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Phil Jackson Begins Revamping Knicks Roster

Phil Jackson has started the process of revamping the New York Knicks, pulling off his first significant move on Thursday.

Tommy Beer



The Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks have officially agreed to a deal. Here are the particulars: Dallas sends point guard Jose Calderon, center Samuel Dalembert, point guard Shane Larkin and guard Wayne Ellington, along with the 34th and 51st picks in Thursday’s draft, to the Knicks in exchange for center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton.

Mark Cuban has openly admitted he regretted letting Tyson Chandler skip town the summer after the Mavs won the 2011 NBA championship. Well, now Cuban has his prized defensive-minded, game-changer back in Dallas. The Mavs took the eventual world champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games during their tightly contested first-round matchup this past postseason, which was something neither the OKC Thunder nor the Miami HEAT could claim. Clearly the Mavs feel they can make another realistic run at a title while Dirk Nowitzki is still near the top of his game.

From a Knicks perspective, the ultimate objective of the deal is less clear and thus far more intriguing.

The Knicks’ short- and long-term future is up in the air right now, as the organization awaits a decision from free agent Carmelo Anthony. The common thinking in and around New York was that the franchise would head in one of two directions once ‘Melo made up his mind.

If Anthony re-signed with the Knicks, Phil Jackson would do everything possible to maximize ‘Melo’s prime. This would mean attempting to immediately improve the roster (at the expense of future cap space) and ideally having the Knicks return to top of the Eastern Conference as soon as next season.

Conversely, if Anthony signed elsewhere, Jackson and the Knicks front office would commit to a full-scale rebuilding process. This rebuild would include allowing the many cumbersome expiring contracts to wash off the books after this season (or them trading for picks/assets that didn’t impinge upon the crucial 2015 cap space) and “tanking” the 2014-15 season, as a poor record would likely result in a high lottery pick.

However, with Anthony’s future still unknown, we still don’t know which direction the Knicks are headed.

On paper, it looks like the Knicks got the better end of this deal. Chandler played incredibly well during his first season in New York, becoming the first Knick ever to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. He was arguably the Knicks’ most valuable player that first season. However, as his health deteriorated, so did his production. It seemed he was nursing an injury down the stretch of each season, and wasn’t able to peak during the postseason. Still, Chandler is a proven winner and relentless worker. No one who has watched him play would bet against him bouncing back in a big way for the Mavs next season.

Felton had obviously worn out his welcome in New York. His legal issues in the courtroom aside, Felton was a disappointment on the court on the court as well. In addition, he was set to earn $3.95 million during the 2015-16 season. Moving Felton, and his contract, was clearly a priority for Jackson.

In Calderon, the Knicks get a massive upgrade at the point guard position. Despite creeping towards his mid-30s,  Calderon is still an above-average NBA playmaker. He possesses an impressively high basketball IQ and is a solid facilitator on offense. He started 81 games for the Mavs last season, dishing out 4.7 assists and scoring 11.4 points per game. He’s never been a great defender, and that is especially true now that he’s a bit older. However, Calderon has long been, and remains, one of the NBA’s elite sharpshooters. His calling card is his efficiency. In 2012-13, he led the NBA in three-point accuracy, shooting a scorching 46.1 percent from behind the arc. He also hit 90 percent of his free-throw attempts. This is not an anomaly for Calderon. In fact, he is one of just two active NBA players shooting over 47 percent from the floor, 87 percent from the charity stripe and 41 percent from behind the three-point arc for their career. Steve Nash is the only member of that exclusive club.

The downside of adding Calderon is his onerous contract. Whereas Felton had two years and 7.7 million left on his contract, Calderon has three years and 22.2 million in guaranteed money left on his deal. He will earn $7.4 million in 2015-16 and $7.7 million in 2016-17. That’s a major investment in 34/35 year old point guard.

Dalembert has had an up-and-down NBA life. He’s shown flashes of enticing talent, but hasn’t been able to produce on a reliable or consistent basis. At 33 years old, we’ve likely seen the best Sammy D has to offer. Dalembert’s 2014-15 contract is only partially guaranteed, so it’s possible New York may cut him. However, Chandler’s absence leaves the Knicks with a hole in the middle, so Jackson may ask Dalembert to hold down the fort for the time being.

Larkin is the X-Factor in the deal. He is an undersized (listed at 5’11), but wildly athletic point guard. (Prior to last year’s draft, he set an NBA combine record with a 44-inch vertical leap.) Larkin was selected 18th overall in the 2013 draft after a sterling career at the University of Miami, but broke his ankle during summer league play. His rookie campaign never really got off the ground. He appeared in 48 games, averaging just over 10 minutes per contest. Larkin is lighting quick, and provides the Knicks with something they have lacked and desperately needed – a point guard capable of penetrating into the paint and disrupting defenses. We shall see what he contributes when/if given an increased role with the Knicks.

The other valuable commodity the Knicks acquired were two second-round draft picks. The 2014 draft has been heralded as one of the deepest drafts in recent NBA history, which makes the 34th and 51st overall picks more desirable than one might think. There is a real chance there are still some quality young prospects on the board at the top of the second round. In addition, unlike first-round selections, second-round picks do not have guaranteed salaries attached to them, which makes them appetizing to teams concerned about cap space this summer. And with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony on the open market, cap space is at premium for many franchises.

It’s no secret that Jackson has been angling to acquire a pick in the 20s. These two second-rounder’s may help him seal a deal.

The final question in Knicks fans minds is whether trade makes it more or less likely that Anthony re-signs with New York. At this point, we just don’t know. The Knicks improved at point guard (a desperate need), but at the expense of their best defensive player. And while they added valuable draft picks that helps their long-term health, they also took on Calderon’s contract, which eats into their 2015 cap space.

Furthermore, we can only speculate as to whether this was simply the first in a slew of moves by Jackson to revamp the roster. We’ll get an our answer soon enough, as the draft take place on Thursday night, and free agency begin on July 1st.

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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A Breakout Season for Joe Harris

Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.

David Yapkowitz



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.”

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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 –

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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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