Napheesa Collier is the biggest bargain in the WNBA right now

Comparing 2020 WNBA salaries with 2019 performance

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Are the best players in the league making the most in 2020? Which players are the biggest bargains in the WNBA right now? How does the new CBA affect how talent is being rewarded compared to their performance?

We’ll explore these questions and more in a three-part series analyzing 2020 player compensation compared with 2019 player performance. To do so, we compared the latest salary data for the 2020 season with players’ 2019 performance as measured by Win Shares.

Win Shares is an advanced statistic that approximates the total number of wins a player produces for their team through their play on the offensive and defensive end of the court. Unsurprisingly, winners of the WNBA (and NBA) MVP award often lead the league in Win Shares, as they are contributing the most to their team’s success by this measure overall. We chose Win Shares (retrieved for 2019 from Basketball-Reference) for this analysis as it gives the best estimate readily available of a player’s contributions last season. Of course, Win Shares is just one measurement of performance and certainly isn’t perfect. However, it does allow for a consistent assessment of each player.

Even if Win Shares perfectly measured the value contributed by a player, there are other factors to consider in assessing the expected performance in 2020.  Most notably, the value of Diana Taurasi is not reflected by her -0.4 Win Shares in 2019 in an injury-riddled season. In 2017 and 2018, Taurasi averaged 4.5 Win Shares which is more in line with her high salary. Plus, she’s Diana Taurasi!

Despite these caveats, the data still provides many valuable insights. Here’s a look at a plot of 2019 Win Shares vs. 2020 Salary for all players that played in 2019 and are currently on a roster:

What immediately jumps off the page is the clear tiered structure as a result of the CBA rules. In fact, 62 percent of players currently have a league maximum (as defined by the old or new CBA) or league minimum cap number.  The key amounts, highlighted below are:

  • $215,000 - New CBA “Supermax” Salary for qualifying players (5 players, 4%)

  • $185,000 - New CBA Standard Maximum Salary (6 players, 5%)

  • $119,500 - Old CBA “Supermax” Salary for qualifying players (7 players, 6%)

  • $117,000 - Old CBA Standard Maximum Salary (12 players, 10%)

  • $68,000 - New CBA Minimum Salary for 3+ Years of Service (15 players, 12%)

  • $57,000 - New CBA Minimum Salary for 0-2 Years of Service (31 players, 25%)

As the chart shows, Elena Delle Donne led the league in 2019 with 7.7 Win Shares and is one of five players at the Supermax under the new CBA. She’s joined by Brittney Griner, Liz Cambage, DeWanna Bonner, and Emma Meeseman. Jonquel Jones ranked second in 2019 with 5.6 Win Shares but did not qualify for a Supermax, so she could not earn more than the $185,000 standard maximum. 

Chiney Ogwumike had the top performance by Win Shares of players slated to earn the old Supermax of $119,500 this season with 3.0 Win Shares in 2019. Five players at the old standard maximum of $117,000 actually exceeded that mark, with Chiney’s sister Nneka Ogwumike leading the way with 5.5 Win Shares for the Sparks in 2019. Despite her value on the floor, the WNPBA president will be a bargain as the fifth-highest paid player in Los Angeles. Among veterans qualifying for the new minimum salary of $68,000, Allisha Gray exceeded her contract the most as she delivered 3.6 Win Shares for the Dallas Wings.  

The biggest bargain of all is Napheesa Collier who will earn just $57,000 on her rookie deal for 2020 after it was adjusted up to the minimum salary by the new CBA rules. The reigning Rookie of the Year totaled 5.2 Win Shares for the Lynx in 2019. Just how much of a bargain is Collier? Well, using those values she delivers 9.12 Win Shares per $100,000 of salary. That is a league-high by over two Win Shares per $100,000.  

The table below shows the ten most efficient contracts of the WNBA measured by Win Shares per $100,000.  Of those ten, eight are at a veteran league minimum ($68,000) or below. Five are at the the league minimum of $57,000.

How do the top performers in the league compare?  Below we present the rest of the top players by 2019 Win Shares and their Win Shares per $100,000 in 2020 salary:

If you’re interested in seeing where all the players (who played in 2019 and are currently listed on a 2020 roster) stand in the Win Shares vs. Salary spectrum, check out our interactive Tableau dashboard.

Keep a lookout for part two of this series, where we will zero in on the relationship between win shares and salary for 2020 free agents.


Thanks for reading the Her Hoop Stats Newsletter. If you like our work, be sure to check out our stats site, our podcast, and our social media accounts on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also buy Her Hoop Stats gear, such as laptop stickers, mugs, and shirts!