Pelton Rates Free Agent Destinations

Over at Basketball Prospectus, Kevin Pelton looks at potential landing spots for free agents in the summer of Lebron. It’s definitely worth a read, but here’s the money quote:

So what did the Knicks lose to get the room to sign two players? Jordan Hill’s three-year projection is for 10.6 WARP; he’s not Brandon Jennings or Ty Lawson, but he does figure to become a useful player. The way I valued the 2011 swap, it cost New York 0.4 WARP, and the 2012 pick only cost them 0.7 WARP. The difference is enough to drop the Knicks below Miami in this analysis, and it stands the potential to be a disastrous trade if the 2011 and 2012 picks are in the lottery, but if New York is successful in free agency it will barely miss them at all.

Based on talent, cap space, and draft picks, NY looks like a middle-of-the-pack destination for marquee free agents. We have cap space aplenty, but are likely to have a woefully thin roster going forward. That’s hardly a bombshell for Knickerblogger regulars, but the details make for an insightful read. So check it out.

Pelton’s analysis raises a couple of interesting questions for Knick fans.

1. Will Knick fans support a non-LeBron rebuild?

What if unassailable intelligence–I’m talking Peter Vescey-level sources here–confirmed that Walshtoni knew all along that LeBron would never leave CLE? LeBron was always a myth intended to make cap management easier to swallow. The real plan A has always been, let’s say, Nash, Lee (or Boozer), and Dalembert at reasonable prices. Would Knick fans riot? Either way, it’s possible that the wisest play for Donnie Hoops is a combo of second-tier free agents (at second-tier prices), trades, and low-cost picks rather going for LeBron, Bosh/Johnson, and eight D-Leaguers.

2. What subjective factors will play the biggest role in free agent movement this summer?

Pelton’s analysis looks at talent, cap space, and draft picks. He (wisely) stays away from subjective factors. Yet, we know those can “tip the scales” at times. (Who thought Turkoglu would go to Toronto?) Even with LeBron, Walsh must still find talent at a discount (or at least without a premium). But how?

Coach D’Antoni – All else equal, he’s probably NYs biggest intangible asset. That’s not without caveats though. If I’m guaranteed 1-7 in the rotation, I prefer D’Antoni to Spoelstra, Del Negro, or [insert new NJ or LAC coach] for the same money. If I’m the 8th/9th guy in the rotation, maybe I’d rather play for the minimum somewhere else since I might never see the light of day. (D’Antoni’s a pair of glasses away from being a Larry Brown-level diva.)

Unsettled rotation – Although portrayed as a weakness, I see this as an asset in the market. No starting spot is guaranteed. Add in D’Antoni’s penchant for unorthodox lineups, and NY can look solely at talent regardless of position. That’s a flexibility few other teams will have.

The brand – It is easy for New Yorkers to overstate people’s desire to live, work, and play in the city. However, many commentators oddly dismiss the strength of the “Knicks” brand outright. When companies rank the world’s best brands they’re essentially looking at a brand’s marginal ability to attract resources. Some brands are better than others, even after prolonged underperformance. Take Alabama football. Five years ago Bama was losing at Hawai’i. Now, Alabama is football royalty again and in on every top recruit. It doesn’t take as much to revive some brands as others.