reserves earn a whopping $69.7 million combined. Notably, bench players like Joe Harris, Evan Fournier, and James Wiseman, who are among those who played most frequently from the bench in the 2023-2024 season, each earned over $10 million. In stark contrast, the Pistons allocated only $34 million to their starting lineup. This makes their bench not only the most expensive but also distinctive for exceeding the starters’ payroll by $35.7 million.

Indiana Pacers – $67.1 Million

The Pacers follow closely, with their bench earning $67.1 million. The bench’s collective salary closely trails the $72.4 million dedicated to the starters, reflecting a balanced financial commitment to both core and supporting players. This is unsurprising, as the Pacers are among the teams most reliant on their bench. The Pacers’ bench players combined to score 46.8 points per game during the 2023-2024 season, the highest in the NBA.

Orlando Magic – $66.3 Million

The Magic’s bench is not far behind, with salaries totaling $66.3 million, compared to $50.4 million for the starters. The Magic’s starting lineup features 3 players 22 years old or younger. This emphasis on youth helps keep the starting lineup relatively cheap, leaving plenty of funds to go to the NBA’s 4th highest-scoring bench.

Cleveland Cavaliers – $60.5 Million

The Cleveland Cavaliers allocate $60.5 million to their bench, markedly less than the $110.5 million committed to their starters. This significant disparity underscores a strategy that prioritizes star power in the starting lineup, with Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland making over 33 million dollars each this past season.

Toronto Raptors – $57.5 Million

The Raptors’ bench players earn a total of $57.5 million, a figure that stands in moderate contrast to the $74.1 million for their starters. This distribution indicates a strategic allocation aimed at creating a well-rounded team while rebuilding for playoff pushes in future seasons.
The Raptors’ bench players earn a total of $57.5 million, a figure that stands in moderate contrast to the $74.1 million for their starters. This distribution indicates a strategic allocation aimed at creating a well-rounded team while rebuilding for playoff pushes in future seasons.

Evaluating NBA Team Investments: Starters vs. Bench Salaries Compared

The salary strategies that teams use can mirror their tactical approaches on the court. By thoroughly analyzing how teams allocate their budgets between starters and bench players, we gain insights into their priorities. This analysis helps us understand the influence of these financial decisions on team dynamics and overall performance.

On average, NBA teams allocate $56 million more to their starting five players than to the combined salaries of their seven most-utilized bench players. This salary distribution is indicative of how teams value their on-court talent and strategize for success.

Teams with the Largest Salary Gaps

  • Boston Celtics: The Celtics exhibit the most significant disparity, with their
    starters out-earning the bench by a monumental $130.9 million. This reflects a strategy heavily
    weighted towards star players, with all-stars like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
  • Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets’ starters earn $130.8 million more than their bench, with
    the bench salaries making up just 13.9% of the starters’ earnings, emphasizing a top-heavy
    financial approach.
  • Phoenix Suns: Similar to Denver, the Suns’ bench earns merely 18.5% of what the
    starters do, translating to a $127.4 million difference, indicating a significant investment in
    their starting lineup.

Teams with the Smallest Salary Gaps

  • Indiana Pacers: Here, the salary gap is much narrower, with the starters making only
    $5.3 million more than the bench. This parity suggests a balanced investment across the team.
  • Charlotte Hornets: Remarkably, the salary allocation for the Charlotte Hornets
    showcases an almost equal investment between the starters and the bench. However, the bench
    edges out slightly in comparison, earning $800,000 more than the starting lineup.

Teams Where Bench Out-Earns Starters

  • Detroit Pistons: Leading this category, the Pistons’ bench earns $35.7 million more
    than the starters, highlighting a unique strategy focused on bench depth and talent development.
  • San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs also invest more in their bench, with a $18.4 million
    difference favoring the reserves. This is unsurprising for the NBA’s youngest team at 23.52
    years old.
  • Orlando Magic: The Magic’s bench earns $15.9 million more than the starters,
    reflecting a strategic emphasis on a strong, deep bench.

This analysis not only illuminates NBA teams’ financial strategies but also offers insights into their broader approaches to building competitive rosters. For fans and analysts alike, understanding these salary dynamics can provide deeper clues into a team’s performance and strategic planning, affecting everything from game day strategies to fantasy sports decisions and betting insights.

Closing Thoughts

As we wrap up our exploration of NBA bench salaries for the 2023-2024 season, it’s clear that the financial strategies behind team roster constructions are as diverse as the game-day strategies employed on the court. From the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic investing heavily in their bench to the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets focusing the bulk of their financial resources on star-studded starters, each team’s approach provides unique insights into their tactical outlooks and potential for success.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.