The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Danny Ferry II

Posted by disappointmentzone on 24 January 2007

A number of the people who have voiced their criticisms about my previous post on Danny Ferry (both in the messages below and on other sites). While most people seem to agree that Marshall was given too many years and Jones was given too much money, a lot of people seem pretty convinced that the Hughes and Ilgauskas signings were justified, or at least will be soon.

Concerning Hughes, the chorus has been the same chorus Cleveland fans have been spouting for years when it comes to such players (overpaid, underperforming). Signing Hughes was the only logical move! He’s a good player going through a rough patch! Once the team gets a PG or once he gets healthy he’ll turn into a player worth his contract! You’ve heard it before. Hughes is not good — he’s has had only one season of being above average. But I’ve said this about 39 times already.

Concerning Ilguaskas, the consensus seems to be that his contract was completely “in line” with…well, I’m not sure what his contract is actually in line with, but that’s one phrase that was used.

I assume that what was meant was that Z’s contract was in line with his productivity. After all, basketball players are paid to produce. With that in mind, I’ve begun a little analysis in an effort to compare on-court productivity to salary. I’ll write up my findings soon, but for the moment I wanted to point out how much Ferry’s signings have been worth. As the analysis becomes more fine these numbers will change slightly, but enough has already been done that there should be no drastic changes in what you are about to read.

For each player I’ve included their actual salary and the number of wins one can expect them to produce this season given how well they’ve played thus far. Then there is a figure for what their salary should be which I derived from regressing salary and the expected Wins Produced of about 225 NBA players. The final number is the difference between what they are being paid and what they ought to be paid given their performance. It’s all fairly simple.

Without further delay, then…

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

Notice a trend?

When you look at the entire roster, Dan Gilbert is currently paying the Cavs about half a million dollars more than they are worth. LeBron James is being underpaid by about $6.3mil, followed by Anderson Varejao, who’s being underpaid by about $4.7mil. Daniel Gibson is next: he’s being underpaid by about $2.2mil. Once James’s contract extension kicks in Gilbert will be paying the team a lot more than they will be worth given the on-court productivity (assuming no major roster changes occur). The saving grace is that LBJ is still on his rookie contract.

After scanning about half of the team in the Association, the Cavs are doing about average in this regard (I’m just eyeballing it). The Raptors as a team are being paid about $17.5mil below what they should be, but that’s a bit extreme. Most teams fall in the +$3mil to – $3mil range.

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12 Responses to “Danny Ferry II”

  1. Haze said

    The Cavs appear to be going all out for a title run and when a lot of teams do that in any sport you’re going to have to overpay for something that you don’t want that badly but is still a necessity. Gary Mathews Jr., anyone? Sometimes its just bad luck. What would you have done differently?

  2. Ryan A said

    I have a couple of comments. First, I agree with Haze. Although I may lose some people for mentioning a connection to Les Levine, this is something I learned from him. “What would you have done differently?” I agree with most of what you say, but how could the Cavs have done better?

    Also, although Z is way overpaid, look at the rest of the centers in the league. The way big men are paid, is there ANY center who is making appropriate money? Especially guys who aren’t on their rookie contract, ala LeBron? I just think that in the NBA, in order to not be stuck with Scott Polard as your starting center, you need to overpay. Drastically. It’s just the nature of the business.

    I look forward to your future write up to see where the rest of the league falls in comparison to the Cavs.

  3. Erik said

    The percentage-overpaid argument would work well if this were a computer matrix and not real life. You could simply assign a value number to a player and pay him that.

    Unfortunately, Ferry was dealing with the very human realm of contract negotiations where there is haggling, dickering and one side trying to get over on the other. As I have said quite often, teams that don’t overpay for some free agents lose out.

    I agree with you in that I think Hughes is overpaid. So is Z. So are Marshall and Jones. But I challenge you to find a general manager in the NBA who thinks it is as simple black-and-white as you are making it out to be.

  4. Ben said

    I had a nice long detailed comment, but I decided to just make my own post about it.

  5. Haze: Hughes is not a necessity. We are learning this season that Z might not be a necessity, either. You don’t have to overpay necessarily to get something you want badly.

    Ryan: (and this relates to Haze, too)…what surprised me about what I saw with other teams that that a lot of the elite teams in the league are, at least this season, being underpaid.

    The Mavs: $1.8mil underpaid. Lakers: $3.95mil underpaid. Spurs: $5.4mil underpaid. Suns: $3.3mil underpaid.

    I’m going to address what I would have done differently when I get some time to write (damn school!). It’s an interesting question.

    Erik: That NBA GMs don’t think it’s as black and white as I’m making it out to be is the problem. You want to know a horrible way of predicting which teams in the NBA are going to win the most games? Look at the salaries. They will tell you practically nothing about which teams are going to win the most games.

    Contract negotiations are tough, I’d imagine. And it’s difficult to figure out just what sort of return you’ll get on your 4-year investment in four year of a player’s contract. But that doesn’t dismiss sloppy management. If Ferry had looked at Hughes’s career numbers he’d have realized that Hughes had a great contract year but had otherwise been a below-average player. Yet he gave him $65mil. This isn’t an issue of black and white. It’s an issue of common sense.

    Teams that overpay are by definition losing out.

    Ben: Nice post.

  6. Haze said

    I should point out that I am first and foremost an Indians fan. Salary caps cave to pinstipes in my brain by nature. That said, I am also a Cavs fan and can understand the frustration with Hughes. He is injury prone, granted. But would you have preferred the Cavs trade Verajo, Gooden, and first round picks to pick a similar player with less risk? And that’s all it is: risk. Its not that Hughes has a monstrous downside. Forget what his “Player Win Percentage” is (and btw, just what the hell is that and how is calculated). Last season with Hughes healthy the Cavs looked uncontrollable. If used in moderation, perhaps with Snow or one of our new draft picks Hughes could remain healthy and productive. He contributes well on defense and is playing through a serious injury that realistically he should be sidelined for. Not to mention his brother died during the playoffs and that he is booed on his home court. In professional sports I don’t believe in flukes. If he did great for one year and he helped us maintain a momentous run early last season, he can do it again. And really, he doesn’t have to do THAT much. Assist 8 times a game, throw in a steal and add 20 points. Its not like all hope is lost here.

    The thing that really throws the “Player Win Percentage” thing out of the water for me is the rag on Z. Everyone knows that centers are the least productive of the positions. Everyone also knows that Z is in the upper half of talented centers, and by a fair margin. Take every NBA player and divide by five or whatever to figure out how “average” Z is and yeah, things wouldn’t look so great. But as a center he’s fine. And as far as age? He plays older because he’s SLOW. Unlike every other center of course. Of course he’s not a “running” mate for James; he’s a center! The come off the line like that ;). And btw, centers are also notoriously overpaid.

    So, do you have any idea who would feasibly be better than these to, or am I to assume that you would the Cavs play without a center and point gaurd?

    Also, if I’m the Cavs I trade Gooden for a speedy jump shooter to compliment James, assuming I could sign Wild Thing.

  7. Bad Becks said

    Who commented that they are going “all out on a title run”??? They are barely treading water in the East!!! Seriously, I’m beyone impatient in waiting for the team to FINALLY aquire a PG. Is anyone sick of Snow standing around unguarded during crunchtime while LeBron is triple-teamed???

    Where do you find these stats? Did they start making a Basketball Prospectus? If so, I’m buying it.

  8. Haze: The issue of Hughes’s productivity — such as his downside, his upside, etc. — cannot be considered without reference to what he’s paid. A monster downside is much more troublesome if the player is being paid $100mil instead of $1mil. The “risk” is directly tied to the salary. The Cavs bet a lot on Hughes. So far they are not seeing any return on their money.

    Centers are in fact usually the most productive players. They tend to shoot a much higher percentage from the field, they grab a lot of rebounds, the record most of the blocks. All told, centers do a lot.

    Centers are usually overpaid. It’s because they are a scare commodity.

    The Cavs are essentially playing without a PG. Eric Snow, anyone?

    Beck: If this is “all out on a title run” you may as well turn off the TV.

    Everyone: The statistics — Wins Produced, Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48), Win Score — all come from The Wages of Wins. It was published last year. Calculating Win Score is very easy (do a google search for Win Score and you’ll find the formula). Calculating WP and WP48 is much, much more difficult (and cumbersome). Wins Produced is what it sounds like — the number of wins a player produces.

    To learn more about these stats read the book. You can also search the DZ archive. I’ve used them and talked about them a lot.

    Finally, WP and WP48 are scaled to position. The average player — whether PG or C — has a WP48 of .100. WP is a function of WP48, so WP is also scaled to position.

  9. Haze said

    Hughes has indeed been a bust so far but I’m still not understanding who a better alternative would’ve been. Furthermore, in spite of injuries there’s nothing that states he is a best because he has not produced to his potential (fine, near it) to this point. But I disagree with your repeated assertion that he simply is not a good player because we’ve all seen what he can do for the team. At the very least he has the potential to help. I think a lot of the problem has to do with what he is expected to do on the court. He can’t be Robin for James every night, I’ll agree with you on that. But there are ways to improve the team by finding Hughes help so he can remain healthy and productive. The Hughes signing that you ridicule Ferry for may be very helpful pending another transaction.

    Also, I didn’t mean to say that centers aren’t important. I only meant to say that they usually underproduce, hence the reason why you must over pay an above average center.

    Question: is there an average win ranking per position in your calculations, or is that something that has to be separately?

  10. Haze said

    Sorry, typing at my crap job. Never, ever work production.

  11. Haze: the average WP48 is .100. Multiple that by the number of minutes a player plays and divide that by 48 to determine the average WP of a player given a number of minutes.

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