Once a year, Forbes magazine breaks down the team value of every NBA franchise. This year's report was especially fascinating — Forbes reported that the average value of the 30 teams had risen to $509 million, a 30 percent increase from last year, saying that "the increase is due to higher revenue from television, new and renovated arenas, and the NBA's new collective-bargaining agreement, which reduced player costs from 57% of revenues to roughly 50%." Translation: The owners didn't just beat the players in that last lockout; they trounced them like it was one of those Cowboys-Bills Super Bowls.
Anyway, in 2009, Forbes valued the Cavaliers at $476 million and the Heat at $364 million. Four years later, they valued the Cavaliers at $434 million … and the Heat at $625 million. Gee, I wonder what changed.
(LeBron James, you deserve a raise. A massive one. Just know that you won't get it.)
Simmons opines that LeBron's value on a non-cap, non-tax market would be $75 million.
Since James came into the league in 2003-04, he has had a 27.6 PER and accounted for 147.3 Win Shares.
Guys With over 95 Win Shares and a 24 PER during that time period:
Dirk, KG, Kobe, Duncan, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade.
Paul has played two fewer seasons than LeBron, so he is not a fair comparison, but let's assume that had he played 2 seasons he would have had 24 Win Shares and his same career 25.5 PER.
LeBron's Win Shares of 147.3; Giving Paul his extra 24 Win Shares would get him to 122.4
James - 147.3
Paul (est) - 122.4
Dirk - 118.0
KG - 108.2
Think about this - Paul accounts for roughly 83% of the wins that James has. Dirk 80%. KG and Kobe 73%. Duncan and Wade - 67-68%. These are first ballot Hall of Fame players.
James - 27.6
If we assume that a PER scale is arithmetic rather than logarithmic (doubtful) and that two points at the top of the scale equals two points in the middle of the scale (very doubtful) then we see that
Wade and Paul produce at about 93% of James's level. Duncan at about 89% and the others at about 88%.
Summary - if you had LeBron James the past 10 years, you would have received production at a level somewhere around 110% to 140% of first ballot Hall of Fame players. James' performance per minute is about 10% greater, and when added to the fact that he has logged so many more minutes than most of the others, his TOTAL production is simply astounding - example - Kobe and KG would have had to up their production by roughly 36% to get as many Win Shares as LeBron.
Assume that Kobe and KG are worth about $30-40M a year. James' value is somewhere between $33M and $56M.
Now - how about winning games? Before LeBron reached Cleveland they won 15 games. After he left Cleveland, they won 19 games. In between they won 35, 42, 50, 45, 66, and 61 games.
Before James reached Miami, they went 47-35 and were eliminated in round 1 by Boston (4-1). Since his arrival, they have gone 103-58, reaching the finals twice and winning once.
James's team has never lost in the first round of the playoffs. Never. He has lost in the second round 3 times, conference finals once, finals twice, and has a title.
Since 2003-04 season, he has by far the most playoff Win Shares and by far the highest playoff PER of any player. He has 5 more Win Shares than Chauncey and over 6 more Win Shares than Kobe. Again - consider this - Kobe is one of the winningest playoff performers of all-time. In the past 10 years, James has 37% more win shares than Kobe.
Kobe has played 220 playoff games - he has around 28 Win Shares. LeBron has played 115 playoff games, he has over 24 Win Shares. If the Lakers do not make the playoff and the Heat reach the finals, it is possible that LeBron will pass Kobe for career playoff win shares, having played around 90 fewer playoff games.
So, what exactly is James worth. Assume you are, say, Milwaukee -- winning 50% of your games and hoping for one round of playoffs. You sign James, you get 60 wins a year and average an Eastern Conference finals every year, maybe a finals.