With ESPN.com's 2012 #NBARank feature concluded, we take our second annual look at how players' rankings compare to their earnings. As described in last year's analysis the league's system is built upon player salaries -- for example each team must adhere to the league's salary-cap rules, and trades must conform to strict requirements controlling the salaries of the traded players.
As a result of several new rules added to the league's collective bargaining agreement, getting enough bang for the buck is now more important than ever. Teams that spend beyond a certain threshold are now penalized in the form of restricted access to salary-cap exceptions such as the midlevel and biannual.
Starting next season teams above this threshold (set at $4 million above the league's luxury-tax line) also will not be able to receive a player in a sign-and-trade transaction, which has long been an essential tool for GMs of capped-out teams to add talent.
And it gets worse. The luxury tax, which has always been a dollar-for-dollar penalty for payrolls that exceed the tax line, becomes progressive -- with the penalty increasing in 2013-14 to $1.50 for every dollar. But that's just for the first $5 million over the tax line. For each additional $5 million, the penalty becomes progressively worse, increasing to $1.75 for every dollar between $5 million and $10 million, then $2.50, $3.25 and so on.
As these penalties become stifling and potentially crippling, the onus is on smart general managers to sign players whose talents are in line with their salaries. The #NBARank data lets us define what this means. By plotting each player's #NBARank score against his salary, a clear pattern emerges.