Donnie Walsh agreed to leave his position as President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks on Friday. Some Knicks fans blamed him for not signing LeBron James last summer while others felt that he had the franchise on the right track with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire.
So which is it? How productive was Walsh for the Knicks? Let’s take a look at the numbers to see how many wins were produced by the players Walsh brought to the team during his tenure.
This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's efficiency differential and wins. An average player produces 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (WP48), a star player produces +0.200 WP48 and a superstar produces +0.300 WP48. More information on Wins Produced can be found here — Frequently Asked Questions and Comments.
When Walsh joined the Knicks in 2008, they were coming off a 23-59 season with a roster constructed by Isiah Thomas. As Walsh leaves the Knicks in 2011, they just finished a 42-40 season with a roster of players that were all added during his tenure.
According to basketball-reference.com and espn.com, Walsh made 34 moves for 46 players in three years as the President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks. Those 46 players produced 52.5 wins for the Knicks during Walsh’s three-year tenure, as this spreadsheet illustrates.
According to nerdnumbers.com, the average WP48 for the current Knicks roster is 0.114, which translates to a 47-win season. Obviously, Walsh improved the Knicks from a lottery team to a playoff team in three years and they should be a playoff team next season, as well.
Walsh said in his teleconference with reporters that his performance had nothing to do with him leaving the team. In fact, he said the issue was that James Dolan, the chairman of Madison Square Garden, wanted him to sign a multi-year contract extension (presumably because he did a good job). Walsh said that he wasn’t interested in signing a multi-year extension, however.
In the end, perhaps the fans should feel good about the Knicks since Dolan tried to keep the person responsible for improving the Knicks around for a long time. On the other hand, maybe they should feel uneasy that Walsh didn’t want to stay with the Knicks for a long time.
Then again, maybe Walsh’s accomplishments were overstated since he didn’t make the Knicks a title contender, and shouldn’t that be the goal of every NBA franchise? In that sense, maybe Dr. Berri was right when he pointed out on the Wages of Wins weekend podcast that all Walsh really did was shuffle some deck chairs.
If that’s the case, then Dan LeBatard was right...