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The Unofficial 2014 NBA Census

The follow-up to last year’s Unofficial 2013 NBA Census is finally here. This year we take an even deeper dive into the 400+ players who make up the NBA. Leaving no stone unturned, this study covers player high schools and colleges, salary and experience, vital statistics like height and weight, and everything in between. This is my first post for the Best Tickets Blog and I’ve really enjoyed putting it together for you so, without further ado, let’s jump right in!

 

Part 1: Position, Salary, & Durability

Let’s start by analyzing each position in the NBA. In addition to all of the positions we used last year, we are introducing more refined positions for this year’s study. They are: PG (Point Guard), SG (Shooting Guard), PF (Power Forward) and SF (Small Forward). NBA players are some of the most gifted athletes in the world, and many of them are able to play a multitude of positions. For this reason we are still including the hybrid positions F/C (Forward/Center) and G/F (Guard/Forward). To define each player’s respected position, I cross-referenced their personal Wikipedia pages with their profiles on NBA.com. Below, the number of players at each position in the NBA.

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In last year’s study, the guard sat atop the leader board as the most common position in the NBA. This year, after dividing the position into the PG/SG/G sub-categories, we find that the point guard is the most common position in the league. In a close second is the dedicated center, which shows an increase of just 1 player compared to last year’s study. The biggest increase for any group of players was the forward group’s (PF/SF/F) jump from 112 to 152. Now let’s take a look at the dollar signs behind those same positions.

 

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The dedicated center jumps to No. 1 this year, with a whopping average annual salary of $5,390,095 – up roughly 8.68% from 2013. The three big men with the highest average annual salaries are: Dwight Howard ($21,897,818), DeMarcus Cousins ($16,404,925) and Brook Lopez ($15,206,485). Last year’s No. 1, the “flex” forward/center, fell to the No. 3 with an average annual salary of $4,871,788.

Next up, let’s see if the flex forward/center position still holds the highest average number of years in the NBA.

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On par with our 2013 census, the guards and shooting guards have the shortest expected career length of all the NBA positions. This is bound to always remain the case, as guards are typically high risk/reward players. These guys are very susceptible to injuries because sometimes the best way for them to score points is to drive into the paint against larger guys. Think you could take a hard mid-air foul from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Nikola Peković (6ft 11in & 295lbs) and walk away in one piece? Derrick Rose might beg to differ.

How about we drill down into the players a bit more?

Let’s start with an analysis of the physical attributes and race of the NBA.

 

Part 2: Physical Attributes & Race

The average adult American male is roughly 5 ft 9 in tall. There is not much room for “average” in the NBA. Only five players in the league are listed as shorter than 6 ft, and only two would fit the description of “average” sized Americans. At 5’9, the Denver Nuggets’ Nate Robinson and the Phoenix Suns’ Isiah Thomas are the shortest players in the NBA. Coincidentally, both players grew up in Washington and attended the University of Washington.

Let us take a ‘high’-level view of the data and analyze this at the team level. See what I did there?

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and now the average weight…

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The Charlotte Hornets are the heaviest team in the league with an average player weight of 228.27 lbs, while the Philadelphia 76ers come in as the lightest at a mere 216.13 lbs.

Now that you’re up to date with all that, let’s have a closer look at the ethnic makeup of the NBA. Following the eye test method used in our Unofficial 2014 NFL Player Census, I separated each of the 447 players into the following racial categories:

Black

White

Hispanic

Asian

Mixed

The “Mixed” category refers to those players who have a mixed racial composition. For example, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs would fall into this category due to his mixed race. Below, we examine the race distribution of the NBA.

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This is the first time we’ve included this material for the NBA. Here, we see that black players represent an astounding 68.9% of the player population, followed by white players, who constitute 21.7% of the league. The three remaining racial categories in the league – Hispanic, Asian and Mixed – combine to equal only 9.4%. Jeremy Lin is currently the only one holding it down for the Asian race in the NBA. Hang in there, buddy.

“But aren’t you going to break down racial distribution by team?” Of course! How could I not?

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The 76ers and Hornets each have 14 black players, which is the most on any roster. The Spurs and Bulls have the fewest black players at 7 each. The Bulls, Nets, Trail Blazers, Suns, Pelicans and Cavaliers all tied for having the most white players (5) on an NBA roster.

And next, we have the racial distribution at the positional level.

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As you can see, black players dominate every position in the NBA. The highest concentration of white players can be found at the dedicated center position, followed by the “flex” center/forward.

The next chart details the average salaries of each of the racial categories of NBA players.

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The Asian category ranks as the highest paid race, coming out to an average of $8,374,646 annually. However, this data is slightly skewed by the fact that the Asian group is represented solely by Jeremy Lin. White players come in last place, with an average annual salary of $3,807,709.

 

Part 3: Birthplace & Hometown

The NBA is one of the most competitive and diverse sports leagues on the planet. In this section, we’ll examine where each of the 447 players were born and grew up. To start, let’s take a look at the international population.

There are 105 current NBA players who were born outside of the United States. This is up an additional 10 players from last season. In 2014, foreigners make up 23.5% of total players in the league! Let’s have a look at exactly where they all come from.

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The usual suspects are atop the leader-board once again in 2014. France, Canada and Brazil are certainly considered hotbeds for finding gifted athletes, so no surprise to see them right at the top. Last year, the NBA was home to players from 41 countries. This year, that number has increased to 44 countries from around the globe.

I also thought it would be interesting to include the countries with the most players per capita.

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Montenegro has a commanding lead with a player per capita of 3.22. The players responsible for helping Montenegro here are: Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls and Nikola Peković of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The two countries tied for tenth place are our Canadian neighbors to the north and our friends from Down Under (the Aussies). Both of these countries have a player per capita of .26.

Now that we have more detailed information about which countries these foreign players come from, let’s take a look at which NBA teams are most interested in their services.

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The Spurs are once again the team with the largest collection of imported players on their roster. Over half of their active players are from outside of the United States. Andrew has said it before and I will say it again: the San Antonio Spurs are on to something.

Lastly, how do each of these countries rank in terms of average salary output? I thought you would never ask…

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Poland leads the pack with an average annual salary of $12,000,000, followed by Sudan with $10,000,000. I should note that these two countries have only produced one NBA player each, so their average salary is not affected as sharply as the others on the list. Regardless, the diversity of the NBA is something that is truly amazing.

Let us now shift our focus to the homegrown talent and the states that have produced the most NBA players based on where they were born.

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(Again, it is important to remember that this data represents the information based on each player’s birth state; not where they went to high school. The latter makes an appearance in our study momentarily).

California still remains the highest player-producing state for NBA talent, but this year it more than doubles the count from any other state. California single-handily accounts for more than 13% of the current players in the league. The states that failed to produce any NBA talent are Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Utah and Vermont.

Next up, let’s have a look at the states who are producing the most NBA players per capita.

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For the second year in a row, Louisiana outputs the most NBA players per capita (2.61) when compared to the other states. It’s no small feat that Louisiana has led this category in both the NBA and NFL the past two years. I know it’s cliché but honestly, what are they putting in the water down there? Indiana is right behind Louisiana with a respectable 2.45 players per capita.  Colorado has the least players per capita of states who produced at least one player, coming in at a dismal .193.

The top ten States that produced the most active NBA All-Stars comes up next in our study.

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California, once again, is way ahead of all the other states. Here, we see that the “Golden State” doubles the amount of current NBA All-Stars of Illinois, the second most productive state. California also has the highest estimated population of 38,041,430 in the United States.

What about where the most active NBA Champions come from?

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Again, California and Illinois are your No. 1 and No. 2 states who have produced the most active NBA champions. It is evident that these states are certainly doing something right.

The graph below shows us the number of players produced from each state based on their high school location.

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The information does not stray too far from our map based on where players were actually born.

And the players per capita based on their high school location…

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Finally, we see some new faces in the top 10 here. However, the Virgin Islands only produced one active player in the NBA. Any guesses as to who that might be? That’s right, the man himself, Tim Duncan. It makes it totally okay that a player of his caliber skewed the data, right? After all, when he’s on the floor he might as well be 10 different players. All the other countries in our top 10 produced more than 1 active player.

 

 Part 4: Education 

Next up, some data about the top NBA player-producing schools and colleges around the nation.

Let’s first start at the high school level, and see which schools around our country have a knack for producing the most talent.

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At the college level…

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There is no surprise here. Ask almost anyone that follows basketball where they think the most NBA players come from at the college level, and you’ll likely get a response that includes Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina. These elite universities have made appearances in the NCAA Final Four Tournament a habitual occurrence. Since 1990, these four schools have accounted for 11 of the 24 NCAA National Championship trophies – that’s an impressive 45.8%! Combine all the players from these 10 programs, and you also get 29% of the NBA population. Not too shabby.

What if you had to guess which college holds the bragging rights for having the players with the highest average NBA salary? This year I decided to only include schools that have produced more than 1 active player.

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Illinois claims the title for producing the most highly-paid NBA players, while Wake Forest fell from the top spot to No. 3 this year. Active Illinois alumni include: Deron Williams ($19,754,465) and Meyers Leonard  ($2,435,620).

When considering which college produces the most active NBA All-Stars, we see some familiar faces at the top of the list.

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What about Colleges with the most active players who have added the Larry O’Brien trophy to their résumé?

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Florida sits at the top of the list. The list of champion Gators includes: Corey Brewer (Minnesota Timberwolves), Matt Bonner (San Antonio Spurs), Mike Miller (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat). The only player who does not have multiple championships is Cory Brewer. His one ring came with the Dallas Mavericks when they won their first title in 2011 over the Miami Heat.

Below, we take a look at the correlation between the average NBA salary and number of All-Star appearances by players.

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Kobe Bryant sets the bar pretty high on this one. Not only does he bring in an average annual salary of $24,250,000, but he’s been voted as an NBA All-Star 16 times throughout his career. Bryant is also one of two active players with 5 NBA Championships. The other, you might ask? That man would be Tim Duncan, who cashes in $10,120,482 annually. Quite impressive résumés for two future members of the NBA Hall Of Fame.

Since we are on the topic of All-Stars, let’s see which teams have the most on their roster.

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With five players who have been nominated as an NBA All-Star, the Brooklyn Nets have the highest concentration of All-Stars on any NBA roster.

If I asked you which team had the highest annual payroll of all 30 NBA teams, who would you guess? If your answer is Brooklyn, you got it. Their roster currently costs an average annual payout of $90,210,090. The Philadelphia 76ers have the lowest, paying out $29,795,026 annually. That is a difference of $60,415,064! Quite a big gap, wouldn’t you say?

Along with ranking dead last in terms of the checkbook, the 76ers are also having a hard time finding wins on the court. They are currently the only team in the league that has yet to win a game, and has set a new franchise record for most consecutive losses at 0-17.

 

Part 5: Experience & Age

In some cases – fine wine or a Rolex for example – products appreciate in value and flavor over time. Can the same be said of NBA players? I believe Steve Nash, along with the Lakers’ faithful, might disagree with you. At 40-years old, Nash is the oldest player in our study. The youngest players in the league are 19-years old, making Nash over twice their age.

How do NBA teams rank in terms of age?

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Yes, the San Antonio Spurs are the oldest team in the league. They also happen to have the most cumulative NBA championships (24) among all teams in the NBA at the moment! The team with the second most cumulative titles is the Miami Heat (13), followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers (8) and Memphis Grizzlies (4). What do all four of these teams have in common? They rank in the top 5 of the “oldest” teams in the league.

How about the distribution of age?

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As you can see, the heaviest concentration of NBA players is between the ages of 23 and 26. This group accounts for 37.4% of the NBA population.

Now that we know more about the concentration of players in the NBA, let’s see how their average salary changes with age.

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Not a surprise to see that this data is very similar to last year’s; however, the largest swing came from the 35-year old age group. This year, their average salary dipped more than $8,000,000 from last year. The lowest average salary of NBA players falls between ages 19 through 23. Kobe Bryant (36) single-handily brought his class of other 36-year-old veterans to the top (and is probably responsible for the massive drop for the 35-year-old average). Compare his salary of $24,250,000 with the others in his group: Shawn Marion ($1,448,490), Chris Andersen ($5,187,500), and Dirk Nowitzki ($8,333,333).

 

And that’s a wrap for this year’s Unofficial 2014 NBA Census. I really hope you enjoyed reading it, and learned something new! Feel free to reach out to me at @MykelKovar, or mykel@besttickets.com should you have any questions or comments regarding the data. Thanks to Andrew Powell-Morse and Brett Cohen for the opportunity.

 

 

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