The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for August 14th, 2006

The Gooden contract

Posted by disappointmentzone on 14 August 2006

So I was off by one year but I got the per-season pay about right. Instead of four years and $30 million Gooden signed with the Cavs today for three years and $23 million. The more I think about this contract the more I like it. Here are six reasons why:

1) Gooden was a very productive player last season and keeps improving. The average big man had a per-minute Win Score of .22 last season. Gooden had a per-minute Win Score of .29. In his first season his per-minute Win Score was .172, in his second season it was .182, and then in his third season (his first with the Cavs) his per-minute Win Score was .305. If we go by Wins Produced, a more complete metric of player productivity, Gooden produced 9.6 wins last season and had a WP48 of .214. Ilgauskas produced only 7.9 wins, for comparison. Of all the players in the NBA last season, Gooden was one of the ten most underpaid with respect to Wins Produced. So the Cavs gave him a bump in salary, as they should have given how well he’s played. He’s still not paid as much as Ilgauskas or Hughes, though he out-produced both players, and next season he won’t be paid as much as James. $7.65 million per season is not much higher than the average salary in the NBA (about $5 million per year). Gooden, however, is an above average player by a considerable amount.

2) Gooden shoots fairly well for a power forward. No, you won’t find Gooden floating around the three-point line knocking down long-range shots. But his effective field goal percentage on jump shots last season was a very respectable 42%. For comparison’s sake, Ilgauskas shot 39%, Marshall shot 45%, and James shot 41%. Gooden also led these players in crunch-time effective shooting percentage (47%). In the clutch–defined as the fourth quarter or overtime, no more than five minutes remaining, neither team leading by more than five points–Gooden upped his effective shooting percentage to 64%. So Gooden shoots well, particularly on jump shots. Why does this matter? Because LeBron James is adept at drawing double teams and kicking the ball to open players, who are often left open for jump shots. Gooden can shoot jump shots. This is good.

3) Gooden is capable of adjusting his play and remaining effective. Two years ago Gooden averaged 14.4 ppg on 11.5 field goal attempts per game. Last season he averaged only 10.7 ppg but on only 8.3 field goal attempts per game. His rebounding numbers dropped across those seasons, too, but his rebounds per minute increased last year from the previous season. Mike Brown asked Gooden to become less of an offensive force, and he did, but he remained just as effective. If Brown asked Marshall or Jones to dial it down on offense it’s not hard to imagine that neither player would see the court. Not only that, but Gooden never complained about his role, which goes a long way when you consider that last season was his contract year. NBA GMs overpay for scorers and the contract year phenomenon is real, but it didn’t faze Gooden.

4) The contract Gooden signed is probably front loaded, meaning that Gooden will be paid more in his first season of the new deal than in the last. That’s the only way this contract makes sense for the Cavs given their current situation with respect to the salary cap. Simply put, the Cavs can afford to pay Gooden $23 million, but it only makes sense to do so if a large portion of the contract is paid this season, when the Cavs have a little room to operate under the cap, rather than next season, when the Cavs will be facing James’s new contract and signing Varejao. So the Cavs get to keep Gooden and have the flexibility to sign Varejao.

5) The short, front-loaded deal makes Gooden very tradable. If in one or two years the Cavs want to trade Gooden he’ll be quite attractive to other teams because they won’t have to absorb what is usually the most financially heavy portion of the contract (the last years) and Gooden will still be young (he’s only 24). And that team won’t have to commit to additional years since there is no player or team option for a fourth season.

6) The short-term deal doesn’t burden the Cavs with any more long-term contracts (see: Hughes, Ilgauskas, Snow). If Gooden starts to decline, the Cavs aren’t locked in to a fourth or fifth year. If you’ve followed Eric Snow’s career as a Cav you’ll know how important this is. In 2009 the contracts for Gooden, Marshall, Snow, and Jones all end. Should all of these players remain with the Cavs through the full length of their contracts, in 2009 more than $20 million will come off the books for that offseason. This is the same offseason that precedes the last year of LeBron’s new contract (assuming he doesn’t take the player option for the fourth year), meaning that should the Cavs need to make a big free agent signing or two to entice LBJ to stay, they’ll have the flexibility to do so. This is huge, as you can imagine.

So there you go. I like the deal.

UPDATES: There are conflicting reports about the terms of the Gooden deal. One newspaper speculates that “Gooden is expected to earn $6.9 million in 2006-07, $7.6 million in 2007-08 and $8.4 million in 2008-09” while the Akron Beacon Journal reports that “one option being discussed is giving Gooden a descending value contract, which pays him the most in the first year of the deal and decreases the following two years. This would ease a potential luxury tax burden the Cavs might face.” I can’t believe that Gooden’s contract would be back-loaded given how mush sense it makes to give him a descending contract. Gooden is getting all $23 million either way and the Cavs are paying more for him per season than they’d like. But that a newspaper would report the annual terms of the deal with specific numbers concerns me, but only just a little.


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Gooden resigns with Cavs

Posted by disappointmentzone on 14 August 2006

This afternoon the Cavs resigned Drew Gooden to a three-year, $23 million contract. This following a lengthy negotiation period between the Cavs and Gooden’s agent. I wouldn’t be surprised if this upcoming season the Cavs make a significant push to unload some of the contract-heavy players on the roster to clear room for next season’s free agent interest, Anderson Varejao. Eric Snow will be hard to move. Larry Hughes would be much easier. Damon Jones very well could leave. I expect the Cavs to hold on to Marshall and Ilgauskas (at least for the season).

Presumably signing Gooden means the Cavs will not be offering Reggie Evans a contract.

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Ilgauskas, Gooden, and Varejao

Posted by disappointmentzone on 14 August 2006

The Cavs have yet to reach an agreement with restricted free agent Drew Gooden. Though the power forward free agent market this year is weak—as is the entire free agent market—and thus the relative value of Gooden is higher than it might be in other years, no team seems willing to pay Gooden the type of money he is seeking: around $10 million per season over four to six years. The most comparable free agent to Gooden is Chris Wilcox, who is close to signing a three-year, $21 million contract with the Sonics. If Wilcox signs this contract the market for power forward free agents will be set and Gooden will be offered a comparable contract to Wilcox. My guess is that Ferry would offer no more than four years and no more than $32 million. Alternatively the Cavs might be interested in signing Gooden to a one-year contract for the mid-level exception, or $5.4 million, thus allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Gooden wants a lot of money, for sure. But as I have noted elsewhere on this site, the Cavs are playing Ilgauskas a lot of money as well and, base on Wins Produced, a tidy metric from the Wages of Wins for evaluating production, Gooden and Ilgauskas performed almost equally last season. So Gooden looks at what the Cavs are playing Z and wonder why, if Z is worth that amount of money, he is not.

Of course, the Gooden deal is not being negotiated in a vacuum. There are outside influences at play. Last year the Cavs were $28 million under the salary cap in the offseason. This amount of space allowed the Cavs to sign Ilgauskas to a very lucrative deal without approaching the cap limit. This offseason the Cavs are already very close to the salary cap and therefore don’t have the same amount of wiggle room as they did last season. Even if the Cavs wanted to sign Gooden to a deal worth $10 million this season to do so would require restructuring in the roster to fit in that amount of money, something the Cavs are unwilling to do. So that is one factor. Another factor is that for the 2007-08 season the Cavs have already committed a lot of money in current player salaries; there will be even less wiggle room next offseason. Sometimes having very little room for signing or resigning players isn’t a problem. But after next season Anderson Varejao will be a free agent.

Now, Gooden and Varejao both play power forward. Ilgauskas is exclusively used as a center. But Varejao also plays center. And Gooden, though rarely used as a center, did log minutes at that position this past season. How do the players compare? Here are last season’s statistics for each player (Bold indicates leader).

We can use another Wages of Wins metric, Win Score, to further contextualize these statistics. The average big man (PF or C) last season had a per-minute Win Score of .22. Last season Ilgauskas had a per-minute Win Score of .256. Varejao had a per-minute Win Score of .27. And Gooden had a Win Score of .29. Though Gooden didn’t lead in any of the statistics above, he was nonetheless a very productive player and all players performed above average.

In the playoffs the statistics for each player changed significantly. Click here to see the statistics.

Ilgauskas still led in points-per-minute and points-per-game, but his scoring efficiency dropped a lot. This is crucial. Ilguaskas was able to lead in ppg and ppm because he took a lot of shots. But he also missed a lot of shots, and missing a lot of shots is inimical to winning (see: Iverson, Allen).

Meanwhile, both Gooden and Varejao increased their scoring efficiency, especially Varejao. In the playoffs Varejao shot a robust 62% from the field and a respectable 70% from the foul line. And take note of FTA/FGA and FTA/M. While Ilgauskas declined in FTA/M and Gooden actually saw his rate fall by almost 50% in the post season, Varejao’s numbers did not drop. In the regular season and the post season Varejao’s FTA/FGA was insanely high. Anderson got to the line at a very high clip, which not only allowed him to score more points, but also meant the Cavs got to the bonus more frequently and the opposing players were in foul trouble more often.

In the playoffs Gooden cut down on his turnovers and increased his rebounding; the combination of maintaining possession (fewer turnovers) and gaining possession (rebounds) is critical for success. All told, Gooden’s Win Score per minute in the playoffs was .29; Varejao’s was .24; and Ilgauskas’s was .17. In the playoffs Gooden and Varejao outperformed Ilgauskas and the margin isn’t even close. Ilgauskas didn’t just perform below his average; he performed well below the average big man in the NBA. Ilguaskas’s precipitous decline in production in the playoffs is amplified even more when you consider that the playoffs should be the ideal time for Ilgauskas—every game is slowed down to a pace that better suits Ilgauskas, or should, since Z is not fast enough to run in the open court or quick enough to defend an active player man-to-man. With all of the foot injuries it’s not hard to believe that Ilgauskas’s problems in the playoffs were in part the result of fatigue. Only Eric Snow (2354) and LeBron James (3361) played more minutes than Ilgauskas (2283).

These statistics only touch on the defensive production of the players, but during the playoffs Gooden was often on the bench next to Ilgauskas, often because he was playing poor defense.

I said earlier that Gooden is primarily a power forward. According to last season Gooden played 38% of the Cavs’ total minutes at power forward. Using John Hollinger’s PER metric, a complicated per-minute rating of player performance, while playing power forward Gooden’s per-48-minute production was 17.1 (PER is calibrated so that NBA average is 15) or slighly above league average. His opponent counterpart (the other team’s power forward) had a per-48-minute PER of 17.3 while Gooden was on the court as a power forward, however. Though Gooden enjoyed a lot of success while playing power forward, so did the man he was guarding most of the time. Over the course of the season, the opposing power forwards outperformed Gooden while Gooden was on the court as a power forward.

I’m not yet familiar enough with PER to give it a lot of weight, but in case you were wondering about what Gooden did with the time he spent on the court as a center, here are the results. Last season Gooden played 15% of the Cavs’ total minutes at center. During that time his PER was 23.4 and the opposing centers’ PER was 15.9, for a net gain of 7.6. Ilgauskas, meanwhile, logged all of his minutes as center and accounted for 57% of the Cavs’ total minutes at that position. His PER was 23.2 while the opposing centers’ PER was 13.4, for a net gain of 9.7.

Based on the net gains it appears as though Gooden is nearly as good a center as Ilgauskas. At this point it’s probably good to qualify PER with a few remarks. PER does not, as far as I know, take into account the quality of the opposing player. Gooden may have a PER as a center that is practically identical to Ilgauskas’s, but this may be the result of Gooden playing against inferior opponents. For instance, Ilgauskas may log most of his minutes against a Samuel Dalembert (an average center) while Gooden logs most of his minutes against Steven Hunter, Dalembert’s backup. If this were the case Gooden’s PER would be inflated against the actual ability of players at the center position while his opponents’ PER might also be inflated against Gooden’s relative inability to defend the center position. In other words, the net difference might make Gooden appear to be more able than he actually is. If Ilgauskas logged most of his minutes against the Steven Hunters of the NBA his PER might be even higher while his opponents’ PER might be even lower. Net gain, then, might not be the best way to measure overall performance or the best gauge for defensive ability.

So what do the Cavs face?

If the Cavs sign Gooden to a one-year deal you should expect to see them aggressively pursue Varejao next offseason should his performance not regress. This is assuming that as an unrestricted free agent Gooden would sign with another team (a fair assumption). If the Cavs sign Gooden to a lucrative long-term contract, signing Varejao next offseason becomes more difficult without first dumping someone’s contract.

Ideally the Cavs would resign Gooden to a long-term contract worth about $6 million per season, sign Varejao to a similar deal using the money saved by trading away Larry Hughes (or even better, Eric Snow), replace Hughes with a cheaper alternative (a la Flip Murray), sign Reggie Evans to back up Gooden/Varejao, and hope Shannon Browns turns into a decent combo guard. Signing Ilgauskas to such a huge deal was a mistake, but Ilgauskas is still an elite center. Mike Brown should rest Ilguaskas frequently, using Varejao in his place, so that by the time the playoffs roll around Z hasn’t played more than 1750 minutes. Quality big men are hard to find and the Cavs could have four of them with a little roster adjustment.

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Lerner buys football, er, soccer team

Posted by disappointmentzone on 14 August 2006

Randy Lerner has purchased a majority ownership of Aston Villa FC for $118.8 million, according to reports coming out of England. Aston Villa plays in the EPL and is not that good. But they play in the EPL, so that’s something.

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