Tied at 90 with 0.7 seconds left in regulation, Toronto forward Kawhi Leonard shot an off-balance jumper from the right corner and drained the winning basket in front of a sold-out home crowd of 20,000 at the Scotiabank Arena that would advance the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Following the shot, we probably saw the most emotion ever displayed from Leonard throughout his entire eight-year NBA career. Cheering with excitement would be natural for any player after this play, but for Leonard it was anything but typical for the man who can dunk with a straight face.
KAWHI CALLED SERIES! pic.twitter.com/V4AIuMULNO
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 13, 2019
Leonard was coming off nagging quad injury as he only played nine games in the 2017-18 season with the San Antonio Spurs. Entering the 2018-19 season, he was playing on a different team in a different country after being acquired in the off-season when Toronto traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick to the Spurs for Leonard and Danny Green.
The Raptors forward returned to his true-form this past season and his buzzer-beater on Sunday night was a testament to his abilities. In the 2018-19 season, he averaged 26.6 points per game, 34 minutes per game and a 37.1 percent shooting from long range. All of this comes at a $20 million price tag for the Raptors and slightly over $25K for that winning shot, but having this two-time Defensive Player of the Year and three-time All-Star might be worth the cost in pursuit of securing a spot in the 2019 Finals.
During the 2018-19 regular season, Leonard scored 1,596 points or what translates to $12,593.48 per point. So that winning shot against the Sixers was valued over $25K based on his regular-season performance. Leonard’s production on the court earned him $9,852.54 for each of his 2,040 minutes played or $334,986.47 per game played or $83745.62 per quarter.
Out of all four remaining teams in the playoffs, Golden State, Toronto, Portland and Milwaukee, they rank at second, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively in team payroll. Payroll is restricted by a salary cap which was created to ensure competitive balance which would help teams in smaller markets to still remain competitive among teams who have the ability to spend more money on player contracts.
However, teams are still able to offer max contracts to players like how Golden State did for Stephen Curry. In the 2017 off-season, the point guard signed a supermax contract with the Warriors for $201 million over five years which was then the richest contract in NBA history until Houston’s James Harden topped it with a $228 million extension.
Despite that Harden’s Rockets couldn’t advance past the Sixers in the second round of the playoffs, Harden still walked away from the season making bank as he had the tenth-largest salary in the NBA at $30.43 million. In addition to being one of the highest-paid players in the league, he is also one of the league’s best scorers and topped all players this past season with 2,818 points which is 659 more points than Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder who scored 2,159 for second-best.
In mid-January, Harden dropped 57 points against the Memphis Grizzlies which can be valued at $615,548.50 based on his 2018-19 salary and performance.
In simpler terms, Harden’s salary can be broken out to $10,799.10 per point or $51,931.49 per assist or $390,152 per game or $1,250.49 per quarter. Even with a supermax extension, Curry still earned more than Harden this past season as he was the highest-paid player in the league with a whopping $37.45 million.
The Golden State Warriors are vying for a shot in the Finals for a fourth championship in five years and with the second largest payroll in the league at $148,093,414, it would be a massive letdown for Steve Kerr and the Warrior’s front office if the team didn’t maintain their dominance over the Trailblazers in the Western Conference Finals.
The team is getting their money’s worth out of Curry who averaged 27.3 points per game, a 91.6 free-throw percentage, and 43.7 percent from behind the arc this past season as he earned $19,913 per point or $103,759 per assist or $542,857 per game or even $1,966 per quarter.
All of the four remaining teams in the Playoffs have combined salaries valued over $542 million this season, but being crowned 2019 Champions is something worth much more than a half billion dollars.
Andrea Keppler can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @keppler_andrea.