LeBron to New York Maybe Not So Far-Fetched Afterall

The always-insightful Kevin Pelton over at Basketball Prospectus offers a post-lottery update on teams likely to pursue a max free agent this summer. Interestingly, he unveils a “new and improved” WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) stat that better accounts for the effects of perimeter shooting (particularly how it helps space the floor). The new and improved WARP stat (that sounds so much better than the more accurate “slightly tweaked WARP” stat) has a serious crush on New York’s perimeter shooting.

In the interest of being conservative, and in taking any individual projection with a grain of salt, the new WARP probably overvalues Bill Walker a smidge. He’s likely to shoot his way out of Reggie Miller’s and Steve Kerr’s neighborhood eventually. Add to that, Walker’s propensity for fouling has me concerned about his ability to stay on the floor, limiting how much we can count on him. That said, he is the quintessential diamond in the rough; a pretty nice find by Donnie Basketball.

Nevertheless, potentially overly optimistic projections aside, the upshot is that when accounting for all the ways a team can put talent on the floor (i.e., current players, free-agent signings, trades, and draft picks), one can make a fairly straightforward case for Bron Bron to New York based solely on the basketball merits.

Liked it? Take a second to support DCrockett17 on Patreon!


Part-time blogger on the Knicks at Knickerblogger.net and Seahawks at FieldGulls.com. In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

35 thoughts to “LeBron to New York Maybe Not So Far-Fetched Afterall”

  1. You have to like the fact that the Nets ended up with the third pick instead of the first. Hopefully that makes them less attractive to King James.

  2. ok hold the phone. hold the freakin phone…

    A co-worker of mine, also a knicks diehard comes up to me this morning ranting about something he read on forbes.com, practically frothing at the mouth. I did some research, very very poor research and at least found the article:


    Can anyone verify this? I had understood that (like the article says), that itd be a violation of the CBA if the knicks paid him in MSG stock, but since going public, does that truly mean LBJ could buy stock himself and thereby launch himself into astronomical financial numbers via his coming to NY?

    I recall MJ trying to do something similar towards the end of his wizards career and it got shot down because of the CBA thing, but im unsure of how similar the circumstances are.

    If you can all indulge my fantasy for a second, wouldnt this be the no-brainer, ace-up-the-sleeve, virtual guarantee to lock LBJ if it can in fact happen? It seems like itd be one of the greatest financial coups in sports history.

    pants: officially soaked.

  3. JoMo!

    I was going to actually try post an article on KB on this subject… that Forbes article is almost completely baseless.

    Read this Times Article on the same topic which actually involves some analysis:

    Based on the NYT article, it seems like LBJ CAN buy MSG stock (I haven’t heard anything about the CBA that says the contrary) but that it wouldn’t a very big effect on the stock’s price (unless he’s planning on joining the Rockettes, NY Rangers, and Sesame Street Live to sell tickets to those event too or he can come up with a more cost efficient plan to renovate Madison Square Garden). So unfortunately if this article is correct, the fact that he can buy stock in the team is a good reason for him to come to the Knicks.

  4. Well so much for trading Wilson this year…

    Nice article. I wish they’d have done the Celtics team for comparative purposes. I still maintain that the best circumstance is a double max Lebron/Bosh sweepstakes. But it’s fun to think about plans B – Z.
    If you watch Bill Walker play, I don’t think he’s that overrated. His 3 pointer surprised me – really surprised me – because he was knocking down triples from 5-6 feet beyond the arc at times. He’s also very strong and has above average height and has the talent to post up his man on the block. He’s kind of a good version of Q-Rich. If he works on his handle, defense and passing (ok that’s like half the game) he could start in this league.
    All other things being equal, I don’t see Lebron passing on NYC for any other city, including Chicago or Miami. I think he feels like he owes it to the game to be in the country’s largest market. He wants to be the pre-scandal Tiger Woods: a one man conglomerate. A big key is getting Bosh on board. That might mean a sign and trade, but Lee has to play ball. It would be weird to have to face Lee 4 times a year in a Raps uni.

  5. Can’t Wilson say it was for medicinal purposes? His groin was hurting him last month!

  6. @6 (Poochy)

    On Chandler… The Knicks need to hold on to the relatively inexpensive Chandler, who is probably the team’s best defender, barring the opportunity to turn him into something pretty decent. The pot charge is a misdemeanor. I suspect a fine is forthcoming, and that’ll be about it.

    On Walker… I’m a fan. My comments were really more about riding out the inherent bumps that come with any individual projection system. Even baseball’s much longer-tenured projection stats can be prone to a bit of noise. (For example, most projection systems had Mets LF Jason Bay as a big bat with no speed or range on defense. Of course, he hasn’t really hit a lick but has played a very capable left field and been a surprisingly spry runner.)

    There’s always a lot of noise in individual projections, *especially* for a guy who hasn’t played much. Walker put up slightly less than a half-season of Reggie Miller quality shooting, literally. He’s got a good stroke, no question, but not that good. He’s due for a little regression that should put him into the solid rotation player area. And, if he doesn’t stop fouling he may not even be that good. Bill Walker was one of a very few bright spots for New York this season, but the thing that will separate him from John Wallace, Lee Nailon, and other instant offense types before him, is continued improvement–especially on defense.

  7. A few offseason tokes in the Benz doesn’t sour me on Wilson… and I’m not giving him away… but he is only cheap one more year… next summer he’ll be getting $5 million-plus… and he plays the same position as Gallo… so I would definitely price the market. Considering our lack of depth, a one-for-two deal might be good (like, Orlando for Gortat and their pick at the end of the first). Obviously that would eat $4-5 million of cap space this year, but it could be part of Plan B or C if we whiff on LeBron + Bosh.

  8. I’m a Walker fan, too… he was a primo prospect out of HS, top-5 or top-10 draft material. So if modern medicine can fix his knees, he can be that good.

    But his 3-point shot does surprise me – his rep was as a jumper, a la Vince Carter, not a shooter.

  9. @9 – If that video isn’t a reason to leave Cleveland, I don’t know what is. No wonder New York is such a big draw vs. these smaller cities. I mean if the best they can do is a bunch of news reporters, some soccer “legend” (not one that I’ve heard of, and I somewhat follow US Soccer), and the local furniture pitchman, then they are doomed. You could probably throw a blindfolded dart at a Manhattan map, and come up with a FAR better group in a one block radius.

  10. @13: Seriously. Ozone Park, Alphabet City, Kew Gardens all could probably make a better neighborhood video than Cleveland.

  11. I didn’t even realize that MSG is listed, but LeBron coming and the Knicks winning championships would have to increase the stock price (people are literally worried that downtown Cleveland will not be able to recover from losing LeBron… the guy and winning both have a real financial impact). I have no idea if LeBron can buy stock legally. And in all likelihood, since we’re talking about a mature company that I would imagine has a pretty steady income stream already, he could make the same money or a lot more in other investments.


    Great stuff, David. As much as I am a Nate fan and was skeptical of the move, it’s been a very good move for the Knicks. Inspires confidence that one way or another Donnie’s going to get it done this offseason.

    Walker is definitely foul prone, but he settled down once he was getting regular minuetes for the Knicks to about where they were his 2nd D-League season at 4 per 36. Ideally you’re not asking Walker to play 40 mpg, anyway, probably 25-30.

    His shooting may not be an anomoly because he’s done it in multiple leagues across multiple seasons, even though each was in a small sample size. I mean I doubt his TS% will be .650 for a whole NBA season, but maybe .600… The rest of his game is pretty mediocre, though.

    “the thing that will separate him from John Wallace, Lee Nailon, and other instant offense types before him, is continued improvement–especially on defense.”

    The thing that will seperate him from John Wallace and Lee Nailon would be to actually score well… those guys’ career TS% are both around 51% for 16-17 pts/36… When you’re bad at the one thing you’re good at… you’re bad. When you’re great at the one thing you’re good at, you might be good.

    “So if modern medicine can fix his knees, he can be that good.”

    I don’t think he can be… I mean Kwame Brown, Darko, Kandi, Skita… these guys were all 5-10 picks. Walker’s a pretty limited player, though, so you’re looking at a role player, not a guy you would be particularly happy getting in the top 5.


    What was Charles Oakley’s estimate on what % of NBA players smoke pot? 90% of something? I don’t think misdemeanor possession of marijuana is going to scare off teams. Maybe it pushes a typing point about including a 2nd rounder/cash or not, but I don’t think it’s a big deal.

    David, I’m sure they’d like to hold onto Chandler, but should any trades that require more than cap space/Curry come available they’ve got to trade Chandler, Gallo, Douglas, Walker, and/or one or both 2nd rounder/a future 2nd. Chandler’s ratio of trade value/value may be the highest of the group.

    “next summer he’ll be getting $5 million-plus…”

    Probably 7 mill plus, maybe up to 9-10… depends how his season goes.


    @9 and 13

    How much crappier NE Ohio is than NYC is also an argument for him to stay. It’s his city and there’s a lot of talk that downtown Cleveland is doomed if he leaves. Continental is already moving to cut Cleveland out as a hub, which means businesses that located there for easy transportation will move. Cleveland may go into a local depression if LeBron leaves (Cavs games are one of the bigger things to do in dowtown and lots of new businesses have opened as to service Cavs fans on game nights since attendance has spiked w/ LeBron and winnings basketball’s arrival), and it’s already a typical rust belt struggling economy. If someone lays that out for him it’s at least an argument to stay: you’re going to cut the chord on the only area you’ve known as home when it’s on its deathbed…

  12. “I’m prob. forgetting some huge gaffe that someone here will remind me of.”

    $90 million to Kenyon Martin, for a start..

  13. OMG, an article that actually says the Knicks are probably the best option for LeBron and its from a basketball perspective too!!!! Also finally glad to read an article stating like I have believed all along that the Bulls roster is not that good.

  14. Caleb – I asked for it though I would have gone w/ drafting Nikoloz Tskitishvili instead of overpaying a 26 year old with a strong PER and TS%. and very good defensive rating a max deal.

    Ted – Read the Times link I posted above. LeBron will do wonders for Knicks ticket revenues for sure but by himself he may not be able to make the stock a good buy: the Knicks & Rangers historically lose money, Radio City, etc. broke even last year, the Nets will try to siphon fans off to Brooklyn, cash “will be chewed up in an estimated $800 million renovation of the Garden.” And “The real value is in M.S.G.’s two regional sports networks…The Dolans won’t let Cablevision’s [who is not part of the publicly traded stock] rivals carry the M.S.G. network’s high-definition feed.”

  15. DS,

    If MSG’s television networks are part of the public company then LeBron’s presense will surely help the stock price, probably a lot. The Times article contradicts itself by specifically saying that’s what drives the company. A 60 win team with LeBron and deep playoff runs is going to have infinitely more viewers than a 29 win team whose SG guards the other team’s PF. If you increase revenues without increasing your costs as much, you increase profit. It doesn’t matter where in the conglomerate that profit comes from. I’m no sports economist, but I don’t see how a LeBron led dynasty isn’t going to drive profit for the Knicks and MSG channel. I don’t see the marginal cost of signing LeBron as being that much more than signing any other max FA. I’m not saying the stock is going to triple and LeBron is going to be rich (or has even considered this plan), but I think it’s inaccurate to say that signing LeBron and building a champion won’t seriously help MSG financially.

    The stock market is also speculative, so the price reflects the market’s expectations of MSG’s future performance as well as its historical and current performance. Even if LeBron doesn’t help MSG’s bottom line one bit (which I find impossible to believe), people might expect that he will. They might, therefore, all run out and buy the stock which necessarily pushes up the stock’s price. It’s a market: if more people want to buy than sell the price rises.

    And if LeBron is in Manhattan, I don’t see the Nets move hurting the Knicks TOO much. By that time maybe LeBron’s already brought home a title and dumped his theoretical MSG shares.

    The renovation is a short-term cost. If LeBron theoretically has a long-term play in mind, the improved MSG will only help him by the time he’s winning his 5th or 10th title in the Garden!

  16. “The real value is in M.S.G.’s two regional sports networks, where the Knicks and Rangers are the primary draw, Breakingviews says.”

    Hmmm…. Will more people or less people watch MSG if LeBron is playing on the Knicks?

    “More wins for the Knicks probably will not be enough to offset the cost of his contract.”

    I have no idea if it’s true, but this ignores the fact that the Knicks are going to spend that money anyway. They’re at least going up to the cap. How much more revenue will LeBron generate than Joe Johnson? My guess is a lot.

    “narrower losses for the teams”

    Do all NBA teams lose money? Couldn’t the Knicks start turning a profit rather than a loss if they’re a perrennial contender with LeBron? Maybe a small profit, but you’d have to think that the team in the biggest market, with the biggest star, and a ton of wins could make some money.

    EBITDA jumped 70% from 2009 to 2010 estimates… Would be interesting to know what’s behind that.

    I don’t want to be bullish on a company owned by James Dolan, but I don’t see how the Knicks could add LeBron and not be in better shape financially. He seems to have done wonders for downtown Cleveland’s economy. I’ve heard he’s increased the Cavs value by a lot.

  17. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t bump the value of MSG tremendously.

    As far as I understand it, the great NBA revenue sources are cable rights and licensing. Presumably the sales of Knicks jerseys and merchandise would go through the roof. And probably ten times as many games would end up on TNT.

    After all, the last jersey I bought was a Sprewell. And I’m clearly representative of middle America.

  18. “$90 million to Kenyon Martin, for a start…”

    If that’s the only thing to hold against Kiki, it’s not much and is pretty easy to defend. Martin was a pivotal player on a team that made the finals twice. He was an all star. He was 26 years old. He’d improved in every category every season, and during his 4 years in NJ had played in 85% of his team’s games.

    The fact that he got injured isn’t really Kiki’s fault. And despite being locked into his contract, Denver remained competitive, averaging 50 wins during the course of it. When Martin was healthy enough to start earning his money again, they made the western conference finals. Was there really anybody else available that would have put the Nuggets over the Lakers or Spurs during that time?

    And there was a lot Vandeweghe did as GM that WAS good. He turned a 17 win team into a 43 win team that then went on to average 50 wins a year for the past 6 years. He drafted Carmelo Anthony (something the lauded Joe Dumars somehow failed to do), he hired George Karl, and he fleeced the Knicks out of Camby and Nene.

    His draft record wasn’t even that bad. He whiffed on Tskitishvili but it was a risk he could take because he drafted Nene two picks later. He drafted Jameer Nelson (not sure the motive behind the draft day trade of him though), and drafted Jerret Jack (traded for Linus Kleiza). He did take a lot of chances on Euros that never panned out, but they were conservative picks (and the team WAS improving).

    I would love to have Vendeweghe return to the Knicks (especially after his Knick playing career was such a dud). He seems like a smart, personable guy who has some panache. (And apparently Dirk Nowitski credits Kiki for helping make him a star during his early days in Dallas when Vandeweghe was in Cuban’s front office. Something we all want to happen to Gallo over the few years).

  19. I just read that the new russian owner of the Nets first looked into buying the Knicks but decided against it because of all the other parts he wouldve had to buy besides the Knicks (Rangers, MSG etc). 6 months later he started the process of looking into and eventually buying the Nets.

    Can you imagine if this guy wouldve been able to buy the Knicks?????

  20. I would also take Kiki over Mullin. Kiki seems to be an above average GM to me: not too flashy or creative, but solid and steady. The Nuggets–coached by D’Antoni right around the time Kiki arrived I believe–were pretty pathetic and Kiki laid the foundation for a contender. He made some good moves. Nothing overly creative that I remember, though, mostly convetional wisdom. He was able to avoid shooting himself in the foot, which kills the bad GMs. Andre Miller was a good signing and I believe he picked Melo and Nene (which involved dumping McDyess on the Knicks for a huge return of Camby and Nene), but those were all in the conventional wisdom category. Schrewd moves, for sure, but didn’t require any outside the box thinking… i.e. nothing that Bill Simmons or some other hack couldn’t have dreamed up, let alone the commentors here on KB. K-Mart wasn’t the worst signing in the world (as Knicks fans know from personal experience… Curry, James, etc.) and they’ve won with him, but no one thought he was a real max guy at that time and it was booked as overpaying by pretty much everyone. I would sort of compare it to the Hawks signing Joe Johnson in a way, they overpaid a quasi-star, but they were underpaying a bunch of guys on rookie deals and turned their franchise around. Skita was his biggest blunder. That was sort of a conventional wisdom gone wrong move. At the time the conventional wisdom was that every European 7-footer who could shoot was the next Dirk… turned out conventional wisdom was wrong. Kiki has a bit of an excuse, since he had personal experience working with Dirk in the Mavs organization. Letting personal experience get in the way of sound basketball decisions is a trait of bad GMs, but it’s also human nature.

    “He drafted Jameer Nelson (not sure the motive behind the draft day trade of him though), and drafted Jerret Jack (traded for Linus Kleiza).”

    There’s a 90% chance he didn’t choose to draft those players, but agreed on a trade before hand. Orlando wanted Nelson, so they found a trading partner. With Jack he must have been at least willing to keep him, since he couldn’t guarantee Kleiza would be available 5 picks later. Anyway, you usually credit GMs with what they come out of the draft with. Not the players they draft only to immediately trade, but what they get in those trades. Kiki pcked Julius Hodge with the pick he traded Nelson for… Nelson for Hodge was a terrible move in hindsight. Jack for Kleiza and Ricky Sanchez is close enough to a wash, though it seems Jack will have the better NBA career in the end since Kleiza is in Europe.


    Dolan is an a-hole, but he’s not exactly poor. Prokhorov has brought a lot of excitement, but we don’t know what he’s actually going to do for the Nets. Bruce Ratner also brought a lot of excitement when he bought the Nets to move them to Brooklyn, he didn’t do much for them. Maybe Prokhorov will be the best owner in the NBA, but maybe he’ll be the worst.

  21. “Can you imagine if this guy wouldve been able to buy the Knicks?????”

    We’d have to spell it “LEB?ON”? Anyone else buying the Knicks would be an improvement, no?

  22. “Anyone else buying the Knicks would be an improvement, no?”

    Probably not Donald Sterling. Dolan is incompetent, but he’s willing to spend money. The Knicks had the highest payroll in the NBA for years. An incompetent, cheap owner might be worse (though necessity can be the mother of invention and maybe a cheap owner would force his GMs to be creative?).

    Dolan is one of the worst, though. Maybe neck-and-neck with Sterling for worst owner in professional sports. I mean, who are the other candidates? Al Davis recently, but the Raiders have had plenty of winning seasons on his watch. Maybe some low-profile guys in baseball, but they have an excuse since MLB’s structure favors big market teams.

  23. Remind me again why Dolan is that bad an owner right now? He obviously has a bad history — hired Isiah as GM, hired Isiah as coach etc. But over the last 2 years he’s hired a very well respected GM who then went an hired a very well respected coach. He’s stayed out of the team’s business and really been invisible. He’s willing to spend as much money as it takes. What else do you want from an owner? I don’t know how you can possibly compare him to Sterling, who is notoriously cheap and not willing to pay what it takes to succeed. I don’t how you can compare him to Al Davis, who personally sabotages his team by making the worst draft picks possible. I’m not even sure how you can compare him to the Phoenix owner, who gives away draft picks for cash.

    One thing about Prokhorov – maybe I’m naive but I can’t imagine his buying the team really globalizes anything for the Nets. I was listening to Mike and Mike yesterday and they were talking about kids in Russia and Europe now becoming Net fans because of him, much the way that a lot of Japanese people are now Yankee or Mariner fans because of Matsui and Ichiro. The difference is that Matsui and Ichiro are PLAYERS. Who watches a team because of the OWNER? The owner is faceless as far as the product is concerned. The Glazers own Manchester United, one of the great franchises in the world, and still no one in the US gives a damn about soccer. I guess he can get them on TV in Russia but I sort of assume the NBA’s already on TV over there.

    As far as I’m concerned, the job of the owner in professional sports is to hire a competent GM and president to help run the team, acquire players, and hire coaches. Beyond that, his job is to allow this competent front office to spend money in order to put the best product on the floor. Dolan failed badly when he hired Isiah but he corrected that mistake (many years too late) 2 years ago, which is an eternity in sports. Now he has Walsh, who is beyond reproach as a basketball guy, and D’Antoni, who was probably the best coach available at the time. So what’s the problem?

  24. Frank,

    I can’t agree with you about only looking at what a guy has done lately and ignoring their entire history. James Dolan has run the Knicks 11 seasons. They’ve had two winning seasons in that stretch, the first two when the team was inherited from previous management. The previous 11 seasons the Knicks had 11 winning seasons. Layden came in the same year as Dolan, so it’s not just Isiah. And it’s not just that he made a poor decision hiring Isiah, it’s that he was Isiah’s boss and allowed Isiah to turn the Knicks into the worst run franchise in sports. Into a total side-show circus-freak act. Given the turmoil leading up to the Isiah firing and Walshtoni hiring, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if daddy (Charles Dolan… who founded HBO AND Cablevision…) stepped in and called the shots. James’ stepping out of the limelight since those incidents may also not be entirely his decision. Whenever daddy decides James shouldn’t be playing with his toys anymore I believe he can fire his ass. If he had continued to go down the Paris Hilton path of disgracing the family publically while also running assets into the ground, I would imagine Charles would have done something at some point (and probably did do something minor like tell him to get his shit together or run the show for a period). I don’t know who legally has ownership, but to some degree I assume James is beholden to daddy.

    Just because something happens behind the scenes doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. An owner is the ultimate decision maker and sets the tone for the entire organization. James Dolan has forced his employees to attend his stupid concerts, had a high-profile sexual harrassment suit filed against his company, and managed to alienate the group I’d consider the best fans in the NBA. And he’s a pathetic spoiled asshole to top it off. Ideally the owner is mostly behind the scenes and has the right people in place, but the buck ultimately stops with the owner.

    You argument is that there are 3 worse owners in all of US pro sports… If he’s the 4th worst among dozens of owners… not doing too well.

    Al Davis is a former coach whose team has been in the playoffs about 50% of the years he’s owned it. He’s been miserable lately, but the guy has owned the Raiders since 1972. Recently he’s definitely worse than Dolan, but history indicates that if Davis is not senile at this point he can turn it around.

    The Suns haven’t had a losing season since Sarver bought the team from Jerry Colangelo. I don’t know if Sarver gets any credit for that, but anything he’s done wrong hasn’t killed the team. The Spurs also routinely sell first rounders, the Lakers sold theirs to the Knicks in 09, and Colangelo himself sold the #6 pick in the draft to clear enough room to sign Q Richardson. It’s a small market move and a cap strategy. I disagree with it in most cases, but it’s not that he’s the only one doing it.

    Sterling is just a terrible owner. Atanta’s ownership had some real problems, but they seem to have resolved them (at least the franchise has been turned around in some way and you no longer hear about the problems). GS also seems to be a mess, and Taylor in Minnesota can be accused of being too hands off after letting McHale screw around for, what, 15 years then having a power struggle in the front office where, like GS now, no one knew who was calling the shots. Browns and Lions have been so pathetic for so long that you have to assume it starts at the top. Baseball owners seem to be more hands off, my guess is since running a farm system is pretty complex and probably in a lot of ways boring. (Hard to get too excited about a draft pick who may be in the bigs in 5 years or may never make it past AA…) Beyond their farm system and deciding when to trade players they soon won’t be able to afford, small market teams have little recourse under MLB’s CBA. There’s more for big market teams to screw up (i.e. bad contracts… and even then one poor signing can totally cripple a small market team while a big market team can sweep it under the rug…), but they also have the deck stacked in their favor.

  25. Oh, and forgot to mention that Dolan hired Layden too. So, it wasn’t just Isiah and the Isiah years. The entire downfall of the once proud Knicks can, in my opinion, be linked to James Dolan taking over.

  26. “Oh, and forgot to mention that Dolan hired Layden too.”

    Though it was technically under his watch, Layden was hired by Dave Checketts before Dolan was taking a hands on approach. Checketts had been the executive in charge of the team during its entire decade of success and there wasn’t any reason for Dolan to suggest a better candidate for the job. Sure, the move reeked of Utah nepotism, but if the neophyte Dolan had chosen his own GM it would have been an even worse ownership infraction than what actually happened.

    As much as Dolan should be the punching bag for the misery our team has endured in the 21st Century, and the resume of destruction perpetrated by him is lengthy, by shutting up and leaving Donnie Walsh to actually run the team there’s not much more damage that he can do. Just sign off on the budget and go away. That should be Dolan’s role, and he seems to be embracing it.

  27. the problem with the article is that it gives us bosh, but then doesnt take the FA money away that it took to sign him. So our bar on the graph should be lower.

Comments are closed.