Samb A Low Risk For New York

Yesterday the Knicks signed Cheik Samb to a 10 day contract. Samb has played for 3 other NBA teams (the Pistons, Nuggets, and Clippers) but has only amassed 106 minutes in that time. His per minute numbers show him to be a strong shot blocker with a very limited offensive game. In fact his shooting numbers are downright laughably bad (TS% 30.5, eFG 27.3%)

Although I’m a big of a supporter of per minute numbers, 106 minutes isn’t enough of a sample to make a good conclusion. This is especially true with regards to a players shooting percentages, which vary more from game to game than their other stats. Luckily Samb has logged 500+ minutes for the NBDL, and his 14.7 pts/36 on 52.8% TS% in the minor league is encouraging. If you combine his numbers from the two leagues, he projects well for a backup center.

Season   Tm  G  MP  FGA FTA  FT% ORB  TRB AST STL BLK TOV  PF   PTS  PER  TS% eFG%
2007-08 DET  4  31  4.6 2.3 .500 3.5  8.1 0.0 1.2 2.3 1.2 9.3  8.1 12.0 .717 .750
2008-09 TOT 16  75 13.9 2.4 .600 4.3 10.6 0.5 1.4 4.8 1.4 3.4  7.2  7.2 .240 .207
NBA Career  20 106 11.2 2.4 .571 4.1  9.8 0.3 1.4 4.1 1.4 5.1  7.5  8.6 .305 .273
NBDL Career 20 508 12.7 2.8 .744 2.6  9.6 0.9 0.9 5.3 2.1 4.6 14.7 17.9 .528 .497
NBA+NBDL    40 614 12.4 2.7 .714 2.9  9.6 0.8 1.0 5.1 2.0 4.7 13.5 16.3 .490 .458

Samb holds up well when compared to some other NBA centers at approximately the same age/number of years in the league. His rebounding isn’t as strong as Ben Wallace or Andris Biedrins, and Big Ben was chipping in with nearly 2 blocks per 36 minutes. Additionally Samb compares poorly to the lot from an offensive standpoint (if you value his NBA numbers over his NBDL). However his blocked shots are the best of the bunch. In fact there have only been 54 seasons in which a player averaged more than 4.0 blocks/36 in 1000 minutes or more.

        Player   To   G   MP   FGA  FG% FTA  FT% ORB  TRB AST STL BLK TOV  PF  PTS
     Cheik Samb 2009  20  106 11.2 .273 2.4 .571 4.1  9.8 0.3 1.4 4.1 1.4 5.1  7.5
Samb NBA+NBDL   2009  40  614 12.4 .458 2.7 .714 2.9  9.6 0.8 1.0 5.1 2.0 4.7 13.5
  Jackie Butler 2007  69  848 10.8 .539 3.8 .775 3.1  8.7 1.3 0.8 1.3 3.1 6.1 14.6
   Jerome James 2002  72  991 10.8 .481 2.6 .500 3.5  9.0 0.9 1.0 3.3 3.0 6.7 11.7
  Steven Hunter 2004 145 1752  8.3 .506 4.3 .464 2.7  7.4 0.5 0.4 3.1 1.2 4.9 10.4
   Dan Gadzuric 2004 124 2020  8.8 .512 3.1 .500 3.4  9.7 0.7 1.3 2.8 1.3 5.5 10.6
Andris Biedrins 2009 309 7469  9.1 .602 3.2 .535 4.3 12.2 1.5 1.1 1.9 1.7 5.0 12.6
    Ben Wallace 1998 101 1321  5.7 .481 3.2 .347 3.7 10.4 0.5 1.9 2.3 1.3 3.9  6.6

The big question is will Samb ever see that many minutes? It’s hard to tell with D’Antoni. He seemingly coveted Chris Wilcox when in Phoenix, but now that the team has acquired him, the center has yet to see any real minutes. Wilcox has played in only 5 games, and has yet to play more than 12 in any game for New York. My gut feeling is that D’Antoni might throw Samb a few minutes early to see if he’s useful, but that you won’t see him again until the Knicks are officially out of the place race. It’s very likely that Samb won’t see any minutes this year at all. New York may just hold him on their roster for the summer league and re-evaluate him at that time.

To put things in perspective the last time the Knicks picked up a shot blocking center in Jerome James, the deal was 182 times longer than Samb’s. The shot blocker they picked up prior to James, helped them reach the playoffs (Dikembe Mutombo) in 2004. This is a good low risk-medium reward deal for the Knicks. It’s something that the team has been weak at considering the Roberson/Von Wafer mistake over the summer. If Samb can join the legion of NBDLers who have become solid NBA players he will give New York another cheap player to help the team win now. Additionally players like Samb could help New York field a competitive roster for 2011 without hurting them fiscally.

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Randolph Morris

KnickerBlogger: Signed by the Knicks in a draft loophole, Randolph Morris became the first person to play in the NCAA tournament and the NBA season in the same week. Morris played for the Knicks in 5 games totaling 44 minutes. That’s 4 less minutes than a single NBA game.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: Incomplete

2008 Outlook: From what I saw in Las Vegas, Randolph Morris seems to be a solid, but unspectacular player. It’s harder to judge centers in summer league, because as Dave Berri puts it, there’s a short supply of tall players. On offense Morris showed that he was able to face up and hit a short jumper, and can finish around the hoop. His hands are adequate when it comes to receiving passes close to the basket. On defense he averaged a little over a block per game. His rebounding was good, but not great. There’s nothing that Randolph does that screams “I’m great at this!”, and that is what most scouting reports say. Ed Weiland said “I doubt he?ll ever be anything more than just usable as a player” and Berri said “Randolph Morris had a PAWSmin of 0.128 [ranked 9th in PF/C], which looks pretty good.”

Normally you wouldn’t expect a young player like Morris to get a lot of play. In essence he’s a rookie, and the Knicks have a logjam at C/PF with Curry, Randolph, Lee, Rose, and James. But one thing that might drive Isiah Thomas to play Morris more next year is his expiring contract. Since Morris wasn’t drafted by the Knicks, they couldn’t give him one of those 4-5 year rookie option deals. Unless New York extends Morris’ contract this offseason, Isiah will have to make a decision next year on whether or not to keep him. The Knicks would be in another Jackie Butler situation, but this time they won’t have the option to match if another team signs Morris to a contract.

Finding a usable center in the NBA is no easy task, so Isiah should try to give the kid a chance to prove himself this year. Using Randolph for at least 10-15 minutes a night over about 60 games should let the Knicks better evaluate his talents without allowing other teams to bid heavily on him next year. As an added bonus, being forced to play Morris would mean that Malik Rose should see even less minutes this year and Jerome James can dust off his old Globetrotter jersey.

Brian Cronin – Yeah, from what I have seen of Morris, he doesn’t look like anything more than a solid backup, but solid backup centers are USEFUL in the NBA, ESPECIALLY if they can keep you from signing, say, Jerome James to do the role.

So I think the signing of Morris was a steal by Isaiah.

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Jerome James

KnickerBlogger: At the time of Jerome James’ signing, I kept some quotes from RealGM’s Knick message board, because they were quite optimistic. Unfortunately RealGM has decided to scrub their message board of anything over a certain age, so I can’t link to these quotes, nor can I attribute them to the original author. I can’t take credit for the wisdom of the quotes, but I can take credit for the title in bold for each of them.

There’s a Nazr Thomas?

Certainly James is as good as Nazr and Kurt Thomas.

Jerome James has a jump shot from 7 feet away? or Is “size” an SAT word?

James has the sice and strength to hold down the middle for us and he’s shown great ability in the playoffs (when it matters the most). Let’s give his 7 footer a shot before we bash Isiah, please.

Better than Wilt too, although I’m pretty sure the stats don’t back that up either.

James is also better than Hunter, even if the stats don’t back that up.

I guess another roommate could help pay the rent.

Please live with Jerome James- He will get more rebounds he played along side with Evans and Fortson- he will only get more rebounds. He will get more minutes which will produce into more rebounds!

And if he doesn’t?

If James plays to the potential he showed in the playoffs, he’s a good choice.
I restate what I just said: Centers tend to be overpaid. All James has to do is clog the lane, body up on defense, and rebound. The Knicks will be fine.

Paging Red Holzman

I still think, though, that James will play like he did in the playoffs with the right coach for the Knicks.

F this quote!

F the stats, F how much we paid him. How about the fact that IT saw something in James that he thinks is worth bringing him to NY!!

It’s hard to look historically back on the Jerome James signing and see any positives. With one good playoff series, after 5 years of mediocre play, James could have hung a sign on his head that said “someone will overpay me.” And the Knicks did. It’s not the worst move that Isiah Thomas has done, but consider that the James signing had two negative aspects. The first was the loss of Jackie Butler. James’ contract made Butler expendable. And although Butler languished at the end of the Spurs bench, remember that he’s still only 22 years old and is $18M cheaper than James. Butler was recently acquired by Houston, to backup Yao Ming and the undying zombie known as Dikembe Mutombo.

Second is that James’ signing hurt the Knicks on the court this year. James’ worst trait as a ‘defensive specialist’ was his awful foul rate. James committed 11 fouls for 40 minutes – nearly double the next Knick (Malik Rose) and nearly triple that of fourth string center Kelvin Cato (4.2 PF/40). That ratio is so bad, that given the opportunity Jerome James would foul out of a game in 22 minutes. I’m convinced that Cato would have been a better solution for the Knicks (again at a fraction of the cost). While neither Cato nor James could score, Cato was much better on defense. You could judge them by point differential (the Knicks were 10.2 points per 100 possession better with Cato on the court, versus 6.9 for James) or traditional stats (4.2 to 2.2 BLK/40, 1.3 to 0.9 STL/40, 13.1 to 9.7 REB/40). Although the Knicks were desperate for defense, Isiah could have found a better solution than playing Jerome James.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: F

2008 Outlook: Two things will keep James a Knick for another year. The first being James’ contract, the second being the lack of defense from the rest of the team. Isiah Thomas was so desperate for defensive help that he inserted James into starting lineup for a stretch this year. Just because James started, didn’t mean he’d get a lot of playing time. Frequently he would head to the bench after 2 fouls and never come back into the game. With 17 players under contract, there is a possibility that Jerome James will get cut, but something tells me Isiah likes his moxie, and James will see some court time in 2008.

Dave Crockett

I’ll tell you what bothered me most about the James signing. Basketball defense begins on the perimeter; the objective of good defensive teams is to keep the offense from getting the ball to high percentage areas. Defense in “the paint” is vital but is unlikely to matter much if the offense is getting easy shots. Until he signed Jared Jeffries and drafted Renaldo Balkman it wasn’t clear that Thomas paid much attention to his perimeter defense. Thomas didn’t just overpay for what he thought he was getting in James he was wrong for thinking it in the first place, especially considering his ability to find cheap defensive specialists in the bargain bin (e.g., Kelvin Cato). I actually count “Big Snacks” as Thomas’ worst move. It was not his most expensive or most destructive but it was his most wreckless. It was the equivalent of looking both ways and still walking out in front of traffic.

Four Questions About the Knicks’ Four Factors

Sorry this is up so late today gang. Things got busy at work. You know the drill.

While we are still in something of a Knicks news black hole I thought it might be interesting to pose four questions to the readership about the upcoming season that call for rampant speculation. We’re all good for that, right?

But, to provide this post with at least the thin veneer of being at the analytical forefront of the sports blogosphere I’ve organized the questions around Dean Oliver’s “Four Factors”. Let’s restrict this round to offense mostly–just to see how this goes.

Question 1 (Shooting): In 2006 the Knick effective FG% was 48.1%, 22nd in the league. Denver was 15th last season at 48.8%. Will the Knicks increase their eFG% to 48.8% or better in 2007? Why?

Question 2 (Turnovers): New York was dead last in the league in 2006 at 19.5 turnovers per 100 possessions, more than a full turnover behind next-to-last Boston. The Clippers were 15th at 15.9 per 100 possessions. Can the Knicks keep their TO’s to 15.9 per 100 or fewer?
(Okay, almost certainly not but do you expect to improve in this area? How much?)

Question 3 (Rebounding): New York was 4th in the league in offensive rebounding percentage (31.2%) in 2006. At least three reserves who contributed double-digit rebound rates (Qyntel Woods, Mo Taylor, and Jackie Butler) are gone. Replacing them are Jared Jeffries–who was the basic equivalent of Taylor on the boards last year–along with uber-rebounder David Lee, and possibly rookie Ronaldo Balkman. Will the Knicks be able to remain a top 5 team on the offensive glass?

Okay, so I lied. I will ask one defense-oriented question because getting to the FT line, the fourth factor, is kinda boring.

Question 4 (Defensive Rebounding): Unfortunately the Knick prowess on the offensive glass did not translate to defense. The Knicks lacked the knack for keeping other teams off the boards. [Read that last sentence in Clyde’s voice. It’s almost like watching MSG.] They allowed a respectable 27.2% of opponent misses to be rebounded, good for 13th. The Heat lead the league at 23.6%.

The team’s unwillingness to rebound on the defensive end may be the singularly most inexcusable aspect of their play last year. They already were a high turnover team that didn’t shoot especially well or play good defense. However, there doesn’t seem to be much reason why a team can pound the offensive glass with the best of them but remain mediocre on defensive glass–other than “want to”. It was the widest disparity between offense and defense among the four factors for the Knicks in 2006. So, can Isiah inspire this bunch to become a top 5 defensive rebounding team? Why or why not?

Alright, have at it…

KnickerBlogger’s Official Take on the Jeffries Signing

At the end of David Crockett’s appraisal of the Jeffries signing, he states “So, numerous paragraphs later I’m still not sure how I feel about this. What about you all?” and Brian Cronin said in his Jeffries post “either Dave or Mike will be tomorrow to give us a more in-depth look at the signing.” So I guess it’s my turn. Like Dr. C, I’ll break it down on 3 separate issues.

1. Has Thomas overpaid for Jeffries? Personally I’d say yes, not necessarily in price but in years. In fact he’s similar to two SF that the Knicks had last year: Trevor Ariza & Matt Barnes. And neither has anything close to a 5 year deal (although Ariza’s deal wasn’t publicized it’s thought to be 3 years or less). Jeffries is young, but I don’t think his trade value will rise much over the next 5 years. Unlike most basketball players his weakness is easily seen through statistics, and his non-existent offensive game isn’t likely to become much better than it is now. GMs may not be able to determine a player’s defensive worth, but they’ll easily be able to see Jeffries offensive worth (or lack thereof) therefore lowering his trade value. For Isiah to hit the bullseye on this one, Jeffries has to start getting votes for the NBA All Defensive Team.

2. Do we need Jeffries? Again I’d argue no. With Jeffries on the roster I count 6 guys that can play small forward: Balkman, Q-Rich, Jalen, Lee, Malik, and Jeffries. Let’s assume that Lee & Malik Rose are more PF than SF, then the Knicks have 4 SFs. Consider that New York has 5 guards total for both guard spots and you can see a minutes crunch at the swingman spot. Additionally Jeffries skill set closely mirrors that of first round pick Balkman, so it will cut into Renaldo’s minutes and hamper his development. As Balkman does develop, having Jeffries on the roster will be redundant. Hence why the long contract (see #1) might not have been a good idea to begin with.

3. Does this make sense on a team level? I’m not a big fan of the “we’re already under the cap so this long term contract doesn’t hurt” argument. Let’s say Isiah is fired after (or during) the season and the next GM decides he wants to get under the cap. Jeffries contract will be yet another piece that needs to be moved. While it may be easier to move than some of the other Knickerbockers (Francis, Marbury, Jerome James, etc.) it’s still on the deficit side of the leger rather than the asset side. Any contract Isiah signs that is over the league value doesn’t help the Knicks regardless of the team’s salary cap status.

Secondly it’s hard to ignore that this decision comes on the heels of Jackie Butler’s departure. One week the Knicks don’t have the room or money to resign their 21 year old promising young center, and the next they’re paying more than double for a player with a lower ceiling. A year or two from now it would have been much easier to move Jackie Butler than Jeffries if for nothing else than Butler’s age & reasonable contract. In fact I would imagine some team might take a young, cheap, and talented player in Butler as a bonus for eating up a big ugly contract (Steve Francis). The Knicks’ roster doesn’t run deep at the center position, as the Knicks only have 2 true centers. When Curry is in foul trouble, Isiah Thomas may be forced into giving Jerome James substantial minutes which isn’t a palatable scenario. And on the nights that Curry and James are both in foul trouble, Frye will be forced to man the five, or heavens forbid Maurice Taylor or Malik Rose. Isiah should have been focusing on the team’s thinness at center rather than adding to the glutton at small forward.

So the Knicks overpaid for a player, that addresses a need that was already addressed in the draft, and in the process hurt themselves by not retaining one of their young prospects. For Jeffries to make this deal work, he’s going to have to become the lock down defender Isiah envisions or become a better offensive player. And I’m not banking on either.

Comments are closed. You can leave them in Brian’s thread.

The Knicks Want Jeffries

The Knicks have signed Wizards forward Jared Jeffries to their mid-level exception (i.e., 5-years averaging $6 million per). Because the team is over the luxury tax threshold it will have to match the contract dollar-for-dollar in taxes should Washington choose not to match it. The Washington Post is reporting that the contract has language designed to discourage Washington from matching or demanding a sign-and-trade. Jeffries? agent has also made it clear that his client wishes to play in New York. However, matching the offer is not?financially speaking?especially burdensome for Washington, who has the cap space.

So, is this a good signing for the Knicks? I?ll try to look at this from three related (but distinct) vantage points: production, roster management, and fiscal. Even as I type this I?m not sure where I stand, though I?ll note that I have always rooted for him.

Production. Certainly Jeffries? per game offensive numbers fail to jump off the page. Last season he scored 6.4 points and pulled down 4.9 boards. More advanced metrics don?t necessarily make him look any better either. His career PER is 10.5 and he has posted below league average offensive ratings each year of his career. I was particularly interested in seeing how turnover-prone he is, as I?d hate to add another butterfingers to the frontcourt. His career turnover rate is 14.4?not atrocious; an upgrade over Qyntel Woods but not as good as Jalen Rose (12.5 in NY) or Q-Rich (8.7). Fortunately, Jeffries? 13.3 usage rate suggests that his teams have never looked to him for offensive punch.

His calling card, such that it is, is defense. So, how good is he defensively? That is a notoriously difficult question to answer, and probably near impossible to answer for combo forwards using most easily accessible stats. There is no reason to think that Jeffries is not at least the defensive equivalent of any of the veteran small forwards on the roster. So the real question is whether he is an upgrade, and if so by how much? Kevin Broom wrote up a nice piece at RealGM about the 2005 Wizards defense as part of a team defensive charting project he?s been doing. (If you are in a hurry, scroll down to ?Defense By the Numbers? in boldface. Start reading there.) Broom?s game-charted data portrayed Jeffries as a good pressure and help defender, typically assigned the best frontcourt scorer to protect the defensively-indifferent Antawn Jamison. Broom?s criticism at the time was that Jeffries was too often apt to abandon his assignment to help in the post, leaving accomplished shooters wide open 3 pt. looks. That seems to be precisely the kind of thing a young player might get better at over time, though I have no idea whether Jeffries has. Again, the numbers don?t add much clarity. According to 82games.com his on-court/off-court numbers balance out exactly to zero.

From a production standpoint Jeffries is a gamble; not quite a Jerome James-type nonsensical gamble, but a gamble nonetheless. He?s a role player that doesn?t score. Unlike with an emerging offensive force, where widely available metrics are sensitive enough to provide a decent projection (think Jackie Butler), we are often stuck reading the proverbial tea leaves on defensive-oriented players. There?s nothing to suggest that Jeffries, who is at least 6?10? with really long arms and nice lateral quickness, doesn?t deserve the rep he has as a good young defender but then there is little to support it either.

Roster Management. Between the draft and this signing one might think that Isiah is channeling the dearly departed Larry Brown, given his sudden fondness for defense-first role players. Jeffries, who will play both forward spots, will join a semi-crowded front court. It is certainly reasonable to suspect that Jeffries, even with no other roster changes, will start at small forward alongside Channing Frye and Eddy Curry. Isiah however could also opt to start either of the more perimeter oriented forwards, Jalen Rose or Quentin Richardson. I strongly suspect that David Lee?s future is now at backup power forward rather than small forward, should he remain on the team. I certainly hope that the Jeffries signing portends the end of significant minutes for Malik Rose and Mo Taylor.

If Jeffries actually brings the defense and versatility to the table his reputation suggests then it would seem that Isiah?s strategy is to mix-and-match lineups, similar to the Dallas Mavericks. If this is true, it would seem to contradict his earlier pronouncements that he would shrink the rotation. Even should he be committed to chaining Malik Rose and Mo Taylor to the bench, and even assuming that Balkman?s minutes will be limited, it is difficult to see how Isiah manages front court minutes without thinning out the roster in that area.

Fiscal Impact. As mid-level exception signings go it?s hard to characterize this as outright horrible, if only because Jerome James still anchors the scale at that end?not to mention the training table. Jeffries is a big gamble because he contributes so little offensively that he must play stellar defense, at a position where there are few nights off, or he becomes a net negative. Anyway, if Jeffries really is just a decent defender backed by a pretty good defensive center then why not stay with less expensive options like Qyntel Woods?

I am willing to give Thomas the benefit of the doubt on Jeffries’ talent. I am far less charitable concerning Isiah’s ability to play the market. The full mid-level seems a bit pricey for a defensive role player that is not a bona fide shut-down guy at his position, especially when San Antonio basically turned their mid-level in to Jackie Butler and Francisco Elson. But then, if my understanding is correct, Jeffries already has turned down an even bigger contract offer to sign New York?s offer sheet. Also, the agent?s very public rhetoric?that Jeffries really wants to leave?seems to suggest that he has at least some fear that Washington may match New York?s mid-level offer.

So, numerous paragraphs later I?m still not sure how I feel about this. What about you all?

Observations On The Eve of the Summer of Our Discontent (Conclusion)

Well, let?s wrap this up by looking at the other component of a strategic plan for the Knicks. (If you didn?t catch Part I and Part II go check them out.)

I suggested in Part II that by publicly backing Larry Brown the Knicks have made a de facto commitment to rebuild via the functional model. In this approach all the players, even superstar players, have well-delimited roles. Brown has been quite explicit about this, publicly stating his desire for players who can perform the following functions:

* Three guards that can bring the ball up against the press (presumably at least one is a pass-first point guard)
?
* Two small forwards (one that can play big guard, another that can play power forward if necessary)
?
* Four guys that can guard the post

In order for the Knicks to assemble the roster of Brown?s dreams however, they must get their fiscal house into some semblance of order. To that end, I would offer that the team’s strategic rebuilding plan should include a second major objective.

Objective #2: Institute a Zero-Growth Budget

We can all agree that the Knicks are in the seventh layer of salary cap hell, a place where the sign over the gate reads ?abandon your championship hopes all ye who enter.?

I teach college juniors and seniors, many of whom will graduate with enormous debt loads. Yet many of them exhibit better fiscal discipline than this organization. As one reader mentioned in the comments section of Part II, it seems as if Dolan is living out a boyhood fantasy. He tosses money around like he’s the BMOC. Back in the reality-based world however, Mr. Dolan is just another daydreamer doing a bid in the NBA debtor?s prison. He’s bound at the ankles to limited players with ridiculous contracts, a brilliant coach with exaggerated ego needs, and a front office in shambles. What’s worse is that all these parties are pulling in separate directions.

Zero-Growth Budget. A budget with limited or no growth would require more disciplined transactions, forcing the front office to walk away from many of the deals that have taken a bad problem and made it virtually intractable. Many reputable consumer debt counseling programs will demand that people destroy their credit card(s) in order to participate in the program. The reason is simple. Additional debt, regardless of the reason, can push some people into complete financial ruin. The same basic logic holds in professional sports managed by a salary cap. New York?s lack of fiscal discipline, and increasingly inane rationalizations for it, has put it in a position where it can no longer be competitive. Thomas?s efforts to swap expiring deals for so-called proven talent have proven too costly (e.g., Curry), superfluous (e.g., Jalen Rose), or worse, have robbed more deserving young players of needed development (i.e., Mo Taylor/Jackie Butler). Though he clearly bears the responsibility for this oddball collection of? ahem? talent, it would be a mistake to conclude that he simply should have gotten better players. The Knicks are a perfect illustration of how such thinking leads down the path to salary cap oblivion. Salary caps, for all their faults, punish the undisciplined and the intransigent who think they are being creative and clever.

A zero-growth budget is of course a bit of a misnomer. The Knicks will at bare minimum add draft picks to the cap each June, and presumably some players in trade. The real focus of the zero-growth budget is on free agency. New York?s free agency involvement is officially limited to free agent exemptions like the mid-level exemption (MLE), though more practically it also involves sign-and-trade deals.

The Knicks should treat the MLE the same way I treat the ?checks? I get in the mail from credit card companies. I shred them and put them in the trash because cashing those ?checks? worsens my financial situation rather than helps it. Just like those hyper-inflated loans masquerading as free money, the MLE market is systematically overpriced. It is the nature of any capped system to put a premium on the talent that lies between ?replacement level? and star quality. The Knicks have already paid far too high a premium in dollars, years added to the cap, and draft picks for other people?s headaches. Enough already; the Knicks will simply have to make do with less expensive role players from the veteran?s minimum market (i.e., NBA vets, D-League, CBA, and international players), undrafted rookies, and the NBA draft.

In the trade market, the overriding zero-growth principle is that no deal should add (net) salary or years to the cap. The kind of deal we want brings in players who perform a particular function and who match the trade counterpart in dollars and years. What we wish to avoid are the kinds of deals the real Isiah makes that net us a useless (on this team anyway) Steve Francis, depreciating in trade value by the day, while adding years to the cap.

One place Mr. Dolan?s mega-bucks, and his apparent willingness to throw them around, can actually help is in creating additional roster space by swallowing one or more contracts. Extra roster space can potentially enable the team to move one of the monster contracts by allowing the Knicks to take back multiple players. The Knicks could use targeted buyouts to help clear roster space. Even though teams hate to pay players not to play as a matter of religion, it may well may be worth it to create enough roster flexibility to move a bad contract without adding to the cap. Although bought out contracts stay on the cap, settlements do not. It would just be money out of Dolan?s pocket. Buyouts are one way Dolan can use his built-in cash advantage to actually help rather than hurt the team’s competitiveness.

The most interesting thing about selling a zero-growth budget to the fan base is that Isiah?s most fiscally prudent moves have been by far his best competitive moves, dollar-for-dollar. Thomas has drafted reasonably well, in sharp contrast to Layden, Grunfeld, and Riley. He plucked the likes of Jackie Butler, Qyntel Woods, and DeMarr Johnson (Denver) from the veteran?s minimum scrap heap, and each produced a 12 or higher PER this season. Since his best work occurs at the low end of the pay scale it seems the Knicks would do well financially and competitively to insist that he his focus his efforts there, and not allow his gaze to be diverted by anything shiny, sporting a high price tag.

So that?s it; a strategic plan with two straightforward objectives: pick a rebuilding plan and implement a zero-growth budget. Will the Knicks do anything like this during the off-season? I certainly hope so but what the hell do I know? I?m just some guy writing about an organization I know nothing about unless it appears in the newspaper. But, the NBA isn?t brain surgery. It?s pretty clear to anyone and everyone outside Madison Square Garden that the Knicks have mindlessly spent their way into oblivion, and currently have no idea how to get themselves out. So what else is there really but to pick a direction and quit mindlessly spending money? So get on with it already. Yeesh.