Aaron Goodwin

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned Jamal Crawford’s agent 9 times. However not once did I mention his name: Aaron Goodwin. This small time (but big city) blogger that has nothing to write about decided to do some serious research on Mr. Goodwin. Especially when Mr. Goodwin is stalling a deal that the big city (but small time) blogger could use to write a column about in a slow (only for his team) offseason.

The California based Goodwin represents such NBA players as LeBron James, Gary Payton, Dwight Howard, Damon Stoudmire, Shareef Abdur-Rahim & Vin Baker. He was listed as one of the most influential minorities in sports. Despite being a major force in his field, he was degraded by the police who wrongfully suspected him as a suspect in a robbery. The officers didn’t recognize him, because he likes to keep a low profile. He does a good job at it, because it’s hard to find a good picture of him.

There isn’t a large wealth of information available about Goodwin, but by all accounts Aaron Goodwin is an experienced agent and not just another pretender. In fact I’m quite glad that I’m a simple blog writer, and don’t have to sit on the other side of the telephone and negotiate with.

Risky Business

The Good News: The Knicks and Bulls have agreed on a deal to send Jamal Crawford to New York

The Bad News: Jamal’s agent has rejected the deal because he wants a better contract.

The Mercury News is reporting that Paxson & Isiah have sorted out the players involved in the highly awaited Jamal Crawford deal. The problem this time is Crawford’s agent, who doesn’t want to accept the contract the Knicks are currently offering. The article reports a few relevant details, none of which I can verify, but let’s assume they’re true for hypothetical reasons.

  • The deal the Bulls originally offered was 6 years $39M.
  • The deal the Knicks are offering are 7 years for $55M.
  • Crawford & his agent originally thought they would get 6 years for $55M.
  • If Crawford has to stay with the Bulls they will offer him $3.5M next year.

Using these facts I’ve come up with three scenarios for Crawford’s financial future.

Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Age 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

DealA $4.8 $5.3 $6.0 $6.8 $7.6 $8.6 ?
DealB $5.1 $5.7 $6.6 $7.6 $8.7 $10.0 $11.5
DealC $3.5 $6.7 $7.5 $8.5 $9.5 $10.7 $12.1

I approximated each contract by taking the total deal, and breaking it down by year assuming he would be getting a 12% raise each year. DealA is the Bulls original offer, which Crawford has already turned down. He would be a free agent at age 31 in the summer of 2011. DealB is if Crawford’s agent accepts the offer the Knicks have given him, and is traded to New York. DealC is Crawford playing next year for $3.5M, the one year deal offered by the Bulls. The next year, he would become an unrestricted free agent, and let’s just assume he signs the 6 year $55M offer that he is reportedly asking the Knicks for.

So what’s the total for each deal?

DealA = $39M + contract for 2011 season

DealB = $55.1M

DealC = $58.6M

For DealA to be anywhere close to the other two, Crawford needs to make more than $16M in 2011. This can only happen in three ways: Crawford would have to become the most dominant player in the league, the salary cap would have to make a phenomenal rise, or Scott Layden has become a GM again. So Crawford’s agent made a wise choice in declining that offer, especially in light of the Knicks current offer.

However, the difference between DealB & DealC is $3.5M over 7 years. In fact if Crawford does take DealC over DealB, then he won’t see a net profit until his third year of the deal, because he’d lose about $1.6M staying with the Bulls next year. There are other things to consider. First is that DealC may be selling him a little short, since it’s entirely possible that Crawford could get more lucrative offers as an unrestricted free agent, than he’s currently getting as a restricted one. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that if Crawford does take the one year deal, his value can drop either by injury or poor play. If Crawford does get seriously injured next year, it’s possible that no one would give him a deal anywhere in the neighborhood of what he’s currently being offered. Finally, Crawford’s agent might be holding out for a 7 year deal. At a 12.5% raise, that would mean about $13M in 2012 (hence the article reported the possibility of a 7year $70M deal).

So Isiah has to factor in the Knicks’ desire for Crawford and decide how much (for how long) his services are worth. Meanwhile Crawford’s agent has to decide how far he’ll take his game of chicken, knowing full well that an injury could cost his client a $55M deal, versus a possible $13M payoff if he convinces the Knicks to give his client that coveted 7th year.

The Knicks Needs, Summer 2004 Part 1

The rumors have been rampant on who will be traded to the Knicks this offseason. Erick Dampier. Jamal Crawford. Antoine Walker. Even Vince Carter – yeah right! Message boards are lighting up with differing opinions on which would be the best fit for New York. Since each one plays a different position, each one potentially offers a different set of skills to the Knicks. So the question should become, what areas do the Knicks need improvement in the most?

First it helps to know which factors are most important for a successful team. Dean Oliver says there are four factors for a team’s success: shooting percentage (eFG%), turnovers (TO/poss), offensive rebounding (OReb%), and scoring from the line (FTM/FGA). Each stat has an offensive and defensive component. Your shooting percentage may be great, but if you also let other teams get a good look at the basket then you’re not getting an advantage in this category. Additionally some of these are weighted more than others. For example, shooting percentage is most relevant to winning. Turnovers are slightly more important than offensive rebounding. The least important is scoring from the free throw line.

By looking at these factors, we can see what areas the Knicks need to improve. Let’s take a look at each one & see how the Knicks fared last season.

Shooting Efficiency (eFG%)
Offense 13th, +0.6%
Defense 8th, +2.1%

I’m going to introduce a set of numbers that I’ll use in each section. The first number is the Knicks rank among all 29 teams in this category, the second is how much better than the league average they were. In this case, on offense the Knicks ranked 13th in eFG%, and were 0.6% better than league average. On defense they ranked 8th, and were +2.1% above the rest of the NBA.

This might come as a slight shock to Knick fans, either to find out their defense was better than their offense, or that they were pretty good in limiting their opponents shot selection. This is because 4 of their 5 starters (Marbury, Houston, Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed) aren’t better known for their offensive game than their defensive prowess. In retrospect, Houston and Mohammed didn’t play a full season, and shared time with offensively-challenged yet better defenders in Anderson and Mutombo (at least in help defense).

It’s impossible to assign blame or credit for every shot attempt. There are a myriad of things that can happen on any NBA trip down the court, from fast breaks to double teams to switching defenders. In addition, traditional NBA stats give an incomplete picture of individual defense. However thanks to 82games.com, we can see what each of the 5 positions shot against the Knicks & try to narrow the field down from there.

The Knicks were very good on the perimeter, keeping point guards and shooting guards at bay with a 44.0% and 44.8% respectively. The other three positions were the Knicks’ Achilles heal, with an eFG% just above 47%. Tim Thomas’ defense was plain awful, letting opponents shoot at a high 51.1%, and Nazr Mohammed wasn’t far behind at 49.1%. Surprisingly Sweetney and Mutombo held their opponents to good percentages. Actually Sweetney was great at PF (43.7%) and horrible when out of position at center (52.7%).

If Allan Houston is healthy all of next year, their offensive efficiency should improve. H20 is a career 50.0% eFG% shooter, at a moderately high usage rate (16.3 FGA/G over the last 5 years). The players that hurt the Knicks offensively in this area were Anfernee Hardaway (40.9% eFG 9.7FGA/G), Frank Williams (42.8% eFG 3.7FGA/G), and DerMarr Johnson (43.8% eFG 4.6FGA/G). Frank Williams gets a pass because of his ridiculously good opponents? eFG% (40.5% eFG), the low number of shots that he takes, and his youth. If anyone needs to shoot less it’s the Knicks’ 6th man Hardaway. He’s had a decline since his first year in Phoenix (49.4%) and is nowhere as near as good as he was his first 6 years in Orlando (50.7%).

At 24 years old, DerMarr is the Knicks’ “special project”. So far in his NBA career, which was derailled by a car accident, DerMarr has shown to be a poor shooter, and his defense which was touted in the first Basketball Prospectus, may have declined as well. Johnson will attempt to improve his shooting (and his game) this summer.

Turnovers (TO/POSS)
Offense 23rd, -7.0%
Defense 23rd, -7.2%

If the Knicks want to make a big improvement next year, turnovers is the first place Isiah should look. New York was atrocious on both sides of the ball. Looking at turnovers per 48 minutes, there isn’t a single qualifying Knick in the top 50. On the other side of the ball, Marbury is the only Knick ranked at #46 in steals per 48 minutes. Meaning they just don’t have anyone that is good in either of these categories who plays a lot of minutes. Othella Harrington (3.6 TO/48 & 0.66 STL/48) and Vin Baker (3.8/1.07) are the worst, while Penny is the best (2.6/1.65).

Of course all defensive turnovers aren’t registered with a steal. A defender can take an offensive charge or a player can dribble the ball of his foot due to defensive pressure. The NBA doesn’t keep track of these stats, but our good friends at 82games.com do. For every team, they keep track on both ends of the court of offensive fouls, bad passes, ball handling errors, and miscellaneous turnovers. Here’s a chart with some of the best & worst teams & how they commit or force turnovers:

Rnk Team Foul Pass Drib Misc

1 DAL 106 577 299 13
2 MIN 152 454 398 29
23 NYK 188 570 491 34
28 HOU 170 595 547 50
29 WAS 168 645 586 33

Rnk Team Foul Pass Drib Misc

1 DEN 216 546 515 23
2 MEM 156 638 569 20
23 NYK 149 450 507 23
28 ORL 151 487 431 37
29 CLE 97 529 418 25

With the 5 teams I picked, it seems that dribbling is one area that could indicate a team’s turnover tendencies. (Of course more research would have to be made before there is a definite correlation found.) On the other hand a team like Memphis creates a lot of turnovers by forcing bad passes, while Denver is superb at taking charges. The chart puts into perspective the Knicks numbers. On offense they are causing too many fouls, and they don’t have great ball handlers. Defensively, they are woeful in challenging the passing lanes.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will check out the Knicks performance at the offensive glass and free throw line. Also I’ll take a quick look at the three that are rumored to come to New York & what areas they might help or hurt.

New Home

Like Shaq, I’ve decided a new home would be nice. So I decided to move my blog to a more appropriate place. You may want to change your bookmark to the new site – http://www.knickerblogger.net. For the time being I’ll still have a redirect from the old page to here.

There is a lot going on in the league, so I’ll stick to the story that will have the biggest impact on the league: Ariza scores 22 in his first professional game. (But of course! ;-) Sweetney is the only other Knick that did anything of note, as he had 12 points & 5 boards (and apparently 8 fouls – is that a typo?). I don’t want to delude myself of Ariza’s talents, since this is only the first summer league game. On the other hand, he could have turned the ball over a few times and get himself yanked after a couple of minutes. Ariza’s performance is good news for Knick fans, especially in a week where Shaq is traded to a division rival. The game appeared to be on MSG today (Sunday), but I’m in training down in D.C. so I’m unable to watch it. If anyone out there has seen the game & feels like sharing their scouting report, send me an email & I’ll try to publish it.

Frank Williams didn’t play due to an ankle injury. Hopefully this will discourage any GM from trading for him, leaving him in a Knicks uniform come fall. Williams and everyone else on the Knicks roster has been rumored to go to Chicago in a deal for Jamal Crawford. I really don’t want to speculate on that deal until it is finalized, although the reports have been positive that the Knicks will (eventually) get Crawford. I still don’t see why the Knicks need another guard, when there are more pressing needs (like C or SF). Could this mean that Houston’s health is still an issue?

Kevin’s Off-season Plan

I’ll be the third person to officially lay out on an off-season plan of attack for the Knicks. Presumably, you’ve already read Dave’s take, and Chad Ford recently put together his “summer blueprint”. I don’t have Insider, so I haven’t read all of that one, but if the free part I linked is any indication, it’s as insipid as Ford’s “blueprints” traditionally are.

I can’t copy Ford’s stuff and don’t care nearly enough to re-type it, but, to summarize, Ford complains that Isiah Thomas has locked the Knicks into long-term mediocrity with his moves and left them with no chance in the free-agent market. That’s true, of course, but no more so than it was true when Thomas took over the team. With Houston’s mammoth deal and a few others on the books, the Knicks weren’t getting under the cap in the foreseeable future anyway, so all Thomas really did was spend more of Cablevision’s money. Raise your hand if you care about Cablevision’s bottom line. I didn’t think so.

If there is an argument to be made, it would center on Thomas dealing youngsters like Milos Vujanic and Maciej Lampe, as well as some picks, but it would be a relatively weak one. Vujanic and Lampe can’t hold a candle to Stephon Marbury and Mike Sweetney at their respective positions, and the Knicks’ picks wouldn’t have had a huge impact either. New York can get players of similar ability, if not potential, in free agency.

Brendan at the These Days blog (which I found thanks to its link to KnickerBlogger) has a slightly different Knicks rant that I can get behind:

I understand that to rebuild the Knicks is a 5 year job, minimum. As a fan, I’d much rather watch that than any more of this high-paid dreck. Isaiah Thomas, for the most part, deserves credit for the way he’s been able to make trades with the mess Scott Layden left him- but he’s still executing an interest-annihilating and utterly dreadful strategy handed down from on high. The result is, even when I read something really interesting like Kevin Pelton on Knick power forwards which teaches me something that I didn’t know, like how good Mike Sweetney was, all I can think is ‘dang, now I’ll be really annoyed when he’s tossed in on some deal for a guy like…Malik Rose’. And so it goes, at the Garden.

In a broader context, are the Knicks in a good position? Of course not. But that’s not Thomas’ fault; he inherited a mess, and if he has to sweep some junk into a corner so the house at least looks presentable enough for guests, well, I don’t think that’s a huge mistake.

Assuming that Thomas doesn’t dump Sweetney for a journeyman — and please, if that is going to happen, let Sweetney come to Seattle for Jerome James! — I actually think there is a way the Knicks can make some slight modifications to remain competitive in the East without sacrificing their youth.

I outlined some of what I’d look at in my position-by-position analyses, but let’s start with this. Entering the summer, my ideal Knicks rotation would look like this:

PG Marbury	  Williams
SG Houston Williams
SF T. Thomas Johnson/Ariza
PF Sweetney K. Thomas
C Mohammed K. Thomas

Houston is now the only starter on the wrong side of 30, Thomas the only backup that old. It’s a decent start. Giving minutes that went to Dikembe Mutombo and Othella Harrington to Sweetney should alone be worth a couple of wins. Trying to put a round number to that, by the win-based system I’ve introduced, giving Sweetney Harrington and Mutombo’s minutes and replacing Sweetney’s minutes with a replacement-level player improves the Knicks by one win, right on the top. Amazingly, replacing Shandon Anderson with Dermarr Johnson projects as worth about a win and a half over the course of the season. A healthy Allan Houston (fingers crossed) adds another win or two, as compared to Anderson and Anfernee Hardaway. So, barring major injury, it’s not unreasonable to think the Knicks might improve next season.

Even though Ford points out the Knicks won’t be luring Kobe Bryant or Rasheed Wallace to New York any time soon, that hardly means they’re finished in free agency. The name most bandied about at the moment is Chicago’s Jamal Crawford, but, even though Crawford’s a Seattle native, I’m not a big fan, certainly not for the Knicks. Crawford’s a low-efficiency, high-possessions tweener who isn’t very good on defense; barring a Houston injury, he does nothing for the Knicks, really. I’d rather give those minutes to Frank Williams, who at least brings some complementary skills relative \to what the Knicks already have.

Unfortunately, with their mid-level exception, the Knicks will have a hard time picking up someone who’s better than their two weakest starters (Thomas and Mohammed). The best they can probably hope to do is upgrade their reserve core, making a logical target for me a backup small forward who can also play some shooting guard and step in if Houston gets hurt.

Looking around, you’ve got guys who will likely have any offer matched by their current team (Darius Miles, who’s an interesting prospect after putting up off-the-charts numbers in Portland) or don’t fit the Knicks’ needs (Rodney White).

The best fit I could come up with was Toronto’s Morris Peterson. Peterson isn’t really young, as he’ll turn 27 over the summer, but he’s in the prime of his career, he’s a good outside shooter (which my vision of the Knicks wouldn’t really have on the bench) and a quality defender who shut down opposing small forwards last year.

Peterson is a restricted free agent himself, but the Raptors aren’t in great financial shape and might have to choose between signing a point guard and re-signing Peterson. He could be had for a pretty reasonable deal — maybe three years, $10-$12 million? — and would be a huge upgrade on Anderson playing a similar role.

Lo and behold, this might not be a completely implausible thought; Newsday mentioned Peterson in a recent free-agent roundup.

Now that we’re through free agency, we’ll have to look at the trade market. The first move I’d make is with the Sonics. The Knicks have been linked to James for two years now, and a deal that would make sense for both sides is Dikembe Mutombo and Cezary Trybanski (for cap purposes) for James. Mutombo is probably the more valuable player, but not really wanted in New York from what I read about him while researching my centers breakdown. The Knicks basically take a chance that James can make good on his promise, and it’s not really a risk for either side since both players’ contracts end next year and neither is penciled in as a key player next year.

After making those moves, I go fishing for a bigger deal with the Thomases and/or Mohammed as the lures, trying to upgrade either small forward or center. I’m not sure I could find any takers or make anything make sense, but it’s worth a look. Kurt Thomas wouldn’t really be a big loss; we could fill in his minutes with James (or Mutombo) and possibly a low-level-type free agent power forward (Vin Baker? Michael Doleac? There’s not a whole lot else out there).

Beyond that, I look at some buyouts (Hardaway, Norris, Anderson) and sign some cheap, underrated guys: Richie Frahm, Jaime Lloreda, Zendon Hamilton, keep Andre Barrett around as my third point guard. Good times.

Depending on who, if anyone, I can trade for, I project this team to win somewhere between 40-45 wins. Unless the bottom really falls out, it’s a playoff squad, with the potential to get as high as around the fourth or fifth seed (depending on how Miami fares). At the same time, it’s a reasonably young squad. These aren’t the Baby Bulls or anything, but virtually all the contributors are young enough that they’ll still be productive in two-three years. Again, depending on the trade, I haven’t done any further damage to the salary-cap situation, so the long-term sacrifice is minimal. And if Sweetney turns out to be as good as I think he might be ? well, maybe life isn’t so bleak at the Garden after all.

With KnickerBlogger’s return on the horizon, just a couple of days away, that wraps it up for me unless the Knicks do something exciting over the weekend, and, presumably, for all of us guest bloggers. I hope the readers out there have enjoyed this as much as I have — it really was a fun exercise looking in detail at a team I’d followed only casually beforehand, and I’ll be rooting for the Knicks the rest of this summer and into the season. I mentioned to KB recently that I wished I had a team blog, and he retorted he wished he worked for a team, so I suppose the grass is simply greener on the other side. It was certainly nice to spend a couple of weeks on this side of the fence, and I’d like to wrap up by thanking KB for the opportunity.

Kevin Pelton writes “Page 23” for Hoopsworld.com on a semi-regular basis. He can be reached at kpelton@hoopsworld.com.

Thomas Sounding the Right Notes… So Far

The NBA offseason is slowly taking shape and the potential for mega deals involving a number of the league’s mega stars has tantalized journalists and fans alike. Admit it. You love the drama. You love the pointless diatribes about “lack of respect” and the sights and sounds of grown men acting like complete and utter fools… And that was just ESPN’s broadcast team at the draft! So you know it’s going to be a long summer.

Yet amidst the growing sound and fury Isiah Thomas’s voice has thus far been one of reason and sanity, almost conservative by comparison to last year’s whirlwind. With his lone pick in the second round (#43) he made a very nice choice, selecting Trevor Ariza out of UCLA. If you read part two of my offseason preview then you have seen his name. Ariza is something of a poor man’s Andre Igoudala, that is, a hyper-athletic wing who plays defense and contributes something in every statistical category. However, his streaky shooting may limit him to being a valuable role player. What I like about the pick is that Ariza will likely match Anderson’s current production in two seasons, if not sooner, with a much higher ceiling at a much more palatable salary. Selecting Ariza (instead of the equally athletic Missouri SG Ricky Paulding for instance) is particularly interesting because it may suggest that Thomas is laying the groundwork for an Anderson buyout.

Thomas’s made further remarks on draft night about the team’s pursuit of the top free agents:

I don’t think it will necessarily be a lot of the bigger names in the market, but there are pieces floating around that we think if we can acquire, they will make our team better.

Part of this is clearly intended to keep the expectations of the fans and the media this offseason from getting completely out of hand. However Thomas may actually be shooting straight on this one… kind of. I think he is hoping to benefit from the residuals of the proposed big deals but realizes that he has few commodities to deal himself, other than expriring contracts. For instance, should the Francis-McGrady deal go through Thomas may have interest in either Mobley or Cato, players the Magic are reported to be considering moving subsequent to any trade. The Knicks and Bulls restricted free agent guard Jamal Crawford are known to share a mutual interest, and Chicago’s selection of UConn guard Ben Gordon has certainly thrown Crawford’s status in limbo. Crawford is potentially a nice fit in New York but I suspect that Denver, where he’d have a pretty good chance at starting, will be his ultimate destination should he sign elsewhere. Today’s fishwra… err… New York Post is reporting again that the Knicks have an interest in reacquiring Michael Doleac. He did a very nice job of rebounding, blocking shots, and shooting off the screen roll last season.

The names Trevor Ariza, Jamal Crawford, and Michael Doleac may not instill fear into the hearts of opposing NBA defenses. They nonetheless inspire cautious optimism for this Knicks fan. These names say to me that perhaps at the end of year one in the Era of Zeke he has learned a most valuable lesson about front office life: a crucial part of building a good team is managing the back end of the rotation and the back end of the bench. The market virtually always allows you to get decent production at reasonable prices from players 8-12 via the draft and salary exceptions.

It’s one thing to overpay for your best player(s) but there’s rarely a reason to overpay for players 8-12. Sometimes market dynamics are such that a team simply must pay a premium to retain its best player, even if his numbers say he’s not worth it. The costs associated with acquiring and integrating a new “best” player (in terms of lost productivity/time, learning curve, permanent changes in matchups, etc.) may be too great. But, he said with index finger extended upward as if to signify an exclamation point, a team should never overpay players 8-12. Those roster spots should be filled by the likes of Trevor Ariza and Michael Doleac.

Well folks, that’s it for me. The Knicker Blogger will be back soon and I am off on a working vacation beginning Thursday through most of July. I’ll be off-line during most of that time. So I look forward to checking back in at the start of August to the fine, in-depth coverage of our beloved Knicks we have come to expect from Mike.