Knicks might not do so poorly with the poo-poo platter

Ty Ahmad-Taylor is the CEO of FanFeedr, a real-time sports service, and tweets under @tyahma. He was a journalist at the New York Times at the beginning of his career, and has been involved in media and technology for the last 15 years in Silicon Valley, Comcast, and MTV. He is a San Francisco native, but lives in New York, and thus “supports” the Warriors and the Knicks.

Parts of New York might be set on fire if the Knicks don’t land LeBron James and some mix of Chris Bosh/Dwyane Wade/even David Lee.

There are several other teams who are looking to also add some blend of the above players, as well, and thus the opportunity for the Knicks isn’t just about who can pay the most, but which players want to come to New York.

Joe Johnson has openly spoken of his affection for Gotham, and Carlos Boozer may be another piece. The two of them together, however, will very much feel like a lost opportunity, as the city has been all LeBron, all the time.

Table One: Top 15 at Each Position in 2009-10

However, viewed through the lens of Wins Produced (see Table One), the opportunities for the Knicks beyond LeBron and Wade are actually quite excellent; counter to standard thinking that has focused on points scored to the detriment of offensive and defensive efficiency. What follows is a look at the most efficient choices for the Knicks (not named LBJ and Dwyane). For clarity, and economic reality, I am not looking at RFA (restricted free-agents), just UFAs (unrestricted free-agents.) RFAs usually command a premium or weird contracts to dissuade their current team from matching.

An additional bit of background: the Knicks are proposing Toney Douglas at the point, Wilson Chandler at the 2/3, Danilo Gallinari at the 3, and that is pretty much it. They are, more likely than not, going to part ways with David Lee, their most efficient player, leaving them with Omar-the-Tent-Maker-sized holes at the 4 and 5, and shakiness at the point.

On the point guard front, the appetizers — to torture the metaphor introduced in the headline — aren’t very appetizing. UFAs include Nate Robinson, Steve Blake and Luke Ridnour. Of those, the latter is the most efficient with 5.4 wins produced and a 0.148 WP48 last year. He is certainly not worth maximum dollars. Next.

Though Knicks’ fans in the Tri-state area may collectively groan at the tweener that is Joe Johnson, especially given his latent awareness that there was a series with the Magic taking place this past week.  Still, he is actually quite efficient. Like #3-in-the-league efficient in terms of Wins Produced. Like this will inspire-hate-mail-better-than-Kobe-efficient (Please just use one of the arguments posted here under “jbrett codes”). Jesus Shuttlesworth is not that far off, with 7.6 wins produced last year, but at that point, the Knicks should keep Chandler at the 2 and call it a day.

Small forward: after the King, it is slim pickings and the first UFA is Travis Outlaw. Yep, well, okay. Gallinari is the starter. Move on, nothing to see here. Outlaw was good two years ago and then caught Eddy Curry disease.

Like the missing ozone above Australia, you have the 4/5 next. There is Marcus Camby, who actually plays the 5, not the four, but he is going back to Portland. And #2 on the depth chart is Carlos Boozer, with 16.2 Wins Produced. That is 6.1 better than Amare Stoudemire. (Please just use one of the arguments posted here under “jbrett codes”).

But it is only 0.7 better than David Lee, who only has a $10MM cap hold for the Knicks. That is to say, replacing Lee with Boozer might only generate an additional win, and Lee is younger than Boozer (most players peak around 24 or 25 years of age, as we know from Stumbling on Wins.) The two are not directly comparable because Lee played against centers most of the time, and thus had some drag because of the greater average WP in the center category. We will get back to this option shortly.

What the Knicks should not do, under any circumstance, is try for Stoudemire (RFA). He is a full five wins less productive than either Lee or Boozer.

In the center category, you have Chris Bosh, who is actually a four.  And then people too wince-inducing to consider. The Knicks are sort of stuck here, and Earl Barron is not the answer. They could continue to play Lee or Boozer out of position, but it just doesn’t work against teams with height/strength, or, heaven help you, both. What we should be clear about: Boozer or Lee are more productive than Bosh.

What this boils down to: if the Knicks can sign Boozer and Joe Johnson for $22MM combined, they can go over the cap to sign Lee (including his $10MM cap hold) to keep him in the fold. They will get destroyed by Orlando and the Lakers, but generally speaking, they will be much more competitive than they have been.   And that will be true immediately, even though neither new player looks nor plays like BronBron or Wade.

If we take the worse case scenario (Boozer and Johnson won’t take haircuts to that level), the best option, in terms of Wins Produced and long-term productivity, and given what the Knicks have already, is to sign Boozer (who generated 6.2 more wins than Johnson). This gives them someone at the five/four to pair with Lee, and allows Douglas, Chandler and Gallinari to play at their “natural” positions.

Your groans are noted, but when the season starts, this is the best opportunity for the Knicks if they cannot land either of the top-two free agents and to improve their win totals. In terms of wins produced, re-signing Lee is a better option than almost all of the non-Dwayne Wade/James free agents.

- Ty Ahmad-Taylor

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