Let’s start by fast-forwarding 12 months into the future… One year from now, what’s the best-case scenario for the New York Knicks? Could they be 10 games better than they are this season? Could they be a few games above .500? Even under ideal circumstances, could they possibly be considered a championship contender?
Keep in mind: Not even including Carmelo Anthony, New York’s 2014-15 team salary will still exceed $70 million – including $49 million committed to the trio of Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani for the 2014-15 season. Thus, Knicks GM Steve Mills will have very limited roster flexibility this summer. Because New York will be over the cap, they will not be able to reel in any significant free agents. They also don’t have either their first or second-round pick to improve the roster.
This is something Anthony will have to consider this summer when he has to make a life-altering decision in July. Will Anthony be willing to essentially sacrifice another year of his prime? Has the Knicks organization exhibited an ability to build a winner?
Looking at the big picture, are the Knicks completely convinced Anthony will be willing to commit to the Knicks long-term?
Of course, he’d have to be willing to leave $30 million on the table to play elsewhere, and the Knicks will have cap space to spend money in the summer of 2015.
Still, are the Knicks 100 percent sure that they can keep Carmelo? If they are not, they are taking a huge risk by not trading him prior to the February 20 trade deadline. Once that date passes, Anthony holds all the power. He will be the one making the important decisions.
Interestingly, as I have argued over the last couple of months, ‘Melo leaving the Knicks high-and-dry would not actually be the worst-case scenario. Considering all the long-term ramifications, committing $129.1 million to a 30-year-old Anthony might actually be the more detrimental outcome. The Knicks are 11 games under .500 with a healthy, in-his-prime Anthony playing at an incredibly high level. What happens as he ages and his skills deteriorate, while at the same time his salary escalates? Remember, if the Knicks max him out, ‘Melo will pocket a cool $29.1 million in 2018-19, when he’ll turn 34 years old.
Thus, there are multiple reasons to believe the Knicks should, at the very least, explore all options when it comes to trading away their best player.
Despite being fully aware that, in all likelihood, owner James Dolan won’t even consider trading away Anthony, last week I looked at a potential deal between the Knicks and Bulls that could possibly benefit both organizations.
Today, let’s get creative and examine a few other potential landing spots for Anthony that make sense for both the Knicks and their trading partner.
Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton and $2 million in cash
Suns send: Emeka Okafor, Goran Dragic, 2014 first-round draft pick, and a 2015 first-round pick
Why it makes sense for the Knicks: Dragic, who is playing incredibly well this season, would finally solve the Knicks gaping hole at point guard. Okafor’s value lies in the fact that his insured deal expires at the end of this season. The draft picks would obviously help re-stock the cupboard with top-tier rookies. Including Felton in the deal would wipe his salary off the books and increase the Knicks spending budget in the summer of 2015.
Why it makes sense for the Suns: Amazingly, Phoenix will have a total of six first-round picks in 2014 and 2015, including up to four selections in the first round of the loaded 2014 draft. Thus, they could be looking to package a couple of those picks for a player that will provide immediate benefit.
Furthermore, sitting 10 games above .500 with a 30-20 record, the Suns have been one of the NBA’s pleasant surprises this season. And it appears they unearthed a gem in Eric Bledsoe. As a result, there have been rumors they are willing to move Dragic in the right deal, as they are going to have to shell out major money in order to re-sign Bledsoe this summer.
If they traded for Anthony, they would secure his Bird Rights and could then pay him far more than any other team. In addition, they could surround him with a rising star in Bledsoe and a bevy of young, promising bigs: Markieff and Marcus Morris, Miles Plumlee and Alex Len. They will also have all those picks in a deep draft that could certainly supplement the depth on any roster. If the Suns are serious about making a major push towards legitimacy, they could do just that in one fell swoop.
Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith
Grizzlies send: Zach Randolph, Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, Kosta Koufos and a future first-round pick
Why it makes sense for the Knicks: If the Knicks do actually seriously consider trading Anthony, one option to explore would be fully committing to a full, complete rebuild/overhaul. This is the type of trade that would allow the Knicks to hit the reset button, tear the whole thing down to the studs and start fresh on July 1, 2015. If New York was able to move ‘Melo, Smith and Felton, the Knicks would be looking at over $50 million in cap space in 2015. If the Knicks have the most cap space in the league heading into the summer of 2015 (All four Grizzlies coming over have two or less years left on their contracts), it could make for a very interesting offseason in NYC – especially considering the free agent class that year could include names such as Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, Al Jefferson, Tony Parker, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, etc.
If ‘Melo re-signs with the Knicks for the max this summer, he’ll be on the books for $24.1 million in 2015-16. Could that money and cap space be better spent on a pair of younger studs? Granted, relying on free agency is always a gamble, but so is guaranteeing a 30-year-old scorer $129 million through 2019.
It could certainly be argued that in the unlikely event that the Knicks do decide to move ‘Melo, this is the way to go. Blow the whole thing up and start from scratch. This type of deal gives Steve Mills and Jim Dolan maximum flexibility in 2015 (as opposed to be saddled with a maximum contract). Once ‘Melo is moved in this scenario, you try to trade Chandler and get back additional assets. In this particular situation, they would also look to quickly flip Randolph as well.
Why it works for Memphis: The Grizzlies were legit contenders for the crown last season, advancing all the way to the Western Conference Finals. They have struggled over the first half of this season, due largely to injuries, but are still in middle of the pack out West.
Adding a superstar such as Carmelo Anthony would obviously revive hopes and increase expectations in Memphis. Anthony, flanked by a healthy Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tony Allen would be a formidable and dangerous squad.
Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Cole Aldrich
Dallas sends: Shawn Marion, Shane Larkin, Brandan Wright, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Ledo and two future first-round picks
Why it makes sense for the Knicks: Larkin, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft, is a young point guard with some promise, and is locked into a very cap-friendly rookie contract. Wright is a former lottery pick that has exhibited flashes of potential. Dalembert and Ellington’s deals expire in 2015. Ledo is raw but talented.
Why it makes sense for Dallas: We know Mark Cuban has money and that he isn’t afraid to spend it. Would be willing to give ‘Melo the max contract he’ll be looking for?
Having three potent scorers in Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Anthony on the floor together (with Jose Calderon facilitating the offense) would be fascinating to watch. Defense would obviously be an issue, but this team would be an awfully scary postseason opponent.
Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony, Beno Udrih, Kenyon Martin and Cole Aldrich
Wizards send: Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter Jr., Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, 2014 second-round pick and 2016 first-round pick
Why it makes sense for the Knicks: Otto Porter, the No. 3 overall pick last June, has not lived up to expectations during his rookie season, but showed during his collegiate career at Georgetown that he possesses a unique and enticing skill set. Vesely and Singleton have also disappointed during their career in the nation’s capital, but could their career’s be revived in NYC? Ariza has played well this season and has just one year left on his deal. The Wizards owe their 2014 first-rounder to the Suns (top-12 protected), so the earliest first rounder they could trade would be their 2016 pick.
Gortat is set to become a free agent after this season. If the Knicks didn’t view his as their “center of the future,” they could try to flip him in a convoluted three-way deal, in an attempt to acquire younger players or picks. However, from a New York perspective, this deal would primarily come down to how they felt about Porter.
Why it makes sense for the Wizards: Washington has finally climbed out of the Eastern Conference basement after spending seemingly an eternity below .500. They have their franchise point guard (John Wall) and shooting guard (Bradley Beal) in place. Bringing in a veteran superstar like Carmelo Anthony, could be the piece that transforms them into a real threat overnight.
Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin
Celtics send: Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and a 2014 first-round pick
Why it makes sense for the Knicks: Sullinger has been a beast in Boston of late, averaging 19.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per contest over the last three weeks. Olynyk has been inconsistent during his rookie campaign, but possesses the size and athleticism that scouts and coaches love. Both players are locked into extremely affordable rookie-scale contracts. Humphries has one year left on his deal, and Bass has two, so both will be off the books by 2015.
Why it makes sense for the Celtics: GM Danny Ainge has, on multiple occasions, adamantly attempted to squelch rumors that the Celtics intend to trade Rajon Rondo. A move like this would certainly send the message loud and clear that C’s have no interest in tanking or a long-term rebuilding project. We’d have to assume this would make Rondo happy, increasing the chances he agrees to a long-term deal with the Celtics.
Boston could have as many as five first-round picks over the next two seasons, so trading one away would not be crippling. It would be a major roll of the dice by Ainge and the Celtics; one that would cause a seismic shift in the Atlantic Division.
Life After Philadelphia is Just Fine For Turner
Evan Turner goes 1-on-1 with Basketball Insiders to explain how life in Philadelphia shaped the rest of his career.
Once upon a time, Evan Turner was the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, and the next man in line to save the Philadelphia 76ers.
After finishing his junior year at Ohio State University, Turner declared for the draft and eventually was taken directly after John Wall by the Sixers. Turner joined a team that won just 27 games the year before, but had more than a few promising young pieces.
Andre Iguodala, a former Sixers top-10 pick in his own right, was the oldest of the core bunch, at just 27. After him, the likes of Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes were all under the age of 24. All in all, adding a No. 2 pick to that mix looked to set up the Sixers for years to come.
For the most part, the beginning of Turner’s career was successful. After making the playoffs his rookie season and losing in the first round to the Miami HEAT four games to one, the Sixers pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals during the 2011-12 season.
Turner started 12 of those 13 playoff games during his second season, averaging 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 points per game.
Just as Turner seemed to be coming into his own, though, the tides in Philadelphia began to turn, and turn quickly.
His third year in the league, and first year as a full-time starter, came and went for Turner. He posted decent numbers. His 13.6 points per game were second only to Holiday. He was third on the team in assists and sixth in rebounds. In the midst of his fourth season, while averaging a career-high 17.4 points, Turner was traded to the Indiana Pacers.
Newly hired president of basketball operations, Sam Hinkie, had a plan in place that didn’t include Turner. It didn’t include Holiday either, as he was shipped off during the 2013 draft for Nerlens Noel and future first-round pick.
Just as the Sixers were becoming “his” team, Turner was sent packing to a new zip code. In his mind, he never got a fair shake at trying to the be the guy he was drafted to be in Philadelphia.
“I don’t think I really ever had a chance to shoulder it, to tell you the truth,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t start my first two years, but numbers wise I thought I did well. Nobody averaged more than 13 or 14. We were a great unit. My third year, my first year starting, I thought I did pretty well for a first-year starter. We missed the playoffs, which is always tough. Within the next year, it got blown up.”
Turner reiterated that in his mind, he wasn’t allowed the leash to become a franchise guy. But it wasn’t all for naught in Philadelphia.
“Honest opinion, I don’t think I ever fully got the chance,” Turner said. “But I got the chance to do a lot of great things. Learn how to win, learn how to defend, learn how to prepare.”
Since leaving Philly, Turner’s role in the NBA has shifted from a potential franchise player to a serviceable role man on a playoff caliber team.
Last summer, Turner inked a four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers after his stint with Indiana, and then two years with the Boston Celtics. Beyond the years in Philly, Turner’s life in the Association has been kind to him.
“It’s been fine,” Turner said. “On the up and up, I was fortunate to make the playoffs every year since leaving Philly. I made the playoffs two out of three, or three out of the four years that I was here. It’s cool, it’s a blessing. Healthy, stable, and living the dream.”
On Wednesday night, Turner returned to Philadelphia and the Wells Fargo Center to square off against his old team. Nowadays, this version of the Sixers is much different than the one he left behind. A process that nearly began with jettisoning Turner to the Pacers feels near completion, and the energy Turner once felt on the court in a Sixers uniform is returning in full force.
When walking around the building, this time as a visitor, Turner takes appreciation in seeing some old faces. The guys “behind the scenes” as he put it, always are welcoming. Brett Brown, Turner’s former coach, never fails to show him love, and the arena in South Philly, Turner says, is always a great reminder of where he came from.
Turner thinks the process that was kicked off with getting rid of him and his core teammates is promising, though.
“It’s turning around,” Turner said. “Just off the first eye glance, I know Coach Brown can coach his butt off. Even the fact that they’re getting up a real practice facility says a lot. Obviously on the court, the energy. You see on tv before, it’s more sold out. When you see the Sixers sometimes it would be a joke, in regards to how many games they lost, or whatever. But now it’s kind of like you’re going to see some great highlights, you’re watching a lot of energy from the crowd and things. I’m happy for them. It seems like it’s trending in the right direction.”
It wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine for Turner in Philadelphia; he would be reminded of that as he was greeted with boo’s from the crowd when he checked into the game for the first time Wednesday night. The city of brotherly love has a reputation that doesn’t necessarily precede its name.
“Much is given, much is expected,” he said. “One thing is, when you get kind of labeled as whatever, you kind of get tagged for the most critical stuff. I saw how sometimes Iguodala would get blamed for everything, and then I kind of moved into that. I went from the cute little kid, to moving into that responsibility. Then MCW (Michael Carter-Williams) went from that position. It’s just kind of, you know, part of the game.”
The harshness of the city, and Turner’s situation particularly, helped guide him through his career after Philadelphia. In Turner’s words, “The only way to go from here, in a certain sense, is up.”
Portland’s sixth man has lived a long, lucrative life in the NBA, even if it didn’t go exactly how it was initially planned to. Turner was quick to point out that any time he heard someone complain during his travels around the league, at least they weren’t facing the wrath of Philadelphia.
“Going into new situations, people are like, ‘Hey they do this or they do that,’ and I’m like are y’all serious,” Turner said with a smile. “Go to Philly and see what they’ll do to y’all.”
Maybe his time spent in Philadelphia didn’t turn out the way fans had hoped, but Turner found out quickly there was a spot for him in the league as a former second overall pick, and that his career has gone just the way it was supposed to.
“I’m a firm believer in everything is supposed to happen how it’s supposed to happen,” Turner said. “Regardless of which, it’s a blessing.”
NBA AM: The First 2018 NBA Mock Draft
With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving 2018 NBA Mock Draft
With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.
So with that in mind here is my first Mock Draft of the 2018 Season, look for more of these are we march on (and hopefully you like the new Mock Draft table design.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this summer.
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 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 Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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 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 PM: Lopez Leading On And Off The Court
Brook Lopez has been a valuable addition to the Los Angeles Lakers, both on and off the court.
In spite of the ongoing media circus, an inherently tougher conference and a roster that features just five players with more than three years of NBA experience, the Los Angeles Lakers are 8-10. Naturally, that won’t be good enough to reach the postseason in the West, but it’s better than most expected the young Lakers to fare. Their early season successes can be chalked up to their glut of budding talent — Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, among others — but there’s one other major driving force at hand here and his name is Brook Lopez.
Following years of will-they, won’t-they rumors, Lopez was acquired in a shocking blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets just prior to this year’s draft. The Lakers were eager to get out from under Timofey Mozgov’s lengthy, albatross-sized contract, so they packaged him with the once-troubled D’Angelo Russell, shipping the pair off for Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick. The deal was largely made with financial implications in mind, but the initial returns on Lopez have been a massive win for the Lakers as well.
Although Lopez is currently logging a career-low in minutes (24.3), he still often leads the way for Los Angeles — like the night he effortlessly dropped 34 points and 10 rebounds on 6-for-9 from three-point range against his former franchise. Through 18 games, Lopez is averaging just 14.8 points and 5.1 rebounds — a scoring mark that ranks only above his rookie season with the New Jersey Nets in 2008-09 — but his statistical impact is key on this inconsistent roster nonetheless.
But beyond that, it seems as if some of Lopez’s biggest contributions this season have come off the court — just ask Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac.
“[Lopez] has taught me how to be a professional,” Kuzma told Basketball Insiders prior to their game against the Boston Celtics earlier this month. “He’s one of the first guys in the gym, one of the last ones to leave.”
Lopez, who has carried his fair share of incredibly poor teams in the past — and often with a smile — is in the final year of the contract he signed back in 2015. His expiring deal worth $22.6 million made Lopez the perfect acquisition for a Lakers team hoping to shed cap space before the upcoming free agency period — where, allegedly, LeBron James and Paul George are both targets.
For a 7-foot center that just added a three-point shot to his game and knocked down 134 of them last season alone, Lopez may be one of the greatest trade afterthoughts in recent memory. The Lakers will likely finish in the lottery rather than the postseason, but Lopez — along with veterans Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer and Luol Deng — have been a helpful presence for the slew of young Lakers as they adjust to professional basketball.
“They’re all great — they’ve been there, done that,” Kuzma said. “They have a lot of experience in this league, so it’s good to learn from those guys because they’ve played 10, 13 years and that’s what I want to do.”
Kuzma, of course, was selected with that No. 27 overall pick that the Nets sent to Los Angeles in the trade, and he’s been red-hot ever since. Following an impressive combine, summer league and preseason, Kuzma jumped into the starting lineup after Larry Nance Jr. fractured his hand just eight games into the campaign. Although the Rookie of the Year battle has been dominated by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons so far, Kuzma — averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game — has emerged as a strong runner-up candidate.
For Zubac, however, it’s been a slower start to his NBA career but with Lopez, he says, things have gotten easier.
“The whole summer, I worked on my three-point shot,” Zubac told Basketball Insiders. “But also [I worked on my] post offense too, that’s what [Lopez] is good at. I’m really focusing my game around the post, so that’s where I’m trying to learn.”
Last year, Zubac was a popular late-season member of head coach Luke Walton’s rotation and he finished his rookie year averaging 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 16 minutes per game. Unfortunately, the new arrivals and recent emergences have limited Zubac to just 10 total minutes over four appearances in 2017-18. Still, Lopez gives Zubac a mentor worth modeling his game after, even if it’s at the expense of real experience this season.
To get Zubac on the floor, the center has spent time with the South Bay Lakers, Los Angeles’ G-League affiliate, as of late. In two games, Zubac has averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds on 73 percent shooting from the field. Despite the lack of playing time, Zubac was more than happy to praise not only Lopez but the efforts of the other aforementioned veterans too.
“I can learn a lot from them and they help me play my game,” Zubac said. “Whoever’s on the court, whoever I’m playing with, I just try to learn as much as I can from them.”
Ultimately, though, it all comes back to Lopez.
Again, Lopez has averaged a career-low in minutes, but his contributions have been crucial in the Lakers’ overall standing thus far. In the games that Lopez has played less than 21 minutes, the Lakers are 0-5; but when he plays more than 30, the team is 3-1. On top of that, the Lakers are 5-1 when Lopez hits two or more three-pointers in a game as well. That sample size is still certainly small, but it’s nice indicator of Lopez’s inherent on-court impact, even when he’s not carrying the team on his shoulders.
“[He makes life] a lot easier for me,” Kuzma said. “He’s one of the most established scorers in the league and his career average is, like, 20 [points] a game. You can always count on him to be there every single night.”
While the Lakers can plan for a dream offseason haul involving James, George and others, they’ll have a tough decision facing them in July. Whether he’s efficiently stretching the floor, finishing off assists from Ball or setting the tone in an inexperienced locker room, Lopez has been quite the addition for Los Angeles.
This summer, Lopez enters unrestricted free agency and will likely garner offers outside of the Lakers’ pay range considering their big plans. If the Lakers decide to focus elsewhere, another team will reap the rewards. Until then, the youthful core in Los Angeles will benefit from having Lopez train and educate them each day.
“[Lopez] takes care of his body, he stays low-key and is never in trouble,” Kuzma said. “He’s the type of professional I want to be.”
Whether this is just a one-year detour in his extensively underrated career or the start of a great, new partnership, Lopez’s arrival in Los Angeles has been a huge success already. But as far as role models go for both Kuzma and Zubac, there are few choices better than Brook Lopez — both on and off the court.