Tag Archives: Phil Jackson

An Analytical Dive into New York’s Newest Addition: Derrick Rose

So…if you haven’t heard, this happened:

*Sigh* I, am not thrilled. I could go on a tangent, but I thought Seth Rosenthal said it much better than I could ever articulate,

I do not remotely understand putting such a package together for Rose. One should be able to get someone with his injury history and contract (and ongoing sexual assault suit) for pretty much nothing. Robin Lopez is a very good player on a very good contract, not someone who gets lumped into such a trade, Jerian Grant is a valuable asset as well, and there was no longer any financial pressure to get rid of Calderon.

The Knicks should be *getting* those kind of assets for taking Rose off the Bulls’ hands, not surrendering them. Even if Rose were his near MVP-level self and a very desirable asset, he’s a free agent *next year*.

There seems to be two main lines of thinking with this trade. The first is that Derrick Rose is still an MVP caliber a very good basketball player, which umm…well…we will get to that shortly. The other reasoning is that this is the first in a line of moves that will end up with a player of Kevin Durant’s caliber in NY. Hope springs eternal, but that’s why we have smart people like Robert Silverman to bring us back to reality:

I’m not super upset with the trade itself, but rather what it represents. The Knicks are #allin on trying to land a big-name free agent (or two or three) over the next couple of offseasons. I’m not sure if they believe Derrick Rose can be one of those guys, but he is the first step in that process. However, star free agents hardly ever leave their respective teams, Lebron being the most recent exception, and even then do they rarely end with good results. I won’t admonish the Knicks for trying to build the best squad possible, but don’t surrender your very few assets on the off-chance you obtain a player who slightly resembles his former MVP-self (which is now five years and three significant injuries ago). Can you name a former all-star that suffered multiple severe injuries and returned to form? I can’t, but we have several example of great careers derailed by injuries: Penny Hardaway, Tracy Mcgrady, Brandon Roy, Grant Hill, and I’m being generous with this list too.

via Bleacher Report

What I find most confounding is what I heard from The Vertical Podcast with Woj. On this particular podcast covering this exact trade, Woj had this to say (I cut out some of the filler),

“I am shocked at how much the Knicks gave up for him (Rose). Robin Lopez was the best contract on the team…that was the best free agent signing the Knicks had made. There was no market for Derrick Rose, there was nowhere for him to go. They had been shopping him, I was told they had shopped him at the trade deadline last year…to me it’s surprising the Knicks didn’t wait/holdout. To me, they should have taken him into space and given up next to nothing.”

Ugh. There were no other suitors. You should be getting assets back for making this deal, not giving them up. Ironically, it was literally a year ago that I defended Phil Jackson for not making any impetuous decisions. Acquiring Derrick Rose is not necessarily a “panic move” in a vacuum, but for what I believe the Knicks are attempting to do, it just may be. Derrick Rose was once the league MVP, and he is now arguably not much better than a bottom tier starting point guard. This is the same team that traded for Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury (among others) after their respective peaks, of course they would do the same with a broken Derrick Rose.

Rose is not an aesthetically pleasing basketball player to watch in the year 2016. His game revolves around reckless drives to the hoop, contested long 2’s, and a glaring lack of defense. Coincidentally, the pace & space era kicked into gear right around when Rose caught the injury bug. So, sure, trade for a point guard who just shot 29% from behind the arc. At least Calderon converted  41% of his threes the last two seasons. But the Knicks don’t want Rose for that. They believe his ability to drive to the paint can help facilitate the pick & roll and find clean looks for Melo and Porzingis. And for this, and this alone, they just may be right.

For the Bulls last season, Rose ran 563 Pick & Rolls as the ball handler. The Bulls scored on 41.4% of those plays, which translated to 0.84 points per possession. That’s the 30th best (17th among point guards) conversion rate among ball handlers who ran at least 250 possessions last season. Rose drove to the hoop 8.9 times per game in 2016, the 13th most in the NBA (Calderon, on the other hand, only averaged 2.2 drives per game). Of all the players who averaged at least 5 drives per game last season, Rose had the fifth-lowest pass percentage, dishing the rock only 23.3% of the time.

In theory, having weapons like KP and Melo will improve these numbers. Phil Jackson and Jeff Hornaceck even said so in their press conference on Thursday. But please remember, everything sounds better in theory and this current construct of a team is one giant question mark.

With that established, there are lots of potential downsides to Rose as well. Let us delve into Rose’s past season stats a bit more (you may have to enlarge the photo below).

MVP Rose v. Current Rose (stats via basketball-reference.com)
MVP Rose v. Current Rose (stats via basketball-reference.com)

To start, his shooting percentages are bad, very bad.

Good thing baseline jumpers are incredibly valuable!!
2016: Good thing baseline jumpers are incredibly valuable!!

He could make up for the fact that he doesn’t shoot well from anywhere on the floor by getting to the free throw line, but his fear of contact means he only averaged 2.7 FTA per game. At his peak, he was getting to the charity stripe 6.9 times a game. Opponents now know he won’t be able to beat you from range, so they are daring him to drive on them. More often than not, they are correct in their assumption that Rose is afraid of contact (I would be too with all of those injuries), and his FG% at the rim suffers.

Of the 105 guards who played in more than 50 games and averaged 20 or more minutes a game, Rose had the 15th highest Usage % at 27.0%. Of those same players, Rose had the 96th best True Shooting % at 47.9% (and his FT% probably brings that number up a bit as well). TS%, a shooting percentage adjusted for three pointers and free throws, is a good measurement for scoring efficiency. The only player in 2016 with a higher USG% and lower TS% was, that’s right, Kobe Bryant. Not ideal company.

On a per game basis, Rose averaged 4.7 APG, good enough for 30th in the league among qualified players, 22 of which were point guards. But assists often overly rely on teammates’ shooting percentages. Assist opportunities might be a better metric. He had 9.2 potential assists per game, good enough for 32nd in the NBA (24th among point guards, one spot behind Jose Calderon), and a 1.78 Assist to turnover ratio. Not terrible, but not great either.

Now let’s get to the good stuff, the advanced metrics. In Rose’s 2011 MVP season, he had a Win Share/48 minutes of 0.208 (11th best in the league), a Value Over Replacement Player of 6.0 (third best), and a Box Plus Minus of 5.9 (tied for third best).

The following stats extend to players who played at least 50 games and at least 20 minutes per game in 2015-2016. This past season Rose had a WS/48 of 0.09 (133rd of 143 players), a VORP of -0.7 (132nd of 143 players), and a BPM of -3.3 (123rd of 143 players).  That is…[sad emoji]. If you want to look at ESPN’s Real Plus Minus metric, Rose had a -4.27 RPM, or the 81st best of the 85 point guards in 2016. If we want to get a little more technical, we can look at Nylon Calculus’ Daily Real Adjusted Plus Minus Metric (or DRE). By this metric Rose had the second worst cumulative rating in the entire NBA (a total of -202.5).

But what if it’s not just Rose, but the players around him? Now the following stats are calculated as points per possession*100. All teams play at different paces, so some teams have more possessions per game than others (and typically score more). Thus, by estimating points per possession, we can evaluate how efficient an offense is run (a team scoring 110 points on 90 possessions is superior to a team scoring 112 points on 108 possessions, make sense?). Below are the Bulls’ 2016 splits with Rose on/off the floor:

via NBAwowy.com
via NBAwowy.com

The Bulls played 5.8 points per 100 possessions better without Derrick Rose on the floor last season. Now what happens if we remove the Bulls’ real star, Jimmy Butler, from the equation.

via NBAwowy.com
via NBAwowy.com

This means that the Bulls have outperformed their opponents by 12.0 points per 100 possessions with Jimmy Butler and without Derrick Rose. I like to call this the “DeMar DeRozan Effect” or the player looks like a valuable contributor on the floor, but all of the numbers tell us otherwise.

I’m not anti-Derrick Rose. Though it definitely may seem that way, I need my fellow Knick compatriots to understand why I will not call this a “good move.” I’ll concede that he played better after the All-star break, but the Bulls were still a middling offense and were 6.3 PPP better with Rose off of the floor (0.5 Offensive PPP better without him). Rose did not mesh well with all-star teammate Jimmy Butler when the two were healthy together in Chicago, so why is Melo, another ball dominant player with bad knees, going to suddenly make a better pairing? Rose and Carmelo  were both among the top 20 players in USG% last season, and both often need the ball in their hands to be effective. So what does this realistically mean for rising star Porzingis’ development with Rose in a contract year? That’s a good question, one that I don’t really have an answer for, but Porzingis should be the team’s real priority here.

I won’t put up a fuss over dumping Jose Calderon (though he was a very good 3pt shooter). Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant were by no means all-stars, but as assets they are/were valuable to the team. Lopez did a lot of the dirty work, setting screens and boxing out opponents to give Porzingis those opportunities for put-back dunks and open treys (the same plays that made him a Vine star). Lopez was often the Knicks’ most consistent player, and one of their few above average defenders. Trading him just so you can play Porzingis at the 5 seems shortsighted at best (though bringing over Hernangomez from Spain ideally lessens the loss of Lopez).

This same logic extends to second year player Jerian Grant. I won’t go so far as to say he was good last season, but there were multiple external factors that didn’t help his cause. The team focused heavily on the triangle for much of the season, after Grant played exclusively in the pick & roll in college. His struggle to adjust and the Knicks’ mess of a coaching situation did not do him any favors, though it was promising to see the rookie play well over the final few weeks of the season. With that said, he’s still a former first round pick who is under contract for at least three more years. New coach Jeff Hornaceck’s offense utilized a number of two point guard sets in Phoenix. If you’re going to have one PG on a max deal for the 2016 season (Rose), why not have a second on an increasingly advantageous deal as well? Also noteworthy: the Knicks are now in the market for a backup point guard, even with the addition of Ron Barker.

If Grant improves, and Lopez replicates his 2015 season, the Knicks would have had two great, tradeable assets moving forward as the salary cap explodes yet again (and everyone in the NBA becomes overpaid). Instead, they were given away to rent Derrick Rose for a season and a future second round pick. AND let us not forget that Rose is currently being investigated for sexual assault. You couldn’t fetch anything else, Phil?

The only real counterpoint to this trade is that Rose might achieve a level of play close to what it was five years ago. However, when factoring in all of above, I’m not sure how anyone can say that with confidence.

So what are the potential scenarios. Derrick Rose plays bad? The Knicks gain a better draft pick (though likely one not high enough to make much of a difference) and have more cap space in an offseason where 25 other teams will be in a similar position. Derrick Rose plays well? The Knicks’ draft pick isn’t as valuable and Rose either bolts in free agency or the Knicks overpay to keep him (I think he would be eligible for the 35% max with 4.5% annual raises — yuck). I really don’t see what the big advantage was on the NY side of this trade. The worst part of this move is the Knicks organization believe they just did something great, acquiring a former MVP. However, that’s the same guy who’s played in 166 games in the last four seasons (out of a possible 328, not including playoffs).

This isn’t the worst trade this team has made (there are quite a few!), but it’s an unnecessary risk for a team with no proven track record of attracting marquee free agents. To put all your eggs in that basket (this basket = we believe Kevin Durant will come to the Knicks) might work, but historical trends tell us otherwise. I’ve seen this movie before, and it ends with Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose locked up for years to come. The lethal pairing of those two along with Melo would form the best core in the NBA…if the year were 2011 (hint: it’s not).

I believe I have provided more than enough evidence to refute how much better Rose makes this Knicks team. I’ve had people tell me he will improve with a healthy season under his belt. Well, who is to say that his last season (the healthy one) isn’t an outlier and regression to the mean means another injury-plagued 35 game season? It’s certainly up for discussion given the dude’s track record. I hope I’m wrong, I really do, because maybe this will work out somehow. I just don’t believe Derrick Rose is a very good basketball player anymore. Please see below for people who share similar sentiments.


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:

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:

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.


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):


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.

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.

89.2% 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:

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? 

Why Phil Jackson Needs To Adapt

Phil Jackson, president of the New York Knicks and former successful NBA coach, has taken to Twitter recently to voice his opinions on 3 point shooting in the NBA. For those that are unaware, the 3-point shot is more important than ever with many analysts valuing 3’s over 2’s (that are more than 8-10 feet from the hoop). However, things weren’t looking so good for the NBA’s most 3pt-reliant teams just a couple of weeks ago, which led to Phil tweeting this:

The Warriors were down 2-1 to the Grizzlies, the Cavaliers were down 2-0 to the Bulls, and ditto for the Hawks with the Wizards. The Warriors, Cavs, and Hawks (along with the Rockets and Clippers) were ranked by regular season 3PA as follows; 4th, 2nd, 7th, 1st, and 5th. Not goink very well indeed. It looked like maybe Phil was right, except that he wasn’t. Just about a week later the Cavaliers and Hawks had won four straight to advance, while the Clippers and Dubs both advanced on three-game win steaks as well. Those four teams have the highest average 3PA of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, and it looks like we are on our way to a Cavaliers-Dubs finals. Yet Phil cannot admit defeat, and he tweeted the following yesterday:

A couple of points I want to make about Phil’s thoughts from yesterday.

1. Phil Jackson’s coaching career ended in 2011 when the Lakers were swept by the Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. The Mavericks shot 46.2% from 3 throughout the series and 62.5% from 3 (20 of 32) in their 36-point game four win (Jason terry hit 9 of 10 3PA too!).

2. The last four title winners (since Phil’s 2010 Lakers) had the following Finals 3P%: Mavericks (41.1% on 20.6 3PA), Heat (42.9% on 19.6 3PA), Heat (43.2% on 21.1 3PA), and the Spurs (46.6% on 19.6 3PA).

3. I’m not upset Phil traded away the players he did for minimal returns (though he could have received a much higher yield for Tyson Chandler last summer). If you’re going to rebuild a franchise, might as well strip it down to nothing as much as possible. On the other hand, it’s very frustrating to watch so many former Knicks play pivotal roles in the playoffs this year. Among these players are Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Timofey Mozgov, Tyson Chandler, Beno Udrih, and David Lee (the list goes on, but these are all players that I believe could still be on the Knicks roster right now). The departures of these players are not all because of Phil, still a culture of mismanagement and poor talent evaluation is exactly what the Knicks need to refine in order to turn the franchise around.

4. The Zen Master had his own hand-picked coach in Derek Fisher running the triangle offense for the Knicks this year. I know, probably better than most, just how woeful the Knicks roster was this season. Despite that, there’s a lot of irony in Phil emphasizing the importance of penetration and then this happening:

A lot of Phil defenders will point to the fact that he has 11 championship titles as a head coach (the last of those in occurring in 2010). I believe that is a fair defense, but I would also like to make note of the fact that he has had some of the best players ever on his former Bulls and Lakers squads. Looking at the top 30 players ever according to VORP (value over replacement player) we see the following from Basketball Reference:

Five of the top 30 players
Five of the top 30 players
From each of Phil’s six Bulls championships he had MJ (#1), Scottie Pippen (#16) and even Dennis Rodman for a few (#60). For his first Lakers title run Phil had Shaq (#14) and Kobe (#15), and the second Lakers title run had Kobe again, as well as Pau (#29). Now if we look at those same players according to career win shares, their ranks are as follows: MJ (#4), Scottie (#36), Shaq (#10), Kobe (#15), and Pau (#38).

My point there was not to take a shot at Phil, but to express the sentiment that maybe 3 pointers aren’t as important for teams with incredibly talented players that excel at other facets of the game. I’m not attempting to diminish Phil’s accomplishments (he’s earned his praise), nonetheless winning championships is a bit easier when you have some of the best players of all time. However, that point is a bit moot. Nine of Phil’s championship rings came in a different era of NBA basketball where offense revolved around dominant low-post centers, a dramatically slow PACE (the metric), and hand-checking was still allowed. In today’s NBA there are very few real two-way centers even left (I count Dwight Howard, Demarcus Cousins, and maybe DeAndre Jordan). These players have been replaced with 3-point shooters who excel in a game where spacing is key. Just take a look at the correlation between regular season success and 3-pointers attempted per game (done by me in this excel chart below).

Is that a positive relationship I see?
So do I think 3-pointers are the only offense that matters in today’s NBA? No, I think having a well rounded offense that involves a balance of driving, post play, and ball movement that leads to open shots is the key to having a good offense (anyone watch the Spurs?). However, it does appear that win percentage is heavily correlated with average 3PA per game. So while Phil is obviously a much more intelligent basketball mind than myself, I think he needs to be less stubborn and learn that the game is evolving. If not, then we will likely see a depressing end to the career of what was otherwise maybe the greatest player-turned-coach in NBA history. He’s right in that 3-pointers are not the end-all be-all, but they are growing more and more integral with each passing season.

After a disastrous first season running the Knicks, the pressure is mounting to keep the team out of mediocrity. The 4th pick in this year’s NBA draft should help, but coaches/personnel like Phil, Mike Brown, Byron Scott, and Randy Wittman are a dying breed. It’s not the 90’s or early 2000’s anymore and unless they learn alter their coaching/managing styles, the game will inevitably leave them behind (though I’m willing to bet Dolan offers Phil a very lucrative extension regardless of the results). I hope for my sake (and the sake of other Knicks fans), that the teams’ future does not rely on one man’s refusal to change.