4-18 Wasn’t The Plan: Last Friday in this space we covered some of the Knicks problems and whether or not they could be fixed.
Yesterday Knicks president Phil Jackson tossed a couple of more logs on the fire.
“I think guys understand what we’re trying to do,” Jackson said to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. “Hopefully, they’re getting to be more compliant. There’s some resistance to discipline and order and culture change and things like that. I will call it a crucible for what we’re going through here. The process, maybe the heat, is going to refine some of the stuff so that we come out and be a pretty good team after all is said and done.”
This overarching message was basically what the Knicks players said last week, however as Jackson pointed out yesterday there is a little resistance to what’s going on and what’s being asked of certain players.
As one Knicks insider put it last week, there are times during games when it’s evident that guys are looking out for themselves and their own future, which is an unintended consequence of having so many guys who know they are not part of the long-term.
As the source pointed out, there are times when guys may have not had a shot in a while and rather than running the system and looking for the open man, they fire up something out of sequence, as a result no one is there to rebound and the ball goes the other way, often for an easy shot in transition.
Several coaches have tried to install the Triangle Offense that Jackson made famous and is trying to run in New York and failed miserably. While Jackson is part of the program, he’s still working through his coaching staff to reach the players and like other places when things get tough, some of the players revert back to what they know and the offense comes apart.
Unlike most offensive systems in basketball, the triangle is a rules-based read-and-react system. You bring the ball down and the next action is based on what the defense does. That requires players to make decisions and be intellectually engaged in the game as players are asked to make their own decisions based on what they see.
As we’ve seen throughout Jackson’s coaching career, when the triangle is ran well and with discipline, it’s an amazingly fluid and effective offense that is tough to guard. The problem is requires a 100 percent buy-in from the players and that’s not happening on a consistent basis in New York.
As the Knicks cross the 20-game mark of the season it’s pretty clear that Jackson may not have the right players for how he wants his team to play and that change seems somewhat inevitable.
The Knicks are mindful of their cap position going into the summer and are not going to do anything to jeopardize their ability to hand-pick their guys in the offseason, but Jackson did say he would be looking at opportunities to improve the team, just not at the expense of the future.
“I’m not going to make movement for movement’s sake,” Jackson said. “There is sometimes addition by subtraction but I don’t see anybody that doesn’t want to be part of this organization, doesn’t want to play with his teammates, doesn’t want to learn.
“What we have to do is protect our future. … If we evaluate a player and see he’s going to be a long-term player who is going to fit in our organization, we’ll do that.”
As things stand today the Knicks have just four players with guaranteed contracts next season – Carmelo Anthony ($22.87 million), Jose Calderon ($7.4 million), Tim Hardaway Jr (1.3 million) and Cleanthony Early ($845,000). Guard J.R. Smith has a player option worth $6.39 million. Iman Shumpert is heading into free agency and may or may not receive the $3.69 million qualifying offer from the Knicks as that comes with a cap hold of $6.54 million.
If the season ended today the Knicks would have what amounts to roughly $39.116 million in committed salaries, assuming Smith stays in his deal and the Knicks pass on Shumpert. The salary cap for next season is expected to come in at $66.3 million, giving the Knicks roughly $27.18 million to play with.
The Knicks have been linked to free agents like Boston’s Rajon Rondo, Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Detroit’s Greg Monroe and Orlando’s Tobias Harris.
Of the bunch Rondo, Gasol and Monroe will be unrestricted and can choose any team they like, while Butler and Harris look to be restricted free agents that would require maximum or near maximum offers to get their home teams to blink on matching those deals.
Players like Rondo and Gasol are going to be eligible for max deals that start at $19.89 million given their years of NBA experience, while younger guys like Monroe, Butler and Harris will be eligible for contracts with a first year of $16.57 million.
The Knicks are said to be looking at scenarios in which they could shed Smith’s contract and get their available cap cash closer to $33 million and room for potentially two major players in July.
The Cavs Are Buyers: This may not be news as much as an update. The Cleveland Cavalier wants to add another piece or two to the roster.
The Cavs are among the many teams sniffing around for a December trade.
Armed with a $5.28 million Traded Player Exception, a young scorer in guard Dion Waiters and the interestingly structured contract of Brendan Haywood, the Cavs have been sniffing.
Let’s start with the TPE: the Cavs obtained it after sending out Erik Murphy, Dwight Powell, Malcolm Thomas, John Lucas III, a 2016 second-rounder and a 2017 second-rounder to Boston for Keith Bogans, then dumped Bogans on Philadelphia along with a 2018 second-round pick.
The TPE can’t be combined with anything else, so it basically allows to the Cavs to take on unwanted money.
The Cavs have recently been linked to Memphis’ Kostas Koufos, who wants to be in a position to play and is trying to push his way out of Memphis. Koufos is set to make $3 million this year, so the TPE could work in this scenario if the Grizz don’t want Waiters or Haywood.
The Cavs have also been after the Denver Nuggets on Timofey Mozgov, who is set to make $4.65 million this season. Mosgov is playing and playing well for Denver, but they have a log jam in the frontcourt and may have to move someone to keep the peace.
The Cavs have dangled a Waiters-for-Mosgov package a few times since the start of the season.
The pie-in-the-sky move is a deal for possible free agents in July. Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan gets mentioned frequently, however Clips sources say he isn’t even remotely on the table and Pacers’ big man Roy Hibbert, who has the option to be a free agent in July, also seems unobtainable mainly due to his $14.89 million contract.
The Cavs seem willing to part with Waiters, who hasn’t been exactly the sixth man fit they had hoped he’d be and he clearly wants a bigger role than he’s getting in Cleveland. Waiters is set to earn $4.06 million year and has a guaranteed $5.138 million owed to him next year. Waiters alone might be able to return a contract like Mosgov or Kofous, toss in a draft pick and that might get a real conversation going.
The Haywood contract is interesting, mainly because it is worth $2.21 million this year but is non-guaranteed for $10.52 million next year. It may not be of value to the team that trades for him now, but it does become an interesting trade chip in June around the Draft and in July as teams trying to clear cap space or construct sign and trade deals.
The Cavs are also one of several teams with interest in free agent guard Ray Allen, who sources say will start seriously looking at teams in January with the belief that he’ll sign at some point in February for a playoff run and the Cavs are one of the leaders in the proverbial club house to nab him.
Interest in making a deal does not mean the Cavs can execute one, but they are not sitting on their hands.
After a rocky start to the season the Cavaliers have won seven straight games and are now just three games out of the first seed in the East.
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A Breakout Season for Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.
The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.
Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.
During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.
After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.
“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”
Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.
In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.
“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”
Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.
“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”
When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.
However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”
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.
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.
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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.
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.