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Knicks Should Flip Derrick Rose for Ricky Rubio

The Knicks would be wise to execute a reported deal for Ricky Rubio, writes Tommy Beer.

Tommy Beer

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Ricky Rubio is on the block in Minnesota as the Timberwolves look to clear the way for Kris Dunn, their point guard of the future. Interestingly, according to Ian Begley of ESPN, the Knicks and Wolves have explored the possibility of a deal centered around Rubio and Derrick Rose.

Because Minnesota is far enough under the cap, the two players can be swapped for each other, straight up. If they do in fact have the opportunity, the Knicks would be wise to pull the trigger on this deal.

It’s pretty clear at this point that Rose is not the Knicks’ point guard of the future. His stats are have been solid (17.7 points, 4.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game) and he has looked impressively spry for much of the season. However, he has been a sieve on the defensive end, constantly dying on screens and allowing opposing point guards into the paint with very little resistance. Furthermore, he is not the type of point guard the Knicks need, considering their roster composition.

Still, holding onto Rose past the deadline has one major benefit: cap relief this summer. Rose is being paid $21.3 million this season. By letting that salary slide off the books, the Knicks would be able to re-invest that money in a free agent point guard this summer.

Ricky Rubio, on the other hand, has two years left on his contract. He is set to make $14.3 million next season and $14.9 million in 2018-19.

So yes, the Knicks would lose cap flexibility if they flipped Rose for Rubio. However, having Rubio locked in at less than $15 million for the next two seasons could be considered a positive. Rubio’s contract could be considered quite the bargain. Before we get to the dollars and cents, let’s talk about how Rubio, the player, suits the Knicks scheme.

Rubio is simply a far better fit for the Knicks than Rose. In fact, it could be argued Rubio is close to an ideal pairing alongside the Knicks’ young foundation pieces, Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez.

Rose is a defensively deficient, ball-dominant point guard who needs the rock in his hands to be effective. Rose’s brand of basketball has not meshed well with Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis, the Knicks’ two top guns.

Rubio’s game is a stark contrast to Rose’s. Rubio is an unreliable shooter but prides himself on being a facilitator and an aggressive defender. He’s far more content setting up his teammates than attempting to finish plays himself.

Consider this: Derrick Rose’s usage rate this season is 26.2 and his assist rate is 23.1. In contrast, Ricky Rubio’s usage rate this season is 14.9 and his assist rate is 36.2.

With Anthony and Porzingis, the Knicks don’t need a high-volume shooter at the point guard position. They need a point guard who can run an offense and, just as importantly, keep opposing point guards from penetrating into the heart of the defense at will.

Rubio is an underrated, aggressive defender. He doesn’t have the quickest feet, but he has active hands, a nuanced understanding of defensive positioning and a willingness to fight through screens.

Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM) is a defensive metric which tracks a player’s estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance, measured in points allowed per 100 offensive possessions and accounts for team and opponent context. This season, Rubio has posted a DRPM of 0.58, which is the eighth-highest mark among point guards. In 2015-16, Rubio was at 1.89, which was the second highest DRPM among qualifying point guards in the league, behind only Chris Paul. In 2014-15, Rubio led NBA point guards in this category.

Derrick Rose, on the other hand, ranks 85th out of 89 qualifying points guards in DRPM this season. In 2015-16, he was also in the bottom 5 percent among qualifying PG’s.

Rose’s days are numbered as Knick, so Rubio being a better fit in New York than Rose is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It’s more important to ask whether it makes sense for the Knicks to rely on Rubio as their point guard heading into next season and beyond.

This is where we have to weigh the pros and cons of Rubio being locked in for two more years against shedding Rose’s salary and spending the savings on a different point guard via free agency this summer.

Last year at this time, it appeared that the free agent point crop of 2017 would be magical. However, slowly but surely, the bloom has come off that rose (pun intended).

The first and most devastating blow to Knicks fan fantasies was Russell Westbrook signing an extension last August. At one point, it seemed there was a possibility that Westbrook would consider signing in New York to team up with Porzingis. In February of 2016, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that “the Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017.”

Alas, that dream died the when Westbrook re-upped with OKC. There will be other stud point guards on the open market this July; however, the chances of the Knicks luring one of them to NYC seem to fall by the day. Not only have the Knicks fallen flat on their faces this season (currently 11 games under .500), the organization has been a complete embarrassment off the court as well. From the owner having a former star player dragged out of MSG in handcuffs to the team president insulting the team’s leading scorer over Twitter, this Knicks season has been a nightmare. How many top-tier players that are focused on winning and have a number of appealing options would be willing to join a losing, dysfunctional franchise?

Furthermore, Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler reported yesterday that the cream of the FA crop is expected to re-sign with their current teams. We all knew Steph Curry wasn’t leaving Golden State, but Kyler stated that Chris Paul has also verbally agreed to stay with the Clippers. In addition, the Pelicans are prepared to offer “max or near money” to keep Jrue Holiday and Kyle Lowry is “all in” with the Raptors. There is purportedly also a chance that George Hill signs an extension before even hitting free agency. Thus, there is a strong chance that the Knicks would walk away from this summer’s shopping spree without the new, improved point guard that they so badly need.

And, even if they have an opportunity to sign a premium point guard, they are going to have to pay a pretty penny. Chris Paul, who is 32, is going to sign a five-year deal worth around $200 million. That means he will be making over $36 million annually during his age-35 and age-36 seasons. In order to have a crack at Holiday, the Knicks would probably have to offer a max deal, which would be approximately $132 million over four years. That averages out to $33 million per season for four seasons. Kyle Lowry is going to bank max money as well. Even a mid-tier point guard such as Jeff Teague is going to get over $20 million a year on the open market.

So, with that bit of context, Rubio at $14-plus million is a value. He’d earn far more than that if he hit free agency. In addition, he has just two more years left on his deal, so it’s not as if New York is making a long-term commitment that would cripple their cap indefinitely.

Additionally, with Rubio making less than 15 percent of the cap over the next two seasons, he could even be used as a sixth man if need be. This should quell any fears that trading for Rubio would prevent the Knicks from targeting a “point guard of the future” in the 2017 draft.

Rubio is just 26 years old. Yes, his lack of a jumper is worrisome, but he’s still young enough where there is a possibility he can develop into a decent shooter capable of knocking down corner threes. More importantly, the Knicks need what he has proven he can bring to the table.

Not only does Rubio share a common European/Spanish-league bond with Porzingis, Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, his style of play is a natural fit. Rubio running pick-and-rolls with Porzingis and Hernangomez would be a welcome sight inside Madison Square Garden.

Rose didn’t bloom in the Garden. Now the Knicks should make a strong effort to pluck Ricky Rubio from the Wolves and watch him flourish alongside KP and Willy in the future.

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: Georges Niang’s Big Break

After dominating the G-League for a year, Georges Niang has more than earned this big opportunity with the Utah Jazz, writes Ben Nadeau.

Ben Nadeau

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For Georges Niang, reaching professional stability was always going to be a tall order.

Even after four dominant seasons at Iowa State, the tweener forward was viewed as a draft risk. At 6-foot-8, the versatile playmaker has always scored in bunches but also struggled to find his place in the modern NBA. Despite excelling as a knockdown three-point shooter, the fundamentally sound Niang has bounced around the country looking for a long-term opportunity.

In the two seasons since he was drafted, Niang has played in 50 G-League games for three separate franchises and had his non-guaranteed contract waived twice.

As a summer league standout for the second straight offseason, Niang’s determined efforts officially paid off last week after he signed a three-year deal with the Utah Jazz worth about $5 million. Now with a fully-guaranteed contract under his belt for 2018-19, Niang has been eager to prove his worth both on and off the court — a newfound skill-set he happily attributes to Utah’s excellent system.

“In the Jazz organization, from top to bottom, they do a good job of nurturing guys and forming them into good leaders and things like that,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, it was really easy to transition to summer league, [I’m] really just trying to lead by example, not with just my words.

“And I think playing hard, being a good teammate and doing the right thing –I think those are three things that the Jazz really stand for.”

But his meandering path toward year-long job security wasn’t destined to end up this way — no, not at all.

Selected by the Indiana Pacers in the 2016 NBA Draft with the No. 50 overall pick, Niang was correctly projected as a hard-working, high-IQ contributor that could put up points on almost anybody. Unfortunately, following a low-impact rookie year with the Pacers — and some short stints with their G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, as well — Niang was waived the ensuing summer. Shortly thereafter, Niang latched on with the Golden State Warriors, where he participated in training camp and four preseason games — but, again, he was waived before the season began.

With the Santa Cruz Warriors, Niang flat-out dominated the competition for months, up until he grabbed a two-way contract from Utah in January. In total, Niang played in 41 games between Santa Cruz and the Salt Lake City Stars in 2017-18, averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals on 45.7 percent from deep over 33.9 minutes per game.

Once attached to Utah’s affiliate franchise, Niang averaged a team-high 22 points per game and finished the campaign as the 13th-best scorer in the G-League. On top of all that, Niang was both an All-Star and honored with a spot on the All-NBA G-League First Team at season’s end.

Although he would ultimately play in just nine games for the deep Western Conference roster, Niang was simply laying important groundwork for the days ahead.

This summer, Niang averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in three contests during Utah Summer League. Given the golden opening to impress his future would-be-employers, Niang kept things rolling in Sin City and posted similar numbers over five games. On the back of a 20-point, eight-rebound performance early on in Las Vegas, Niang embraced the chance to fight and compete for his team — five full days before the Jazz signed him to a guaranteed deal.

“It was a real physical game, but those are the games you want to play in during summer league,” Niang said. “You want to play in those types of environments, where every possession matters and you gotta make plays down the stretch — and I think we did a really good job doing that.”

Those scrappy aspirations have been a staple of Niang’s since his collegiate days at Iowa State, too. During an ultra-impressive senior year, Niang tallied 20.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Cyclones, leading their roster to 23 wins and an eventual trip to the Sweet Sixteen. That season, Niang took home the 2016 Karl Malone Award as Division-I’s top power forward and finished with 2,228 points, the second-best mark in school history.

Any way you slice it, whether at college or in the G-League, Niang can play, the moment just needs to reveal itself — and maybe it finally has.

Of course, this new contract — one that’s only fully guaranteed in 2018-19 — doesn’t ensure Niang any playing time and he’ll have some stiff competition. Just to get on the court, he’ll need to squeeze minutes from Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder and Joe Ingles — a tough task in head coach Quin Snyder’s defense-first rotation. No matter what his role or obligations end up amounting to, Niang is ready to meet that challenge head-on.

“In the NBA, everyone has a role,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, obviously, things are gonna be peeled back and you’ll have a defined role. My role is just when I get the ball, and if I do, play-make for others or get guys open, defend multiple positions, play multiple positions on offense and knock down open shots.”

Although his past resume certainly speaks for itself, it’ll be up to Niang take his big break even further. But given his efficiency and execution at every other level, there’s little reason to doubt the forward now. Days before they signed Niang, he was asked if Utah was somewhere he could see himself for the foreseeable future — his response was precise and foreboding.

“I’d love to be here — what [the Jazz] stand for is what I’m all about. I’ve had a blast with all these guys and I’d love to keep it going.”

And now, he’ll get at least 82 more games to make his case.

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NBA Daily: The Carmelo Anthony Trade is a Rare Win-Win for All Involved

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation.

Shane Rhodes

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The Big Three Era in Oklahoma City came and went rather quickly.

On Thursday, the Thunder reached an agreement to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for guard Dennis Schröder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. As part of a three-team deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Thunder will also walk away with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot while the Hawks and 76ers swap Mike Muscala and Justin Anderson.

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation. Just as well, the trade is perhaps even more beneficial for the players involved.

While Anthony may have wanted to stay with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the trade is more than beneficial for him. After the trade goes through, the Hawks plan to buyout Anthony’s contract and he will reportedly receive the entire $27.9 million he is owed next season. Even better still, Anthony is free to join any team he wants, whether it be the Houston Rockets and friend Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Lakers and friend LeBron James, or elsewhere.

With his money already in hand, Anthony could sign on the cheap as well, making negotiations with any franchise that much easier.

For the Thunder, clearing Anthony’s massive salary from their books was of paramount importance. Staring down a $150 million luxury tax bill, Sam Presti managed to move Anthony and improve the team or, at the very least, make a lateral move depending on how you look at Schröder. Even as they take back the remaining $46.5 million owed to Schröder, the Thunder will save more than $60 million next season alone. That makes the trade worth it for Oklahoma City all by itself.

Still, the move allowed them to fill a need, perhaps more important than the cash savings as they look ahead to next season. Schröder not only fortifies the Thunder bench but the point guard position behind starter Russell Westbrook as well; he is another athletic playmaker that Oklahoma City can play on the wing with confidence. And, after averaging a career-high 19.4 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists last season, Schröder provides the Thunder offense with more firepower to compete against the other top teams in the Western Conference, a necessity if they hope to make a long playoff run.

For Schröder, the move to Oklahoma City is just as beneficial for him as it is for the team. Schröder is no longer the starter (he was unlikely to be the starter in Atlanta with Trae Young in the fold), but he can still make an impact and now he can do so for a contender.

The Hawks, as they should be, are playing the long game here. They acquired Jeremy Lin, an expiring contract, from the Brooklyn Nets earlier this offseason. After drafting Young, their guard surplus afforded them the chance to move Schröder’s deal off their books, netting them a first-round pick in the process and opening up playing time for the Young right away.

While the pick is top-14 protected (the pick becomes two second rounders if it doesn’t convey in 2022, every asset counts as the Hawks will look to add talent through the draft for years to come. With the addition of the Thunder pick, the Hawks now are owed an extra three first-round picks between the 2019 and 2022 drafts, a benefit for the Hawks whether they use those picks or trade them for already established talent. Meanwhile, Anderson, 24, presents another intriguing, and more importantly, young, option alongside the core of Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and Taurean Prince.

Anderson will almost certainly receive more playing time in Atlanta as they figure out who and who can’t help the team. His time in Philadelphia was mired by injury and he never had the opportunity to show what he could do. So, whether they use him as an asset in a future trade or plan to keep him on the roster, Anderson, at the very least, will have the opportunity to show what he can do.

For the 76ers, Muscala is essentially insurance for the reneged deal with Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the team but the stretch-four never signed his contract and backed out of the deal. With him out of the picture along with losing Ersan Ilyasova, Muscala was one of the few remaining options for the 76ers in that specific, stretch-big role.

Muscala doesn’t have the same shooting chops that Bjelica has, but he is younger and might have more upside alongside Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and co. Last season, Muscala, in addition to career highs in points and rebounds, averaged a career-high 3.2 three-pointers per game and hit 37.1 percent of them. While he likely won’t see the playing time he saw in Atlanta, Muscala should easily slide into a role off the bench for the 76ers. Moving Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot clears a logjam on the wing as well and will afford more minutes to Markelle Fultz (when he is ready), T.J. McConnell and rookies Zhaire Smith and Furkan Korkmaz.

As it stands, this trade made sense for all parties involved, and that alone is reason enough to consider it a win all around. While things could certainly change and hindsight is 20/20, this deal is beneficial for all three teams right now and could positively impact all three squads both next season and beyond.

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NBA Daily: Grayson Allen Ready for NBA Challenge

Making it in the NBA alone is quite an impressive feat, which is why Grayson Allen is doing the best he can to prepare for the big stage.

Matt John

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Grayson Allen may not be the most hyped-up prospect to come out of this year’s draft, but he is one of the more experienced rookies coming into the league this season.

Allen spent four years learning under the tutelage of Coach K at Duke University while also playing with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, and Marvin Bagley III. He’s been through it all at the collegiate level, but he knows that if he’s going to make it in the pros, he’s going to have to adapt as quickly as possible.

“I have to set the tone for myself where I have to know playing in the NBA as a rookie, guys are going to be physical with you,” Allen said. “They’re going to come at you, they’re going to test you and see what you got. You’re gonna get beat. You’re gonna fail, but you gotta come right back at ‘em the next time.”

Since debuting in the summer league, Allen’s been the perfect storm for the Jazz. His shooting numbers have not been encouraging, but his numbers across the board have shown how impactful a player he can be. These have been his stat lines in both the Salt Lake and Las Vegas summer leagues.

July 2 vs. San Antonio: 11 points on 4/16 shooting including 2/6 from three, eight rebounds, seven assists
July 5 vs. Atlanta: 9 points on 2/13 shooting including 0/2 from three, six rebounds, eight assists
July 7 vs. Portland: 16 points on 6/17 shooting including 2/9 from three, six rebounds, six assists
July 19 vs. Miami: 17 points on 7/17 shooting including ⅕ from three, seven rebounds, three assists

Maybe it’s been the dry climate, or maybe it’s been the high Utah elevation that has caused Allen’s struggles shooting-wise, but the fact that his all-around game has shined despite his shooting woes should excite the Jazz. After his summer league play, Allen says the biggest adjustment he’s had to make offensively is acclimating himself with the pace of the game.

“Offensively, it’s a lot easier when you slow down,” Allen said. “I’m starting to see the space of the floor a lot better and finding the open guys. There’s still a few plays out there where I think I got a little antsy but it’s human nature and I’m trying to fight it right now. As a rookie playing in his first couple of games, I’m trying to fight that and play under control.”

On the other side of the ball, Allen says the biggest adjustment is the increased level of physicality in the pros.

“Defensively, it’s physical,” Allen said. “You gotta fight guys. You gotta get through screens. I mean, the bigs, they really set great screens, so you gotta be able to fight through that… If you’re tired on defense, they’ll find you.”

Allen knows that he needs to commit if he’s going to make it in the NBA, which requires eliminating all bad habits. In order to eliminate any habit that Allen has, which in his case is fatigue at the moment, Allen believes that he needs to be more mindful of himself when he’s physically drained.

“I try to be really self-aware of my habits when I get tired out there,” Allen said. “On defense, I have a habit when I’m tired, I stand up and my feet are flat. On offense, I’m not ready for the shot… I try to be really self-aware of that stuff so that in practice or in August, September, October, leading up to the regular season, I can have good habits when I’m tired because we got a short leash as a rookie. You don’t have many mistakes to make.”

In Utah, Allen will be playing for a team that exceeded all expectation last year and has a much higher bar to reach this season. He believes the summer the league should serve him well as he fights for minutes in the Jazz’ rotation.

“I’m joining a playoff team, so I gotta carve out a role with the guys they already have,” Allen said. “When I’m playing in summer league, I’m trying to play the right way. Don’t take too many tough shots, find the right guy, make the right pass.- Because when you come and play for Quin Snyder, that’s what he’s gonna want. He’s just gonna want you to play the right way.”

When Adam Silver announced that Utah was taking Allen with the 21st overall pick, the general masses laughed due to Utah, a state with a white-bread reputation, took a white player. Given that Allen just played four years of basketball at one of the best college basketball programs in the nation and will be starting his career playing for one of the most well-run organizations in the league, he may be the one laughing when it’s all over.

In other words, Grayson Allen playing in Utah could be quite the trip.

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