The addition of Brock Aller shows it won’t be business as usual for the New York Knicks.
Well, it’s nothing short of a systemic shift in thinking for the Knicks. For the better part of the James Dolan era, the franchise has focused on acquiring talent at any cost. This approach has resulted in the team being committed long-term to overpaid players. That approach limited New York’s options for upgrading the roster as it only takes a couple of bad contracts to wreck a team’s salary cap.
Brock Aller brings Moneyball to the New York Knicks
Leon Rose realizes the franchise needs to start viewing player contracts as assets that have value and not simply as the cost of doing business.
By bringing in Brock Aller, he is ushering in a form of ‘Moneyball’. Teams first started adopting analytics to improve performance on the court. But now teams are starting to realize that analytics are needed to maximize their ability to acquire the talent they want to put on their roster.
But how do you go about finding those folks? The NBA is loaded with a lot of talented front offices, but it’s not as easy as just poaching someone with a great resume from another team. You need to have the right organizational structure and culture in place in order to attract the right people.
Leon Rose’s Role Model: Pat Riley
This is where Leon Rose’s experience as an agent can be an asset. He has worked directly with all the teams in the NBA so he understands the different organizational structures and the type of people that are the right fits.
If you were Leon Rose and were looking for a successful organization to model yours after, the first thing you would focus on is the leader. Who is someone that has a similar skill as yours? If that was the case, then the first person Rose should study is Pat Riley.
While he is the face of the Miami Heat and the unquestioned leader, he doesn’t do it all. He would be the first to tell you that he is not the most well-versed in analytics, big on basketball schematics, or an expert on the salary cap. He has people he trusts to advise him on those matters. Mainly his top lieutenant.
Pat Riley’s Consigliere
That man is Andy Elisberg. His official title is Senior VP of Basketball Operations/General Manager. He began his career with the Miami Heat as an intern during their inaugural season in 1988/89. He made a name for himself by becoming the team’s salary cap expert. He has consistently found ways to navigate through nuances of the CBA language to keep the team competitive. Since LeBron James left the Miami Heat, they have been able to acquire players to remain competitive while also staying under the luxury tax.
The Heat was able to avoid the luxury tax last season by releasing Rodney McGruder on April 7th, 2019, right before the season ended. Then on April 10th, 2019, the last day of the season, they signed Kendrick Nunn from the Warriors’ G-League affiliate to a non-guaranteed contract since they didn’t protect his rights. What followed next was free agency. The Heat convinced Jimmy Butler to leave the Sixers, who had his Bird Rights, to sign with them.
While Riley is a master salesman, he still needed to find a way to create the cap space to sign Butler. Elisburg helped execute a four-team trade to make it possible. This could be the sort of role Leon Rose envisions for Brock Aller.
The Brock Aller Effect
While Aller’s role in Cleveland was more limited in scope, he did make a name for himself. The key to his success is that he has the foresight to spot opportunities two-to-three moves into the future.
In 2014, Aller identified value in Brendan Haywood’s contract because it increased from $2M in 2014 to $10.5M for the 2015-16 season, however it was a non-guaranteed salary. They then traded him in the next offseason to create a larger cap exception. This was possible because Hayward’s contract was grandfathered in from the prior CBA.
Having someone that can help create assets and maximize cap space will provide Leon Rose and the Knicks more flexibility and opportunities in their quest to acquire talent. This ability is not lost on Knick fans that have seen most of the team’s big free agent signings quickly turn into depreciated assets.
New York ended up trading Carmelo Anthony, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Courtney Lee at a loss. They also grossly overpaid for Joakim Noah and still have his contract on the books as they had to stretch it in order to create cap space.
Hopefully, Aller can help the Knicks maximize their assets and turn some of them into the type of quality players the team hasn’t been able to acquire over the last 20 seasons.