The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

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.


7 Responses to “The Gooden contract”

  1. Drew Gooden Cavs Contract

    Great writeup about [url=]Drew Gooden’s contract[/url] by Joel Witmer at [url=]The Disapp…

  2. Dan said

    I like him, but I still kinda think that contract it too much to pay him. Maybe you should do a Varejao vs. Gooden article… that would be interesting. I dunno, maybe it wouldn’t work. I’d have to think about it more (which I happen to be too lazy to do right now). But it’s worth a thought.

  3. Josh said

    I don’t think you can look at Gooden’s contract as an isolated variable — it might be worth a fair amount given his production but when you put this contract next to all of the other bad contracts that eat up the Cavs cap space, I wonder why they are further limiting their flexibility down the road in 2007 and 2008 (i’ll assume in 2009 this contract is tradeable when it is about to expire)?

    I’d compare this signing to the Jefferies signing in New York. It wouldn’t be so bad if the team wasn’t already in such bad cap shape. As it stands Ferry has jammed this team with multi year deals (Jones, Marshall, Hughes, Z, Gooden) that other teams will not want to absorb in sign and trades (see Golden State). It’s stuck in the status quo, which i don’t think will ever get you past the Eastern Conference Finals.

  4. Josh,

    You are right that the Gooden contract is not without ramifications, but there are a few things to consider: First, last season the Cavs won 50+ games and came within a rebound of making the ECF, where they would have met a Miami team they had tied in the season series, and then Dallas, another team the Cavs split a season series against. The core of the team has remained in tact by signing Gooden.

    Second, there were no other options available to the Cavs on the free agent market. Reggie Evans is nice, but he’s not nearly in the same class as Gooden. Had the Cavs signed Gooden to a one-year contract for the mid-level exception he would have lost all trade value. Keeping him is good. Keeping him and keeping his trade value is even better. His contract–assuming it’s front-loaded–makes trading him a cinch.

    The only worry the Cavs should have with respect to the salary cap is what’ll happen next year with Varejao. I have legitimate concerns about if the Cavs will be willing to sign him if they cannot first clear some space under the cap. The Jones, Marhall, Snow, and Gooden contracts all end in 2009–a crucial offseason for the team–and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones is gone before this season is over. Marshall is still valuable, at least until another shooter emerges on the roster. No one will take Snow. Hughes is tradable. And so is Z.

    I guess our difference of opinion comes down to whether this team can compete with the best in the East as is. I think it can, especially if Shannon Brown develops into a quality player. The Pistons are going to have huge problems filling the gap left by Ben Wallace. Miami is in a pickle with Shaq, which is aging pretty fast, and their only decent backup is another aging former star. And their PG is Gary Payton, backed up by Jason Williams. Without Haslem and Wade Miami is nothing, and soon all Miami will have is Haslem and Wade. The Wizards are OK, but don’t play defense. The Bulls got better, but I think everyone is distracted by Ben Wallace–this team still has roster issues.

    It’s good to remember that last season was Mike Browns’ first as 1) a head coach and 2) as the Cavs’ coach. A lot of time had to be spent working through the pains that come with those two things. Coaching in the NBA matters and I think the Cavs will improve if only because Mike Brown will improve.

  5. Josh said

    I appreciate your thoughtful reply. I’ll address a few of the issues you’ve raised:

    1) I don’t think you can look at head to head regular season records as a barometer of how a team will perform in the future. The Heat had an awful regular season record against the other division leaders in the East and Western conference.

    2) My comments were not meant to indicate that I don’t believe the Cavs will have a successful season — just that this core group of players will never reach an NBA Final without major changes. I think even a terrible GM like Ferry can eek out a 50 win team with the cap space he had to work with last year plus Lebron.

    Unfortunately in what i gather was an impulsive attempt to please Lebron he spent all of his money at once and left himself little room to adjust in the years ahead. Hughes is an okay player but not really a great fit with Lebron. Z is a very limited center who most importantly doesn’t excell in the up-tempo game that Lebron and Varejo seem to excell at. I disagree that Z is tradable for anymore then another team’s washed up player like a Chris Webber. I think if Z or Hughes could have fetched them true assets in return Ferry would have moved them this summer. I’d be hard pressed to name an upper tier player that the Cavs could acquire for Z.

    I consider the Heat the likely team to come out of the East next year. Shaq is of course declining but they’ll be smart and only play him 55 games so he’s rested for the playoffs. Sure the long term future of the Heat is uncertain but keep in mind Riley already broke down this team once and added Odom, Caron Butler and Wade. Having Wade, Haslem and cap space will give them an opportunity to rebuild around Wade with a fuller understanding of the types of players Wade needs around him. Miami will always be a more attractive place for a Free Agent then Cleveland.

    Lastly, it sounds like I like the Bulls a lot more then you. I really like Deng and Nocioni’s games and expect major improvement from them next year. Plus, I think PJ Brown is vastly underrated. If only Paxson can move Ben Gordon before all of his value plummets, they’ll be in good shape.

  6. […] I like the contract, for reasons explained here. […]

  7. Randall said

    A few points: First off, I agree wholeheartedly with Joel that you have to look at each deal in terms of what the available alternative was. This applies to the Gooden contract, but it also applies to the moves Ferry made last offseason.

    Once the Cav’s overtures to the more ideally suited players (shooters) failed, they were left to sign Hughes. They had to pay a premium for his services because he could have commanded more from the Wizards. In hindsight, it looks like Joe Johnson would have been the best fit of that crop, but we must remember what Atlanta eventually had to give up to get him in a sign and trade, That simply would not have been feasable for the Cavs.

    The same holds true for the point guard search last year. What exactly were the alternatives? The guys we wouldn’t, or couldn’t, sign all ended up being busts. Perhaps Sam Cassel would have helped, but hindsight is definitely 20/20 there.

    The ‘worst’ signing, economically speaking, was Ilguaskas. But Ilguaskas was our second best offensive player for most of the season. His defense started out strong but suffered as the season went on. In the playoffs, he was clearly not fully recovered from the sprained ankle he suffered 10 days before the end of the season. Hopefully the fatigue issue will be further addressed this season. It seems the organization will take a cue from the Heat, who did a brilliant job of resting their injured players throughout the season. From what I’ved heard, the Cavs will be more flexible with their frtoncourt rotation this year, which clearly paves the way for Z to get more rest.

    Overall, you have to look at last year’s offseason moves in the context of the organization. Perhaps Ferry could have gone “cheap” and taken a longer term approach, but with the Lebron contract extension looming he could not afford to get anything but the very best players available even if he had to overspend a little to do it. Truth is, he didn’t overspend so much as overextend the lengths of the contracts, in each case by one extra year. But until someone puts forth exactly what better moves the Cavs could have made with their money, both last year and this year, I don’t think you can put too much of a knock on Ferry. Lebron, after all, is here for four more years. And make no mistake, no contract will ever cripple the cap situation more than Snow’s (although Newble’s is a cose second).

    Back to the Gooden signing: The single most important factor with the Gooden contract is his age. The deal he signed is likely for the best three years of his career. He is a fairly rare commodity at any age, but there are damned few players of that quality that you can sign for three years during their prime for less than 9 million per year. And again, just look at the alternatives. Look at what will be available next year, or the year after that. The free agent market is perrenially littered with players on the decline looking for mullti year, multi-million dollar deals. Again, spend that money more wisely. I dare you.

    p.s. feel free to footnote/link your sources

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