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NBA Daily: With Hornacek Out, Scott Perry Era Truly Begins

Scott Perry’s summer will have a tremendous impact on whether his tenure in New York is a success.

Moke Hamilton

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Jeff Hornacek had about as much chance to succeed in New York as Pete Rose had to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And it stinks, because Hornacek has always been nothing but a class act and, believe it or not, a good head coach.

But the Knicks have always been a franchise that has made the wrong moves. They’ve zigged when they should have zagged and ran when they should have passed…

Until they hired Scott Perry.

For a change, there’s a general manager in Gotham City that understands the patience that a true rebuilding project requires, and with Carmelo Anthony in Oklahoma City, Perry doesn’t have the same implied pressure on him that Jackson did.

Sure, you can make the case that Jackson made a few boo boos during his tenure in New York (and we’re being kind when we say “a few”), but the unenviable predicament in which he found himself was being stuck between a rock and a hard place—or, more appropriately, being stuck between a Carmelo and a Kristaps.

When the Knicks acquired Carmelo in 2011, he was a 26-year-old superstar whose best years were ahead. Even though the Knicks traded the farm for Anthony, the hope was that another star or two would want to join forces with he and Amar’e Stoudemire badly enough to make it happen. With either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard—either of whom could have become Knicks if things played out a tad differently—the Knicks would have been capable of challenging LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Obviously, that never happened, but the expectations that the franchise and its fans had of Anthony didn’t diminish, even as his skills did. As a result, the perception of the Knicks, both from inside Penn Plaza and outside, was that the Knicks were always one or two pieces away from becoming a conference contender. That false hope led to things like trading for Andrea Bargnani and Derrick Rose and signing Joakim Noah.

The two things that Perry has working in his favor are his prior experiences in Detroit and Orlando and the history of a franchise that’s been best at doing exactly the types of things that shouldn’t be done.

Based on how he’s conducted himself over the course of his first season on the job—beginning with the way he dealt with the trading of Carmelo Anthony—Perry has already shown that he at least has the chops to not roll over like a lapdog.

From the beginning, his promise to the fans of the Knicks has been to embrace a full rebuild of the team and to not try to take the very shortcuts that have doomed the squad time and time again. Jackson began tearing things down, but instead of razing the foundation, he began building on it, and that started when the Knicks re-signed Anthony to a five-year, $124 million extension back in July 2014.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, by the time Jackson had been ousted, he’d already used the ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft on Frank Ntilikina. And that’s not to say that Ntilikina is a bad selection and won’t be a good pro, it’s only that we’ll never know whether Perry would have shown better aptitude and had the clairvoyance to select local product Donovan Mitchell.

The con to that is that it will have taken us almost one year on the job to see whether Perry still had the eye for talent that he did back when he worked in Detroit, Orlando and Seattle.

Although we are still a few weeks from knowing where the Knicks will pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, with the hiring of his own head coach and the rights to his own first round pick, what the Knicks do on Perry’s watch this summer will officially begin the clock on his righting the ship in New York and showing that the Knicks have finally found the man that can end the franchise’s futility.

And no, that’s not to say that the Knicks need to make the playoffs next season. It’s only to say that whoever he believes to be the right man for the job better be.

While we sit here and see Ben Simmons emerging into every bit the player we thought he could be when the Sixers selected him with the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, it’s easy for Knicks fans to point at the team in their backyard and suggest that the key to turning a franchise around is tanking.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Sure, tanking can help the process, but without the proper infrastructure and priorities in place, it’s less than half the battle. Ever year, diamonds in the rough are selected in the draft. Franchise-caliber players can be found inside of the lottery just as they can be found outside of the lottery.

The key to turning a franchise around isn’t tanking—it’s intelligence.

Teams have whiffed with the first or second pick and others have thrived in the late lottery. So whether the Knicks end up with a top three pick this June or the ninth, he needs to make it count.

He needs to make it count just like he needs to do the same with his first head coach.

What should be somewhat reassuring, at least to this point, is that Perry has helped the Knicks become younger and he’s continued to express the correct sentiment in everything that he’s said publicly.

Best of all, without the false expectations that having an aging superstar breed, the only timeline that the Knicks need to be concerned with is their own.

Kristaps Porzingis certainly seems to have an icy relationship with the franchise, and if there is no contract extension signed, it will cause fans of Porzingis to panic. But the truth of the matter is that while Porzingis has shown some flashes of potential, he hasn’t come anywhere near living up to the hype that he’s generated and he hasn’t even come close to proving that his body can withstand the wear and tear that being a franchise player will be subjected to.

He’s nowhere near the caliber of player as Karl-Anthony Towns or Joel Embiid. Nikola Jokic has proven more than he has. Porzingis hasn’t shown anywhere near the capability of Carmelo Anthony at this same stage of their careers.

If there’s one thing we should all agree on, it is that concerns about Porzingis and whether or not he will be put off by the team embracing rebuilding should have no impact on the path Perry believes to be most prudent.

Porzingis simply hasn’t earned that right.

So yes, over the next few months, we’ll find out a lot about Scott Perry.

But if we’re to judge him off of what he’s said and what he’s already shown to this point, he may have already told us all we need to know.

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#28 – Jacob Evans – Golden State Warriors

Jesse Blancarte

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With the 28th overall pick, the Golden State Warriors selected Cincinnati Junior Jacob Evans.

Evans represents a solid pick for nearly any NBA team. Evans fits in the mold of a potential 3-and-D role player. Evans improved in his time at Cincinnati, culminating in his junior year, where he scored 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Evans spent three seasons at Cincinnati and rounded himself into a versatile two-way player who can bring a lot of value at the NBA level.

Evans is a very cognitive player, especially on the defensive end. He has a better grasp of his limitations than most players at this stage of their respective careers and is able to maximize his individual defensive ability within a team concept. Evans generally makes the right rotations, double-teams at the right times and funnels his opponents to where his teammates are when he cannot contain the ball-handler on his own. With the right coaching, he could become a valuable defensive wing in an NBA rotation sooner than some anticipate.

Additionally, Evans is more than just a shooter. He led his team in assists last season and has some skill as a playmaker. Evans will be more of a shooter and finisher in the NBA, but the ability to make the right pass, swing the ball when he isn’t open and take the ball off the dribble when necessary make him an intriguing prospect. This is especially true when you consider how valuable a player like Khris Middleton has become over the years, adding layers to his 3-and-D skill set each season.

The Warriors aren’t in need of an influx of talent but are happy to add Evans regardless.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#27 – Robert Williams III – Boston Celtics

With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.

Ben Nadeau

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With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.

Although there were early week rumors that the Celtics might try to trade up, they’ve ultimately elected to find a difference-maker at the end of the first round instead. For a team that nearly reached the NBA Finals despite debilitating injuries to Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, Boston’s roster didn’t need a wholesale change on draft night. But at No. 27, they’ll be more than happy to leave with the mysterious-but-talented Williams.

Last year, Williams was viewed as a potential first-rounder before he returned to Texas A&M for his sophomore year. In 2017-18, Williams averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds on 63.2 percent from the field, fueling the Aggies to a 22-13 record. During this current pre-draft process, Williams looked poised to become a mid-first-round selection once again — but his stock faded as the big night got closer. In fact, Williams even decided to watch the draft with his family, even though he was a green room invitee.

His stock has undoubtedly dropped as of late, but this may end up being the steal of the draft — naturally, he dropped right into general manager Danny Ainge’s lap. Williams, 6-foot-10, is a freak athlete that’ll bring a new look to an already fearsome defensive unit in Boston. At A&M, Williams won back-to-back SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and averaged 2.5 blocks per game. Of course, he’ll get the opportunity to learn from the hard-nosed Al Horford, a five-time All-Star and the defensive linchpin for Boston — a win-win situation for all.

Williams, 20, joins an extremely young core in Boston that also includes Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum, among others.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#26 – Landry Shamet – Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers select Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick.

Dennis Chambers

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With the 26th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select guard Landry Shamet of Wichita State.

Shamet, if he is able to fulfill his potential, should provide the Sixers with some much-needed shooting, as their rotation was noticeably starved for another deadeye sniper.

A career 43.7 percent three-point shooter, Shamet sank 44.2 percent of his shots from downtown last season, and he did so while firing nearly six attempts from deep a game. Sliding Shamet at the guard position alongside franchise point guard Ben Simmons allows for another weapon at Simmons’ disposal.

Standing at 6-foot-5 and 21 years old, Shamet has the size to play either guard spot in the NBA (especially given Philadelphia’s lengthy and versatile lineup). Along with his shooting ability, Shamet also led the American Athletic Conference with 166 assists last season. With Markelle Fultz still a question mark for Philadelphia, Shamet provides a secondary ball-handler and playmaker, whether in the starting lineup or in the reserve unit.

The first round of the 2018 NBA Draft was a whirlwind for the Sixers, and they ultimately land two guards of very separate varieties: an upside-laden athlete in Zhaire Smith, and a skillful “veteran” rookie whose skillset is established.

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