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Head-to-Head: Fixing The New York Knicks

The 4-16 New York Knicks clearly need fixing, and we have some potential solutions.

Basketball Insiders



This offseason, the New York Knicks committed over $200 million to Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Carmelo Anthony alone. It was a financial commitment that team owner James Dolan knew wouldn’t yield great benefits immediately, but was necessary in order to eventually build a contender. Still, at 4-16, Dolan’s lowest expectations aren’t even being met. The Knicks are still a mess, an expensive one at that. So, we asked three of our experts – Tommy Beer, Moke Hamilton and Nate Duncan – to debate over how much of the Knicks’ current plan they’re on board with and what they would do differently to fix them.

Essentially everything that could have gone wrong has for the Knicks. They have stumbled and bumbled their way to a bitterly disappointing 4-16 record.

We are just a week past Thanksgiving and most Knicks fans have already abandoned hopes of the playoffs, instead focusing on the distant 2015 draft. While most fans tend to be emotional and overreact, even rational New Yorkers have sufficient reason to be pessimistic.

Amazingly, the Knicks are 12 games under .500 despite playing the easiest schedule in the NBA over the first five weeks of the regular season.

However, that is about to change. The “easy” part of the Knicks’ schedule has come to an abrupt end. Seventeen of the Knicks’ next 20 opponents are currently sporting records of .500 or better.

Furthermore, eight of the Knicks next 19 games are against teams currently leading their division. They play the Raptors twice, the Trail Blazers twice, the Wizards twice and the Bulls and Grizzlies once apiece.

Per, the Knicks have a much better chance of winning the lottery (12.2%) than qualifying for the playoffs as the eighth seed (1.0%)

The Knicks’ offense has been decent, at best, thus far. They rank 22nd overall in team total true shooting percentage (53.9 percent) and 22nd overall in offensive efficiency as well.

One of the main reasons for New York’s struggles on the offensive end is due to a over-reliance on the least efficient shot in basketball: “Long two’s” (FG attempts further than 16 feet from the basket but inside the three-point stripe). Incredibly, 27.3 percent percent of the Knicks’ total FG attempts are two-point shots beyond 16 feet from the hoop. No other team in the NBA attempts more than 25 percent of their shots from this distance. In comparison, the Houston Rockets attempt fewer than seven percent of their shots from this distance.

However, if we are looking for the main culprit to blame for the Knicks’ horrendous start to the season – we need look no further than the defensive end of the floor. Put simply: The Knicks can’t consistently get stops. New York currently ranks 27th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, allowing over 107 points per 100 possessions.

No need to dig too deeply into the particulars with this group, because, as noted above, this season is already circling the drain. If both Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher have learned one thing from this distressing first portion of the 2014-15 season, it is that many of the players on the current roster likely won’t be around at the start of the 2015-16 season.

There has been a lot of talk in New York about how the implementation of a new offensive system (the triangle) is partly to blame for the team’s struggles. However, the Knicks were 21-40 in late February last season. They finished with just 37 wins. The principal issue is not simply allowing these same players more time to acclimate themselves to a new philosophy. This team needs a wholesale makeover. And fortunately, the stars are aligned for that to happen next summer.

New York has over $25 million coming off their books in July, as Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Barganani are in the last year of their contracts. Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith and Shane Larkin are also playing on expiring contracts, which will clear roughly another $8.8 million off the cap.

For the first time in a long time, the Knicks will have a tremendous amount of cap space with which Jackson can re-shape the roster.

Better yet, the Knicks actually have the rights to their first round draft pick next summer. That could be an extremely valuable lottery pick, possibly as high as top three if the ping pong balls bounce the right way.

The moral of the story is that the Knicks need to start focusing on the future. The Knicks won’t be fixed this season. They need to be torn down and re-constructed next summer.

Once December 15 rolls around, trade chatter throughout the league will increase. Jackson and the Knicks need to focus on maximizing cap space for next summer. As result, they shouldn’t even consider any deal unless it benefits them long-term. They don’t need to entertain any trades that aim to salvage a lost season, especially if such a hypothetical deal would inhibit their spending in July of 2015. The focus should be on creating/maintaining cap space and/or accruing additional draft picks.

Fisher will have to take his lumps this year. However, for all the doom and gloom surrounding this season, the hope in NYC is that brighter days will arrive in New York as soon as next summer.

– Tommy Beer

IN RELATED: The New York Knicks’ salary cap page

Asking how to fix the Knicks is almost like asking whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing former president John F. Kennedy or whether there truly is a meaning of life.

Where to begin?

Keep it simple and start here: The main problem with the New York Knicks, traditionally, has been impatience in the front office. Since Ernie Grunfeld left the team in 1999, whether it was Scott Layden, Isiah Thomas, Donnie Walsh or Glen Grunwald, the Knicks have been a franchise that has recently been the hallmark of impatience.

So if you want to know where to begin to fix the Knicks, it would be in the front office. The decision makers need a collective overhaul of their thought process. There are few shortcuts to building a contender in the NBA. You want to win? It begins with embracing the process that is building, brick by brick.

When you attempt to build your team via trades and free agency acquisitions, the simple truth is that you will most likely end up with players that other teams did not want.

What do Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Kawhi Leonard have in common?

They are all NBA Finals MVPs who were drafted by the team that they led to the championship. There are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, the key to getting a foundational player who can lead your team to a title is by drafting him.

Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis and Derrick Rose all have that potential, and they happen to have one thing in common: their incumbent teams will do any and everything to hang onto them.

Still, there no use crying over spilled milk. With Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, the Knicks seem to have bright minds in control. With Carmelo Anthony, they have one of the game’s premier pinch-post offensive weapons and a system that can take advantage of his gifts.

The main problem for the Knicks? The auxiliary pieces around him aren’t a great fit. The current Knicks are nothing more than a collection of what I would refer to as “single-impact” players.

Iman Shumpert? He is a plus-defender who has not been consistently able to find a way to meaningfully contribute on the offensive end. The same can be said for Samuel Dalembert and Quincy Acy.

Amar’e Stoudemire and Tim Hardaway, Jr.? They’re the opposite: primarily offensive weapons who can’t stop a nosebleed.

Guys like Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and even Marc Gasol—guys who impact both sides of the floor—those are the guys who can win championships in the NBA.

The Knicks have a dearth of them.

In all likelihood, this season is lost for the Knicks, but there are worse places to be for a team with its own 2015 first round pick (likely a lottery pick) and one that will have truckloads of cap space this summer.

Marc Gasol is and should be the apple of Jackson’s eye, but it’s difficult to see him leaving Memphis. The goal for this team this summer, aside from scoring with their upcoming draft pick, should be a two-way player that can defend the paint and create offensive opportunities within it.

Butler, Gasol, Al Jefferson, Aaron Afflalo, Greg Monroe, Omer Asik, Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris could all make great sense for the Knicks, but the key will be to avoid maxing out the wrong player.

If I could have any two players from the above crop, it would be Gasol and Butler, but their hefty price tags make the acquisitions risky.

And now, I find myself rambling

Wanna know how to fix the Knicks? There are no shortcuts. Only patience can save them and help Anthony win a championship in New York. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a NBA Champion.

– Moke Hamilton

MAKE SURE TO READ: The latest NBA news and rumors

Moke and Tommy have already hit the major points on the Knicks’ performance to date. There’s no fixing them this year, and more importantly no such attempt should be made. At 4-16 after Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, and with Carmelo Anthony clearly not fully recovered from his bout with back spasms, all hope of the playoffs is lost.

New York’s 40.5 win Vegas over/under was always wildly optimistic before the season. This is a team that wheezed its way to 37 wins a year ago on the back of a career year from Carmelo Anthony at age 29. Rare is the player who experiences his best year at that age, and he was likely to regress quite a bit even before his recent injury. The trade of Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton for Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Samuel Dalembert and the pick that became Cleanthony Early was a clear downgrade in talent, necessary though it might have been to appease Anthony amidst rumors of friction between he and Chandler and his impending free agency. Almost all the important players on this team were all likely to be worse this year. Throw in a first-year coach, growing pains with the triangle, and precisely one above-average defensive player on the roster (Iman Shumpert), and the 35-27 or so record the Knicks would need to make the playoffs over the rest of the season is unattainable.

The plan now needs to be to play for next year and beyond. Anthony should be shut down immediately until he is fully healthy. The losses will augment their draft status, but Anthony is also going to need to play well enough at the end of the year to convince free agents that he is still a true superstar player worth joining. With a potential $25 million in cap space this summer and another potential $20 million in 2016 with the rising cap, that needs to be the Knicks’ focus.

Given that, the acquisition of the now-33-year-old Jose Calderon and his approximately $7 million per year through 2017 was a curious move. But he could likely be dumped on a team like New Orleans for salary cap flotsam that expires this summer. The Pelicans, under pressure to win now and with little hope of cap space through 2017,  could really use the Spanish point guard’s shooting and passing on their second unit, or alongside Jrue Holiday (who can guard twos) in the absence of Eric Gordon. The Knicks could then increase their 2015 treasure trove to as much as $30 million, depending on what happens with J.R. Smith’s player option and Iman Shumpert’s restricted free agency.

The Knicks are not quite in total rebuilding mode, as the goal should be to get as good as possible in 2015-16 (when they owe a pick to the Raptors from the Andrea Bargnani trade anyway). But they should absolutely get what they can for veterans on the roster who are not going to be on that team, while avoiding taking on long-term salary, seeing which of their young players might make an impact, and bettering their draft status. With Anthony, a high draft pick, and two or three big free agents over the next two years, the Knicks can at least get back into the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff mix.

-Nate Duncan


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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18

With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.

Steve Kyler



A Lot of Mock Movement

With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.

It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.

Here is this week’s Mock Draft:

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

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 and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.

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 current standings.

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

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

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 is lottery protected and based on the current 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 is lottery protected and based on the current 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 is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ 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, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future

Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.

James Blancarte



On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.

Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.

Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with the season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.

Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.

“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”

Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.

“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”

Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.

“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.

While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.

“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.

Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.

There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.

“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”

Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.

“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”

Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.

“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.

Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.

“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.

When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.

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Tyronn Lue’s Health Concerns Latest Bump In The Road For Cavaliers

Spencer Davies outlines Tyronn Lue’s decision to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues and covers the reaction around the NBA.

Spencer Davies



The win-loss record is not where they want it to be.

The performances have not been up to par with what they expect.

With that said, one thing is for certain: There is no other team that will have been more battle tested going into the playoffs than the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Day after day and week after week, there’s always something going on with the team. Between in-house arguments, on-court miscommunication, roster turnover, and more, it has been one giant roller coaster of a season.

Monday morning, another twist was added to the ride. In a statement released by the Cavaliers organization, Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman announced that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence to address his health:

“After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.

“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is. While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team.

“I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards. I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”

There were multiple instances where Lue either missed part of a half or an entire game this season. The symptoms are definitely not to be taken lightly. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lue attempted to return to the bench Saturday night in Chicago but the team didn’t allow him to. Evidently, Lue was “coughing up blood” some nights.

Seeing it first hand after postgame press conferences, Lue was visibly exhausted and stress could likely be playing a part. He’s been fighting through the tough times the team has been going through and avoided stepping away twice this season.

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford had his own battle with health problems earlier this season and temporarily left the team for those reasons. He has attempted to reach out to Lue, a friend and former player of his.

Other head coaches around the league—Joe Prunty, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton—have all gone to bat for Lue when discussing the rigors of an NBA schedule and the toll it takes.

Altman supports the decision for Lue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” he said.

LeBron James is glad that Lue is going to take some time to get better.

“Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life,” James said Monday after shootaround. “Not surprised by it at all. I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around.

“It doesn’t matter what’s going on here. We play a great sport, our coaches get to coach a great sport, and you guys get to cover a great sports. But health is most important right now and that’s what our coach is doing right now and we’re all in favor for it.”

The latest piece of news is a blow to the already injury-ridden Cleveland group. Assistant coach Larry Drew will take over duties until Lue returns.

The good news for the Cavaliers is that Kevin Love can potentially return to the mix as soon as Monday night against Milwaukee.

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