How to Quantify the Jim Dolan Era

We needed a large photo to fit all of him in.

Last week, Knicks owner Jim Dolan declined to match an offer from the Houston Rockets for point guard Jeremy Lin that would have paid the Harvard alum $25 million over three years (but could have cost Dolan roughly $45 million thanks to luxury tax penalties). Even at that cost, the penny-pinching by Dolan struck many as highly unusual; if the Dolan era has been marked by anything, it has been its willingness to spend money at every opportunity. But what did the Knicks get for their money? In trying to quantify just how much Lin would have been worth to the Knicks over the next three years, on the court, we spoke to Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus. And he did something amazing: He quantified the Dolan era.

Basically, Doolittle, along with Kevin Pelton, inventor of the Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) stat, has put a number on what each Knick player since 1999 has earned as a Knick. By “earn,” what we really mean is “deserve.” B-Pro’s research puts one WARP as worth $2.4 million on the NBA market, which means you can go back through Knicks history and see how much each player “deserved” to make … and then compare it to what the player was actually paid.

F0r example, the Knicks paid Eddy Curry $63.4 million during his tenure in New York, but his WARP was under two for his career here; thus, he “deserved” about $4.73 million. Suffice it to say, he was a bit overpaid. Then you have someone like Jerome James. The Knicks paid him $30 million, but he was so bad during his time in New York that he was in fact below replacement level, “worth” -$2.3 million. That’s to say: If he had played for free, he still would have owed the Knicks more than $2 million, in a perfectly efficient universe.

It’s a fascinating number to play with, to go back through the Knicks era and see who was owed what. Stephon Marbury made $90 million in New York, and while he wasn’t worth that, he was, in fact, close: He “deserved” $81.5 million. On the current Knicks team, Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony have more than pulled their weight, but Amar’e Stoudemire hasn’t even been close.

As for Lin, the guy all of this inspired: Doolittle cautions that with a player as inexperienced as Lin, “his projections have large margins of error.” But even if Lin’s numbers fell a little short of expectations, and even given the extra $20 million in luxury taxes the Knicks would have had to pay on top of his $25 million salary, it still looks like Lin would have been a good deal. He was projected as a 10.4 WARP average over the next three seasons, which means he would have earned back his money shortly after the 2013–14 season opened. But now we’ll never know.

So, without any further ado, here is what each Knick of the Dolan era “deserved” to be paid. Some players with partial seasons have been omitted, particularly if that partial season ended with a team other than the Knicks. (There’s a complicated B-Pro reason for this that we didn’t quite understand.) Enjoy. (Numbers in millions, obviously.)

Stephon Marbury                       $81.5
David Lee                                     $67.1
Charlie Ward                               $44.3
Jamal Crawford                          $40.3
Mark Jackson                              $40.3
Marcus Camby                            $37.6
Carmelo Anthony                       $32.9
Latrell Sprewell                          $31.5
Nate Robinson                            $30.7
Kurt Thomas                               $29.5
Allan Houston                             $27.0
Amar’e Stoudemire                    $25.0
Al Harrington                             $18.0
Tyson Chandler                          $15.4
Danilo Gallinari                          $14.9
Toney Douglas                            $14.6
Chris Duhon                                $13.0
Howard Eisley                            $12.8
Steve Francis                               $10.9
Clarence Weatherspoon           $9.8
Quentin Richardson                  $9.5
Landry Fields                              $9.2
Renaldo Balkman                      $8.5
Zach Randolph                           $7.6
Steve Novak                                $7.6
Mike Sweetney                           $7.3
Jeremy Lin                                  $7.2 (in 35 games, we remind you)
Tim Thomas                                $6.8
Nazr Mohammed                       $6.2
Dikembe Mutombo                    $6.0
Shawne Williams                       $5.7
J.R. Smith                                    $5.6
Bill Walker                                   $5.4
Chauncey Billups                       $5.1
Eddy Curry                                 $4.7
Glen Rice                                     $4.7
Sergio Rodriguez                       $4.1
Larry Hughes                             $3.6
Josh Harrellson                         $3.3
Ronny Turiaf                              $2.9
Jalen Rose                                   $2.4
Vin Baker                                     $2.4
Wilson Chandler                       $2.4
Jackie Butler                              $2.2
Jerome Williams                       $2.1
Fred Jones                                  $2.0
Trevor Ariza                                $1.5
Qyntel Woods                             $1.4
Tracy McGrady                           $1.2
Jerome Jordan                           $1.0
Earl Barron                                 $1.0
Mouhamed Sene                        $1.0
Shelden Williams                       $1.0
Eddie House                                $.9
Moochie Norris                          $.9
Derrick Brown                            $.9
Kelvin Cato                                  $.8
Baron Davis                                 $.7
Mike Bibby                                  $.7
Frank Williams                          $.7
Jonathan Bender                       $.6
DerMarr Johnson                      $.6
Joe Crawford                               $.5
Courtney Sims                            $.4
Demetris Nichols                       $.4
Anthony Carter                          $.4
Dan Gadzuric                              $.3
Cezary Trybanski                       $.3
Andy Rautins                              $.2
Cheikh Samb                              $.2
Roger Mason                              $.1
DeMarco Johnson                      $.1
David Wingate                            $.1
Iman Shumpert                          -$.1
Bruno Sundov                            -$.1
J.R. Giddens                               -$.1
Lee Nailon                                   -$.1
Ime Udoka                                   -$.1
Andrew Lang                              -$.3
Chris Wilcox                               -$.3
Jamison Brewer                         -$.4
Lavor Postell                               -$.5
Channing Frye                            -$.9
Randolph Morris                       -$.9
Felton Spencer                            -$1
Rick Brunson                               -$1.2
Chris Dudley                                -$1.5
Luc Longley                                 -$1.7
Jerome James                              -$2.3
John Wallace                               -$2.4
Shandon Anderson                    -$3.3
Mardy Collins                             -$3.7
Travis Knight                              -$4.5
Chris Childs                                -$4.6
Michael Doleac                           -$4.7
Othella Harrington                   -$5.6
Malik Rose                                 -$7.5
Jared Jeffries                              -$8.0
Maurice Taylor                           -$11.8

How to Quantify the Jim Dolan Era