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Free Agent Forwards, Centers the Knicks Can Target

Tommy Beer looks at some forwards and centers that the New York Knicks could target in free agency.

Tommy Beer

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Last week, I examined 15 guards whom Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks can realistically target in free agency. Today, I’ll look at forwards and centers who are set to hit the open market in July and would be a good fit for New York.

The Knicks’ starting frontcourt – featuring Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Robin Lopez – was actually one of the better frontlines in the Eastern Conference last season. They also have Kyle O’Quinn under contract for three more seasons. In addition, 2015 second-round pick Guillermo (Willy) Hernangomez has expressed interest in coming stateside after a strong season in Spain. Hernangomez, whose contract with Real Madrid expires at the end of the month, is a 6’11 center who played alongside Porzingis during KP’s final season in Europe. It will be interesting to see if the Knicks are able to sign Hernangomez to play in NYC next season and, if so, what kind of contract that will require.

Clearly, the Knicks’ primary priority will addressing the gaping hole in their backcourt. However, considering the Knicks have failed to qualify for the playoffs in three straight seasons, they obviously need to search for value contracts wherever they can find them. Again, the idea here is not to list the best available players, but rather identify players that New York may view as potential values, which would allow them to improve incrementally, while also retaining the cap space necessary to make a big splash in 2017.

Marvin Williams, 29, Unrestricted free agent:
The 2015-16 campaign, Williams’ 11th NBA season, was also his best season. He set career-highs in PER (16.8), Win Shares (7.8), and True Shooting Percentage (.585). He was one of just seven players to knock down at least 150 threes and shoot above 40 percent from behind the arc. In addition, he posted a career-high in rebounds and blocks. He’s a reliable, solid “stretch four” in today’s NBA.

Solomon Hill, 25, Unrestricted free agent:
Hill was largely ineffective for Indiana over his first two NBA seasons, which is why Larry Bird and the Pacers decided to decline the team option on the final year of his contract prior to the start of last season. However, Hill surprisingly emerged as a valuable contributor in 2016, particularly over the second half of the year and into the postseason. There are certainly limitations to his game (for his career, he has 32.5 percent from three-point territory and as eFG% of 46.5 percent), but if signed at the right price, he profiles as a valuable “glue guy” off the bench.

Nicolas Batum, 27, Unrestricted free agent:
A terrifically talented and versatile player, Batum would immediately improve any team he joins. Last season, he was one of just four players to average at least 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and two three-pointers per game. The other three players were Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and James Harden. Batum is also a plus-defender who can guard both bigger and smaller payers. If he signed with New York, the Knicks could roll out a starting lineup featuring four players 6’8 or taller. Signing Batum would also give the Knicks the flexibility to trade either Lopez (moving Porzingis to the five spot) or Carmelo Anthony (if ‘Melo was willing to waive his no-trade clause, of course). The obvious issue is his potential cost. With so many teams having so much cap space, Batum will receive max offers this summer.

David West, 35, Unrestricted free agent:
Yes, the Knicks needs guards. This we know. The Knicks also need leaders in the locker room. ‘Melo is a supremely talented basketball player and played extremely well last season, but he has never been a vocal leader. When he’s experienced his greatest success in NBA, it has been when he was surrounded by vets who took control of the team. The Knicks have won over 50 games only once this millennium, and that was back in 2012-13, when they fielded the “oldest team in NBA history,” featuring Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Jason Kidd among others. West took an enormous pay-cut last year in order to prioritize winning and a chance at a title, so it’s highly unlikely he would consider the Knicks. With that said, he is the type of ‘pro’s pro’ the Knicks would love to bring to MSG.

Terrence Jones, 25, Restricted free agent:
The Rockets had high expectations for Jones coming into last season, hoping he would continue his development and emerge as a star. Instead, beset by injuries and ineffectiveness, Jones took a step backward in 2015-16. Does that make Jones a “buy-low” candidate? As a 22-year-old, in his second NBA season, Jones averaged 12.1 points (while shooting above 54 percent from the floor) and 6.9 rebounds per game. The Rockets will likely match any reasonable deal, so a team would likely have to gamble and offer Jones above market value in order to scare off the Rockets.

Jared Dudley, 31, Unrestricted free agent:
Like David West, Dudley is pro’s pro who is a bit long in the tooth, but can still produce efficiently and contribute on both ends of the floor.

Joakim Noah, 31, Unrestricted free agent:
Who was the last Eastern Conference player not named LeBron James to finish in the top five in NBA MVP voting? That would be Joakim Noah. The last player not named Kawhi Leonard to win the Defensive Player of the Year award? Yup, Joakim Noah. Noah was a truly elite NBA player as recently as 2014. However, he is now coming off a major injury and played poorly when he was on the floor last season. Nonetheless, he’s the exact type of player I would gamble on if I’m Phil Jackson. Offer him a short-term, big-money ‘make good’ contract. He brings passion and defensive intensity every second he’s on the court. That’s something that’s been missing at Madison Square Garden for far too long. He immediately would become a fan favorite. Noah is also a solid screener and phenomenal passer out of the post, making him an ideal fit in Triangle-type sets. One other thing: Noah is also the last homegrown NYC product to make an NBA All-Star team. Would he give the Knicks a hometown discount?

Dwight Powell, 25, Restricted free agent:
An intriguing prospect, Powell has only played sparingly in his first two seasons in the NBA, but he’s raised some eyebrows when given minutes. His per-36 minutes averages are impressive at 14.5 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Ryan Anderson, 28, Unrestricted free agent:
The Knicks were once again near the bottom of the league in three-pointers last season. However, new coach Jeff Hornacek has already stated New York will modernize their offense and increase their attempts from behind the arc. Anderson has consistently been one of the NBA’s best long-range shooters since entering the league. He’s averaged at least two made three-pointers per game for six straight seasons. Given the premium placed on three-point shooting in today’s NBA, Anderson will have plenty of suitors, which will likely price him out of the Knicks range.

Jon Leuer, 27, Unrestricted free agent:
Leuer saw plenty of playing time in the train wreck that was the Phoenix Suns’ 2015-16 season. He ended up starting 27 games and averaged a respectable 8.5 points and chipped in 5.6 rebounds in less than 19 minutes a night. He’s has issues defensively, but he can stretch the floor on the other end. His familiarity with Hornacek could be a plus.

Donatas Motiejunas, 25, Restricted free agent:
A true “boom or bust” proposition, Motiejunas has continuously shown flashes of intriguing upside over his first four seasons in the NBA. However, he hasn’t been able to shake the injury bug, with a lingering back issue being the most significant setback to date. He has starter potential and a game perfectly suited for today’s pace-and-space attack, but the questions is how much should a team invest in a young big with a balky back?

David Lee, 33, Unrestricted free agent:
Lee was so ineffective that he was unplayable at times over the first half of last season in Boston, and he was buried on the bench as a result. However, he showed signs of life once he signed with Dallas after the All-Star break, averaging close to a double-double in March. He’s still a well below-average defender, but he can help a team offensively. The former Knick enjoyed his time in New York, and he’s made over $75 million in his career (he was the highest paid player on the 2014-15 world champion Warriors). Would be be willing to come off the bench for the Knicks and play for at or near the veteran’s minimum?

Timofey Mozgov, 30, Unrestricted free agent:
Also a former Knick, it appeared Mozgov was headed toward a huge payday at this time last year, when he was starting and playing very well for the Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals. A year later, Mozgov is an afterthought in Cleveland. The Knicks have plenty of depth at center, but if Mozgov is underappreciated on the free-agent market, Phil Jackson could pounce and possibly scoop Mozgov up at a discount if he remains unsigned weeks into July.

* Other Potential Targets: Darrell Arthur, Mirza Teletovic, Meyers Leonard, Jordan Hill, Trevor Booker, Nene, Ian Mahinmi, Boban Marjanovic, Chase Budinger, James Johnson

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

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NBA Daily: Spurs Enter New Territory After Moving Parker To Reserve Role

The San Antonio Spurs are seemingly entering a new phase as Tony Parker has been moved to a reserve role.

James Blancarte

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San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg made a significant change to his rotation earlier this week. On Sunday, January 21 Popovich placed guard Dejounte Murray into the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker. The Spurs went on to lose the game at home to the Indiana Pacers. The result was the same as a losing effort in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto.

The San Antonio Spurs came into the 2017-18 hoping to bounce back from last year’s playoffs where the team suffered injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Parker and eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors. This season started off with the Spurs surviving without Leonard and Parker as the two continued to rehab from lingering injuries. As of now, Leonard is once again taking time off to rehabilitate after playing in nine games while Parker has been able to stay healthy so far. Unfortunately, being healthy enough to play doesn’t make up for the inevitable decline that comes with age and injuries.

On the season, Parker is averaging a career low in minutes (21.6), assists (4.0) and points (8.2), as well as free throws made and attempted per game. His usage rate, player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages are also all at or around career lows. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parker, at 35 years old with 17 years of pro basketball under his belt, is in the twilight of his impressive career.

Parker has acknowledged his demotion but seems to be handling it like a true professional.

“[Popovich] told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘no problem.’ Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], you know that day is going to come,” Parker said recently. .

Before Sunday’s game, Parker had started 1151 of 1164 games played, all with the Spurs of course.

Popovich was asked specifically if the plan was either to start Murray at point guard moving forward or if this switch in the lineup was a part of some kind of injury management program for Parker. Never known for being overly loquacious, Popovich responded with little detail or insight.

“We’ll see,” Popovich stated.

In the starting lineup, Murray logged eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one block in nearly 28 minutes of action. Murray had previously started before Parker returned from injury earlier this season but eventually relinquished that spot to career reserve guard Patty Mills.

Parker also spoke of the benefit of coming off the bench and potentially mentoring Murray’s growth in his new presumed role as the starter.

“If Pop [Coach Popovich] sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best,” Parker said. “I will support Pop’s decision and I will try to help DJ [Murray] as best as I can and try to be the best I can in the second unit with Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills].”

If nothing else, this move will allow the Spurs to see if Parker can be more effective in limited minutes against opposing bench units. Additionally, Parker will hopefully benefit from playing alongside his longtime running mate, Ginobli.

Parker’s willingness to mentor Murray may come as a relief to Spurs fans watching the ongoing dismantling of San Antonio’s former Big-3, which began with the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer, Tim Duncan. At 6-foot-5, Murray benefits from greater size and athleticism than Parker, although Murray failed to keep the starting job when given an opportunity earlier this season. Coach Popovich gave another straightforward answer when asked which areas he thinks Murray can improve in.

“He’s 21-years-old,” Popovich declared. “He can improve in all areas.”

After asking for a trade in the offseason, the Spurs have benefited from focusing their offense around LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a bounce-back campaign. However, Leonard is now out indefinitely and the Minnesota Timberwolves have now caught the Spurs in the standings. The pressure is on for this resilient Spurs team, which has again managed to beat the odds despite an injured and aging roster.

Parker became a starter for the Spurs at age 19 and never looked back. Now all eyes are on Murray to see how well he performs in his second stint with the starters at a crucial point in the season.

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Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders

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The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies

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It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

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