Connect with us

NBA

A Realistic Free Agency Wish List for the Knicks

The start of free agency is just hours away. Tommy Beer breaks down several scenarios for the New York Knicks.

Tommy Beer

Published

on

We are mere hours away from free agency officially getting underway. It’s been a brutally long wait for Knicks fans who have spent the last nine months looking forward to “next year,” once it became abundantly clear that the 2014-15 season would be essentially unwatchable.

The Knicks are projected to have approximately $28 million in cap space (which they could increase to upwards of $31 million if they decide to waive Jose Calderon via the stretch provision). This is just the second time in last two decades that the Knicks have had significant cap space, so New Yorkers have high hopes, believing that Phil Jackson could begin to rebuild the franchise by restocking a roster relatively bereft of talent.

However, that enthusiasm was tampered a bit by a report from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, which stated New York was heavily considering offering guard Arron Afflalo a three-year contract in the range of $36-$38 million.

If the Knicks signed Afflalo to a deal starting at $12 million, and inked the other player most often attached to New York, Greg Monroe, at the max ($15.7 million salary for the 2015-16 season), that would effectively eat up all the Knicks hard-earned cap room.

It’s hard to imagine adding Afflalo and Monroe to a team that won 17 games would result in a significant turnaround. More concerning, Afflalo is coming off a down season and will be 30 years old on Opening Night. This is a player whose upside is capped. Will he be a significantly better player two or three years from now, when the Knicks may finally be considered serious contenders?

Of course, no player can be signed until July 9th, so obviously nothing is set in stone, including Afflalo.

With that in mind, below we will examine a handful of other potential opportunities. The idea is to mix-and-match an assortment of free agents in order to best allocate the $28 million the Knicks have to spend.

It’s obviously always difficult to predict what wage players might agree to (for instance, few would have assumed Afflalo would be getting close to $37 million over three years), but we’ll do our best to approximate a starting salary.

We won’t list combinations including any of the truly elite top-level talents, such as
LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol or Kevin Love, as it appears the Knicks don’t have a realistic shot at the cream of the crop this summer. If any of those superstars would consider signing in New York, the Knicks would obviously offer the max without hesitation.

However, assuming the Knicks can’t land a big fish, here are some other ways they could distribute the $28 million resourcefully:

Package (A): Signing a trio of Patrick Beverly (annual salary starting at $8 million), Al-Farouq Aminu ($4 million), and Greg Monroe ($15.7 million)

The Knicks desperately need to upgrade defensively, especially in the backcourt. Opposing guards have been able to get into the paint at will against the Knicks for years now. The ball-hawking Beverley has been one of the NBA’s most aggressive defenders since elbowing his way into the Rockets’ rotation. Beverley, a restricted free agent, missed the final two months of the 2014-15 season after he underwent surgery on his left wrist that will require four months of recovery. May this decrease demand for his services a bit? If the Knicks made a solid offer, would the Rockets match? This would be an especially ideal fit if New York waived or traded Calderon.

Aminu’s counting stats will never jump off the page, but the former lottery pick (eighth overall selection in 2010) continues to steadily improve. His PER and Win Shares have increased each season he’s been in the league. He was a tremendous value signing for the Mavericks last summer, as Dallas paid him less than a million bucks this past season. This improving, defensive-minded wing could still be a solid value if signed for the right price. And while some teams may be willing to offer more money, the Knicks lack of depth could actually be viewed as a positive by Aminu’s camp, as he would be in line for plenty of playing time in a major market.

Monroe flashed elite talent and very intriguing upside early on in his career. As a 21-year-old, he averaged 15.4 points (on 52.1 percent shooting), 9.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game in his second season. However, he’s never taken his game to the next level. His field goal percentage has dipped below 50 percent for three consecutive seasons. His steal and block totals have decreased three years in row. Still, he is just 25 and has yet to reach his full potential. He’s a quality low-post player that can score effectively on the block, and passes relatively well for a big man (a big plus in The Triangle).

Package (B): Danny Green (annual salary starting 12 million), Robin Lopez (12 million) and Kyle O’Quinn ($4 million)

Born and raised on Long Island (he attended St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset), Danny Green starred at the University of North Carolina. He became the only player in ACC history with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 three-pointers, 150 blocks and 150 steals, but still slid into the second round in the 2009 draft. He was eventually waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers before the San Antonio Spurs scooped him up. Green flourished in the Spurs’ system. He played well in big games, and helped propel the Spurs to an NBA championship title in 2014. It could be argued that Green is the best all-around 3-and-D wing on the market this summer. Although he has publicly professed a desire to return to San Antonio, would the native New Yorker seriously consider signing with his hometown Knicks?

Not nearly as accomplished on the offensive end as his brother, Robin Lopez is a better defender and rebounder than Brook. Robin has also been far more durable. Because the Knicks have ‘Melo and should eventually have plenty of offensive firepower, Lopez is solid fit as he will be happy to clog up the paint, board and bang.

Kyle O’Quinn, who was born and raised in Queens, and flashed enough intriguing upside over his first three years in the NBA playing for the Magic that he’ll draw plenty of attention this summer.

Package (C): Tobias Harris ($14 million), Jared Dudley ($5 million), Marco Belinelli ($4.5 million) and Bismack Biyombo ($4 million)

Tobias Harris is another Long Island product. He has been linked as a potential Knicks target for years, but is that simply his agent trying to manufacture New York buzz in order to increase interest and leverage for his client? Harris is one of the more difficult free agents to peg. He’s dealt with some injury issues (missing 35 games over the last two seasons), and his defensive aptitude isn’t all that impressive. However, Harris has shown plenty of intriguing upside during his stint in Orlando. Last season, he was one of just six players to average at least 17 points, six rebounds and one steal per game. (The other five were: Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins and Carmelo Anthony). Still just 22 years of age, Harris has yet to hit his prime.

Every good team needs a ‘glue guy’ like Jared Dudley. A solid shooter with a high-basketball IQ, Dudley is the type of bench contributor the Knicks have been missing. In the past, Dudley has talked highly of New York.

Biyombo, the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft, has been flirting with the “bust” label. He averaged fewer than three points and five rebounds per game in 2013-14. However, the big man showed signs of life this past season, particularly late in the year. Over the Charlotte Hornets’ final 11 games, Biyombo averaged 7.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor. The Hornets decided not to offer a qualifying offer, so he is now an unrestricted free agent.

As more and more of a premium is placed on three-point shooting league-wide, sharp shooters such as Belinelli will always have value.

Package (D): DeAndre Jordan ($18.9 million), Mirza Teletovic ($3.5 million), Cory Joseph ($3 million), Tyler Hansbrough ($3 million)

Jordan has steadily improved year-to-year, and has firmly established himself as one of the NBA’s best big men. He finished the 2014-15 campaign averaging 11.5 points, a whopping 15.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, while shooting a mind-boggling 71.0 percent from the floor. He joined Wilt Chamberlain as just the second player in NBA history to average at least 15 rebounds per game and shoot over 70 percent from the field. Jordan will demand max money on the open market. He’d be a great the rim-protector to pair alongside the defensively-deficient Carmelo Anthony playing at power forward.

Teletovic received frightening news back in January when doctors discovered he had blood clots in his lungs. Surprisingly, and fortunately, he made a complete recovery and was able to play in Brooklyn’s first-round matchup with the Hawks. When healthy, he’s a valuable “Stretch-Four” that can help spread the floor.

Cory Joseph hasn’t had a real opportunity to showcase his skills, but has flashed intriguing upside in limited minutes with the Spurs. It remains to be seen if a large enough offer could pry him away from San Antonio.

Obviously limited on the offensive end, Hansbrough still finds a way to contribute by understanding and embracing his role as a rebounder, defender and screen-setter.

Package (E): David West ($9 million), Kosta Koufos ($9.5 million), Ed Davis ($5.5 million) and J.J. Barea ($4 million)

Multiple reports surfaced last week linking West to the Knicks, however, the buzz seems to have died down. One of the most respected professionals in the sport, West’s significant contributions are not limited to what he does on the floor. His role as a mentor and team leader greatly increases his value and overall worth. And with a youngster like Porzingis on the roster, having a mentor like West in the locker room would be a boon. Still, having West on the floor would result in ‘Melo logging major minutes at small forward, which isn’t ideal. Moreover, West is looking to win now, and the Knicks aren’t ready.

Backing up Marc Gasol, Kosta Koufos’ playing time has been limited. However, his Per-36 minute averages are impressive: 11.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. He’ll land a big raise and likely a starting gig this summer.

Davis slid through the cracks last summer and had to settle for a low-ball offer from the L.A. Lakers. After a solid season in L.A., he’ll look to cash in elsewhere.

Barea posted the best PER of his career (15.1) in Dallas last season as an energetic spark-plug off the Mavericks bench. That’s the role he is best suited for; playing 18-20 minutes a night and possibly more if he’s hot.

Package (F): Wes Matthews ($13 million), Omer Asik ($11 million) and Gary Neal ($3 million)

Matthews tore his Achilles tendon in early March and is facing a daunting rehab. Before the injury, the underrated Matthews was enjoying another solid season, playing well on both sides of the ball. In fact, he was leading the entire league in made three-pointers at the All-Star break. Recovering fully from an Achilles tear is certainly no guarantee, but if his price tag drops far enough, Matthews could be a very shrewd signing. However, he has intimated he is looking for a contract starting at $15 million per season. That’s a big gamble for non-superstar coming off such a serious injury.

Asik has been solid, if unspectacular, since becoming a starting center. He signed with the Houston Rockets prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, which was his first opportunity to showcase his full skill-set as a starter in the NBA. Then, last summer, he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for a first-round pick. In the 200 games he has played over the last three years, Asik has averaged 8.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks. He’s not a stud, but certainly a serviceable starting center who will protect the rim and chip in offensively.

Neal is a sharp shooter who can come off the bench as a third guard and help space the floor, giving Carmelo Anthony more room to operate.

Package (G): Robin Lopez ($12 million), Patrick Beverly ($8 million), Al-Farouq Aminu ($4.5 million) and Chris Copeland ($3 million)

The “Defensive Centric” trio, as detailed above, would provide much needed help on “D.”

Copeland signed a $6.1 million, two-year deal with the Pacers back in the summer of 2013 after a surprisingly impressive rookie season in New York as a 28 year old. However, he disappointed the Pacers (both on and off the court) and will be looking for a new team this July.

Package (H): DeMarre Carroll ($15.7 million) and Greg Monroe ($15.7)

This would require waiving/stretching Jose Calderon, but would improve the roster immediately, and also provide long-term upside.

Carroll bounced around the NBA, playing for four teams over his first three years in the league, before signing a two-year deal with the Hawks in the summer of 2013. Carroll developed into a terrific two-way player in Atlanta and returned tremendous value for the Hawks (Carroll made just $2.4 million this past season). Carroll survived a scare in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when it appeared he had suffered a major knee injury. Plenty of teams will be knocking down his door on July 1 to eagerly offer him a major raise.

Package (I): Jae Crowder ($9 million), Brandan Wright ($7 million), Iman Shumpert ($7 million), Rodney Stuckey ($5 million)

After seeing limited and sporadic minutes over his first few seasons in Dallas, Jae Crowder got a chance to shine in Boston after a mid-season deal sent him to the Celtics. Efficiency is an issue (he posted an eFG just below 47 percent), but the energy and defensive effort he brought to the table reportedly impressed Celtics management. We shall see what kind of offers Crowder might receive this summer, and if Boston will match.

Wright had the best season of his young career in 2013-14 in Dallas, when he averaged 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds, while shooting 67.7 percent from the floor. Still, there are noticeable flaws in his game, and his numbers dipped a bit last season. Can he handle the rigors of starter’s minutes?

Shumpert showed flashes of star potential as a rookie, averaging 9.5 points and 2.8 assists and earning First Team All-Rookie honors in New York. He also finished in the top 10 in steals that season (1.7 per game), and was recognized as one of the preeminent young perimeter defenders in the NBA. However, his game has regressed in the years since, possibly due to an ACL tear in 2012. He’s not quite the same feared defender, and his offensive game hasn’t improved (his free throw percentage has actually decreased in each of his last three seasons). Still, he’s a hard worker who’s yet to reach his full potential. He’ll draw interest on the open market.

Stuckey filled in solidly for the Pacers last season, shooting a career-high from both the floor (44 percent) and from behind-the-arc (39 percent).

Package (J): Rajon Rondo ($8.5 million), Jordan Hill ($7 million), Amir Johnson ($6.5 million) and Corey Brewer ($5.5 million)

It seems like only yesterday when it was all but a forgone conclusion that Rondo would have teams beating down his door to offer him a max contract when he hit the open market. However, Rondo’s stock, which was dipping, bottomed out in Dallas. After an uninspired effort in Game 2 of their playoffs series, the Mavericks sent him home and refused to pay him a postseason share. While Rondo’s performance this past season was undeniably disappointing, the signs of regression were certainly evident. Not only is he injury prone (Rondo has missed at least 14 games each season this decade), his production even when healthy is no longer elite. Once a feared defender, Rondo is now merely average. And his offensive efficiency has gone from bad to worse. He’s a career 26 percent three-point shooter and last season he became the first player in NBA history shorter than 6’6 to shoot below 40 percent from the free-throw line over the course of a full NBA campaign. Still, would it be worth gambling on if he was willing to sign a one year “make good” contract?

Amir Johnson has played 10 seasons in the NBA, but he’s still just 28 years old. We know what Johnson is at this stage of the game: A solid rotation player with some obvious limitations.

While he wasn’t quite as efficient this past season as he was in 2013-14, Jordan Hill posted career highs across the board in 2014-15, scoring 12 points and grabbing 7.9 rebounds per game.

Brewer had a $4.9 million player option. He’s due for a raise and a longer contract after a solid showing in Houston over the second half of the 2014-15 season and especially in the playoffs.

******

Another option Phil Jackson and company could pursue would be using their cap space to obtain an existing contract from a team looking to shed salary. For instance, we know the Warriors would prefer to move David Lee in order to get clear the $15.5 million he is owed off their books. What would Golden State be willing to package along with Lee in order to get New York to eat the final season of Lee’s contract?

The Spurs reportedly have a legit shot at signing LaMarcus Aldridge. In order to do so, they would likely have to trade center Tiago Splitter.

The Knicks could use their cap space to their advantage in these types of situations.

Of course, another alternative the Knicks should at least consider is only pursuing free agents that present a value/discount opportunity. There will be a bevy of top-tier free agents hitting the market in 2016, and if the Knicks save their cap space, they could be looking at upwards of $50 million to spend once the salary cap jumps to $90 million next summer. This would allow the Knicks to offer multiple max contracts, which might entice a pair of stars to team up with ‘Melo in NYC.

There are far more questions than answers at this stage of the game. It will be very interesting to see how it all plays out.

 

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.

Advertisement




Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Houston Rockets

Ben Nadeau continues Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series by analyzing the Houston Rockets.

Ben Nadeau

Published

on

Over the course of July and August, Basketball Insiders embarked on grading all 30 NBA teams for their offseasons — additions, subtractions, draft picks, trades, etc — and their potential headed into the 2019-20 campaign. Between today and autumn, franchises will be tasked with figuring out how their roster pieces, both new and old, might mesh together on the floor. At long last, the journey has nearly reached its conclusion but a reshuffling of the hierarchy has left the recently-superior conference in a state of unpredictability.

Between Kevin Durant leaving for new opportunities, Anthony Davis finally getting his way and Kawhi Leonard teaming up with Paul George, the Western Conference, for now, is anybody’s best guess. Among those with an imaginable volatile future, the Houston Rockets will be a mystery box of highs and lows, anchored by two ball-dominant MVPs and former teammates. James Harden and Russell Westbrook need no introduction, but their fit has been questioned since the latter was snagged in a shock deal for the oft-injured Chris Paul.

There are other pieces here, most definitely, as general manager Daryl Morey continues to find gems in the league’s tiniest nooks and crannies, but make no mistake: The Rockets’ ceiling will only rise as far as Harden and Westbrook can co-habitat. It’s both the million-dollar query and a philosophical wonder, a beard-sized challenge that’ll come to define the new-look NBA by January — for better or for worse, however, that remains to be seen.

Overview

But before any Westbrook-related fireworks can commence, it’s worth looking back on a mostly successful campaign for Houston in 2018-19.

Despite experiencing major turnover to a roster that was once an ill-timed Paul injury away from eliminating the perpetually historic Warriors during the previous postseason, Houston recovered better than many expected. An early, ugly spat between Paul and the Lakers’ Rajon Rondo, a long-time rival, helped to put the Rockets in a 1-5 hole to start the season, where an ever-so-slight inkling of worry began to creep in. But Harden — the eventual runner-up in a contested MVP race, only bested by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s other-worldly efforts — erased those apprehensions with an electric effort every night.

For the Rockets, that was often more than enough.

Harden played 36.8 minutes per game, practically a dead tie with Bradley Beal and Paul George for the league lead, and finished as one of two players with a PER over 30 (Antetokounmpo). The feared iso-ball mastermind tallied 36.1 points per game — a staggering eight full points ahead of the second-placed George — and ended as the seventh-best assister (7.5) on the ladder too. The former MVP made 4.8 three-pointers and nabbed an even two steals per game too, numbers that placed Harden, once again, as second-best in the NBA. Not a single player attempted or made more free throws than Harden either — a result largely thanks to the bearded-assassin’s flat-out insane 40.47 usage percent, the second-highest season-long rate in basketball history.

(Westbrook’s 41.65 rate in 2016-17, his MVP-worthy campaign, ranks first all-time, but that is a detail better suited for another section.)

To cap off a list of personal achievements that could truly run the length of this entire piece, Harden scored 30 or more points in 57 games, topped 50 in nine of them and hit 60 twice. For everybody else that stepped on the court for Houston in 2018-19, they reached the 30 point-mark a combined total of five times (Eric Gordon, 3; Clint Capela, 1; Paul, 1).

After the All-Star break, when Harden embarked on the equivalent of a nirvana-induced bender in all the best ways, the Rockets went 20-5 and secured the conference’s fourth seed. Unfortunately, a significantly tight race in the standings left Houston on the same side of the bracket as Golden State, who dispatched them in a tough six-game series during the second round and eliminated the Rockets for the fourth time in the last five postseasons.

All and all, it was a concentrated, historic effort for a franchise that was doubted after losing key rotation pieces like Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza the summer beforehand.

But what they did next might’ve been even more unbelievable.

Offseason

So, Russell Westbrook — let’s get into it, finally.

On Jul. 11, the Rockets pushed all-in by trading Paul and first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, plus pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, for Westbrook. Apparently, James Harden was a loud, positive voice during the acquisition of the point guard and believes that the union can work.

In any case, Westbrook is an upgrade over Paul, if nothing else, given his nearly clean bill of health over the last half-decade. 80, 81, 80, 73 in the games played department for Westbrook compares so generously to Paul’s injury-riddled count of 74, 61, 58, 58 that the Rockets might consider the reliability worth the blind leap of faith alone. Since Harden and Durant departed Oklahoma City, Westbrook turned into a usage beast and evolved into the type of No. 1 option that many had envisioned for the floor-running, high-flying future Hall of Famer.

Additionally, Westbrook’s 10.7 assists per game crushed second- and third-placed Kyle Lowry (8.7) and Paul (8.2), respectively, while his rebounding efforts should help a Rockets side that ranked almost dead-last in rebounds per game last year at 42.1. On offense, the ball-hawking, aggressive duo should get Houston in transition early and often, a place where they succeeded all year long by putting up 18 points per game off opponent turnovers. When considering a near-perfect outcome, the pair would have to reignite their dynamic partnership, equally share responsibilities and not end up watching alternate possessions as the other isolates.

However, the Rockets have built their brand on volume three-point shooting — that, naturally, is one of Westbrook’s weakest tendencies. At 16.1 three-pointers made (and a ridiculous 45.4 attempted), Houston blew away opposition from behind the arc in 2018-19. The season before that, they did it again (15.3, 42.3) — but how about the year prior? You guessed it: The Rockets’ 14.4 three-pointers made on 40.3 attempts per game during 2016-17 also lead the entire league. Simply put, it’s the key tenant of Houston’s up-tempo offense and the forward-thinking Morey often fills out the roster with like-minded players during free agency to boot.

Westbrook has only shot over 34 percent from three-point range on one occasion over his 11-year career and is coming off a disappointing 29 percent effort during his final season in Oklahoma City. Like most professionals, Westbrook can get scorching-hot from deep but it’s inconsistent enough to question his perimeter fit alongside Harden, an elite penetrator that often drives and kicks to open three-point shooters. Still, mixing two recent MVPs, and getting out from under Paul’s albatross-sized deal, is a chance the Rockets will swing on every time — so, at this moment, the only thing left is to wait and see.

Of course, Houston made other moves too — that certainly happened!

Danuel House, Austin Rivers and Gerald Green all returned to the fold after dipping their toes into free agency — more of those athletic, adequate three-point shooters, obviously — while Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried both departed. On Jul. 19, the Rockets snagged Tyson Chandler to backup the blossoming Capela, then took fliers on Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett a week later.

As a small note, Houston left the 2019 NBA Draft with no new additions.

PLAYERS IN: Russell Westbrook, Danuel House, Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, Ben McLemore, Anthony Bennett

PLAYERS OUT: Chris Paul, Kenneth Faried, Iman Shumpert

What’s Next

Lots of prayers, right?

There’s an undeniable magnetism in joining Harden and Westbrook together once more — two former MVPs in their respective primes — but how that practice plays out is still a relative unknown. The Rockets will continue to shoot a metaphorical truckload of three-pointers — hopefully, with some better looks than he got in Oklahoma City, Westbrook can get closer to the league-wide average. Even if he doesn’t, Houston holds plenty of deep-hitting cards to use at head coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced, high-volume mercy.

Clint Capela, bless him, has taken a backseat in discussions all summer because of Westbrook, but the 25-year-old has continued his ascent and recently averaged 16.6 points and 12.7 rebounds, both career-highs, on 64.8 percent shooting. He’s still range-limited but with Harden and Westbrook dishing open looks, and surrounded by many capable three-point shooters, Capela fills his role perfectly. In spite of some draft-time chatter of a possible Capela trade, Morey held onto his 6-foot-10, rim-protecting stalwart — a decision that’ll keep the Rockets from bleeding points in the paint for years to come.

So, then, what is next? Is their ceiling higher than last year? Lower? With an injured Thompson and departed Durant, could this be their year to enact revenge on the Warriors? Or did they fall behind the other conference risers? In August, these are some heavy questions that don’t have answers today, understandably.

Honestly, it’s impossible to fully and accurately predict the Rockets’ forecast — still, there is one fact already written in the stars, however:

It’ll be fun as hell, so buckle up and enjoy the show.

OFFSEASON GRADE: B

Continue Reading

NBA

High-Performance Mindfulness: Energy Psychology – The NBA’s Best Kept Secret

Jake Rauchbach takes a deep dive into the positive correlation between the effectiveness of leading-edge Energy Psychology techniques in removing mental baggage and improving on-court statistical performance.

Jake Rauchbach

Published

on

With the NBA’s latest initiative requiring all 30 teams to have mental health professionals on staff, the door has now been kicked wide open on in regards to High-Performance Mindfulness and mind-based holistic methods that support the well-being of the player both on and off the court.

As teams all around the league begin to expand their mental health groups, and the scope of their player development departments, the next logical step in player support could be the application of Energy Psychology-based techniques. These techniques zero in on the elimination of subconscious performance blockages for the direct aim of exponentializing on-court statistical improvement.

Before we discuss how NBA, college and international professional teams are implementing these High-Performance Mindfulness modalities to move the dial on on-court statistical performance, let’s first discuss the foundational mechanics of the player mindset, starting with the subconscious mind.

Energy Psychology techniques interface directly with the subconscious mind of the athlete for the goal of unlocking the player’s full potential.

The Subconscious Mind

Science tells us that the conscious mind makes up 1-10 percent of total brain capacity, while the subconscious mind makes up 90-99 percent. The conscious can focus on one to two things at any given time (reading and writing, e.g.), while the unconscious can manage thousands of tasks all at once, doing so while a person is generally unaware that it is happening.

The subconscious mind is about habit, pattern and muscle memory. For a player, tending to the subconscious is vital, because all hours of practice, training and repetition get logged there. A player’s subconscious is like a supercomputer, storing all programs (thoughts, emotions, feelings, images) from life’s past experiences.

Subconscious Performance Blocks

If not fully processed on the mental and emotional levels, thoughts, emotions, feelings and images from negatively-charged past experiences can often become trapped within the player’s subconscious mind. When this happens, performance blocks occur, ultimately throwing a wrench into instinctual response, muscle memory and on-court performance execution.

A prime example is Nick Anderson’s missed free throws in the 1995 NBA Finals, and the unresolved subconscious loop of blocking thoughts, emotions and feelings that ensued and sabotaged the remainder of his career.

Mental blocks can stem from on and/or off-court experiences. Off-court situations that seemingly have nothing to do with basketball frequently present the biggest challenges when improving performance by working through the mind.

Many times, players are unaware that the unresolved thoughts and feelings from their past are acting as performance impediments to success. Furthermore, these players generally do not have the skills to resolve these performance-blocking imbalances on their own.

From the pool of NBA, college, international and national team players that I have observed, below are some of the most common subconscious blocks to on-court statistical improvement:

1.    Epic Failure: Epically failing the team, no matter the level of basketball, is one of the most commonly observed performance-blocking experiences. Often, the anxiety, embarrassment and shame attached to these unresolved memories can be carried throughout a career, effectively hampering performance. Case in point is Nick Anderson.

2.    Freshman Year of College: When a player has not quite solidified their role or found their confidence and rhythm within the context of the team, volatile experiences on both the mental/emotional and performance levels can occur. The first few games of a college career can be overwhelming. Players often carry forward emotional discord from these events, until resolved.

3.     DNPs & Injuries: When a player does not play for an extended period, it can mess with the psyche. NBA veterans who have experienced these stretches often carry it with them throughout their career with emotions such as lack of confidence, confusion and frustration. Watching teammates contribute while they are resigned to the bench can be debilitating.

4.     Family & Home Life: Many performance issues at the deepest levels map back to off-the-court issues. It is important to note that the older the blocking emotional discord, generally, the more debilitating to performance it can become.

5.    Recent Poor Performances: Subconscious blocks relating to recent hiccups in performance are common. It is prudent to address these immediately when fresh in the mind of the athlete so that long-term performance barriers do not occur.

With this breakdown, we are providing context to what coaches and players intuitively already understand: past negativity can affect future performance if it is allowed to linger.

This being said, when performance blocks exist, there is generally no amount of additional skill-development repetition, film study or strength and conditioning work that will help to unblock or unlock big time improvement for the player. The root cause of down trending performance held at the unconscious level has to be eliminated first.

This is something that many player development approaches have historically overlooked.

The Gap Within the Traditional Player Development Model 

Although closing fast, a gap has existed within old constructs of traditional player development strategies.

Players have been viewed as purely mechanical commodities as if they were robots repeatedly able to generate top-level performance by the click of a button. Outside of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and maybe a couple of other all-world players, this is simply not the case.

Players are multi-dimensional beings requiring customized, specific support at all levels of their awareness (especially the subconscious, where performance habits are created and fostered).

Only addressing the physical component (on-court work/strength and conditioning), or only addressing the conscious mind/analytical component through film analysis and scouting, neglects possibly the most important aspect of the athlete – the subconscious (muscle memory) element, which directly influences the player’s effectiveness in each one of these areas.

Tweaking the player development model, by addressing this aspect, may present the best opportunity to date for helping players consistently optimize on-court performance throughout a season and a career.

This, then, begets the question: What is the most effective way to do this when incorporated within the context of an overall team dynamic? Enter Psychology.

Closing the Gap Through Energy Psychology

Energy Psychology or EP is quite possibly the best-kept secret in basketball player development, and may be on the verge of breaking out big-time as a way to facilitate massive statistical on-court performance improvement for players.

Based on ancient traditional Chinese healing principals, and rooted in empirically-based results, EP works directly with the natural energetic flow, or meridian system of the body, to unburden and unblock past lingering experiences still residing within the subconscious mind of an athlete.

This has the effect of freeing up the player’s ability to perform better and, quite possibly, could be the fastest way to supercharge on-court statistical performance when integrated within the totality of an existing player development program.

Once deemed nonsensical and out there, techniques like Touch-Point tapping, muscle testing and Reiki and Quantum-Touch are now being implemented by NBA teams, high-major Division-1 college programs, and European ball clubs, as ways to supercharge performance.

Players and coaches are beginning to turn to these methods to dramatically improve three-point shooting percentage, free-throw percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, VAL analytics, plus-minus offensive efficiencies and defensive efficiencies, mental focus, confidence, decision-making and leadership qualities, just to name a few.

This past season, the Los Angeles Clippers and their Integrated Player Development Department, employed the next level skill-sets of Dr. Laura Wilde, a cutting edge High-Performance Consultant who has been working with professional athletes for years. Dr. Wilde is a pioneer in this space, applying advanced Energy Psychology methods as a way to promote player well-being and to improve performance.

The Utah Jazz rely on Graham Betchart’s expertise as a long-time Elite Mental Skills Coach to star NBA players as a way to support their players both on and off the court.

As awareness around this space continues to build and these practices become common knowledge for helping players, roles for the High-Performance coaches who administer these Energy Psychology–Player Development-based techniques will become more defined.

For now, the most effective implementation of this type of specialist is likely as an embedded, trusted resource within an overall coaching staff or player development department.

The bottom line: The trend for improving performance through unlocking the mind is growing, and so too are the innovative and proven ways for producing positive change for players.

Energy Psychology and other types of High-Performance Mindfulness methods like it are now coming on-line as player development – secret weapons – in facilitating big-time statistical performance improvement for players.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Philadelphia 76ers

In this edition of Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series, Matt John takes a look at the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the most talented albeit confusing teams in the league

Matt John

Published

on

When evaluating a team’s offseason, it can take a while to complete.

Between going over what happened last season, what they did this summer and predicting what lies ahead – it’s quite the exercise. You could almost call it a process.

Oh hey, speaking of processes, the next team up in this series? The Philadelphia 76ers.

Philadelphia has to feel good about itself. It came within a literal buzzer-beater from overtaking the reigning champion Toronto Raptors. They don’t have the same team that they did three months ago, but they still have a team that, should things break their way, can feasibly win its first title since 1983.

Their roster makeup is a tad confusing at the moment. Then again, saying that would imply that their roster construction has always made sense in the Embiid-Simmons era, which it hasn’t.

One thing is for sure, though: This team is going to be good. With Kawhi Leonard out of the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant probably out for the year, the Sixers have a bigger window than they’ve had in decades.

Overview

Give Elton Brand credit. In just his first year as general manager, the guy didn’t shy away from shaking things up. Between Philly’s so-so start to their season to the trade deadline, Brand made the following moves.

  • Traded for a bonafide scorer who was available for cheap (Jimmy Butler)
  • Gave up on a prospect whose lack of progress was not helping the team (Markelle Fultz)
  • Acquired a pseudo star whose abilities fit like a glove next to Simmons and Embiid (Tobias Harris)

Since starting from scratch in 2013, Philly has always been about the future. The moves they made signified that the future was now. Butler wasn’t the best fit next to Embiid and Simmons, and Harris had never been on a team with aspirations nearly as high as Philly’s, but the talent that the Sixers had at their arsenal was gargantuan – gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated-like gargantuan.

Though Butler and Harris clearly made the Sixers a bigger threat for a title, progress was kind of slow after adding both of them.

Without Butler/Without Harris: 9-6 (Winning percentage of 60), Offensive Rating: 106.8 (19th overall), Defensive Rating: 106.9 (9th overall)

With Butler/Without Harris: 25-14 (Winning percentage of 64), Offensive Rating: 113 (7th overall), Defensive Rating: 108.9 (13th overall)

With Butler/With Harris: 17-11 (Winning Percentage of 61), Offensive Rating: 112.1 (10th overall), Defensive Rating: 110.3 (15th overall)

There are other factors that played into this. For example, it could’ve been the opponents who they played in those time frames. Or maybe it was Joel Embiid missing 18 games. Still, the Sixers somehow didn’t really take that next step they were hoping for. They finished the season 51-31, which qualified them for the third seed.

With Toronto and Milwaukee as their primary competition, that’s a mark the Sixers should be proud of. Maybe it would have been different if they had Butler and Harris from the get-go.

In their defense, some growing pains are in order when you shake up the roster to the degree that the Sixers did. When the playoffs come around, you can’t afford to wait for progress. When the Sixers entered the postseason, the progress they desired came, and it came swiftly.

After making quick work of the upstart Brooklyn Nets – and making someone look really dumb in the process – Philadelphia had quite the duel with Toronto. There were times where the Sixers looked completely outmatched against the Raptors. There were times where they completely outclassed the Raptors. To make a long story short, the craziest buzzer-beater – perhaps in playoff history – took them out for good.

As heartbreaking as that was, when you look at how the rest of the postseason turned out, the Sixers were the closest to eliminating the team who ended the Golden State superteam. Even if things didn’t end the way they wanted to, last season proved that Philadelphia is on the right track.

Offseason

In a perfect world, the Sixers would have retained all three of Butler, Harris, and J.J. Redick. As we know, not everything went according to plan. That doesn’t mean the Sixers had a bad offseason. Far from it.

It all started with the draft. The Sixers had five picks coming into the draft and wound up keeping two of them. They wound up with Matisse Thybulle and Marial Shayok. There’s not much to say about Shayok besides that the best hope for him is adding some guard depth.

For Thybulle, he could add so much to the 76ers. He was one of the best defenders coming out of this draft. At the very least, he should make Philadelphia much stronger on that end of the floor. He’s not necessarily a future star, but his potential as an impact player is very high. Expect him to be in Philly’s rotation sooner rather than later.

As for free agency, well, the Sixers were among the teams that went through quite a bit of turnover.

Let’s just get to the main course. Jimmy Butler decided to take his talents to South Beach, which honestly was a “surprised, but not surprised” type of move. Unlike say, oh, Kyrie Irving and Boston, Butler didn’t leave Philly on bad terms. In fact, he didn’t leave the Sixers empty-handed either.

While Butler is gone, in comes Josh Richardson. There is definitely a talent disparity between Butler and Richardson. In fact, there were many times where Butler carried the Sixers on his back when the team could not get things going. Richardson doesn’t command the same kind of respect, but he brings certain advantages that Butler does not.

-At 25 years old, Richardson fits better with Simmons and Embiid’s timeline than Butler does
-As a career near-37 percent shooter from three, Richardson is a better floor spacer than Butler is
-At $10 million, he’s one of the best bargain contracts in the league with his production

Brand probably would have preferred keeping Butler, but considering the alternative – letting Jimmy Buckets walk for nothing – getting Richardson expertly salvaged the situation.

That wasn’t the only sly move Brand made this summer.

When you’re building a contender, nothing helps your chances better like taking away a valuable piece from one of your biggest rivals. Philly took Al Horford right under from Boston’s nose, simultaneously giving the team another dimension while knocking the Celtics down a peg.

Over the last two years, Horford has established himself as one of the better defensive bigs in the league. He’s not a rim protector, nor is he the best pick-pocket, but his elite defense comes from his smarts. You wouldn’t think he could match up against Embiid’s girth or the footwork to contain Ben Simmons’ speed, but he can and he has.

As one of the few players who has shown the ability to slow both Simmons and Embiid, Horford has been Philly’s worst nightmare since “The Process” went full-throttle. With him on board, both of their young stars should be able to play their games more smoothly, especially against Boston.

That would be more plausible if Horford’s fit on the Sixers was a perfect one, which it isn’t. Horford is slated to start at power forward, which he only played eight percent of the time last year. At 33 years old, Horford’s footwork is on the decline. Plus, last season, he struggled to play well on back-to-backs. The Sixers already have enough worries on their hands with Embiid’s conditioning. With Horford, they’re going to have all their fingers crossed.

The Sixers also brought in plenty of new faces to help round out the roster. Raul Neto and Trey Burke are good flyers to take when looking for a second or third-string point guard. Kyle O’Quinn didn’t do much for the Pacers last season, but he’s an upgrade over the likes of Greg Monroe and Amir Johnson.

This offseason hasn’t just been about who they brought in, but who they brought back.

Considering what they gave up for them, the Sixers had to keep at least one of Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris. Butler leaving for Miami increased the urgency to keep Harris at all costs. The Sixers definitely took that to heart, as they gave him a five-year/$188 million extension.

Harris is a talented scorer. Before he was traded to Philadelphia, he gained a lot of well-deserved All-Star recognition. He didn’t put up the same numbers as a Sixer – with some of that understandably coming from less touches – but those numbers fell further in the playoffs. Being traded mid-season gives him the benefit of the doubt. With more time, maybe he’ll figure it out.

That’s going to be hard though, because with Horford on the team, Harris is going to be playing a lot more at small forward now than he’s played in years. His best position is playing a stretch four because he’s not quick enough to cover wings, but his strength holds up against power forwards.

He could make the proper adjustments, but if he doesn’t, that could spell trouble. What makes it more troubling is that the Sixers paid Harris superstar money when the man, as good as he’s been, is not a superstar. If he’s put in the right role, keeping Tobias could be the right move no matter what he gets paid. Finding that role is going to be hard with the frontcourt logjam.

The Sixers wanted to keep their wing depth this summer. Along with Harris, management brought back James Ennis III – who carried his weight in the playoffs – and Mike Scott, who, regardless of his production, will get plenty of attention because of The Office.

Oh, and the Sixers are going to have to adjust to losing three-point marksman that is J.J. Redick. Redick’s three-point shooting was a threat. Richardson and Horford have a respected deep ball, but they don’t command the same respect that Redick did. He fit perfectly next to Simmons/Embiid. Playing without him is going to take some time to adjust to.

Losing Butler and Redick bites, but Philadelphia compensated well in response to their departure.

PLAYERS IN: Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, Raul Neto, Trey Burke, Kyle O’Quinn, Shake Milton, Isaiah Miles, Chris Koumadje, Norvel Pelle (two-way), Marial Shayok (two-Way)

PLAYERS OUT: Jimmy Butler, J.J. Redick, Greg Monroe, Boban Marjanovic, TJ McConnell, Amir Johnson

What’s Next

Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and Philadelphia all lost a player(s) that played an important role in each team’s success. The difference between Philadelphia and the aforementioned teams is that they brought in a fair amount of talent to cover its losses. But was it the right talent?

This has been said about the Sixers all summer, but it bears repeating: This roster doesn’t make a whole lot of sense right now. Brett Brown is a good coach, and he redeemed himself pretty well in the playoffs following an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Celtics in 2018, but he’s got a lot on his plate this season.

This can go right or it can go so very, very wrong. It’s not just about who the Sixers gained and lost this summer. There still remains the question as to whether Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can reach their full potential when they play together. Simmons may never get a respectable jump shot, and Embiid’s conditioning is still an issue.

Both are two of the best young players in the game. If the Sixers are serious, they may have to choose between one or the other going forward. This isn’t something that needs to be taken care of now, but it is something that the Sixers should be paying close attention to.

This season could be the one where the Sixers finally cash in on the process just as much as it could be the confirmation that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will never co-exist on a championship team.

OFFSEASON GRADE: B+

Continue Reading
Advertisement

NBA Team Salaries

Advertisement

CloseUp360

Insiders On Twitter

NBA On Twitter

Trending Now