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Fixing The New York Knicks

The Knicks have a long offseason ahead of them, but here’s how they can turn the ship around, writes Benny Nadeau.

Ben Nadeau

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The New York Knicks are in trouble.

Following a disappointing 32-50 season in 2015-2016, the Knicks entered free agency with a plan to put talented, capable players around Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks then signed Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee, and traded for Derrick Rose. Their new point guard made waves with a single quote:

“I mean, with these teams right now, they’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.”

Just a few months later, the franchise — headed by president Phil Jackson— may have buyer’s remorse. Today, the Knicks are just 27-41 and falling out of playoff contention with every passing day — so where have they gone wrong?

The Knicks are in the unenviable position of a franchise that desperately needs a complete rebuild, but some major obstacles lie in their way. Until the Knicks can hit the reset button, they may toil away in the NBA’s version of purgatory: not good enough to win, but not bad enough to bottom out.

If the Knicks want to get back to their competitive, hard-nosed days, here are some simple steps to follow this spring and summer.

Embrace The Tank, Draft Smart

First things first: The Knicks, who have more or less given up, must finish the season by losing as many of their remaining games as possible. This means handing over the reins to younger players like Chasson Randle, Justin Holiday and Willy Hernangomez, a notion already helped along by the Knicks waiving Brandon Jennings last month. Currently, the Knicks only hold a 6 percent chance to jump into the top three in June’s draft, but with some well-positioned tanking, they could make up ground quickly.

Even if they still end up around No. 7, there are plenty of talented guards the Knicks can take a look at. With Rose’s contract set to expire in the offseason, the Knicks will surely select NC State’s Dennis Smith Jr., Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox or the French international Frank Ntilikina. Now that Porzingis has landed in the trainer’s room with a thigh contusion, the Knicks have a perfect opportunity to pump the breaks and ease into tanking bliss.

While the Knicks will have to deal with no-trade clauses, bloated contracts and an ill-fitting system over the summer, the one thing they can control is how many games they’ll lose now. The impatient Knicks supporters may be vocal, but few will remember a meaningless April win if that’s the difference between a role player and a franchise cornerstone.

Now, about one of their current cornerstones…

Revisit The Carmelo Anthony Problem

Carmelo Anthony has been the Knicks’ franchise player since they traded a bounty for him in 2011 and, yet, the results have been largely underwhelming. The Knicks last made the playoffs in 2013 and since they added Anthony, they’ve only escaped the first round on one occasion. Now 32-years-old, it may be time to move on from the forward and start from scratch, but there’s just one problem with that — Anthony’s no-trade clause.

When Jackson convinced the 10-time All-Star to re-sign with the Knicks in 2014, he gave Anthony one of basketball’s most powerful tools. Along with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki, Anthony possesses one of the league’s three outright no-trade clauses and Jackson clearly found it difficult to navigate at the deadline because of it.

While plenty of reports noted Jackson’s “determined” nature to move Anthony, the forward consistently rebuffed those notions all winter:

The power is in Anthony’s hands and, if they don’t move on from each other this summer, the two sides should find a middle ground at the very least. The Knicks’ losing habits are certainly compounded when mixed with a healthy dose of drama both on and off the court, but it would be silly to purposefully feud with the franchise player when he has no intention of leaving.

If Anthony is truly determined to finish out his contract (and perhaps his career) with the Knicks, Jackson needs to get past the subtweeting and subliminal efforts to drive his star out of the city.

Move On From Derrick Rose

In time, perhaps the Knicks will regret holding out for more assets in the rumored Ricky Rubio-Derrick Rose swap that was reported near the trade deadline. Rose hasn’t been shy about his attempts to garner another max contract this summer as an unrestricted free agent either. Despite the unlikelihood of Rose commanding a deal like that at this point in his career, the Knicks would do well not to get sucked back in.

While Rose has had a better season than most expected, signing the 28-year-old to a massive deal when the roster is already saturated with them would be a misstep. To his credit, Rose has averaged 17.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists over 59 games with the Knicks, but they must not attempt to rebuild and contend at the same time. Although the Knicks may feel obligated to chase Rose after giving up some solid assets for him, it’d be most wise to just cut their losses. If the Knicks end up drafting a stud point guard, there will be little reason to bring back Rose anyways.

Is Jeff Hornacek The Knicks’ Long-Term Solution?

Billed as a coach who could implement and run Jackson’s much-adored triangle offense, Jeff Hornacek was supposed to wrangle the great individual talents of Anthony, Porzingis, Rose, Jennings and Lee into an efficient attack. While this season hasn’t been a catastrophic disaster, if the Knicks blow things up this summer, they’ll need to take a long look at the coach as well.

Yesterday, Hornacek reiterated that the triangle was the Knicks’ offense of choice now and for the future, despite the fact that much of the team hates running it. While it could be simple posturing for his job on Hornacek’s part, Jackson must consider the long-term implications of forcing the team into the triangle.

To ESPN’s Ian Begley, Hornacek chimed in on the offense’s potential draw in free agency:

“There might be players that think [the triangle offense is a deterrent], but there are also probably players out there that say ‘Oh man, I’d like to run something like that,’” Hornacek said. “It’s still an offense where guys, if they’re knowledgeable about the game, should like.”

Of course, there’s something to be said about consistency, and firing their second head coach in as many years would just add to the Knicks’ infamous lore. In the end, their decision here should cater to Porzingis, who reportedly enjoys the triangle, so it may just be a moot point.

Good luck convincing any free agents of that, though.

Joakim Noah’s Mammoth Contract

When the Knicks decided to give Joakim Noah $72 million over four years, the move was almost universally panned. Even if the former defensive stalwart kept it together for an entire season, relying on Noah, who will be 35 years old when the contract expires, to lead the defense is risky at best. Worse, before Noah went down with season-ending knee surgery in February, his albatross contract was nearly unmovable already. To top it all off, the Knicks don’t even have a team option built into the contract down the road.

Within reason, the Knicks should do whatever they can to get Noah off the books, particularly so if Rose is on his way out as well. Combine his contract with a future first-rounder and Kyle O’Quinn, a serviceable, athletic backup, and the Knicks might be to sneak out from under Noah. This is easier said than done, but if the Knicks want to kickstart this rebuild, they must start with some of the roster’s deadweight.

Target Low-Cost, High-Reward Free Agents

If the Noah and Lee contracts have taught the Knicks anything, they’ll stop chasing the easy fix and focus on the future. This, unfortunately for Dolan, means that the Knicks need to stay away from high-profile free agents like George Hill, Kyle Lowry and Jrue Holiday, three point guards that’ll demand top dollar this summer. On the surface, grabbing a player like Hill to set up Anthony and Porzingis sounds good in theory, but the Knicks have been down this road before.

Additionally, the Knicks would be wise not to make the same mistakes their cross-river rivals have made in recent years. The Brooklyn Nets once responded to the Knicks’ acquisition of Anthony by dealing for Deron Williams to make a splash for their big move to New York. Under the unrelenting pressure of owner Mikhail Prokhorov, general manager Billy King pushed his chips to the middle and dealt a treasure trove of assets for the (diminishing) talents of Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Today, the Nets are barely keeping their head afloat and must convey the likely No. 1 overall pick to their bitter rivals in Boston.

So, even if things look dismal, the Knicks need to look no further than the Nets to see their future should they get too hasty. Chasing two of the Chicago Bulls’ restricted free agents, Nikola Mirotic and Cristiano Felicio, would be a solid strategy for the Knicks come July. Mirotic, who has fallen out of head coach Fred Hoiberg’s rotation, is a burly, court-stretching forward that shot 39 percent from three-point range in 2015-2016, and could offer some nice interplay in a smaller front court with Porzingis. On the other hand, Felicio is an underutilized 24-year-old center that could do well with a change of scenery, averaging a solid 11.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Other intriguing options could include the Miami HEAT’s James Johnson and Willie Reed (player option), the Milwaukee Bucks’ Terrence Jones, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Andre Roberson (restricted) and the Phoenix Suns’ emerging Alan Williams (restricted).

Bonus: Fix The Charles Oakley Situation

For a team that’s been consistently disappointing over the last 20 years, it’s difficult to watch the Knicks hurt their relationship with one of the franchise icons. After ejecting Charles Oakley from the arena in February, owner James Dolan went to war with one of the Knicks’ fan-favorites from the 90s. While this has little to do with the on-court product, the Knicks’ historic brand has taken quite the hit and it’s time to make good.

What free agent would want to sign with a franchise that’ll ultimately turn their backs on them? The Madison Square Garden ban has been lifted for Oakley, but the retired center certainly still feels the relationship’s strain. At this point, it would be best for the Knicks and Dolan to bury the hatchet and start treating a beloved former player with the praise he deserves. Without an overhaul of the situation, the Knicks may just find the free agent well running a little dry this summer.

While most of these issues start and end with the front office, the dominoes will only fall once the Anthony situation is definitively answered again. Should he stay, the Knicks will be stuck with a superstar on a team that desperately needs to clean house outside of their budding Latvian sophomore. If he doesn’t, the Knicks have a handful of potential paths that’ll take them closer to respectability once more — but which road will they choose?

Ben Nadeau is a Boston-based writer in his second year with Basketball Insiders. For five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine

Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.

Jesse Blancarte

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UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.

While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.

Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”

Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.

Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.

“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.

I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”

Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.

“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.

Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.

“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.

Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.

Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.

“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18

The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Lots of Draft Movement

With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.

The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.

It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.

Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:

Dates To Know:

The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.

The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.

The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.

The Pick Swaps:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. This pick will convey.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.

The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: Shamet Comfortable With Steady Self Going Into Draft

With a natural feel for the game, Wichita State guard Landry Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

Spencer Davies

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No matter what professional field a person wants to work in, there are multiple ways to show why they belong.

A positive attitude is everything, confidence goes a long way and honesty truly is the best policy.

Speaking with Wichita State product Landry Shamet this past week at the NBA Combine in Chicago, it’s clear that he has all three of those boxes checked off.

“It’s been great,” Shamet said of the event. “Just trying to absorb everything, soak everything up. It’s a big learning experience for sure. A lot of knowledge to be attained (at the Combine). With interviews and playing on the court, being coached by NBA guys, it’s been cool so far.”

During his three years with the Shockers, the 6-foot-4, 188-pound guard accomplished quite a few feats, but his junior season was arguably the most spectacular. Not only did Shamet lead his team in multiple ways, but he also topped out in four statistical categories in the American Athletic Conference—the school’s first year there after moving on from the Missouri Valley.

Shamet’s 166 assists (5.2 per game average) were the most in the AAC by far. In addition, his true shooting percentage (65.5) and three-point percentage (44.2) ranked number one among his peers.

From entering the program in 2015 to now, he feels that he’s grown dramatically as a player—but in what areas, specifically?

“I would say being a point guard honestly,” Shamet said. “I was recruited in as a two. But just kinda that leadership role, that accountability. Knowing that you’re gonna get a lot of scrutiny (after) a loss and you’re gonna be responsible for a win. Regardless of how the game goes, it’s your responsibility.”

Much of his development at Wichita State was courtesy of a hands-on approach with Gregg Marshall, one of the most revered head coaches in college basketball. Thanks to his guidance, Shamet feels ready, even in aspects outside of his offensive ability.

“On the defensive end, I feel comfortable with my positioning,” Shamet said. “Obviously, need to get better. You can always get better on the defensive end. That’s one thing I’ve been focusing on. Trying to get more athletic. Just be better defensively. He gave me the groundwork for sure. 100 percent.”

Shamet has kept in touch with Marshall throughout the entire pre-draft process. He was told to “smile and relax” in interviews and to be confident, which he’s certainly followed through with.

A similar message has come from Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, two former Shockers who have each made their mark at the professional level.

“Just be yourself, you know,” Shamet said of VanVleet’s pointers. “That’s really what it boils down to I think. He’s been great to have him in my corner—a guy like that who’s been through a lot of adversity on his way to the NBA, so I’m gonna listen to him 10 times out of 10.”

VanVleet’s career is already taking off with the Toronto Raptors as a part of their young and hungry bench. But with four more inches of height and a similar feel for the game, Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

And it won’t require flash or making a daily highlight-reel to do so.

“I’d like to just say versatile,” Shamet said of his game. “Just try to stay solid. I don’t ever try to make spectacular plays all the time. Try to just do what I feel I can do—play multiple positions, both positions, on or off the ball. I’m comfortable at either spot, honestly. Whether it’s facilitating, scoring, whatever the case may be.

“I feel like I have a high IQ as well. Just a cerebral player. Not gonna ‘wow’ you with crossing people up and doing things that a lot of the guys in the limelight do all the time. But I feel like I’m a solid player. Pretty steady across the board.”

However, just because he rarely shows off on the court doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ability to do it.

“I feel like I’m a little more athletic than I might get credit for,” Shamet said. “I think I’m a better athlete than I get credit for.”

Shamet is projected to go anywhere from the middle-to-late first round of the draft in June. Whoever lands the Kansas City native will be getting a tireless worker who does things the right way and is all about the team.

But for now, he’s soaking in everything he possibly can before that night comes.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Shamet candidly said. “I’m a 21-year-old kid, man I guess. So just trying to learn as much as I can, gain some knowledge, get good feedback—because at the end of the day, I’m not a perfect player. I know that.”

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