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Friday, November 21, 2014

Free Agent Bargain Bin

The attention is rightly focused on the big gun free agents, but it’s also fun to think about potential cheap free agency steals. The Knicks could use some bargains to fill out the rotation no matter how they fair with the bigger name free agents.

It’s not easy to know what offers various free agents will receive, but here are my (mostly subjective) rankings of the top players I assume may be had at relative bargain prices:

(Honorary mention #1 LeBron James… even at the max  LeBron is the biggest bargain in the entire league.)

#2 Craig Smith

Should be among the most underrated free agents: he’s both productive and in his prime. Doesn’t have tons of upside, but is a relatively sure thing. Most other bargains are young with no history of production or old without much left. Smith has consistently produced on bad teams for both the Timberwolves and Clippers. He scores efficiently and is a fairly stout defender, though his rebounding is mediocre and he turns it over a bit too much. Craig is among the most productive undersized 4s out there and should be a solid 4th or 3rd bigman. Lack of a jump-shot probably turns D’Antoni off.

It’s hard to imagine Smith getting more than the $4 million Brandon Bass got last offseason. He’s only about 6’6.5” in shoes, so teams are likely to have their reservations. Additionally he only averaged 16 mpg, leading to an unimpressive per game line of 8 and 4. Guys without impressive per game numbers often get overlooked by conventional GMs.

Similar Player Comparison

#3 Ian Mahinmi

There’s very little track record, but Mahinmi comes in 3rd (2nd really) because it’s unlikely he costs much (Spurs declined a $1 mill+ option for next season), his very limited track record is impressive, and he’s still got big upside.

For some reason Gregg Popovich just would not play Mahinmi. The conventional wisdom is that the Spurs have a loaded frontcourt, but until they added McDyess and Blair last offseason that really wasn’t the case. So I assume there is some sort of b-ball IQ/work ethic/attitude/injury issue. A red flag since the Spurs are smart and Pops usually gets the most from good players. However the Frenchman is crazy athletic, only 23 years old, and stands 6’11.

In the 165 minutes he earned in 2010, he managed 22 pts, 11.3 reb, and 1.7 blk per 36 minutes, with a very healthy TS% of .667. Of course some of that occurred in garbage time, but it’s very intriguing nonetheless. In 07-08 he put up similar numbers in the D-League. He’s got the feeling of a Jermaine O’Neal level hidden gem.

If Mahinmi can get it together enough to get on the court, he might be a good fit at C for D’Antoni: basically, he’s an athletic freak who finishes strong at the hoop. Has the potential to be the interior presence the Knicks have been desperate for. Even if other teams bid up his services to, say, the $4-7 mill per year range, I would consider spending short-term dollars on Mahinmi before I spent long-term dollars on Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson, and some of the other big name FAs.

Similar Player ComparisonBrad Miller’s 22 year old rookie season is another one.

#4 Shaun Livingston

Plenty of question marks, but might have put it all together last season. The biggest question with Livingston is whether he can stay healthy. Once thought to have HOF potential, Livingston’s upside is now closer to solid rotation player. He’s not a good jump shooter, so D’Antoni may not love him, but he’d be a good backcourt partner for Douglas on paper. Livingston can run an offense, but at 6’7” he can defend shooting guards.

Shaun is a low-volume scorer and was efficient last season, but in fairness it was a small sample. (Despite having no 3-pt shot, he’s primarily a jump-shooter and shot well on jumpers last season.) Solid playmaker, but TOs are a big problem. Livingston’s biggest strength is versatility: he can play PG on offense and SG on defense, allowing him to complement a smaller combo-guard who plays the SG on offense and PG on defense. Toney Douglas is such a player. (Jaycee Carroll too.) Livingston might be had cheap, since the Wiz have filled up their backcourt. We’ll see if last season was a fluke or a sign of things to come… and that’s what you want to be saying about bargain bin free agents (not highly paid ones…).

Similar Player Comparison Unfortunately, to date, closer to Marko Jaric than Doc Rivers or Penny. If we’re talking minimum salary, a 25 year old Jaric is a good value. If we’re talking $4-5 mill per… not as much.

#5 Dorell Wright

Wright is a 24 year old coming off a good season where he made $2.75 million. Should the Knicks have $3-5 mill left over perhaps he’s worth a look. If he ends up with no offer but the veteran’s minimum, then he’s a steal. There’s a lot of redundancy with him and Bill Walker, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Fields… so the Knicks resources are probably better spent elsewhere. I think Wright will be a solid FA bargain for someone, though.

Wright is similar to Wilson Chandler. Dorell is low-volume/medium-high-efficiency, while Wilson is medium-volume/medium-low-efficiency. Otherwise Wright was as good as or better than Chandler in terms of defense, shot blocking, stealing, rebounding, TOs, assists, etc (despite the prevailing homerism, Chandler is just not a very special player). Wright’s 3-pt shot took a huge step forward in 2009-10 after missing most of 08-09. He’s already shown the outside shot that we’re all hoping Chandler will develop by 24 years old.

Wright is a strong defender who I would also compare to Mickael Pietrus. He could fill the wing defense/ outside shooting role (Bowen, Bell, etc.) quite well (also MUCH better finisher than Bowen or Bell). Play either the 2 or the 3 depending on situation. A solid, well-rounded NBA rotation player entering his prime. Should Chandler be used in a sign-and-trade, Wright could instantly replace his production at a slightly higher cost. A change of scenery could do Wright some good. I bet San Antonio steals him for, say, 3-4 years $3 mill per.

Similar Player Comparison

#6 Ben Wallace

We all know Ben: big on defense, not so much on offense. Not a typical D’Antoni guy, but the Knicks were desperate for some interior D last season and might be again next season. Ben played for the minimum in Detroit last season, playing pretty well for an otherwise soft, underperforming Pistons squad. His DPOY days are over, but for the minimum there may not be a better interior defender. Detroit was 8.6 pts/100 possessions better defensively with him on the court last season and 1.6 pts/100 better offensively. Their rebounding went up on both sides of the ball, they blocked more shots, and teams had a harder time scoring 1-on-1. Wallace and LeBron have a relationship from Cleveland, no idea if that’s a plus or a minus… Of the washed up veterans, Wallace is probably my favorite (Maybe Kurt Thomas #2).

63 comments on “Free Agent Bargain Bin

  1. ess-dog

    I like the Craig Smith idea if we can get him for under 2 mil. We really need a bruiser on this team in case there’s an altercation. Smith could fill that role.
    Mahinmi and Livingston, yes and yes. Why not?
    Of course if those are our top three signings, I predict no more than 40 wins – being generous.
    Do you guys thing Atlanta would take the ubiquitous Curry/Chandler package in a sign and trade for Johnson at the max? It would give Johnson the max in ny, save atl a little money this year, reunite Curry with JCraw, give atl the post scoring it needs, give atl another good wing (Chandler), and most importantly… Curry’s contract would be a valuable trade chip at the deadline for atl.
    That still might take us out of range for 2 max contracts after that, but it would be pretty close. Then we could get James straight up and go after a Lee for Amare swap with Phoenix. We could give Amare his full max, Lee would be reunited with his bro Frye, he gets to play with Nash in the system he’s used to… Amare also stays in the system he’s used to, gets reunited with Joe J., and gets to live in a great city for his vegetarian lifestyle.
    Then you throw out a lineup of Douglas/Johnson/Lebron/Gallo/Amare. D’Antoni can then really sink or swim with his “system” and see how it goes – scorers at every position. You can also switch to a big lineup with Johnson at pg and Barron/Jordan at center. Seems far fetched, but it’s what I imagine D’Antoni’s ideal lineup would be…

  2. Frank

    I think it’s time for everyone to stop reading the anonymous source-type of FA rumors. Lebron/Wade/Bosh met in Miami, done deal to go as a trio. Oops, Lebron was in NY and Wade was in Chicago during said “summit”. Source says Lebron favoring Cleveland. Source says done deal to Chicago.

    Truth is, no one knows anything except Lebron, Wade, and Bosh. This is all being done to get pageviews and clicks. Damn new media.

    I can’t deal with it anymore. wake me up on July 8.

  3. David Crockett

    ess-dog,

    I’d rather see Walshtoni hit the traditional trade market before doing a S&T for Johnson at max $.

    Will Leitch has an interesting piece out today where he’s speculating that JJ would rather force a S&T to Dallas than come to NY. It makes some sense for Johnson, who probably doesn’t want to come to NY if all he can be is the guy who isn’t LeBron.

    I just think there may be more interesting moves to be made involving trades if none of the big 3 come to NY.

  4. supernova

    Great analysis!

    I think the idea of bringing a Ben Wallace would be great if we could get him at that veteran minimum. Although he is not a scorer (which we know D’Antoni normally wants in all his players), I think in every other way he would be a great fit. Obviously, the price would be right. Then he could help tutor our new big man Jordan, while providing valuable minutes off the bench. I think the Knicks definitely needs this type of defensive infusion and shot blocking presence, which Wallace could provide.

    Unfortunately, with teams having so much cash to spend, it seems it might be difficult to get him at that vet minimum.

  5. David Crockett

    Another name for the list, perhaps? Louis Amundson, Suns.

    He is a quality rebounder, and that’s about it. The Suns, I presume, are interested in having him back, but he is unrestricted. I don’t imagine he’s due for a monster pay day either.

  6. latke

    no channing frye! Good list — some players I hadn’t thought about. Wright, Mahinmi and Livingston sound best to me. Smith and Wallace don’t fit with D’Antoni and are known quantities. WHat about Javaris Crittenton? He can’t shoot, but after that gun charge he’s probably available for next to nothing. He’s also still only 22.

  7. massive

    The Nets trade Yi Jianlian to the Wizards, clearing 3 million more dollars in cap space. Does Eddie Grunfield have it in for us?

  8. Loathing

    What do the Wiz have against us? Ernie Grunfeld still has a grudge against his former employers, even if none of them are still WITH the Knicks anymore…

  9. Ted Nelson Post author

    @1 ess-dog: Solid plan, but of course LeBron has to sign off.

    @3 &5 David: Trades would be good, hard to say who will be available in straight salary dumps, though. What do you have in mind?
    The Knicks will have more leverage in a week when they’ll be able to choose between FAs and trades: “want us to wash your hands of that contract? Well we’re about to use our cap space on FAs, so we’re not going to give you any assets.” There’ll be less space out there as guys sign with other teams as well, giving the dumper less leverage and dumpee more.
    Amundson is a solid possibility, to me personally he’d he honorable mention though. Very limited upside. Doesn’t get me particularly excited, but could be solid depth. At or close to the min he gives you something. Suns probably want him back, but maybe if they’re against the luxury tax they can’t.

    @6 ess-dog: I assume Frye gets solid money after that season, and especially if Amare bolts.

    @7 latke: Crittenton could get honorable mention on upside. He’s on the Lakers’ summer league squad, so we’ll see how that goes. The thing is he’s been on 3 teams in 2 years and been terrible throughout. No position and no NBA skill. He’s a long shot at this point who has to really work his way in… might take a prolonged D-League stay or Euro-trip for him to actually play and develop a game.
    Mahinmi is mostly upside, but the limited data we have for him (NBA and D-League) knocks your socks off. While I subjectively ranked the guys, I tried to look for guys with the stats to back up their games.

    @9-11
    Yi is beyond terrible. I guess Miami wasn’t desperate to dump Beasley, because to me he’s more attractive than Yi.

  10. Caleb

    Beasley will never live down the #1 tag and might never be worth more than the mid-level. On the surface he also seems to have serious mental issues (seriously). BUT if he can stay sane and sober enough to stay in the league, he can actually play some – at least be an Al Harrington-like scorer. Yi on the other hand should be playing at the Y when his guaranteed contract days are over.

  11. ess-dog

    Question: do we have any trade exemptions left and is there any way to utilize them for more cap space either with a real player or with fat eddy asap?

  12. BigBlueAL

    ess-dog I believe I have read Hahn talk about the Knicks have a couple of minor trade exemptions, one for just under 3 million and one for just below 1 million I think. Not 100% sure but am pretty sure that is the case. Not sure though like you asked how they could utilize those exemptions.

  13. Z

    It’s easy to hate the Wiz for assisting our competitors, but honestly, I like what they are doing. They are taking advantage of the FA bonanza by feasting on the scraps. They’ll probably end up with Gallinari by the end of the week…

  14. Z

    “do we have any trade exemptions left and is there any way to utilize them for more cap space either with a real player or with fat eddy asap”

    The Knicks have an $800,000 exception from the Darko deal and a $2.5 million one from the Rockets trade. They can’t be combined, though, or used in a package.

    But at the end of the summer, when all the FA pieces are in place, they can add two players, if they can find a trading partner.

  15. Brian Cronin

    I find it hard to believe that was a real source. It sounds so silly that it sounds like an intern or some low-level guy.

  16. steveoh

    @21 It’s probably just as legit of a source as the other fools we’ve been hearing about in the past couple of days.

    Speaking of…
    NBA Executives reveal that LeBron James and Chris Bosh are signing with the 1976-1977 Portland Trail Blazers.

  17. Loathing

    According to my sources, LeBron will definitely make a decision on July 1st…he will decide to get out of bed and have breakfast.

  18. Robert Silverman

    Good post, Ted.

    From my last one, you’ll know how down I am w/Mahinmi and Livingston.

  19. Z-man

    Wonder how Dirk’s opting out might shape the FA dicussion. Does he just go back to Dallas or does he go for a championship with one of the big cap space teams? How would Dirk for 3 years @ max stack up with Amar’e or Johnson? Obviously age is not on Dirk’s side, but in the right situation he could be very valuable. Don’t think we are the right situation b/c Gallo does probably 75% of what Dirk does (assuming Dirk’s decline and Gallo’s growth have continued during the off-season.)

    On another note, what about Beasley’s descent into persona non grata?

  20. ess-dog

    Has anyone considered JJ Redick from the bargain bin yet? Great TS last year, over .600, over .400 from 3pt range. Kind of seems like the David Lee of shooting guards. Debatable whether he’s a starter or not. At 4 mil I say go for it, but he probably gets more than that… also, far from our biggest need, but he performed better than Vince last year, that’s for sure.

  21. latke

    Redick is good, but he’s an RFA, and seeing as he was one of the few Magic who stepped it up in the conference finals vs. boston, I don’t think they’ll let him go unless you overpay.

  22. Ben R

    Do yo think Amir Johnson or Anthony Morrow might be bargains. Both are unresticted and neither seem to be getting much hype this offseason. Either would be great fits and I think Morrow is as good as Reddick and should be cheaper and Johnson is a defensivly oriented Lee.

    Mahinmi would be a great pick up on potential and Craig Smith for the right price would be pretty good, a poor mans Carl Landry. Wright would be redundant but would be fine if cheap enough. Wallace possibly for very cheap but if he is cheap enough I think Detroit will just resign him. As for Livingston I do not really see why so many people are high on him. He was not very good before the injury and since returning has been better but not by much, he is not a great passer, is turnover prone and cannot shoot the three. I think there are alot better cheap PG options out here like Sergio for one.

  23. Z-man

    I was very underwhelmed by Sergio, he played like he was 5’9″ instead of the 6’3″ he was listed at, and aside from steals from overplaying the passing lanes, was an absolute cipher on D. Would much rather have Ridnour as a backup.

    I like Amir Johnson, but definitely plan Z material.

  24. rohank

    So I’ve been reading these comments for the past 72 hrs, and I haven’t said anything yet, but I gotta add my 2 cents here.

    The lack of love for Joe Johnson on this site is staggering. Cap space does NOT win championships. PLAYERS do. I don’t know WHO you guys are trying to save our cap space for, but there’s not a lot out there after this summer. Melo is signing (or has already signed?) an extension. Paul isn’t going to be available for Curry or whatever you guys dream up. The time is now. I’m not saying we should throw 17 million at Rudy Gay, but COME ON! Joe Johnson is a top 15 player in the NBA!

    He’s a stud defensively, first of all, and also, for all you advanced stats guys who are saying he’s not much different than wilson chandler, you’re missing all the intangibles. Now I’m a stats guy too, but think about this logically. Do you think teams are more intimidated by wilson chandler and the new york knicks or joe johnson and the new york knicks? I’d MUCH rather have joe johnson, even if it just means getting back into the freaking playoffs, which we have now been out of 6 straight years (longest current streak in the league (T-Minnesota)).

    And for all you guys saying “He disappeared against Orlando”: SHAME ON YOU. Who do you think you are – Isiah Thomas? Judging a player by ONE PLAYOFF SERIES??? It’s the exact same thing.

    Please try to look at the big picture here. I’m well aware that James, Bosh, and/or Wade signings would be much better received, but stop hating on Joe Johnson. Seriously.

    P.S. – Did anyone see Nash blossoming in PHX under D’Antoni before the FA signing actually happened? How old was he? oh yeah. he was 30! 29 is most certainly not over the hill in this NBA. With medical advances and such, JJ will almost certainly play at a high level PAST his next contract. GuaranSHEED.

  25. latke

    @ 32 Joe Johnson may turn out to be alright for a few more years. He’s more of a strength and skill player than a quickness player, and that can add longevity.
    However, do you see the knicks winning with say him and carlos boozer on max deals? Will they win a championship with all their money tied up in these two guys? I just don’t see it. I’d honestly rather see the knicks use the cap space to take on bad contracts and picks. If we could trade a 2nd round pick for arenas and 2 1sts, sign and trade lee for elton brand, either lou williams or jrue holiday, and a 1st round pick, then you at least have some hope of hitting the jackpot via the lottery and finding that player who can spearhead a championship contending team. You revert to mediocrity for a couple more seasons, but there are only three ways to get players in this league: 1) trades — you aren’t going to get a lebron/kobe/wade in a trade. 2) free agency — most of the good players are about to lock into long term contracts, so this option sucks if no one signs this summer, and 3) the draft.

    The draft is hit or miss, but you always have the chance to luck out and get a top pick. Sure, many times even the #1 pick is a let down, but if you look at the best players in the nba now, they are almost all with the teams that drafted them: kobe, wade, lebron (for now at least), Bosh, Carmelo, dwight howard, dirk nowitzki… Most of the top players who AREN’T on the teams that drafted them were late bloomers — guys like nash may have been effective before switching teams, but no one would have picked them as future MVPs. The only counterexample to this that I can think of in recent history is the Celtics when they acquired allen and garnett, the lakers when they acquired Shaq, and the magic when they got T-Mac and Grant Hill (which didn’t work out so well anyway).

    If you’re playing to make the playoffs, then yes, you spend the money on whatever you can, but if you’re looking to win championships then you’ve got to be careful. We gave allan houston a big contract, and for a few years it paid off, but in the end was it worth it to overpay him? The magic signed Rashard Lewis to a huge contract, but don’t you think that if they could go back in time they’d have been a little more careful?? Maybe brought in a lesser FA or traded for a player with fewer years on his contract?

    On a different note, I love how ESPN has its little thing on where all the FAs will go and NY gets no love at all. Miami and NY are the only two teams with the space to give two max contracts. NJ is close, but still short I think $5 million. Which is better? Going to Chicago to play with Derrick Rose, Noah, and a 2nd tier FA, or going to NY and playing with another top tier FA? Rose and Noah are good players, but even combined they don’t add up to Chris Bosh.

  26. latke

    forgot to add Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to the list of stars who have remained with the teams that drafted them. Who else… Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Chris Paul…

  27. cwod

    @35

    Interesting article. I’m not convinced they’d all take huge cuts just to play for a possible NY dynasty. At least the Knicks are trying to get somewhat creative.

    The NBA landscape might look very different in a week or so. That’s crazy to think about.

  28. Ben R

    @33

    Joe Johnson is by no means a top 15 player in the league. I am not sure if after next year he will even be top ten at his position. Kobe, Wade, Manu, Roy are all much better; Evans and Curry will no doubt be better soon; Mayo, Gordon, Thornton, Beaubois, Harden all have a solid chance to be better eventually and Martin and Richardson are about equal.

    That is twelve players who all could conceivitably be better 2 guards than Johnson next year. Best case Johnson is probably the 6th or 7th best 2 guard in the league next year, most likely more like 8th or 9th best. You do not max out a player who is barely an all-star, not the best player on his team, 29 years old, and is great at nothing. (Good at many things great at none)

    I do not think Johnson will deteriorate too much or at all before this contract is over but most likely he also will not improve. He will stay what he is; a moderately high volume, medium efficiency scorer who is an average rebounder, average defender and above average passer. If he is the best player on your team you go no where.

  29. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    “The lack of love for Joe Johnson on this site is staggering. Cap space does NOT win championships. PLAYERS do. I don’t know WHO you guys are trying to save our cap space for, but there’s not a lot out there after this summer. Melo is signing (or has already signed?) an extension. Paul isn’t going to be available for Curry or whatever you guys dream up. The time is now. I’m not saying we should throw 17 million at Rudy Gay, but COME ON! Joe Johnson is a top 15 player in the NBA!”

    First, look at Joe Johnson’s statistics:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/j/johnsjo02.html

    Do you see how his career WS/48 is 0.094? League average is 0.100. Do you see how he’s never broken 20 PER in a season? That’s not good. League average is 15. I’ll continue with a series of short thoughts on this unsubtantiated nonsense: Joe Johnson is overrated. He is not a top 15 player in the league. Players win championships when those players are efficient. Joe Johnson is not very efficient. He alone will not turn a 30 win team into a 60 win team. He will probably turn a 30 win team into a 37 win team. Carmelo is also not very good. There are at least four players I’d choose from the Nuggets before Carmelo, and that’s not considering salary. You know why? Inefficient players don’t win championships. Joe Johnson is worth, at best, ten million a year. That’s probably overpaying.

  30. Z

    “Inefficient players don’t win championships.”

    Though I understand your point, this statement is, I’m sure you know, not true. Even the best teams in recent memory have had inefficient players. In fact, the Detroit Pistons had a whole team full of inefficient scorers and still won the title.

    Every champion has had at least one inefficient player playing a bulk of minutes. The Pistons were led by Rip, the Lakers Odom, the Rockets Vernon Maxwell, etc…

    Which actually brings up interesting comps. Johnson and Rip Hamilton have pretty similar looking careers. Johnson and Odom’s efficiency stats are pretty close too. Rip has made $75,000,000 so far, Odom $90,000,000, so it’s hard to say that paying inefficient players a lot of money can’t lead to championships.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=johnsjo02&y1=2010&p2=odomla01&y2=2010&p3=hamilri01&y3=2010&p4=maxweve01&y4=2001

    Obviously, you don’t want to overpay bad players, but to say Johnson isn’t worth a lot of money because he’s inefficient ignores the possibility that a team can win because of him, not despite him.

    It will come down to who Johnson is paired with. Johnson + LeBron = championship at some point. Johnson + Rudy Gay = probably not. But maybe. I’ll still watch to find out.

  31. BigBlueAL

    “Do you see how his career WS/48 is 0.094? League average is 0.100. Do you see how he’s never broken 20 PER in a season? That’s not good.”

    Kinda nit-picking considering this past season he had a WS/48 of 0.140 which is a career high. His first 3 seasons in the NBA absolutely kill alot of his career numbers because he played in 77, 82 and 82 games in those seasons and was pretty bad. BUT starting from the 04-05 season which coincidentally is D’Antoni’s first full season in Phoenix look at his numbers since then. So no not 20 PER but over 18 a few times plus again this past season it was at 19.3 not exactly crap.

    Oh and I would love to see what 4 players on the Nuggets you would choose besides Carmelo considering his career PER is 20.1 and his career WS/48 is 0.125 since you love those stats so much.

    Look again I dont think anybody here expects a team lead by Joe Johnson to win a championship. The thing is some of you if we cant get LeBron dont even want Bosh because apparently Lee is better so you guys want the same exact freaking team as last season but with more cheap, efficient players on the roster as if that will turn this team into a perennial 50 win team. Please.

  32. BigBlueAL

    Amen Z, no matter who the Knicks sign I certainly will be watching and Im pretty sure everyone here will be watching too. At least I would hope so since I always have assumed everyone who comes to this site are die-hard Knicks fans regardless of how bad they are and arent the Knicks fans the new Nets owner thinks he can change into becoming Nets fans….

  33. Ted Nelson Post author

    Just to share my thoughts when I started compiling this list, I was unscientifically looking at guys who might have to take a minimum contract. Of course all of these guys are also candidates to be overpaid (like anyone), but I could see them all falling through the cracks for their own reasons: Smith = height, playing time, losing teams; Mahinmi = experience (yes, his upside might net him a good deal–in Europe if not NBA–but if there were much interest in him the Spurs probably would have flipped him for something); Livingston = injuries, experience, shooting range; Wright = playing time, scoring volume, perception Miami had nothing outside Wade; and Wallace = age and offense. Even if these guys do find a market, I would have a hard time seeing any getting a long-term deal at more than $4 mill per. Should have written a better intro or tied everything together better.
    Again, it’s my subjective opinion on who might fall through the cracks… you could just as easily argue these guys get overpaid for various reasons and other guys fall through the cracks.

    re: Luke Ridnour… Did the guy finally learn to play basketball at 28, or was his season a fluke? Either way I seriously doubt he produces like 09-10 again. He had never put up a TS% of .510 and suddenly it jumped to .570. His eFG% on jumpers jumped 100 points from 08-09 to 09-10. He seriously cut his TOs, which are usually high. Maybe he busted his butt last offseason, but then why hasn’t he done that every offseason and what’s to say he’ll do it this offseason with a fat new guaranteed contract.
    Doesn’t defend well. Isn’t a great playmaker. Not that much of an upgrade over Duhon at his best, if at all. To me he’s a big candidate to get overpaid based on a career year in a contract year. If he’s overlooked or the Knicks have no one else and he’ll take a 1-2 year deal… sure. Considering the Knicks don’t necessarily have a starting PG and Ridnour is probably looking for north of the MLE… smells like Jerome James to me.

    I feel like Morrow’s a candidate to get overpaid since the one thing he does is score and he shoots the 3 *very* well (you don’t have to understand stats or the game itself much to look at PPG or 3P%). At 13 ppg some playoff contender might see the scorer off the bench they’re missing. At the right price, though, a career 46% 3pt shooter would definitely look good in blue&orange. If he’s making the MLE you can probably find guys who are very close to him cheaper (Bill Walker being a prime candidate, along with Rautins, Jaycee Carroll, and to some extent Douglas).

    Amir Johnson I think could also be a candidate to get a decent salary since everyone knows he can block shots and rebound. I also have some character questions about him. He’s only 22 and coming off his best season, so I feel like his upside is clear enough to even the dumbest NBA GM. I feel like there’s a risk mitigation strategy out there that Layden was the poster-child of: done it before, can do it again. Johnson was already a solid defensive specialist bigman last season. Easy to connect the dots. For all his upside, Mahinmi has never played 200 NBA minutes. He is legitimately riskier, but I also feel like people in general have a harder time imagining what could/will be than seeing what has been.
    At the right price Amir Johnson is DEFINITELY a candidate for the Knicks to consider, though.

  34. d-mar

    @45

    Cwod, I saw that too. Is all the Lebron and Bosh to the Bulls nonsense based on them swinging a deal in the next week to clear more cap room?

    Michael Kay’s mantra on ESPN 1050 has been that if the Knicks whiff on LeBron, then the 2010 off season “is a failure”. That’s completely idiotic – the whole goal of all these cap clearing moves the last 2 years was to be a player in July of 2010, when the biggest and most talented group of FA’s in NBA history hits the market. Sure, everyone wants LBJ, and Joe Johnson is not Dwayne Wade, but I trust Donnie has a plan. If we end up with JJ and Stoudemire, of course we’re not contending for a championship, but it’s a major upgrade with more cap room coming in 2011. And unfortunately, we’re going to have to overpay for these guys, because if we don’t someone else will. That’s just the market right now.

  35. Ted Nelson Post author

    Ben R re: 30

    I don’t think people feel Livingston is a future All-Star or certainly All-NBA guy. He’s a guy who has been playing for the minimum, though, and played quite well last season. He doesn’t have 3-pt range, but was still an efficient jump shooter last season (.469 eFG% on Js… ) and finished extremely well. Was a small sample and TOs are a huge problem. Like I said above, his biggest value is probably that he can play with one of the dozens of shoot-first PG types out there that are talented enough to play but have no position.

    You may or may not find anyone cheaper. I assume Sergio Rodriguez will make more money than Livingston next season. Did you see how much Real Madrid paid Kaka last offseason? They are not hurting for money. Sergio is rumored to be their #1 target. He’s got options and leverage. Livingston is a ticking time-bomb with injuries. I highly doubt any team in the NBA or Europe makes a significant investment in him. At or close to the min, though, he’s a great look. To get a below-average NBA player with a chance to improve to average for the min is a steal. I’m not really sure what you’re expecting to find at the min…

  36. Ben R

    Ted – A couple things:
    First – I think you underestimate Morrow. He not only scored a decent amount of points he did it extremely efficiently. He is also a solid rebounder for his position and his passing, while not good, is average. Kevin Martin got a huge contract putting up almost identical stats. The thing he does well, score, he does as good as almost anyone in the NBA. As for the Walker comparisons I agree they are similar but last season was just such a small sample, who knows if last season was hot shooting or if Walker’s stats will drop when teams start to recognize his strengths. Plus I don’t think you can have too many wings that shoot over 40% from 3 and over 60% TS%. Morrow I think is easily worth money in the 5-7 mil range.

    Second – I think we need to aim higher than below-average with a chance to become average with everyone in our rotation. If we are just looking for average to fill out our PG position I think proven journeymen are better options than Livingston. E .Watson, CJ Watson, Blake, even Duhon all have a good chance to be just as cheap as Livingston and very well could be better. I think that we could find better diamonds in the rough in the D-League and looking at undrafted free agents; Lin, Torrance, Collins all seem like better gambles than Livingston, who is I think too much of a risk and should based on former hype get a contract for well over the minimum.

    Third – I would love for the Knicks to go after both Mahinmi and Amir Johnson. I think we could realistically get both together for what 7-10 million. If we miss on the big three I think Lee plus those two would go a long way to fixing our frontcourt. I am not sure whose a better pick up Amir at 5-7 million or Mahinmi at 2-4 million. Mahinmi could be a great player but the Spurs are casting him off pretty easily and they are usually very smart. Amir on the other hand has limited upside but at 22 years old he is putting up 12 pts 10 rebs and 1.5 blks with better than 60% TS%. That seems like a great piece to have in your frontcourt rotation.

    Players like those three; Amir, Mahinmi and Morrow are the reason I’m pushing the Knicks to pass on throwing huge money at anyone other than the big three and instead sign all of them for the price of JJ or Gay alone.

  37. Ted Nelson Post author

    Ben,

    1. Anthony Morrow is a restricted FA (Hoopshype doesn’t even have him as a FA). I don’t think Morrow will be a bargain, because everyone knows he can score and scorers tend to get overpaid or at least paid well. I assume he gets at least the MLE. Jason Kapono got the MLE. GS can match any offer the Knicks make (if he’s even a FA).

    I think you are SERIOUSLY overrating Morrow… Kevin Martin???? Really???? Here is Morrow last season vs. Martin before his extension kicked in vs. Kapono before he got the MLE: http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=0&p1=martike02&y1=2008&p2=morroan01&y2=2010&p3=kaponja01&y3=2007
    Morrow is a low-usage 3pt specialist, similar to Kapono. Martin is twice as good in terms of Win Shares and PER. High volume, high efficiency. Better play-maker. Not even in the same ballpark. Maybe you can argue Morrow was under-utilized in GS, but I think he’s a low-upside 3pt specialist. Don Nelson is not one to stop a good scorer from shooting. I think Morrow’ll be fairly paid or overpaid this offseason or next offseason.

    Bill Walker still looks like he can give you what Morrow does at a fraction the price.

    2. I wasn’t explicit enough in my description (trying not to be too wordy), but the point of this list was not to talk about the best FAs out there, it was to talk about guys who might come very cheap. Like minimum contract cheap in the best case, or max of around $4 mill per. Guys who the Knicks can use to fill out the roster after they are capped out or can use a spare $2-4 mill in left over cap space on.

    Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, Josh Powell… These guys are below average NBA players who played in the rotation of the back-to-back champion Lakers. 5 of their 10 top minute getters were below average. Livingston has a lot of value in that he’s a good fit next to Toney Douglas, a guy without a real position who is probably the Knicks’ 2nd best player right now.

    The things that separate Livingston from that group are his versatility and upside. Duhon made 6 mill last season, Steve Blake made 5 mill. At the min I think Duhon and Blake would be good values. Earl Watson is worse than Livingston and has less upside. CJ Watson is a guy who is a potential bargain as well, but Golden State seems to like him and he’s not a PG he’s an undersized SG who doesn’t even score well… his upside is basically 4th guard, probably more like 5th. Livingston has clear positional value and could be a versatile 3rd guard if he repeats last season and cuts the TOs.
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=0&p1=watsocj01&y1=2010&p2=livinsh01&y2=2010&p3=watsoea01&y3=2010

    You can sign as many guys for the min as you want until 15 roster spots are full. Livingston doesn’t stop the Knicks from taking a shot on an undrafted FA. The Knicks could have gotten Lin or Torrance on their Summer League roster, but they failed to do it. I don’t think Collins is on anyone’s Summer League team yet (maybe weighing offers from Europe?).

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but I think Livingston has a chance to be a bargain FA signing.

    3. I like both Mahinmi and Johnson if the price is right and the Knicks have no better options. In reality I doubt that a. the Knicks sign both and b. both sign with the Knicks knowing they’re competing with each other for a coach who values jump shooters and only plays one big at a time.

    If I were Walsh I would not sign Joe Johnson, but I think he would and I’m not going to totally freak out if he does. I have no interest in Gay and if Minni bids up his price I think Walsh is smart enough to stay out of it.

    Another thing to consider is that in Walker and Jordan the Knicks will be paying under $1.5 mill for guys who might be just as good as Morrow and Mahinmi. Morrow and Johnson are both low usage players who are going to have to be on the court with 1 very high usage guy (like 30) or two high usage guys (like 25). The Knicks don’t have any of those guys right now (since Lee’s a FA). Gallo has a chance, but he’s still very passive.

  38. Ted Nelson Post author

    As far as Livingston getting overpaid… he played 1/3 a season for a last place team and has huge injury risk… I doubt he gets more than 1-2 year(s) 3-4 mill per. I think that’s what he’ll get if someone REALLY wants him and that someone is Isiah Thomas level incompetent. (Maybe Kahn needs another PG… I gave Kahn the benefit of the doubt as long as possible and liked the Rubio pick despite the heat he’s taken, but he gets weirder and weirder.) More likely I think Livingston will be lucky to get a guaranteed minimum deal or slightly more if 2+ teams are interested.

  39. Ben R

    Ted – I overreached a bit comparing him to Martin, I forgot how good Martin was those two years, I was looking at just career and this last season which has Martin’s usage closer to Morrow’s. But I will say that Morrow’s first two years are better than Martins’s with higher usage and efficiency. Also Morrow is not a one demensional three point shooter with only a little more than a third of his shots coming from behind the arc and is more of a medium usage player than a low usage one. I think Morrow has potential to grow and is still very young. Third year is often when players really put it together. Look at Martin, Manu, Allen, etc.

    As for Livingston, at the minimum, he is a solid pick up, though I doubt D’Antoni will have alot of use for a PG with no three pointer. I think at 3 mil or more per year he is a bad risky signing. I always worry when a player all of a sudden is efficient after being very bad for very long. He’s played less than a 1000 minutes since retruning to the NBA and before his injury I did not like him at all as a player. With all that said he might be worth a try if cheap.

  40. Ted Nelson Post author

    Ben,

    Morrow:

    The reason I don’t think Morrow has much room to grow is because I think his game is already developed. He’ll be 25 to start next season and has played a good amount of NBA minutes both his first two seasons without improving. At 21 Kevin Martin was raw, barely played, and was terrible when he did. He improved significantly from year 1 to year 2. Morrow’s numbers from year 2 are pretty identical to year 1 (maybe slightly worse per minute).
    Allen, Manu, and Martin all had steady improvement. Martin and Manu improved *significantly* from year 1 to 2. Ray Allen also took a step forward 1 to 2, though not as marked. Certainly Morrow could improve after stagnating in year 2, but I wouldn’t predict a drastic improvement.

    Morrow takes 85% jumpers and 40% of his FGAs are 3s (Kapono takes 34%). Morrow’s a valuable player, but he’s largely a 3 pt specialist.

    As part of a larger plan (or for another team) I think Morrow can be a good-to-great value at the MLE. I’m just not sure a spot-up jump-shooter has much value on the Knicks as constructed. Danilo, Toney, and Walker are all primarily jump shooters, and of the three only Toney does much to create his own shots. Danilo, Walker, and Morrow all score in very similar ways (80+% Js asted on 75+%, and 45+% of inside shots assisted). The three of them are average-to-well-below-average defenders.

    Livingston:

    He doesn’t shoot 3s, but is a good jump shooter (.469 eFG% for someone who doesn’t shoot 3s is good). Perhaps he can extend his range, his 35% on a low volume of 3s and bump up that eFG% on Js.

    He was only 21 before he got hurt. He had steadily improved from awful to bad to decent his first three years in the league. If 24 year old Anthony Morrow can make the jump from average to well above average in your estimation, then why can’t 24 year old Livingston improve? (Born the same month of the same year… hard to think a 24 year old has all the room in the world to grow but doom another player for his play from 19-21 years of age.)

    I don’t put TOO much stock in any one stop he’s made since coming back. Overall, though, there’s 1000 minutes there and remarkable consistency across 2 separate seasons overall. 1000 minutes is how many Toney Douglas played. Shaun’s overall stats (PER, WS/48) are very much in line with his 21 year old season before his injury. Only his scoring efficiency has improved. It’s not that he got good out of nowhere for 200 minutes. He’s been largely the same below-average player for 3 seasons. Born only 2 weeks before Anthony Morrow, I think he can piece it together to become a solid player. In 666 minutes for Washington Livingston matched Morrow’s .084 WS/48 and topped his 14 PER with a 14.4.

    As far as value there’s not a HUGE difference between 1 and 3 million dollars if you have cap space. If he would end up being a good value at $1 mill, I don’t think he’d be a bad one for 2 mill more.

  41. Ted Nelson Post author

    Livingston’s biggest problem, basically, are his TOs. If he can cut the TOs even a bit, he’s an average NBA player.

  42. Brian Cronin

    Also, do you guys remember the last game of the season? Livingston was eating the Knicks alive (they then sat him down and the Knicks went on a big run – by the time he got back in the Knicks were dominating and they couldn’t get him back into sync).

    In addition, for a guy playing his way back from an injury, I would put a premium on his more recent statistics (as we would have to think the guy was playing his way into shape, right?). And that last month, he shot 62%, averaged 6 assists a game, and 15.5 points per game and was active on defense, too. He looked to me like he was putting it all together (as he looked awful for Washington earlier in the season).

    Just that last month alone made me think he would be worth a flier. He even cut his TOs down to less than 3 a game on average.

  43. Ben R

    I have to admit you guys are making a good case for Livingston, I would not be upset to take a flyer. I guess his average Ast% and bad TO% had me take pause but that last month he was good. He seems like a solid gamble if we have 2-3 mil left to spend after the bigger names are taken. Consider me converted.

    As for Morrow, I think we differ a bit, I guess because I think with him, right now I see him as a good NBA starter and a great bench player with potential to be more. You do not like him as much, but your assessment of him is fair. I agree there is alot of redundancy with our players but thats the kind of players D’Antoni builds his system on. He loves jumpshooters and if we get a dynamic star then surronding him with jumpshooters will give him space to operate. Plus Gallo, hopefully, will become more aggressive and dynamic and grow out of being a one-dimensional jumpshooter.

    I also do not think usage is a terribly important stat except for very low usage players and very high usage players. I think most players can shoot a little more or a little less without huge disruptions in their efficiency. So I think on a team built of medium usage players (like Walker, Chandler, Douglas, Gallo, Morrow would be) someone would step up and shoot more and I do not think his efficiency would suffer too much. Also we should sign a high usage PF even if it’s just resigning Lee, so it’s not like we won’t have a focal point to our offense. I would be shocked if we do not have one of Boozer, Bosh, Amare, or Lee once this offseason concludes. As for creating shots I think a good offense with good spacing creates plays more efficiently than all but the best playmakers.

    Very last point, if Walker was a sure thing then I would say pass on Morrow but we do not know what we have with Walker and his incredible efficiency seems unlikely to be maintainable. If we signed Morrow and Walker was able to continue to be as good as he was last year then it would be a bit of a squeeze but having too many great efficient jumpshooters is a pretty good problem to have. Also Kapono is a bad comparison because Kapono has only had one season out of seven with great efficiency while Morrow in both seasons has been very efficient.

  44. Brian Cronin

    I like Morrow, but I suppose my case against him would be that if you’re reconstructing your roster almost from scratch, one thing you shouldn’t be doing is replicating the few guys you already have. In other words, I think you have to plan with the understanding that Walker is not a fluke (or rather, that he’s not a complete fluke). While he might be a fluke, with so many spots to address, I don’t think you should allocate resources to a spot where you might already have a solution (not to mention Rautins). That’s why I’m down with Livingston – the Knicks don’t have anyone like him on the roster already (plus, unlike Morrow, I don’t see many teams throwing notable amounts of money at Livingston – Morrow I could see approaching the mid-level, the same way Korver and Kapono both did – even Damon Jones got $4 million five years ago!).

  45. Brian Cronin

    God god, how effin’ lucky are the Spurs?!?!!? That’s INSANE (yes, I had to go for caps)!!! That’d be like Curry opting out!!!

  46. Brian Cronin

    Hollinger had a great line on Twitter- “Will Jefferson make $15.2 million the rest of his career?”

  47. Ted Nelson Post author

    The one difference between Richard Jefferson and Eddy Curry is that RJ is an NBA basketball player, while Curry is not.

    Financially I agree that it was the wrong move, though I certainly think he’ll make $15 mill overall if he goes for the most money (PER is flawed, but obviously that’s what Hollinger looks at… RJ is an above average NBA player on both sides of the ball even in SA form). While he probably left $5-10 mill on the table this season, RJ’s already made close to $70 mill and something was wrong in SA. There is so much cap space this offseason that I can understand his decision to some degree, since next offseason he’d almost definitely have to take the MLE at most (he may not even get that this offseason, I have no idea, but I assume he gets at least that much).

    The biggest reason I can understand his decision is that as a Knicks fan it puts one more free agent on the market… It the end I don’t think that can be a bad thing for the Knicks. If Hollinger is right that he won’t make $15 mill for the rest of his career, then he’s a steal for the Knicks: had a shooting slump last season, is a good passer, low TO, and a good defender. (I look at Hollinger basing his analysis on PER about the same way I look at Chad Ford’s Landry Fields Top 100 comments…) He takes leverage from Rudy Gay (who he is likely better than, but older than too) and probably also Joe Johnson. If you bump up Jefferson’s ast% to what it was in NJ’s offense, is there really any difference between he and Joe Johnson (other than Jefferson being a better defender)?
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=0&p1=jefferi01&y1=2009&p2=johnsjo02&y2=2010&p3=gayru01&y3=2010
    If nothing else, at similar money he’s a better gamble than Josh Howard.

  48. Ted Nelson Post author

    With Livingston it’s definitely a matter of trying to buy low. If his price starts to inflate, then I would agree to stay away. With Morrow on the other hand I’m not sure you’d be buying low, because he’s had back-to-back years of 65% 3pt shooting. Playoff teams may be looking for shooters, with the MLE in hand to bring one in. Morrow is also a restricted free agent, and you often have to overpay in that case.

    I mostly agree on Morrow, Ben. However, he’s what I would define as a role player or specialist. He’s one of the best in the entire league in that role. As Brian said and I have said, though, the Knicks don’t really need 3pt shooting: Gallo, Walker, Douglas, and now Rautins, maybe Fields, and possibly Jaycee Carroll. It’s not ideal to have a team of nothing but wing players who do nothing but shoot and are average defenders and worse (Douglas maybe being the exception on both counts). Because most of the Knicks players are unknown quantities, they need playing time to (hopefully) prove their worth and boost their trade value around the league. (i.e. if you sign Morrow and trade just about any Knick, you’re not likely to get great value for the guy you trade.)

    I know that D’Antoni loves jump shooters, but his success in Phoenix was not due to getting a bunch of one dimensional jump shooters. About the only one he had was James Jones. Nash: Amazing playmaker. Bell: out there for defense as much as or more than 3pt shooting. Barbosa: dynamic scorer/playmaker. Marion: decent shot, but better finisher, strong defender, decent rebounder. Diaw: ok jump shot, good defender, good passer… versatile. Amare: solid jumper, but amazing finisher. Joe Johnson: very well rounded game. Q was mostly a jump shooter and good rebounding guard, but they dumped him ASAP.
    Morrow, Walker, Gallo… literally all they do is shoot 3s. That’s the only reason those three are in the NBA right now (guaranteed contract for Gallo aside). That’s not what D’Antoni did in Phoenix.
    And that was the only place D’Antoni had NBA success, so it’s hard to say “this is what he does.” It’s more like “this is what he did that one time, thanks largely to Bryan Colangelo.” (Heard Colangelo to NJ rumors… if Walsh’s health is in poor shape he should make the short list along with Pritchard… since he and D’Antoni are very much on the same page and he’s more respected than Pritchard I would put Colangelo ahead of Pritchard probably.)

    re: usage… Depends. If you continue to take shots you are comfortable with, then your efficiency shouldn’t suffer. If all of Chandler’s increased shots were long jumpers, however, his efficiency would likely fall off a cliff (as happened to Trevor Ariza last season). If Morrow was asked to increase his usage by penetrating and getting to the hoop, given his poor lateral quickness and explosiveness, that would probably hurt him (granted he’s very efficient as stands). If he’s playing with Walker and Gallo, someone has to step outside their comfort zone and do something besides shoot 3s/long 2s.

    I agree that a good offense and ball movement create efficiency. However, having below-average defenders means a below average defense. Lee, Gallo, Chandler, Morrow, Douglas… that’s got to be a bottom 5 defense. To have good ball movement, you need good passers. Having a bunch of spot-up shooters who sit there waiting and just swing the call around the perimeter isn’t going to cut it. D’Antoni had very good passers like Diaw and Johnson and Grant Hill off the ball in Phoenix, plus one of the greatest play-makers of all-time.

    Walker has kept his TS% around 60%+ and his 3P% between 38.5-43% at 4 different stops over 1700 minutes played the last 2 seasons between the NBA and the D-League. He’s not a sure thing, but it’s also not a 200 minute sample. He’s also costing the Knicks under $1 mill and gone next offseason if he flops… while Morrow would likely cost them $7 mill per for the next 5 years.

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