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Some Thoughts On The 2017 New York Jets’ Draft

SI.com
I do not watch college football regularly, I have not studied tape or scouting reports on 90% of the players in the draft, and I do not claim to know much about this whole process. With all that said, the current Jets regime is now in year three of their rebuild, and still have a bottom three roster in the NFL. We as (Jet) fans have earned the right to be skeptical, so every pick they made over the last few days doesn’t deserve unanimous praise. And now, some analysis from someone who may be wrong about everything:

Pick 6 – Jamal Adams (Safety, LSU) – Adams is good, let’s not overthink it. He’s extremely versatile and he’ll probably be an instant impact guy and at the minimum a good starter for years to come.

Pick 39 – Marcus Maye (Safety, Florida) – Similar to the above. Both dudes are flexible enough to play all over the secondary (scheme fit may be questionable though). My problem with this pick is more of doubling down on the safety position despite the rest of the roster makeup (or lack thereof).

Pick 70 – First trade back – moved back 9 slots and only got a 5th in return. According to the Drafttek Trade Value Chart, moving back to 79 could have netted the Jets pick 127. They received 160  instead. Not great.

Pick 79 – ArDarius Stewart (WR, Alabama) – Old wide receiver (will turn 24 during his rookie season) who doesn’t excel at any one particular thing. They already have some youth at the position with Enunwa, Anderson, and Peake. Don’t know what their intentions are for Stewart, but once again they failed to address need at a valuable slot (and yes I realize they knew Devin Smith was out for the season, but wouldn’t Chris Godwin have made way more sense here?) Anyway, below is an interesting thought, don’t know if it was worth a third round pick though.

Pick 107 (last pick in the third round) – traded for a 4th rounder (125) and got a 6th (204) in return.  Moving from 107 to 125 is worth pick 145 according to Drafttek. Another bad return in terms of value.

Pick 125 – Another trade. In exchange the Jets received picks 141 and 197. Better.

Pick 141 – Chad Hansen (WR, Cal) – Actually looks like a good pick, I think he fell because he’s white and didn’t really break out until his senior season, but he makes some impressive catches and fits the Decker mold of handsomeness and could be a potential deep threat. Only problem with this pick is the Jets  just spent their 3rd round pick on a receiver when CB, Edge, TE, OT, and RB still remain pressing needs. Gifs below.

Pick 150 – Jordan Leggett (TE, Clemson) – Finally addressed the tight end position, a lot of people had a 3rd round grade on him so this is probably good value. Would have rather had the Iowa TE (better blocker), but still pleased.

Pick 160 – Love those trades! Along with pick 224, this was traded for picks 181 and 188. More picks the better I suppose.

Pick 181 – Dylan Donahue (OLB, West Georgia) – A 25 year old OLB from a D2 school. Really? He better be a Special Teams Ace.

Pick 188 – Elijah McGuire (RB, Louisiana-Lafayette) – A smaller running back with athletic upside as a receiver out of the backfield or in the return game. I approve.

Pick 191 (6th round) – Traded to Dallas for a 2018 5th round pick. Did Maccagnan just win a trade?

Pick 197 – Jeremy Clark (CB, Michigan) – Big corner who was probably going much higher if he didn’t tear his ACL during his senior year (he’s 6’3 and ran a 4.43 40 yard dash). I like the calculated risk here.

Pick 204 – Derrick Jones (CB, Mississippi) – Another big corner who’s an athletic freak (originally a receiver turned corner). Sure, why not?

Other thoughts: The Jets were testing the markets of Sheldon Richardson and Calvin Pryor prior to the draft, and yielded nothing. We’ll never know what the market was like for those two, but this hurts the Jets’ draft grade in my opinion.

Day 1 Grade: B+: Adams pick was a good pick, but considering how terrible the roster is, I have to wonder if an offer to trade back (and accumulate more picks) was on the table. If so, then they should have taken the offer. At least 10 trades took place during the first and second round of this draft, I would have liked to see the Jets take part in at least one.

Day 2 Grade: C-: I think Maye was also a good pick, but once again, another potential missed opportunity to trade back and get some more mid-round value (and they once again ignored several other premium positions of need). My grade is more based on drafting an older receiver who has a questionable NFL-fit in the third round, and then losing two trade-backs in terms of value.

Day 3 Grade: A-: I liked the Hansen pick, but it was frustrating to see them only draft receiver and safety in the first four rounds. Donahue pick seemed like a throwaway, but it was one of several 6th rounders (and they netted a future fifth as well). I was pleased with all of the other late round picks.

Overall grade: B-. The first two Maccagnan drafts have resulted in Leonard Williams and a bunch of question marks. It has been anything but positive under this current regime, but I am hoping this draft is the first step in the right direction. However, the Jets remain the Jets, so don’t get your hopes up.

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Muhammad Wilkerson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the New York Jets

The New York Jets offseason has primarily revolved around two issues: what to do with Muhammad Wilkerson and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s future with the team. Unfortunately for many of my fellow Jets fans, they may not like what I have to say next.

The Ballad of Muhammad Wilkerson

Many Jets fans would like to believe that Muhammad Wilkerson is one of the best defensive players in the league, and should command a contract that pays him in the ballpark of $15-$16 million annually with $50M+ guaranteed. On the other hand, two different Jets regimes, and what appears to be a barren trade market, seem to say otherwise. The Jets “have never been close” to an extension as both John Idzik and Mike Maccagnan have shown they were never really interested in dedicating big money to a non-premium position.

In his fifth season, Wilkerson put together perhaps his best performance statistically for the Jets with the below stat line (ignore the completely subjective “stops” figure).

80 total pressures is a remarkable statistic. Some possibly more telling stats are that he recorded 11 Tackles for Loss, good enough to be tied for 36th best in the NFL in 2015. He also recorded five “Stuffs“, or tackles at the line of scrimmage, fewer than rookie teammate Leonard Williams, despite Wilkerson playing 130 more snaps. It’s difficult to approximate exactly how many stuffs he had last season (ESPN says 5, but it could be as high as 7), but these are not great numbers when  compared to the rest of the league. It’s a bit more distressing when considering the primary job of a 3-4 defensive end is to stop the run.

Snaps

He still recorded 12 sacks though, tying him with Whitney Mercilus for 6th most in the league as well as topping Super Bowl MVP Von Miller (though would anyone go so far as to say Wilkerson is more impactful than Miller?). So, what happens if we take a closer look at these sacks? Between the Patriots, Eagles, Dolphins, Browns, Bills, and Titans, Wilkerson had 10.5 of his 12 sacks, including three against the Titans. What do these teams have in common? The answer is they all had offensive lines that were ranked in the bottom half of the league in terms of pass protection according to Football Outsiders. Those same teams are highlighted below:

Three sacks against the mighty Titans
Three sacks against the mighty mighty Titans

So what’s the point I’m trying to convey here? Well to a lesser extent, that Wilkerson’s sack numbers are not as impressive as they appear (the greater point being that Wilkerson is not as impactful as Jets fans perceive him to be). The gifs below are four examples of Wilkerson’s sacks from this previous season that might better illustrate my point.

This is Wilkerson’s second of three sacks against the worst pass-protecting offensive line in the league. You will notice he is lined up in the 3-Technique above the right guard. He pulls a quick hesitation move like he is going to drop back into coverage, and it works as the right side of the offensive line doubles on Mauldin, freeing Wilkerson to get around the edge untouched.

 

In this next gif you see the Bills attempt to run a naked bootleg with Tyrod Taylor rolling right. Wilkerson notices it right away, and is once more untouched as he chases down Taylor for a loss of 12 yards.

 

In this gif Wilkerson is lined up at the 5-Technique above the Giants right tackle. Eli has well over four seconds of a clean pocket, but before he can make his third (fourth?) read, Wilkerson breaks free from the jumbled mess and Manning falls to the ground. Once again, Wilkerson was essentially untouched by the Giants offensive line.

 

Once more Wilkerson finds himself in the 5-Tech above the RT in this next gif. He is somehow left completely unblocked as the tackle and tight end split, leaving Wilkerson free to shoot up the C-gap. The play-action doesn’t work, and Tannehill runs straight into the awaiting arms of the Jets’ defensive end.

 

I’m not attempting to discredit Wilkerson for making these plays nor pushing the notion that all of his sacks are “easy.”  He is an extremely versatile defensive lineman that can impact plays from multiple positions, but he can also be maddeningly inconsistent and fail to show up for big games (including the final three games of 2015 before he suffered a broken leg during Week 17).

In a sense, what I’m hoping to do is find an underlying trend amongst the noise (in this case, sacks). Not to say 12 sacks isn’t a noteworthy feat, but if 1/4 of the sacks last season occurred like those shown above (where lesser players in those same positions could have obtained the same result), then one can make the inference that this extends to his hits and pressures as well. I would also go so far as to say this season is likely an outlier in terms of quantity, and a regression to the mean is more than likely to occur in the near future (similar to the drop-off in production Wilkerson experienced in 2014 after a successful 2013 campaign).

Wilkerson is a great player, perhaps the best on the team, but he also plays the one position where the Jets have an excess of talent. His only irredeemable quality is that he doesn’t have the macro-level impact that you break the bank to keep, and likely why he will be elsewhere in a few weeks.

The Good, The Bad, and The Fitzpatrick

NFL journeyman and noted beard enthusiast Ryan Fitzpatrick is coming off the best season of his career for the New York Jets with the following stat line:

31 Touchdowns, 15 Interceptions, 3,905 yards, 6.9 YPA, 88.0 Quarterback Rating, and a QBR of 63.63.

Those are numbers that would seemingly justify a rather generous contract in a pass-happy league, especially when he broke many Jets records in the process. So why won’t the Jets pony up? Partially because the combination of Chan Gailey, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Ryan Fitzpatrick that produced one of the top offenses in 2015 likely won’t be sustainable for another season. It could also  have something to do with Brandon Marshall having a career season at the age of 32. It also might have to do with the fact that Fitzpatrick has played for six teams in 11 years, including four in the last four seasons. There is also the fact that he has been benched by multiple NFL teams, or that he is one of the worst deep passing quarterbacks in the entire NFL.

This chart below comes from Jonathan Kinsley’s site, Brick Wall Blitz, where he does an accuracy analysis of all quarterback throws 16 or more yards in the air (minimum 8 games played).

Shamelessly ripped this from Jonathan Kinsley's site, which is linked above
Lovingly ripped this from Jonathan Kinsley’s site, please click the link above

I also put this data into a Google spreadsheet here (I color-coded for better visual effects too!) if you want to mess with it yourself. If you take a look at the chart, you will see that Fitz had the second most interceptions on deep passes for 2015 (only behind Ben Roethlisberger), and also had the third worst Accuracy % among the quarterbacks that played 16 games. He did still manage to accumulate 31 touchdowns. This could not be done without the help of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, who combined for 26 of said 31 TDs. While a good deal of those touchdown passes were a combination of good ball placement along with precision route running, there were numerous examples of great plays by these two receivers. I call these plays “The Brandon Marshall Effect.”

Below are two examples of said effect:

 

In the above gif Fitzpatrick underthrows what is a well-covered Brandon Marshall, who at the very last second makes an adjustment to undercut the defensive back and add another touchdown to the Jets lead. However, if you notice at the end of the gif, Marshall had the entire outside of the field to his advantage. Not a bad throw by any means, but most receivers don’t make that adjustment with the ball mid-flight.

 

In this gif, Fitzpatrick woefully underthrows Marshall, who has to prematurely stop his route to come back to the ball, but is fortunately bailed out by the safety who takes out his own teammate, leading to another Marshall touchdown.

With those in mind, Marshall won’t always be there to bail his quarterback out. Then the results sometimes end up looking something like this:

 

…And this:

 

In both of the above gifs Fitzpatrick has time in the pocket, but never takes his eyes off of his first reads, and forces the pass into a swarm of defenders for the inevitable interception. Fitzpatrick is also consistently in the upper echelons of “interceptable passes” among quarterbacks, leading Cian Fahey to dedicate an entire blog to Fitzpatrick for being one of the worst decision makers in the NFL.

So who’s the best option as the 2016 Jets quarterback? The answer is…Ryan Fitzpatrick. “B-But Tim, you just spent the last 400 words slandering him!” I know. But reality is, the Jets offense was actually really good last season. They had the third best red zone scoring % in the NFL, the sixth most offensive touchdowns per game, and were the only team to score at least two offensive touchdowns in every game in 2015.

Though Fitzpatrick certainly played a significant part, Chan Gailey’s offensive game plan involved a lot of quick releases and zone blocking to help mitigate what was actually a subpar offensive line. Incorporate that with perhaps the best receiving tandem in the NFL and an underrated running back duo with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, and Fitzpatrick really isn’t that bad of an option. Now with that said, I’m all for the Jets bringing back Ryan Fitzpatrick, but not at the cost of “whatever it takes.” Jimmy Sexton, Fitz’s agent, severely overestimated Fitzpatrick’s market while seeking a contract similar to that of Brock Osweiler. The Jets’ current standing offer would pay Fitz around $7 million a season for 2-3 years (little to no guarantees after year one I would guess). The Jets have absolutely handled this situation the right away, and with the QB market almost all but dried up, Fitz may have no better option than to return. Just because the rest of the league vastly overpays for mediocre quarterback play does not mean the Jets should sacrifice financial flexibility for an 11-year veteran, especially one who has been benched by four different teams.

Reality is that the team has very limited options. Every quarterback in the upcoming draft is forecasted to be a project in some way. The front office has shown little to no confidence in Geno Smith. Bryce Petty has a nominal chance at being anything more than a backup quarterback.

Let’s delve into Petty’s situation a bit further. Taking a look at Scott Kacsmar’s round by round analysis of quarterbacks drafted between 1994-2013 does not bode well for Petty. Of the 28 QBs taken in the fourth round during that time span, there was only one Pro Bowl appearance between them (belonging to David Garrard) and they had a combined win % of 41.2%. Under this (admittedly imperfect) analysis, that gives Petty less than a 5% chance of becoming a one-time pro bowler, which is a pretty low bar when searching for your franchise quarterback. This isn’t even factoring in that Petty played in a college spread offense without a playbook, didn’t require him to make reads, and he struggled when under pressure. Talk about an uphill climb. Fitz is far and away the best option of the available free agents, and it appears the Jets are willing to play the waiting game to see who caves first.

Fourth Round might be the worst of all
Yeesh

I didn’t write 2,000 words with the intentions of slandering two of my favorite teams’ key players and suggest the team could do without them. However, I wanted to make light of their efficacy because many armchair GMs act as if the NFL operates in a vacuum. It’s a capped league and devoting 10-20% of your salary cap to two players that have legitimate limitations in their game might not be the best course of action (especially when a casual fan with a modest blog can expose said flaws).

Notable departures:

Damon Harrison, Chris Ivory, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Demario Davis, Jeremy Kerley, Antonio Cromartie, Darrin Walls, Jeff Cumberland, Antonio Allen, and Ryan Quigley.

Of the above players, the only one I believe will negatively impact the team is the loss of Damon Harrison. However, he only played 50% of the snaps on a defensive line loaded with talent. His loss should be mitigated by the signing of Steve McLendon from the Steelers.

Ivory was a force to reckon with for a time, racking up 501 yards over the Jets’ first 5 games. However, he only managed 570 in the subsequent 10 games (he dressed for) due to various ailing injuries. He is a dynamic rusher, but his reckless play and draw towards contact has limited his longevity.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s retirement left a gaping hole at left tackle, but the team was able to replace him by trading for former Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady (more details below). Ferguson was a premier left tackle for about an eight year span, but his play has fallen off considerably the last two seasons. With that said, he had a fantastic career and deserves to be inducted into the Ring of Honor.

Everyone else on the above list is easily replaceable.

Key Re-signings:

Erin Henderson: 2 years, $4 million, $750K guaranteed. He steps into the starting ILB role alongside David Harris, something he did well toward the end of the season (where he had essentially replaced the rapidly declining Demario Davis).

Bilal Powell: 3 years, $11.25 million, $6 million guaranteed. One not-so-hot take: Powell was the Jets most effective running back over the last 10 games of 2015.

Welcomed Additions:

Ryan Clady: 1 year, $6 million, $3 million guaranteed, though contract escalators could kick that figure up to $7.5 million. The 29 year old was considered as one of the best left tackles in the league, amassing four Pro Bowl appearances and three All-Pro honors. However, he has missed 30 games over the last three seasons after tearing his ACL in 2015 and suffering a lisfranc fracture in 2013. As long as he can stay healthy, he projects to be an instant upgrade over Ferguson. The Jets only surrendered a fifth round pick and also received a seventh back in return. If you think that seems familiar, it’s because it’s the same exact trade the Jets made for Brandon Marshall a year ago (and that worked out pretty well). Another great low-risk, high-reward move by Maccagnan to fill a glaring hole in the short term. One would have to imagine this move has no effect on their draft plans as well.

Matt Forte: 3 years, $12 million, $9 million guaranteed. A dynamic three down back who is incredibly dangerous as a receiving option. Worth noting he also has a ton of mileage and is 30 years old.

Steve McLendon: 3 years, $10.5 million, $4 million guaranteed. An underutilized player in Pittsburgh, should fill in nicely as Harrison’s replacement at Nose Tackle.

Jarvis Jenkins: 2 years, $6 million, $3 million guaranteed. A solid defensive end that figures to be a rotational piece/spot starter if Wilkerson is traded or Sheldon Richardson is suspended.

Khiry Robinson: 1 year, $1.175 million. He’s a Chris Ivory-lite type bruising back.

Bruce Carter: 1 year, $760K. Carter is a coverage linebacker and special teams guy.

Notes:

As of April 15, the Jets currently have $3.1 million in cap space, which means more moves are are soon to come.

This year’s draft picks: 1st (#20), 2nd (#51), 3rd (#83), 4th (#118), 7th (#244), 7th (#256).

The team isn’t a contender yet and will likely be unable to match their win total from last season. With that said, it’s foolish to write them off in April. The team finally has a competent and stable front office and coaching staff combination. Just be patient and hope for the best, our time will come.

New York Knicks 2015-16 Roster Evaluation

As of August 5th, 2015, the New York Knicks’ offseason has just all but concluded. There was a huge amount of turnover from last season’s roster as the Knicks look to move forward from the worst season in franchise history. The offseason began when the Knicks drafted Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick. That decision was met with a great deal of negativity because it appeared to conflict with the franchise’s direction after they handed Carmelo Anthony a 5-year max extension one year ago. However, it’s the “do whatever it takes to win now” mentality that put the 17-win Knicks there in the first place. If you want to read more about my thoughts on the matter, I covered that decision in detail here

Despite not landing any top free agents, Phil Jackson and the Knicks brass had a solid offseason as they rebuilt one of the most talent-depleted rosters in the league. The team now has a decent group of role-playing veterans and exciting rookies to pair up with Melo in their efforts to field an actual NBA team this year. Below is the salary breakdown for all 15 players currently on the roster:

dalmadf
Five players locked up through 2019

I was able to watch most of the Knicks Summer League play in Las Vegas this year. It was interesting to see as the Knicks moved away from strictly running the triangle and incorporated some pick & roll sets (something new guard Jerian Grant ran in college). With that said, a lot of the youngsters showed some serious promise. That’s all nice, but let’s find out about the new guys.

The New Additions:


Kyle O’Quinn (PF):

This is maybe the most intriguing addition of the offseason. O’Quinn never received a lot of playing time during his three seasons in Orlando, but his per-36 stats are fantastic (take this with a grain of salt as more minutes doesn’t always lead to similar levels of production).

per Basketball Reference
per Basketball Reference

In his NBA Groupon Games piece from earlier this offseason, Zach Lowe of Grantland mentioned O’Quinn. Here’s some of what he had to say:

O’Quinn has a lot of discrete skills, but lacks the one foundational skill to let them shine consistently. He might be able to approximate Boris Diaw’s passing, but he doesn’t have a Diaw-style post game to draw double-teams and open up the most productive passes. He can do work on the move, but he doesn’t actually move all that much without the ball; Orlando’s coaches have urged O’Quinn to roll hard to the rim, but he has a bad habit of just kind of floating in space after setting a screen. That would be an acceptable habit if he could float himself out to productive 3-point shots, but he hasn’t done that yet.

Even though he’s not much of a leaper, O’Quinn provides a whiff of rim protection. He has long arms and good timing; he gets a lot of Draymond Green–style blocks, in which he barely leaves the ground but uses his wingspan to smother shots. He’s a talker on that end, but he gets confused now and then, and he doesn’t have the bounce to string together multiple strong cuts and jumps around the basket.

I’d recommend reading the rest if you get the chance. Zach Lowe is the one of the best in the business and he has some nice gifs to help back his claims. Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders brings up a nice tidbit of O’Quinn’s offensive value, which you can see for yourself in the highlight tape below:

While there’s something left to be desired about his scoring, his finishing around the rim is surprisingly good. One could certainly do worse for a rotation big man on a very sound deal (four-years, $16 million). Also: he’s still only 25 years old. Having a young core is typically regarded as a positive thing in the NBA, and the Knicks are finally catching onto the trend.

Robin Lopez (C):

Perhaps my favorite signing from the offseason. The Knicks snagged the 27-year-old for four-years and $54 million (maybe a tad pricey, but I’ll take him over Enes Kanter any day). He averaged a mere 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds last season, but there’s more to him than superficial stats. Per Seth Rosenthal of Posting & Toasting:

Here’s what Robin Lopez does on offense: He screens. He screens constantly. He screens on the ball and off it, then he rolls hard to the rim (a LOT), or he sinks into space then plows into position. It would behoove the Knicks to work some of that old high pick-and-roll back into their offense (and based on the end of last season, I suspect Derek Fisher is happy to do so), because Lopez has some…well, some Tyson Chandler-like qualities as a threat coming off screens. When the defense wrinkles, Lopez is there at the basket for an easy feed and finish, either dumping in a wide-based righty hook or just springing forth to smash on somebody’s head. If a shot falls off the rim, he’s in place to put it back.

There’s a chance — though I wouldn’t count on it — that extra minutes and participation in some Triangle sets unlocks a bit more of Lopez’s offensive game. Though he shoots there infrequently, Lopez has shown some accuracy from the high post out to the elbow and corner:

RoLo
Perhaps more elbow shots are in his future

While he’s not an exceptional defensive rebounder, Lopez was 11th in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game last season. When adjusted for offensive rebound %, Lopez was still top 15 in the NBA among players who played significant minutes. In a post written by Seth Partnow of Nylon Calculus, he examines contested rebound % and Lopez’s value. I suggest reading the whole thing, but here’s the gist of what he had to say:

Among the set of 100 or so regular rotation bigs in the NBA last year, the lowest proportion of Lopez’s rebounds  were these uncontested defensive types. Conversely his now ex-teammate LaMarcus Aldridge was among the leaders in highest proportion of uncontested defensive rebounds.

RoLo doing dirty work

Lopez also had one of the better Opp. FG% among big men who played significant minutes (48.0%) while defending the rim. The top defenders, such as Ibaka, usually keep their opponents to around 40% at the rim, so Lopez is certainly above average.

This addition alone should make a drastic difference in the Knicks front court, and we get the added benefit of watching Lopez fight other teams’ mascots next year.

Arron Afflalo (SG):

Former teammate of Melo on the Denver Nuggets, Afflalo solidified himself as a respectable 3&D wing player. At 29 years old and following a down season, it’s unclear if Afflalo is on the downside of his career or is poised for a bounce back. Matt Moore of CBS Sports wrote a rather positive review of the Knicks offseason, and here’s what he had to say about Afflalo:

Instead, they got tremendous value with Arron Afflalo on a two-year deal. Afflalo was an All-Star candidate in Orlando, then Denver wildly disappointed him (and he them) with the Brian Shaw era. In Portland, he never found his groove. There’s a versatile two-way guard who can shoot from the outside, post at the elbow and make smart plays locked somewhere inside Afflalo, and the Knicks hope the Triangle will unlock it.

2014
2014
2015
2015

Well there’s at least one thing for certain. At the very minimum, Afflalo provides the Knicks with another scoring option (which they still have very little of). Let’s hope this most recent season was the outlier and his regression to the mean results in play like his 2013-2014 form.

Derrick Williams (PF):

Ugh
Sigh…

Undoubtedly the worst addition of the bunch (EDITOR’S NOTE: this could very easily change since the Knicks added Vujacic and Seraphin, but I don’t feel like changing the opening line). The Knicks outbid no one in their efforts to hand Williams a two-year $10 million deal (player option in year two). For a guy who doesn’t excel at any one particular thing (flashy dunks?), this deal doesn’t make a ton of sense. Look at the “real plus minus” metric for instance. The metric itself has some issues, but it’s telling that the 2011 second overall pick qualified as 92nd of the 95 listed power forwards in the NBA last season. He’s still only 24 and has played in some pretty undesirable situations for the David Kahn-era Timberwolves and the chaotic mess that is the Sacramento Kings, but I don’t know enough about him to have confidence that he will still be a productive player for this team. I’ve been wrong before though, I guess we’ll have to trust the Zen Master on this one.

Kristaps Porzingis (PF/C):

I defended Phil Jackson’s heavily criticized decision to draft the massive Latvian prospect in last month’s draft. The number four overall pick did manage to raise eyes with his play in this year’s Summer League. A lot of people have already shut the book on Porzingis, but they are likely many of the same people who tried to convince me that Melo would be a good defender at some point (it didn’t/still will not happen). The kid has a long road ahead of him and it’s wrong to expect any rookie to become an above average contributor right away (that rarely happens for rookies anyway). However, there are some positive and negative takeaways.

Many of the negatives revolve around his frame.  He’s 7’2 and is supposedly around 230 pounds (for reference 6’11 Jahlil Okafor weighs over 270 pounds). Due to his weak frame, many of the larger big men did (and will continue to do so) push him around, such as Okafor, which will lead to a low rebound % for someone so large. However, Porzingis will often times be able to use his 7’7 wingspan to help get his hands in the faces of those bigger and/or quicker than him (as you can see in the third vine below). He’ll struggle to defend many of the larger players he goes up against this season, but he’ll also rack up his fair share of blocks as well.

Third most efficient scorer among the lottery picks is something, right?

He’s a knockdown shooter with very swift feet. He can hit shots off of a screen, which leads me to believe he’ll be great on catch & shoot opportunities as well.

He can stretch the floor:

He can play some defense (read more about it in the link):

And he can pass out of the low block:

Porzingis’ size isn’t a huge concern for me as that will improve now that he’s working with a professional strength and conditioning coach/team. I understand the fear and concern of the “soft European” type, but someone has to break that stereotype at some point and I’m betting on him. Very few things are more valuable in the current NBA than 3-point shooting and rim protection. It just so happens that he can (to an extent because he turned 20 three days ago) do both.

Jerian Grant (PG):

Grant is the son of former NBA role player Harvey Grant (who is the brother of the much more recognizable defensive big man Horace Grant). He’s 23 years old and stands at nearly 6’5 with a 6’8 wingspan. At Notre Dame, Jerian Grant hit 34.5% of his career college 3PA and was a solid overall scorer.

I won’t attempt to convince you I watched him play a lot in college (I didn’t), but I did see some nice things from Grant in Summer League play. He looks great driving to the hoop and in transition, but also looks very lost in the Knicks’ half court sets. And while he likely won’t be an elite wing defender (he could be I honestly have no idea), he will probably rack up a fair amount of steals and blocks because of his length and size (and jumping ability).

One weird issue Grant has is that he often jumps in the air before making his decision about what to do with the ball (as you can see in the third vine below). He’ll find himself in some rough patches this season, but it will be nice to see the Knicks have a (hopefully) stable and productive option at the point guard position for the foreseeable future.

Pull up jumper and recovery block:

Finds Porzingis on the difficult pass:

Hitting the big man again:

Finding the backdoor cut after a Porzingis block:

Contested Finish at the rim:

I really like Grant, and I hope he’ll be a great player for years to come.

Wesley Saunders:

A Harvard grad and shooting guard who recently played for the Utah Jazz in the Summer League. I know nothing else about him, but he has a partially guaranteed deal and it will be interesting to see if he makes the opening day roster.

Sasha Vujacic (SG):

Vujacic was a solid role player on Phil’s most recent Laker title teams who has been playing in Europe for the last few years. I thought his last season was 2011 when the Lakers traded him to the Nets, but he apparently made a welcomed addition brief appearance for the Clippers in 2014 (only four games). I don’t really know what he provides the Knicks at 31 years of age, but at the very least he gives them depth at shooting guard, some familiarity with the triangle, and hopefully some outside shooting.

One bright side of Vujacic’s return is that we will hopefully see more of these incredible videos from his Laker days:

Kevin Seraphin (C):

I had already been working on this piece for a while before the Knicks used the room Mid Level exception on Seraphin so I’m not going to spend much time on him. He’s a solid backup center who can play some defense, but his career BPM (a whopping -3.9) is terrible (especially on offense). I can’t name anything that he provides that the Knicks don’t already have between O’Quinn and Lopez. I doubt he’s apart of the future and is probably just depth at this point, but the Knicks might as well have retained Cole Aldrich then bring in Seraphin. I don’t think he’ll play too much this upcoming season and is only on a one year deal. Oh well.

The Incumbents:


The Knicks re-signed Lou Amundson and Lance Thomas earlier this offseason. Amundson provides big man depth and pesky defense/rebounding. Thomas doesn’t excel at much but can hit the occasional three-ball and adds another body on the wing. Other returning rotation players include youngsters Langston Galloway and Cleanthony Early, as well as veterans Jose Calderon and Carmelo Anthony. That brings the roster to 15 total players, which means the Knicks will likely bring aboard one of their summer league players.

The grizzled veterans are amongst the least desirable on the roster. Despite returning from knee surgery and now on the wrong side of 30, Carmelo is still one of the best volume scorers in the game. However, he typically needs to work in a high isolation offense to showcase his skills. For the Knicks to get a whiff of the playoffs this season, Melo has to not be Melo. Isolation offense is typically dreaded by stat heads as inherently inefficient. So ideally what we need from Melo is system discipline and to be unselfish with his possessions. Melo is already a gaping black hole on defense and that is never going to change. Therefore, Melo has to become (somewhat) of the player he has resisted for so long to give the Knicks a chance at a playoff spot this year. But don’t worry, he’ll still have his nights where scores 32 points on 28 shots.

Calderon is what he is at this point. He’s 34 years old and can run an unsexy offense and hit 3 pointers around the 40% mark. He, like Melo, is a woeful defender and the Knicks are on the hook for two more seasons and $15 million of unspectacular play. My guess is that they are reluctant to use the stretch provision on him, but would love to move Calderon if a trade presents itself. I still have to imagine he’s the starting point guard on opening day.

Galloway is a solid backup point guard who can hit threes and run the triangle. Arguably the Knicks best player post-All Star break last season (doesn’t mean as much as you think), I would be shocked if he was cut. Due to their differing sizes and skill sets, I believe there’s a good chance the Knicks look to implore some of the two PG sets they used quite a bit from a couple of seasons ago with Galloway and Grant on the floor.

Early was perhaps the Knicks’ best player during the Summer League. He was often the focal point on offense, and did a solid job as a wing defender. His passing and 3-pt shooting both need work, but an expanded role in the Knicks offense this year is definitely in the works. I didn’t watch him much when he played last year on the actual Knicks roster, but I was impressed from what I saw in his Summer League play.

If you want to read some positive things about Thanasis Antetokounmpo, check out this Upside Motor piece. From watching the Knicks Summer League play, he doesn’t do a whole lot in my eyes. He had the occasional flashy block or dunk which made you marvel at his athleticism, but he also had the worst +/- of everyone on the Summer League roster. He’s 23 and an incredibly raw player. To borrow a phrase, “he’s a year away from being two years away.” I’m not so certain he’d be getting the same amount of consideration if his brother wasn’t the Greek Freak, so I’m not sure what he’ll provide this year. However, the Knicks will probably give him the 15th roster spot to keep him from going to Europe.

Other players the Knicks could bring back are Travis Wear, Louis Labeyrie, and Alex Kirk. However, I believe Thanasis probably has a better shot than the others to make the team due to some of the reasons I listed above.

And that’s about it. 3,000 words on the Knicks and about 2,500 too many. Can Derek Fisher coach this much improved roster? Will Lopez, O’Quinn, Afflalo and others learn to play in the triangle, or will it be abandoned altogether? Will Porzingis be the next European phenom, or will he be another bust? (It can be somewhere in between, but give him more than a season at the very least). It all remains to be seen, but if everything goes their way, it’s possible that the Knicks might not be bad. Take the poll below so we can estimate how many games people expect the Knicks to win next year.

Some Quick Thoughts on Brady and DeflateGate

via SB Nation

Unless you smartly avoid social media, television, or radio, you have probably heard the news that Tom Brady’s four game suspension was upheld earlier today for his involvement in the DeflateGate scandal. I for one, thoroughly believed that his suspension would be reduced to one game, if not wiped completely, especially after Greg Hardy’s suspension (for being convicted of domestic abuse) was reduced from ten to four games.

So now that Brady will fight this suspension in federal court (isn’t this getting ridiculous?) I have some thoughts:

I don’t know what Tom Brady did or didn’t do, and neither do you. However, I believe something happened and Brady had knowledge of it, at the very least.

So why didn’t Brady want to hand over his cellphone records? Well, the obvious argument is that he doesn’t want to reveal personal information. That’s fine, but the NFL would have allowed Brady’s agent/lawyers to “screen and control” what the NFL saw on his phone. Brady instead chose to destroy his phone right before meeting with the investigators and also claimed it’s a regular occurrence for him to do so. Except:

Seems like an odd coincidence he would do this fairly often except for that one time it would help prove his innocence.

The NFL stands to gain nothing from persecuting the player who is arguably their poster child (talented, successful, handsome, beautiful wife, model citizen etc.). So why conduct a witch hunt? Commissioner Roger Goodell is Patriots owner Bob Kraft’s handpicked puppet to run the league. Why would Kraft allow this to happen, unless he knew something unsavory had been conducted by his team?

And then there are the ballboys. Though the Patriots claimed they did nothing wrong, they suspended the two employees in question without pay, for…what exactly? (For those interested, here are some of the texts between those same equipment kids). Not only did the patriots suspend them, but the Players Union also refused to let them testify!

So what to make of this whole situation? It’s absurd. NFL suspensions are ridiculous and are essentially made up for each new situation. I mean, somehow domestic violence wasn’t even accounted for by the NFL until last year. So do I agree with the NFL’s suspension of Brady? I’m not sure, four games seems pretty hefty to me. However, it appears the NFL is attempting to set a standard that one does not compromise the integrity of the game (SpyGate and the tampering accusations probably did not help the Patriots’ case either).

The only conspiracy theory thing I can think of is that the NFL suspended Brady in an effort to detract attention from their mishandling of the Ray Rice and concussion situations. It’s the main reason I firmly believed Brady would get his suspension reduced/expunged. I guess not though, and I still can’t believe the situation has come this far. Sigh, can’t wait for the federal court case!

Here’s An Electro/Deep House Playlist To Get You Through The Weekend Pt. Deux

Have big plans for the fourth? I bet. I bet you’re also struggling to figure out which music to play to impress your friends and family (or when you’re sitting on your couch by yourself, it’s okay no one is looking). Well you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re throwing a rave or just having a relaxing barbecue, you (probably) can’t go wrong with these vibey tunes. I hope you get some new ideas and have a happy Fourth of July!

Also: if you missed my last playlist, you can find it here. It’s pretty sweet

My “Don’t Mess Up Free Agency” Knicks Post

NBA free agency begins tomorrow. And while the New York Knicks will likely not be top players, they will and should be active and aggressive in their quest to assemble an actual NBA roster. Rumors are beginning to swirl and it’s anyone’s guess as to who they will actually pursue. I have no idea what will happen, but since I was not upset with the draft results, I’m almost positive free agency will be a big letdown (almost).

Since no one updates these these things regularly enough, I have put together my own salary analysis for the Knicks below.

The Knicks declined to extend the QO to Quincy Acy the other day
The Knicks declined to extend the QO to Quincy Acy on Sunday

Galloway’s contract is partially guaranteed so he will definitely be on the roster for this upcoming season. That gives the Knicks six players under contract and just about under $30 million of cap space to work with. If you’re wondering how I came up with the rookie salaries, I worked it out from here. The listed salaries for those two will likely not be their exact figures, but they will be close enough.

Another option to gain cap space is to use the stretch provision on Jose Calderon. Tommy Beer wrote a nice piece on how it could help the Knicks here. Per Basketball Insiders:

If the player’s salary payments are spread-out using the stretch provision, the team may elect to stretch the salary cap charge to match. For example, if two seasons remain on the player’s contract when he is waived, and the payment is spread-out over five years per the stretch provision, then the team may elect to spread-out the salary cap hit over those same five years.

Calderon is set to earn $15,111,239 over the next two seasons. By utilizing the stretch provision before August 31, the Knicks could stretch out his salary to $3,022,248 a season over the next five seasons. However, I would have to imagine Phil will desperately try to trade Calderon before he considers using the provision.

With many of the free agents who are anticipating a max contract, several starting max salaries (like Aldridge or Love) will begin around $19 million. I would guess it’s not likely for the Knicks to extend the qualifying offer to Wear (very slim chance the Knicks extend that QO to Shved, but there are rumors circulating he will be brought back along with Jason Smith), but they still have less salary space than desired for another max contract on the roster. On the other hand, with the rapid spike of the NBA salary it’s not out of the question (though you might want to reconsider when it comes to certain players, such as Greg Monroe).

Seriously, while Greg Monroe would be a good fit for the triangle because of of his solid post play and passing ability (despite posting a 0.95 Assist/Turnover ratio this past season), I just can’t fathom handing a max contract to a big man who can’t defend or stretch the floor.

89.5%
89.2% of his total shots came from within eight feet of the hoop

Of all players who played in at least 40 games and had at least 5.0 opponent FGA per game at the rim, Greg Monroe surrendered the seventh highest opponent FG%. Of the 72 players that met the criteria in that last statistic, Greg Monroe was 61st in blocks with 34 total (despite having the 16th highest minutes played per game).

If the Knicks are going to pay top dollar for a big man, I would rather someone with some defensive prowess. Melo still is and should be the focal point of the offense, but if we’re being honest he is a massive liability on the defensive end. I think moving him to the 4 makes sense because it takes some of the wear off his legs and hides him on defense a bit more, but the Knicks need plus defenders. Greg Monroe’s offense doesn’t do it for me.

Afflalo is a more interesting prospect. He’s considered a good “3 and D” guy, but he is coming off some up-and-down seasons on a bad Orlando team and an underwhelming stint with the Trailblazers. He shot 35% from beyond the arc last season, but he did hit 37% of his catch & shoot 3’s. Though in his defense (pun intended!), opponents shot under 33% on 3-pointers when guarded by Affalo. He is reportedly seeking a deal worth around $12 million a year for three seasons. Signing Greg Monroe to a max deal and giving Afflalo his desired asking price is a classic NBA panic scenario. A team strikes out on the top tier free agents and then overpays for the next group to compensate for the loss. I usually don’t agree with Jason Mcintyre, but he’s absolutely right about how the Knicks should approach this situation.

The Knicks have also been linked to DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Robin Lopez, Danny Green, Wes Matthews, Jeremy Lin (huh?), Caron Butler among others.

Realistic players I would like to see considered: DANNY GREEN (like Afflalo except younger and better), Kosta Koufos, Branden Wright, Robin Lopez, Khris Middleton, Mirza Teletovic (bargain bin), Al Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Wes Matthews (for the right price), Paul Millsap, Jae Crowder, Lou Williams, and Cory Joseph.

I’m rushing to post this before I leave for my soccer game. It could be chaotic, but hopefully in a good way.

 

In Defense of Phil Jackson

Well I never thought I’d do this. I’ve been pretty critical of the Zen Master and his weird ongoing feud with 3-pointers. I honestly thought last night was going to be nail in the coffin for this Knicks squad. They had the fourth pick in a draft that had three top-tier players. It was a tough spot to be in after a dreadful 17-win season. So what should the Knicks have done? Well that’s up for debate, but I think they did just fine last night and I’ll tell you why.

What did you expect, Knick fans? The team just won 17 games and has exactly four players under contract for next season (and only one of them can actually be considered “good”). Look at how teams with under 20 wins have fared the following season:

THEY'RE NOT GOING TO BE GOOD
THEY’RE NOT GOING TO BE GOOD
Unless the Knicks had three injured All-stars last year (hint: they didn’t) I don’t see how anyone could expect a quick turnaround. Now I know I said they could maybe reach 50 wins by following my plan, but let’s be honest, becoming a run-of-the-mill playoff team isn’t that great. They have laid the foundations for a long term strategy, even if it does conflict with signing Melo to a $125 million max extension last offseason.

What could they have done differently? I suggested the Knicks trade back, but who are we to know if anyone was even offering to trade for the fourth pick? There were a handful of guys who were expected to go between picks 4-10, and none were really clear-cut obvious choices. Kaminsky, Cauley-Stein, Lyles and Hezonja were probably reaches at number four. Winslow was most likely the safest pick, but I would have imagine he fell to ten for a reason. So that about narrows it down to Mudiay and Porzingis. They both have their question marks, and Mudiay is probably more NBA ready, but if you’re thinking long term might as well go with the guy who has more upside.

I can see why people are scared of Porzingis. Tall, slender, highly touted European white guy with a sweet shooting stroke. You’ve heard that one before. However, I have faith:

Did any of the angry fans even bother to read his draft report? I’m willing to bet against it. Will he be effective in his rookie season? Probably not. He has to put on a ton of weight, has to develop a post game, and learn to play with his back to the rim on defense. On the other hand, he’s huge. He’s 7’2 in shoes, has nearly a 7’7 wingspan and has fluid movement like a guard. He’s hard to compare to previous players because he might be the first of his kind. So everyone is going to complain because of his learning curve, but I ask you, “what’s the rush?” No top free agent is coming to New York, so why are we in such haste to win this season? If you answered “Carmelo Anthony” then you’re somewhat correct!

Many people feel the need to win now because the Knicks gave Melo a fat contract last year. Have they been paying attention? Unless one has Lebron James on their team, that team is not going anywhere unless they have multiple All-stars. Desperately throwing money at borderline all-stars is a panic move (like singing Greg Monroe) and it’s that mentality that has gotten the Knicks into trouble before. Trading Patrick Ewing instead of extending him so he could retire a Knick? Panic move. Giving Amar’e Stoudemire $100 million after missing out on Lebron James? Panic move. Selling the whole damn farm for Melo even though he was a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season? PANIC MOVE.

Building for the long term is exactly what Knicks did last night and it’s the smart albeit unpopular move. I also have to say, flipping Tim Hardaway Jr. for Jerian Grant (Horace Grant’s nephew) was a steal. THJ is a shooting guard with a poor shot selection, bad court vision, and he can’t defend or rebound. The fact that the Knicks received a first round pick for him when they couldn’t obtain one for Tyson Chandler, Jr Smith or Iman Shumpert is astounding. Also: Grant can run the pick & roll and has some serious ups. He should be able to contribute right away and take some of the burden off Calderon.

He could have kept going
Earlier today it became apparent Melo is upset with the direction the Knicks took last night. The Porzingis pick wasn’t ideal for helping the Knicks win now, but you know what else wasn’t great for the franchise?

Not a great look for Melo. I kind of do feel bad for him, but I didn’t hear him complain when $125 million was on the table.

There was no unequivocal option at the fourth pick last night. Drafting someone because they would get the team four or five more wins in the upcoming season doesn’t do much if that someone isn’t the final missing piece. The Knicks have a long way to go, but there is hope. The cap is expected to increase to $89 million next year after the new TV deal kicks in. The year after? $108 million. If the Knicks play their cards right, don’t overspend in free agency, and  stop surrendering draft picks for futile players, they could be in a great position to contend a couple of years down the line. Sit tight Knicks fans and learn to be patient. This guy might be your best hope.

Or he might be a huge bust, that’s very possible as well
Other notes:

David West coming to NY? The 34 year old forward opted out of $12.6 million with the Pacers so I’m not really sure what he expects from the Knicks (please don’t overpay). And for the record, I have been a big David West fan dating back to his Hornets days, I just think this move might be five years too late.

The Knicks should do whatever it takes to get Danny Green locked up long term. I covered this in my last post, but I’m all for this move barring a max contract offer.

I expect the Knicks to still try and flip Jose Calderon for another player/draft pick. Now with Grant and Galloway on the roster, Calderon could go to a team where he would be a useful backup PG for a playoff contender.

The Knicks have 0 picks in next year’s draft, and have only their first round pick in the 2017 draft. They also drafted 6’11 Guillermo Hernangomez (Porzingis’ teammate!) with the 35th pick (via Sixers) from Sevilla in the second round last night. I saw something that said the 21 year old will stay in Spain for next season, but that’s still intriguing.

Rim protection. I have no idea who or what or how, but the Knicks desperately need a big man who can protect the rim. I’m interested to see in how the Knicks approach this (and no it won’t be Marc Gasol). Perhaps a Kosta Koufos visit in the future?

And lastly, how can you not like Porzingis?