There is something unique about John Hollinger’s brilliant Player Efficiency Rating (PER) formula and, although the criticisms are duly noted, this formula is the hallmark of determining NBA success. Just look at the top five PER ratings of all-time: Jordan, Lebron, Anthony Davis, Shaq, David Robinson…would any GM not want to start a team with those 5 in their prime?

Without getting into too many technical and mathematical intricacies, suffice it to say for this discussion, that PER takes into account accomplishments, such as field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. The formula also includes negative results, such as, missed shots, turnovers, and personal fouls. The formula adds positive stats and subtracts negative ones through a statistical point value system. The rating for each player is then adjusted to a per-minute basis. There is a lot more to the formula’s calculation, but this article will no go into depth about it’s technicality.

Today we are looking at, with the luxury of hindsight, how the highest paid contracts match up with their respective PER ratings, and the results are pretty shocking.

The top two highest paid players this season are Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, respectively. However, their PER ratings are 37th and 61st, which has them in line for a hard F. Interestingly enough, Daryl Morey was responsible for signing the former, and trading for the latter. Both are busts when their contract values are compared to their performance output. However, Morey did redeem himself on the Harden signing, as he is the third highest paid player in the league and also has the third best rating, coming in at a strong 31.66, for that he gets an A+. One out of three isn’t so bad right? But, Rockets fans are not smiling.

Moving on then to number four on the list, King James himself, still dominating in his 17th season in the association…although that groin is now showing signs of aging and the high mileage. Nevertheless, his contract is providing solid value, even just statistically speaking, churning out 25.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, and a staggering 10.6 assists a night, good for a 26.29 PER. This has to be another A+ if we factor in everything else Lebron brings to the table, including AD, who ranks 4th on the PER rating list, but is the 35th highest paid player, coming in after guys like Andrew Wiggins and Nikola Vucevic.

Sometime after Terry Rozier signed a ridiculous contract and before the Kawhi saga played out, the Celtics made Kemba Walker the 5th highest paid player. It is not working out as well with respect to his PER performance, sitting at 22nd place, but Boston is sitting 2nd in the conference and haven’t really hit their full stride yet.

Then we get into what is probably the worst looking contract of the year. Blake Griffin is being paid just under $35 million on a 12 and 20 Pistons team, for shooting 36% from the field while jacking up 14 shots a game. This is another F for Ed Stefanski and the Pistons organization, who should have known better before trading for Griffin and his terrifying contract. Kyle Lowry comes in at number 7 on the highest paid list, but with little to show for it with respect to his PER rating which is at a meagre 17.82. Point guards that are ranked better than Kyle are, T.J. McConnell, Zach Lavine, and Jordan Clarkson, who was recently waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Assuming this signing was just a nod to Kyle as the greatest Raptor of all time, we can give Masai a small pass, but the contract still gets a D. Paul George and Kawhi are both players who will be in the race for the MVP title for at least the next few years, and we have to give the Clippers brass an A for that. Jimmy Buckets is also proving his haters wrong, putting up a solid 23.44 PER, beating out players thus far, such as the aforementioned Westbrook, CP3, Blake Griffin, Kemba Walker, and Donovan Mitchell, to name a few.

With respect to the PER thus far, the highest paid players should be, in this order:
Giannis Antetokounmpo – 33.83
Luka Doncic – 31.77
James Harden – 31.66
Anthony Davis – 29.03
Karl Anthony Towns – 28.46
Lebron James – 26.29
Joel Embiid – 26.26
Kawhi Leonard – 26.00
Kyrie Irving – 25.91
Hassan Whiteside – 25.31

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