Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Defending Danny Ferry and the Zydrunas Signing

Joel has had some detailed posts on Danny Ferry's term as Cavaliers GM. I'll oversimplify things here, but his main point is that Ferry wasted the Cavs cap space two summers ago with the re-signing of Zyrdunas Illgauskas and the signings of Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones.

The Hughes signing, while not ideal, I think had to be done. As much as I would've liked Ray Allen, Michael Redd or Joe Johnson, they just weren't going to come here. The Cavs couldn't have paid Allen and Redd enough; they got more money by staying with their current teams. I can't really blame either of them, but I Redd staying makes too much sense; he was a second round draft pick so he didn't get that first round rookie contract like Dajuan Wagner and Luke Jackson. He also outgrew the first longterm deal he signed and was vastly underpaid (by NBA standards) at the end of it. After being underpaid for most of his career, he was going to cash in.

As for Joe Johnson... the Suns were going to match any deal for him until the Hawks offered them Boris Diaw and two future first round picks. The Cavs couldn't offer anything close to that (they had recently traded their first round pick for Jiri Welsch. Thanks Jim Paxson!). The Cavs really didn't have much of a choice; Hughes was really their only viable option (unless you want Ira Newble starting for the second year in a row).

But like I said, Hughes has been disappointing. How disappointing?

Ira Newble - 04-05 season (when he started):
Games - 74 (69 started): FG% - 42.9% 3pt% - 35.8% FT% - 79.7% RPG - 3 APG - 1.2 PPG - 5.9
Larry Hughes 06-07:
Games - 30 (28 started): FG% - 40.6% 3pt% - 38.7% FT% - 65.7% RPG - 3.6 ASG - 3.3 PPG - 14.6
Ouch. Obviously, no one is going to suggest that Ira Newble is better than Larry Hughes or argue that Hughes isn't an upgrade (well, maybe that one commenter, who I'm beginning to suspect was Ira Newble). But for roughly $10 million per year more than Newble, it'd be nice to get a better FG%.

But like I said, Ferry didn't have a lot of options.

Anyways, back to Joel and Ferry. Here's the crux of his latest post (more or less, just go read the whole thing):

Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Salary: $9,442,697
Expected WP: 7.5
Salary Should Be: $6,630,937
Difference: $2,811,760 OVERPAID

Donyell Marshall
Salary: $5,633,037
Expected WP: 2.4
Salary Should Be: $3,892,123
Difference: $1,740,914 OVERPAID

Damon Jones
Salary: $3,884,678
Expected WP: 1.1
Salary Should Be: $3,209,416
Difference: $675,262 OVERPAID

Larry Hughes
Salary: $13,363,012
Expected WP: 1.8
Salary Should Be: $3,543,929
Difference: $9,819,083 OVERPAID

Again... ouch. First lemme say that Jones is barely overpaid, $675,262 isn't exactly much on a NBA roster. But that's a small quibble.

Let's get to Z.

The Cavs are paying Z roughly $9.4 mil this season and he's giving them 12 points and 8 boards a game on .473 shooting. Not great, not bad; remember, he only averaged 9.8 points per game in November when everyone was saying he's done (he's averaging 13.5 ppg in January).

He's probably a bit overpaid. Joel says Z's expected salary should be roughly $6.6 million. Is that a fair value for Z? Probably. In a perfect world, Ferry would've signed Z for roughly that amount.

But here's the problem we don't live in a perfect world. In our world, George W Bush is President, La Toya Jackson is working in law enforcement and NBA big men are vastly overpaid.

Here's what Z is getting paid for the next few years (current year first). All numbers via HoopsHype:
Zydrunas Ilgauskas - $9,442,697 - $10,142,156 - $10,841,615 - $11,541,074
Now let's see what some other big men are getting paid:
Eddy Curry - $8,171,103 - $8,947,543 - $9,723,983 - $10,500,423 - $11,276,863

Samuel Dalembert - $8,840,000 - $9,680,000 - $10,520,000 - $11,360,000 - $12,200,000

Erick Dampier - $8,625,000 - $8,587,500 - $9,550,000 - $10,112,500 - $13,075,000

Adonal Foyle - $8,125,000 - $8,937,500 - $9,750,000 - $10,562,500

Chris Kaman - $3,491,767 - $8,600,000 - $9,500,000 - $10,400,000 - $11,300,000 - $12,200,000

Raef LaFrentz - $10,905,000 - $11,813,750 - $12,722,500

Kenyon Martin - $11,818,182 - $13,000,000 - $14,181,818 - $15,363,636 - $16,545,454

Brad Miller - $9,625,000 - $10,500,000 - $11,375,000 - $12,250,000

Troy Murphy - $8,285,714 - $9,206,349 - $10,126,984 - $11,047,619 - $11,968,253

NenĂª - $10,000,000 - $11,050,000 - $12,100,000 - $13,150,000 - $14,200,000

Theo Ratliff - $11,666,666 - $11,666,666
What's that list tell you (besides that the Nuggets are dumb)? Big men get paid a lot. For a regular player, is Z overpaid? Ya (though one could argue that all NBA players are overpaid, but that's neither here nor there). But for a big man? Z is probably right in line with the rest of the league.

You could also mention that Z's contract was too long, because he's getting up there in age and centers decline as they get older. I'd agree to a point. I mean, how much more can Z really break down? He can't jump, he's slow and he already relies on a series of 'old man moves' (not to mention his devastating hook shot). He doesn't rely on quickness or strength like other big men; he uses his length, he shoots well and has good footwork. The man is always going to be 7'3". Plus, he's pretty much injury free (which in all seriousness should be a bigger story than it is, considering how his career started).

But here's the thing, take a look at that list again, is there anyone on there that is really that much better? Chris Kaman is nice, but that's about all you can say. He's nice. Eddie Curry has a ton of potential, but he also has motivation issues and is a serious health risk. The Nuggets are already trying to unload NenĂª and he just signed that contract this offseason. Raef LaFrenz is useless, as is Troy Murphy, Theo Ratliff and Eric Dampier are basically one way players and Samuel Dalembert is being paid for his potential.

Could you argue that some of them could make better fits for the offense? LeBon could use a more athletic big man to run the floor with. I guess, but that's not saying much. Hell, the current offense doesn't use LeBron or Hughes correctly, let alone understand the concept of 'post play'. They love the jumpshots. Plus the Cavs don't have a point guard to run with and I'll say it again, having Kareem in the pivot never really hurt the Lakers running attack did it? (Centers start breaks with blocks, rebounds and outlet passes, they don't finish them)

Finally, I think we're relying too much on 20/20 hindsight here. Let's look back on what was going on at the time of the signings:

- The Cavs and LeBron had just missed the playoffs by one game (for the second year in a row) while Wade and 'Melo were getting ample postseason experience.

- The Cavs had a new owner who fired their current coach with 18 games to go in the regular season. The franchise seemed to be in turmoil.

- The previous offseason was the Carlos Boozer debacle.

- LeBron had yet to sign his contract extension.

That's what Ferry had to deal with; he had to show LeBron that after missing the postseason twice, the Cavs were 'serious about winning'. If Ferry lets Z walk away that would mean that LeBron's only two teammates who were worth a damn, Boozer and Z, would've left for nothing.

If the Cavs had decided that Hughes wasn't the right fit for LeBron (and from the looks of it, he ain't) and decided that since they couldn't sign Redd, Allen or Johnson that they'd sit on their money (much like the Spurs did a few years back), could you imagine the outcry? The media would've gone nuts. Cavs fans would've gone nuts. "How could the Cavs not upgrade the SG position?!? LeBron is going to leave!!" I mean, Bill Simmons went crazy when LeBron waited a week to sign his extension and that was coming off a 50 win season and a game 7 second round loss.

To me, the Cavs had to sign both Hughes and Z simply to keep LeBron. If they pass on both of them... well... who's to say if the Cavs make the playoffs last year or if LeBron signs his extension.

As for Marshall and Jones, the Cavs were a terrible outside shooting team and those two were supposed to bolster the Cavs 3 point attack. It hasn't worked out, but it made sense at the time (let me say this: all these signings are much more defensible than Jim Paxson giving both Ira Newble and Kevin Ollie 5 year $15 mil. deals).

Honestly, if LeBron wasn't 'on the clock' so to speak, I don't think the Cavs sign Hughes. I honestly think they would've made a bigger push for Joe Johnson. And if they couldn't get Johnson they'd find something cheap for a season and use their cap space the next offseason.

(I think they're doing the same thing now with Snow. Ya, they could probably trade for a PG if they gave up any combination of Gibson, Brown, Varejao, Pavlovic and Gooden, but they would probably have to take someone else's junk contract back. A lot of people want Andre Miller and of course he'd be an upgrade over Snow but he doesn't exactly have the jumpshot, range and speed the Cavs really need. To me trading for Miller short term fix with long term ramifications (the young guys the Cavs give up and Miller's contract) who really isn't the ideal fit).

In conclusion, I probably come off as a Danny Ferry or Ilguaskas apologist. I don't think I am. I do admit, I like Zydrunas, but I'm a big fan of post play; that's my style. As for Ferry, ya, the moves haven't all worked out, but I'm not really sure what he should've done instead.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I'll respond in kind. It might be worth noting that I happen to like Z, too. I don't think he's a good fit for LeBron, but few centers are, and of those centers that aren't a good fit Z gets by nicely. You are right about his old man moves.

I think the Cavs drove up the bid on Z in the summer of 05. The Knicks were showing serious interest but I don't think they were in a position to offer nearly as much money as the Cavs (I could be wrong about this).

The Hughes signing cannot be defended, though. He had one good season (a contract year!). We gave him superstar money. It was short-sighted. Sitting on the money would have been smart...but I'll get into this later.

Ben said...

A lot of the problem is Brown's offense. There's no movement, there's no passing and post gets used in the opening of games/halves but besides that it's almost non-existent.

I do think the Cavs may have been bidding against themselves (a la the Warriors and Dunleavy Jr) but I still think the signing is fine. You're going to overpay for a big man, at this one is useful.

Hughes... meh, he obviously isn't that great or the best fit. But I really don't think the Cavs were in a position to sit on the money (though it looks like that would've been the only other viable option).