NBA Spending and the Salary Cap

This was originally posted on my first blog, Data vs Food, in July 2018

Preface: I know nothing almost nothing about Basketball, Salary Caps, or the NBA

This weeks Makeover Monday dataset looks at NBA team spending in comparison to the salary cap.


The Original Visualisation We’re Making Over

What do I like?

  • Showing the max & min of the salaries paid during each season is useful

  • Clear colours

  • Detailed title

What don’t I like?

  • Why is the cap represented as a bar? It doesn’t make it clear that it’s a limit

  • The key

  • The smoothed lines between the data points

  • Diagonal text on the x-axis

What I did

I found this dataset really interesting and I ended up creating a few different remakes.

In my first I wanted to show how much the teams were spending in relation to the cap. This gives an idea of the varying size of the salaries between teams. The stacked bars on the right show the number of teams who spend above or below the cap.

I also added a couple of highlight actions and some cleaner tooltips helps make things a bit clearer.


The interactive version is lost to the mists of time


I then had another go and expanded on the original viz I made by adding in a new section below it. This part went into slightly more detail and looked specifically at all teams who had spent over the salary cap. How many times had they gone over it and by how much.

Click for the interactive version

Even after these changes I wasn’t overly happy with the design, it seems a little unfinished? Unbalanced? I’m not sure, but it’s not quite right.

At this point I went and started from scratch and had a go at something really simple and a bit more abstract, just showing the highest salary for each season. Tooltips help a lot here.

Click for the interactive version


I wasn’t quite finished with this dataset and I wanted to have one more go. I stuck with the second idea I had for my first viz, looking at how far above the salary cap teams spent. I initially tried to do this with a small multiple but I couldn’t get it to work properly (download my viz, it’s on another sheet if you’re curious how far I got).

I went with a heatmap of team vs season with the colours indicating dollars above the cap. The colour palette used I found in a tweet from Mike Cisneros and the hex values can be copied from here.

The dots in the squares indicate the team that was furthest from the cap in each season. I tried to get the dots to appear using a calculated field, in the end I just formatted a duplicated measure so any positive value displays as a dot. I put this onto label in marks card and set the label to only appear on the maximum value in each pane.

Click for the interactive version

I’m far more happier with this viz than any of my other attempts this week. Sometimes (as disheartening as it can be to hear) the best advice is scrap what you’ve done and start again.