Basketball

Bobcats' modest payroll is balanced

The Charlotte Bobcats spend more on the frontcourt than the backcourt, don't overspend for starters, and are still in search of a superstar.

Those aren't exactly revelations, but they are all reflected in a snapshot of the NBA's salary structure. The Observer obtained up-to-date, position-by-position salary figures for players around the NBA.

The Bobcats' season payroll is at about $63 million, in the bottom third of the NBA. No individual Bobcat is top-50 in player salary; center Emeka Okafor, the team's most expensive player this season, is 67th overall at $9.538 million.

The most telling thing is how effectively the rookie pay scale tamps down salaries for first-round picks in their first four seasons. The best bargains at each position is typically one of those rookie-scale players.

Point Guard

TOP FIVE EARNERS: 1. Jason Kidd, Dallas, $21.37 million. 2. Stephen Marbury, N.Y. Knicks, $20.8 million, 3. Mike Bibby, Atlanta, $14.98 million, 4. Gilbert Arenas, Washington, $14.65 million. 5. Steve Nash, Phoenix, $12.25 million.

COMMENT: The size of Marbury's salary makes his banishment from the Knicks all the more striking.

BOBCATS STARTER: Raymond Felton, $4.15 million (34th among point guards, final season of contract)

BIGGEST BARGAIN: Mario Chalmers, Miami, $700,000. Comment: A rookie starter with a big upside.

Shooting Guard

TOP FIVE EARNERS: 1. Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers, $21.26 million. 2. Allen Iverson, Detroit, $20.84 million. 3. Tracy McGrady, $20.37 million. 4. Ray Allen, Boston, $18.39 million. 5. Joe Johnson, Atlanta, $14.23 million.

COMMENT: Detroit traded for Iverson in part because his contract expires after this season.

BOBCATS STARTER: Raja Bell, $5 million (27th among shooting guards, one more season at $5.25 million).

BIGGEST BARGAIN: Brandon Roy, Portland, $3.08 million. Comment: Roy is already an All-Star.

Small Forward

TOP FIVE EARNERS: 1. Paul Pierce, Boston, $18.07 million. 2. Shawn Marion, Miami, $17.81 million. 3. Andrei Kirilenko, Utah, $15.1 million. 4. LeBron James, Cleveland, $14.41 million. 5. Carmelo Anthony, Denver, $14.41 million.

COMMENT: Marion is the subject of considerable trade talk because of his expiring contract.

BOBCATS STARTER: Gerald Wallace, $9.5 million (13th among small forwards. Three more seasons left, each at $9.5 million).

BIGGEST BARGAIN: Danny Granger, Indiana, $2.33 million (has played like an All-Star this season).

Power Forward

TOP FIVE EARNERS: 1. Kevin Garnett, Boston, $24.75 million. 2. Tim Duncan, San Antonio, $20.6 million. 3. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, $18.08 million. 4. Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers, $15.11 million. 5. Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix, $15.07 million.

COMMENT: All five of these guys still have All Star-type impact, though Stoudemire is struggling to play with Shaquille O'Neal.

BOBCATS STARTER: Boris Diaw, $9 million. (19th among power forwards. He has three more seasons, each at $9 million).

BIGGEST BARGAIN: David Lee, N.Y. Knicks, $1.79 million. (He should hit it big this summer as a restricted free agent.)

Center

TOP FIVE EARNERS: 1. Jermaine O'Neal, Toronto, $21.37 million. 2. Shaquille O'Neal, Phoenix, $21 million. 3. Yao Ming, Houston, $15.07 million. 4. Rasheed Wallace, $13.93 million. 5. Dwight Howard, Orlando, $13.76 million.

COMMENT: The two O'Neals represent huge investments in big men past their prime.

BOBCATS STARTER: Emeka Okafor $9.54 million (16th among centers, first season of a reported 6-year, $72 million deal.)

BIGGEST BARGAIN: Andrew Bynum, Lakers, $2.77 million. (He's already signed a contract that will pay him about $40 million over the next three seasons.)

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