New York Knicks president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills effectively overhauled the team’s roster this summer. The primary focus of their offseason work was addressing the frontcourt.
They brought in Joakim Noah, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Maurice Ndour, Marshall Plumlee, and Guillermo Hernangomez. They also re-signed Lance Thomas.
Noah is the only new addition expected to start, as Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis will start at small forward and power forward, respectively. When last summer’s free-agent signee Kyle O’Quinn is also factored in, the Knicks appear to have plenty of depth up front.
Their backcourt, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as deep. The point guard position is particularly concerning.
The Knicks’ much-publicized trade for Derrick Rose generated buzz and lots of discussion. And while there are plenty of reasons to believe Rose has the potential to bounce back and play at an above-average level, the concerns regarding his durability are undeniable. Last year he remained relatively healthy, playing in over 65 games for the first time since his MVP campaign in 2010-11. In fact, Rose has actually played in more games over the last two seasons (117) than both Anthony (112) and Noah (96). Nonetheless, expecting him to stay healthy in 2016-17 may not be a prudent gamble. The reality is Rose has missed a total of 162 games since 2011.
The only other point guard on the roster with a guaranteed contract for next season is Brandon Jennings, who is also working his way back from a serious injury. He tore his Achilles on January 24th of 2014. He returned to game action in late December of last year, averaging 6.9 points (on below 37% shooting) and 3.5 assists in the 48 games he appeared in.
An Achilles tear is one of the more destructive and destabilizing injuries any athlete can suffer. The list of players that have successfully bounced back from this dreaded injury is not lengthy. Jennings is only 27, and avoided a major setback last season, which is encouraging. Still, much like Rose, the odds of Jennings playing 70 or more games next season are not high.
Thus the Knicks enter the season, one in which fans have high hopes, with their fingers crossed when it comes to the point guard position. Considering the rules currently in place and the way the game is officiated, it is impossible to overstate the importance of quality point guard play in today’s NBA. New Yorkers understand this reality all too well – the Knicks being forced to start a past-his-prime Jose Calderon torpedoed their previous two seasons.
The Knicks did sign Chasson Randle and Ron Baker after each played for the organization in the Las Vegas Summer League, but it remains unlikely that either makes the final 15-man roster, let alone contributes as a rotation player any time soon. Baker went undrafted this past summer and is not a pure point guard. Randle went undrafted in 2015 and played in the Czech Republic National Basketball League last season. The most likely scenario is both players spending the majority of the season in Westchester for the Knicks D-League affiliate.
The Knicks currently have 14 players with guaranteed deals for 2016-17; both Randle and Baker, as well as J.P. Tokoto, inked non-guaranteed contracts. Might Phil Jackson solidify their potential point guard problem by using their 15th and final roster spot on a reliable, veteran point guard?
Listed below are a handful of currently unemployed, yet established point guards that might fit the bill:
* Mario Chalmers: Arguably the most accomplished point guard still available, Chalmers was the starting point on back-to-back title teams in Miami. He was playing well for Memphis last season before tearing his Achilles in March. He isn’t a great fit in New York, as the Knicks would be investing in two players returning from similar, serious injuries.
* Norris Cole: Cole’s career got off to a promising start in Miami, but he never developed into the reliable rotation player the HEAT had hoped he would become. Cole played decently in stretches for New Orleans last season, but only appeared in 45 games after being limited by a back injury late in the year. The numbers aren’t encouraging (he has a career PER south of 10 and a True Shooting Percentage of just 47.7), but he is still just 27 years old with some experience and bit of potential upside.
* Kirk Hinrich: The 35-year old Hinrich spent the majority of his career in Chicago and has familiarity backing up Derrick Rose. He shot nearly 39% from three-point territory last season, an encouraging figure.
* Steve Blake: Much like Hinrich, Blake has been a reliable and consistent throughout his 13-year NBA career. He’s a solid locker room presence.
* Nate Robinson: The former Knick put up big numbers in Israel last year and has let it be known he badly wants to return to the NBA.
* Jordan Farmar: Farmar actually ended up starting for the Grizzlies in their first-round playoff loss to the Spurs this past April. He averaged 9.0 ppg and 3.1 assists in the 10 total games he started for Memphis.
* Andre Miller: The Professor turned 40 last season, finishing the year as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. He currently ranks ninth all-time in the NBA career assists, and while he obviously can’t be relied to play heavy minutes, he can still get by on guile.
* Lance Stephenson: While certainly not a pure point guard, Stephenson can handle the ball when needed. He also possesses far more pure talent and athleticism than any other player on this list. After disastrous stints in Charlotte and Los Angeles, Stephenson seemed to revive his career with a strong showing in Memphis late last season. He averaged 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per-36 minutes during 26 games with the Grizzlies. However, the fact that he’s still a free agent confirms that teams still have major concerns regarding his maturity and professionalism. Coming home to NYC would be worrisome on many levels, but would Phil Jackson and company be willing to take an inexpensive flier on a reclamation project?
With training camp starting in less than a month, the Knicks will likely have to make a decision soon. One player that was originally on this list when the column was initially crafted was Ty Lawson, but he’s since signed a one-year deal with the Kings on Monday.
The worst case scenario would be having too many healthy point guards, which is obviously a “problem” the Knicks would be happy to confront should it arise. Not only would that mean Rose and Jennings stayed avoided injury, but it would conceivably allow Coach Jeff Hornacek to play two point guards at the same time. This was a strategy Hornacek successfully employed in Phoenix.
The other option New York could consider would be addressing their lack of point guard depth by trading a big for a small. Would Phil consider shipping out one of the backup forwards or centers to acquire a guard? Might Kyle O’Quinn, who is locked into an affordable contract, draw some interest if dangled around the league?
Personally, I am of the opinion that the Knicks’ plan is to earnestly pursue their “point guard of the future” next summer via free agency. Rose only having one year left on his deal was an important factor in New York’s decision to acquire him, and it’s not a coincidence that Jennings was inked to a one-year deal. As currently constructed, the Knicks will shed approximately $27 million worth of contracts with Rose and Jennings coming off the books next July. It is safe to assume they will look to reinvest that in a stud at the point. There are a number of top-tier point guards that will hit the open market next July (including ‘Melo’s good buddy Chris Paul), so if the Knicks were to trade for one, they would likely only consider for a guard with an expiring contract.
Either way, common sense seems to dictate the Knicks would be dangerously rolling the dice if they decided to enter the season with just Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings manning the point guard position.
Perhaps Phil Jackson and the Knicks’ brain trust disagree. Maybe they saw enough from Chasson Randle or Ron Baker this summer to assuage their fears? We shall see. New York’s activity, or lack thereof, in the remaining weeks prior to the start of training camp should give plenty of insight into the Knicks’ plans.
NBA League Pass Debuts for 2017-18 Season
NBA League Pass has launched for the 2017-18 season. Basketball Insiders has the details.
The NBA and Turner Sports have launched NBA League Pass for the 2017-18 season, with several new features and pricing options available. NBA League Pass, a subscription-based service, will be available to users across 19 different platforms, from television and broadband to tablets, mobile and a plethora of connected devices.
In addition, an important note: As of Monday, NBA League Pass subscribers who have already purchased their access through a TV provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.) are now able to link their account to the NBA’s streaming service at no additional charge. The link to do this can be found here.
Basketball Insiders has you covered with a breakdown of all the new details immediately available. We will also be bringing you a detailed breakdown of certain important technological areas later in the week.
New or improved features of NBA League Pass include:
- Improved video quality for streaming League Pass content developed by iStreamPlanet, a high-level video streaming entity working in partnership with NBA Digital. Included among these improvements are faster delivery time for live feeds, reducing notable lag time present in previous versions. More detail on these video quality improvements will be featured in our breakdown later this week.
- A new premium package that includes continuous in-arena coverage, even during commercials. This allows fans to view team huddles, live entertainment and other venue features that make them feel closer to the experience.
- A season-long virtual reality subscription package via NBA Digital and NextVR, available to all premium and traditional NBA League Pass subscribers (also available to international subscribers and single-game purchasers beginning in week two of the NBA season). Access will be available across Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality.
- Coverage of pre-game warmups and other in-arena events.
- Spanish-language video coverage for select games, as well as Spanish-language audio continuing for select games.
- NBA Mobile view will contain a zoomed-in, tighter shot of game action that’s optimized for mobile devices.
Pricing for NBA League Pass has not changed for traditional access, and will remain at $199.99 for the full season. New monthly-based subscriptions are now also available, both for the full package and for individual teams. Full pricing will be as follows:
- Traditional NBA League Pass (full league): $199.99
- Premium NBA League Pass: $249.99
- NBA Team Pass: $119.99
- Single Game Pass: $6.99
- Virtual Reality package: $49.99
- Premium monthly subscription: $39.99
- Traditional League Pass monthly subscription: $28.99
- NBA Team Pass monthly subscription: $17.99
As previously reported by Basketball Insiders, upgrades are also expected on the TV side of NBA League Pass, particularly through Comcast, which has had the largest share of customer issues for this product in recent years. While only a single nightly HD channel was available via Comcast XFINITY League Pass previously, sources tell Basketball Insiders that all games will be available in HD through Comcast’s Beta channel package by the end of November (or earlier).
This Beta package does have limitations, however, including users’ inability to record, pause or rewind games. The package that was available in previous season will continue to be available until (and after) the Beta package is active, and subscribers will get access to both for no additional charge.
Check back with Basketball Insiders later in the week for a full rundown of the technological improvements being made to NBA League Pass.
NBA AM: 50 NBA Predictions for 2017-2018
As he always does, Joel Brigham makes 50 predictions for the forthcoming NBA season.
If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making NBA predictions that end up being correct right about half the time. Every season for as long as I’ve been writing about basketball, I’ve made 50 predictions about the forthcoming season, only to return to those predictions in the spring and berate myself for believing the things I believed back in the fall. It’s an annual emotional rollercoaster.
Well, it’s the fall, which means regardless of whether or not readers agree with these predictions, most can at least see how a good deal of them could come to fruition. Flip a coin, though, because last season I only went 21-for-42. Here’s to hoping I do a little better than that this season.
On to this season’s NBA predictions:
1. James Harden will lead the league in scoring this season.
2. Both he and Russell Westbrook will top 30 points per game.
3. DeAndre Jordan will lead the league in rebounds.
4. John Wall will be the only player in the league to average 10.0 or more assists per game.
5. J.J. Redick will be among the top eight players in the league in terms of three-pointers made.
6. Rudy Gobert will lead the league in blocks.
7. Once again, the Boston Celtics (not the Cleveland Cavaliers) will post the best record in the Eastern Conference.
8. Last season the Houston Rockets broke the record for most three-pointers attempted in an NBA season. They’re going to break that record again.
9. The Golden State Warriors are going to win a ton of games in 2017-2018, as they always do, but once again they will fall just a touch shy of 70 wins.
10. The Northwest Division (Denver, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Portland and Utah) will have more collective wins than any other division in basketball.
11. The Minnesota Timberwolves will win at least 20 more games than they did last season.
12. The three top scoring teams in the league all will be in the Western Conference.
13. Dennis Smith will be Rookie of the Year.
14. He also is going to lead all rookies in scoring.
15. Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball both will average more than 6.5 assists per game.
16. Simmons and Philadelphia teammate Markelle Fultz both will be on the All-Rookie First Team.
17. John Collins will lead all rookies in rebounds and blocks.
18. Lauri Markkanen will lead all rookies in made three-pointers.
19. Jordan Bell will be this year’s most successful second-rounder.
20. One game or fewer will determine which team will be the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs and which team will have the least ping pong balls in the lottery that year.
21 Milwaukee will be a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference and will have homecourt advantage in the first round.
22. Philadelphia does make the postseason, but as a seventh or eighth seed.
23. For the fourth season in a row, it will be the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers playing in the NBA Finals.
24. The Golden State Warriors will (once again) win the NBA championship.
25. Giannis Antetokounmpo will win the MVP award this year. With LeBron James likely being more restful than ever in the regular season and Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden deferring more often to other superstars on their respective teams, Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard have the clearest road to individual dominance this year. Something tells me Giannis is on the precipice of doing some truly amazing things, both physically and statistically.
26. Kawhi Leonard will win Defensive Player of the Year. His streak was broken by Draymond Green a year ago. He’ll get it going again with a win in 2018.
27. Brad Stevens will win NBA Coach of the Year.
28. J.R. Smith is going to win Sixth Man of the Year. This award typically values scorers on good teams, and that’s exactly what J.R. is to going to be this year. If he had to get booted to the reserves, he may as well be the best one, right?
29. The Most Improved Player typically is someone who goes from being good to being elite, and that guy this year looks like it will be Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis or Nikola Jokic. For the sake of settling on one, I’ll say Porzingis.
30. Danny Ainge will win Executive of the Year. Getting his hands on Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward without giving up much and landing a top rookie prospect in Jayson Tatum is about as good as it gets.
31. After finding himself in just about every single Phoenix Suns trade rumor over the course of the last three seasons, this is the year Eric Bledsoe finally gets moved midseason.
32. There are big questions surrounding New Orleans’ roster, which likely will lead to some DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors. The Pelicans will not, however, trade the All-Star big man.
33. In the midst of their rebuild, Atlanta will try to move Kent Bazemore, the most expensive player on their roster. They will not succeed in this.
34. There has been a Kenneth Faried mention in the trade predictions section of this article seemingly every year, so let’s keep it going. This is the year Faried finally gets shipped from Denver.
35. Jahlil Okafor will be a Chicago Bull by the end of the season.
36. Portland’s frontcourt is absolutely loaded. As such, at least one of their big men will get shipped by the deadline.
37. At least one of the Lopez twins will not finish the season on the same team he started the year playing with.
38. Cleveland’s “Brooklyn Pick,” despite being a hot commodity with the potential to bring in another star player for a championship run, will not change hands. That pick stays with Cleveland.
39. The Chicago Bulls have led the league in attendance for years, but not this season. If the Chicago Bears still are going to have tickets available on game day, so are the Bulls. This season, Cleveland leads the league in attendance for the first time ever.
40. The Atlanta Hawks will win the draft lottery.
For the second year in a row, my fellow writers at Basketball Insiders will bear the burden of making these predictions, and they too will be held accountable when we revisit these in the spring. Here’s a look at some of their bold predictions:
41. Joel Embiid will play at least 70 games this year. (Dennis Chambers).
42. Joel Embiid will not play 60 games. In the games he does play he will look awesome and put up amazing stats, but his absences will ultimately cost the Sixers the playoffs. (Steve Kyler).
43. Marcus Smart will shoot at least a league average percentage on deep balls this season. (Shane Rhodes).
44. Giannis Antetokounmpo will become the first player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in back-to-back seasons (Tommy Beer).
45. This will be the first time in Carmelo Anthony’s Hall of Fame career that he will not average 20 points per game. (Lang Greene).
46. The Wizards will finish with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Brian Fritz).
47. Blake Griffin and Danillo Gallinari both will play in at least 60 games this year. (Jesse Blancarte).
48. Lonzo Ball and Ben Simmons each will have at least ten triple doubles this season. (Michael Scotto).
49. Bogdan Bogdanovic will finish among the top three in Rookie of the Year voting. (Benny Nadeau).
50. The Memphis Grizzlies will miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. (Spencer Davies).
You’re going to read a lot of predictions articles this time of year, but I’m the only one who will come to these predictions at the end of the season to gauge how smart (or, more likely, how completely and utterly stupid) I was in making some of these. Check back in June for the wrap-up, and here’s to another great season of NBA basketball!
NBA Sunday: Let’s Not Sleep On The Brooklyn Nets
Moke Hamilton chats with Jeremy Lin and coach Kenny Atkinson, who each believe that the Nets are on the rise.
Compared to the full-time NBA arenas in Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, this arena, though located just 28 miles from downtown Brooklyn, feels worlds away from the house that Prokhorov built.
Except for the visual theme and decorations inside of the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, you’d have no idea that the venue was playing host to the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.
And you’d have no idea that inside, scores of people across the country—perhaps even the world—would be interested in what was transpiring.
For the first time in 10 months and just a few days after signing a mammoth extension, Joel Embiid would absolutely torch the Nets and their less-talented front line. The masses saw Embiid channel his inner Stephen Curry when he effortlessly hit a 32-foot three-point shot after a whistle stopped play and saw him channel his inner Dirk Nowitzki when he connected on a left-baseline fadeaway off of his left foot, despite wearing a defender as a shirt.
In short, Embiid kicked the Nets’ teeth in en route to securing a 133-114 victory for the Sixers.
Believe it or not, though, for these Nets, the beating was a blessing in disguise.
“I kinda saw it coming,” Atkinson said after the 19-point loss. “It’s a good wakeup call for us—players and coaches.”
* * * * * *
For the most part, the preseason doesn’t count for much. But for a team with new faces and a new identity, at the very least, preseason gives a glimpse of the communicative flavor of a rotation unit, as well as a gander at how units collectively see the floor and each other. Even more so than talent, those characteristics go a long way toward a team stringing together consecutive wins.
After having soundly defeated the New York Knicks and Miami HEAT in their first three preseason games, the narrative around the Nets went from again expecting the team to wallow in the cellar of the Eastern Conference to possibly contending for a playoff spot.
Atkinson, being in tune with his team, wondered if a perfect preseason record would have given the team a false sense of security as to where they are as a unit.
Embiid ensured that wouldn’t be a problem.
“It’s a great wakeup call,” the coach said. “Maybe going through the preseason 4-0, we would think we’re a juggernaut and really we have a long way to go,” he said.
“My overall sentiment, training camp and preseason, I think there’s a positive feeling in that locker room that there’s some positive momentum going into the regular season.”
Jeremy Lin, one of the returning faces from last year’s team, came away from the preseason feeling somewhat enlightened. After the four games, including the blowout, it was impossible to not recognize the potential that lies in Brooklyn.
“The beauty of this preseason is that we saw what we could look like and we saw what we shouldn’t look like,” Lin said. “We kinda have a cheat sheet to the test.”
Heading into this season, around the NBA, not much attention is being paid to the Nets. As a team, they’re not of the caliber of the Toronto Raptors or the Washington Wizards, much less the Cavs or Celtics. But still, evident progress is being made, especially when compared to last season’s team.
“I think we’re a little more sure of ourselves,” Atkinson said when comparing this year’s team to last year’s.
“I’m a second-year coach, I’m a little more confident in what I do… The guys we brought in have a confidence about them—DeMarre and D’Angelo, they’ve been in the league. I feel like we’re not newbies. We have some scars under our belt and I think that’s gonna help us.”
To that, Lin agrees.
“I’m not really paying too much attention [to outside noise], but my evaluation of us has always been ‘Oh we’re pretty good,’ so I’ve never thought anything otherwise and I’ve never let anyone’s opinion make me think otherwise,” Lin said of the Nets.
“At the end of the day, it’s our job to figure things out and prove that to everyone else.”
Both Atkinson and Lin agree that this Nets team is more talented than last year’s, but Atkinston estimates that the first 10 games of the season might be rough, while Lin admits to not putting too much stock into the preseason.
“I think preseason, in a lot of ways, is fool’s gold,” Lin said. “The real character and demeanor of everyone comes out in the regular season.”
In short order, the Nets will begin their opportunity to show the league’s viewing public that they’re more than a hodgepodge of spare parts that their prior teams couldn’t afford.
Together, they’ll have a shot to become a team—a playoff team, at that.
* * * * * *
After turning in a 20-62 record last season, the Nets stood idly by as the Paul Pierce trade—the gift that keeps on giving—saw the first overall pick that the team won in the draft lottery get sent to Boston.
Despite the loss of the pick, general manager Sean Marks proved that he’s smarter than most men in any room by finding creative ways to add basketball talent to a team that probably now has enough talent to contend for a playoff spot in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.
There’s simply no way that a team can add Russell, Carroll and Allen Crabbe and get worse. That Marks was able to extract both a future first and second round pick from the Raptors in the Carroll swap was a stroke of brilliance, but that’s another story for another day. What it does indicate, at least in the present, however, is that Marks will find ways to improve this team. Additional evidence of that fact may become apparent sooner rather than later.
And what needs to be discussed sooner is the fact that, somehow, after inheriting a dire situation in Brooklyn, the Nets enter the 2017-18 season with renewed hopes—and it’s not all based on the pie-in-the-sky optimism that clouds everyone’s judgment in the preseason. Instead, it’s based partially on what has transpired before our eyes and knowing that on October 18, the season begins anew.
New York is appropriately called the city that never sleeps. It makes all the sense in the world, then, to not completely sleep on the Brooklyn Nets.