Tag Archives: New York Knicks

The Blockbuster Trade That Needs to Happen

As fans, blockbusters are fun to think about. It’s great to imagine stars flying around willy-nilly, the landscape of the league changing every other minute.

The problem with blockbusters is that they almost never occur. The reason why blockbusters so rarely happen can be easily explained by Newton’s first law: An object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (thanks 8th grade science!). GMs are unwilling to gamble their jobs on one big move, so rather than taking a chance, they’re content to just sit back and do nothing.

There are a couple of stars rumored to be available: Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard. However, it’s unlikely that a team overcomes its inertia to pull off a blockbuster trade for either of them, because Doc Rivers’ asking price for Griffin is sky-high and teams have little interest in trading for Howard, who’s on an expiring contract, is declining, has dealt with nagging injuries, and will expect a max contract in free agency, one that starts at $30 million per season. In addition, the team that has the most assets available in a trade and is looking for a star, the Celtics, “have recoiled at paying a price Houston would find acceptable,” according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.

Speaking of those Celtics, although they won’t be going after Howard, there are still plenty of other options. And that’s the impetus for the blockbuster trade that absolutely needs to happen:

New York trades Carmelo Anthony to Cleveland 

Cleveland trades Kevin Love to Boston

Boston trades David Lee, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, James Young, unprotected Brooklyn 2016 1st round pick, top-7 protected Dallas 2016 first round pick to New York

I absolutely love this trade. It works for every single team involved.

As we were just saying, the Celtics are in the hunt for a star, and Danny Ainge has long been an admirer of Love’s game. The two make a perfect fit.

Personally, I’m not so high on Love, as to me, he’s just a more famous version of Olynyk, but if Ainge wants him, this is a reasonable price to pay. Even better, unlike Howard, Love is signed long-term; he won’t reach free agency until 2020.

Losing five good young players will hurt, but as we discussed a few days ago, the Celtics might have too many good players (if that’s possible) and are therefore unable to play them all. The same logic in trading three good players for a very good player like Al Horford applies here as well.

This trade would make Anthony happy. Melo said last Friday: “I think everybody always kind of dreams and hopes that they can play with another great player, another star player,” adding “It’s a star players’ league. I think that’s what we all talk about every time we get together.”

We can infer from that quote that Anthony is hoping to play with a star and doesn’t want to wait for Kristaps Porzingis to blossom into one. And what better a way to do it than to join his friend LeBron in Cleveland for a title run?

Every couple of years, we see Melo on Team USA, enjoying himself, just swishing three-pointers whenever someone passes to him. On the Knicks, he can’t be a complimentary player; on the Cavaliers, he can. Even better, if Tyronn Lue decided to stagger his three stars’ minutes, two of LeBron James, Melo, and Kyrie Irving would be out on the floor at the same time. All three of those guys can create shots for themselves and others, meaning that Cleveland’s offense wouldn’t miss a beat when LeBron takes a breather.

Speaking of LeBron, this trade would make him happy too. James has historically wanted to play with his friends, and Melo would make basketball sense for the Cavs as well.

Love is shooting 36.8% from three-point range, while Anthony is shooting 32.7%. However, Anthony is attempting far more challenging shots than Love; 61% of his three point attempts have come on catch-and-shoots, compared to 91% of Love’s. As you can see, unlike Love, Anthony is capable of creating his own shot. And, as more of a complimentary player, Anthony will be playing off the ball more, leading to more catch-and-shoot attempts. That’ll raise his 3FG% much closer to Love’s.

Defensively, Anthony is far superior to Love. A good way to measure defensive prowess is by defensive field goal percentage. Comparing the player’s defensive FG% to the usual FG% of the player being defended allows us to find out how the defender is playing when compared to an average defender. To illustrate this point, holding Stephen Curry to 45% shooting is considered a success, while allowing Lance Stephenson to shoot 45%, well, isn’t.

Anyways, in this regard, Anthony is a big winner. He ranks sixth in the NBA among the players who have played in at least forty games, holding his opponents to a FG% 6.3 percentage points lower than their norm, while Love ranks 229th out of the 250 players, with a mark of +4.3.

As we can see, Anthony is a clear upgrade over Love. Naturally, that leads to the question: Why wouldn’t the Celtics just trade for Melo instead? Well, Anthony has a no-trade clause, and although he’ll likely waive it if he’s sent to Cleveland to play with LeBron, he’s unlikely to allow the Knicks to trade him to Boston. On top of that, Love is 27, four years younger than the 31-year old Melo, which makes him a better fit for the up-and-coming Celtics team.

Now that we’ve established why both the Cavaliers and the Celtics would make this trade, it’s time to figure out why the Knicks would too.

Well, it’s really not that hard to figure out. Anthony is nearly twelve years older than Porzingis, and by the time the latter enters his prime, the former will be way past his. Accordingly, the Knicks would be wise to build around Porzingis and this trade would allow them to do so.

Porzingis is 20, Rozier is 21, Olynyk is 24, and Young is 20. The two 2016 first rounders will be similarly aged. Add in the 23-year old Jerian Grant and the 24-year old Langston Galloway, and that’s the start of a damn good roster.

The Knicks will also have control of all of those players for years to come, allowing them to develop chemistry through continuity.

The last guy New York would acquire is Lee. He’s an unimportant part of this deal, as he’s on an expiring contract and would be included just to make the salaries work.

Again, I’m doubtful that this blockbuster will ever occur, but if ever there were a time for NBA teams to overcome their inertia to actually make a trade, this is definitely the trade with which to do it.

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Notes From Knicks-Jazz

Last night was chock full of basketball, with local channels carrying both the Knicks-Jazz and Nets-Cavs games.

Luckily, I was able to avoid most of the ugly Nets game in favor of the Knicks, but the one significant play I saw was a classic LeBron transition dunk met with cheers from the Barclays Center crowd. The TV only showed the seats close to the court, but those seats were filled with Cavs fans. I guess Nets fans have officially given up on the most boring team in the league. Good for them.

Anyways, let’s talk about the Knicks-Jazz game.  I was very impressed with how Young Kristaps was able to hang with Trey Lyles, a speedy power forward, on defense. That skill a big part of his appeal: He’s big enough to play center but fast enough to cover stretch-4s. That flexibility gives the Knicks multitudinous lineup options.

Rudy Gobert, the French Rejection, the Stifle Tower, is a gangly 7’2″ center for Utah. He’s not much of a driver—Gobert drives only once every two games—but early in the first quarter, he put the ball on the floor and drove for a layup. If Gobert can combine some offensive skill with his fearsome rim protection he could become even more valuable than he already is.

And, for the record, he is already extremely valuable as a rim protector on defense: Opponents have hit only 40.7% of their shots at the rim against him, one of the best marks in the league. Gobert displayed his rim-protecting prowess last night when he absolutely destroyed a Melo dunk attempt

As always, Walt Frazier’s rhyming commentary was entertaining and enjoyable. After Robin Lopez hit his unblockable hook shot, Frazier noted that he was “looking and hooking”. Following YKP’s lovely turnaround shot from the baseline with the shot clock running out, Frazier exclaimed that the Latvian was “shaking and baking”.

The best one of the night, though, was a triple-rhyme: “bounding and astounding and confounding”.

After yesterday’s game, Carmelo Anthony has now played a combined ninety-one minutes over the past two games. For someone who underwent a season-ending knee surgery last season, it seems a tad reckless to be playing so much. The Knicks certainly don’t need another Amar’e Stoudemire clogging up their cap for years. New York would do well to sit Melo for a game of rest sooner or later.

We need to talk about Gordon Hayward, the Jazz’s starting small forward. He’s a very good player, but his lips are bright red. It’s scary. It looks like he rehydrates on the sideline either with Kool-Aid or blood, I’m not sure which. Someone needs to investigate this.

Anyways, the Knicks ended up winning 118-111 in overtime. Including free throws, New York shot a blistering 11/16 in OT, scoring nineteen points over the five minute period.

The Knicks are back to .500 at 22-22 as they head into a challenging stretch of their schedule. They currently stand a half-game out of a playoff spot in the East, and if they can survive the next few games, they’ll be in prime position to make a run at the playoffs after the All-Star Break.

Notes From Knicks-Cavs

Last night, the Knicks lost in Cleveland, 91-84. After watching the game, I have a few thoughts to share.

First off, at the end of the first quarter, there were .8 seconds remaining on the clock, enough time for a quick shot attempt. The ball is inbounded to Langston Galloway, but, instead of taking a shot immediately, he takes a couple of dribbles and takes the shot right after the buzzer sounds.

That type of behavior is something I’ve noticed a lot lately. Rather than taking generally futile last-second heaves, players have been messing around just enough that the shot is taken just after the end of the quarter. Instead of mumbling empty platitudes about doing everything possible to win and whatnot, why don’t players actually do that, instead of just pretending to try their hardest for the sake of a field goal percentage point or two?

In addition to Young Kristaps and YK, I may have another nickname for the Knicks’ Latvian star: KPP. I heard it from a friend; it stands for Kristaps Perfect Porzingis. I’ll try it out, and see if it feels comfortable.

Speaking of Latvia, the last time I wrote about KPP (I like it!), about 40% of the hits on the article came from Latvia, so for all my dear Latvian, KPP-loving readers, veiki, paldies par lasījumā, un iesim Knicks!

Young Kristaps had a pair of spectacular plays near the end of the first half. The first was a block of a layup attempt by LeBron James.

There were two impressive aspects to this play. First, the block came after YK read the play perfectly, noticing that Jose Calderon was guarding LeBron, who has fifty pounds and five inches on him, and walled off both the basket and the passing lane to his own man. To find the second thing, rewatch the video and pause it at eighteen seconds: KPP’s head is on one side of the rim and his arm is long enough that he’s able to reach across it to block the shot. That’s ridiculous.

The second play was a confident, swished, buzzer-beating three.

There was no hesitation whatsoever. Even from a few feet behind the three point line, his shot was smooth and unflustered. This play was in line with the rest of the game, as he hit four threes on five attempts.

There was one poor play at the start of the third quarter. On an Irving-Love pick-and-roll, Calderon and YPP both jumped out on Irving, leaving Love with an opportunity to nail a wide open three. I can’t say for certain if it’s the scheme’s fault or the players’, but either way, you can’t trap a ball handler, even if it’s Irving, if it means leaving a good three-point shooter like Love wide open.

The most mystifying part of this game came in the fourth quarter, when Young Kristaps didn’t play at all. Wait a second… He did? Sorry, I must not have realized since he didn’t take a single shot until a last second heave when the game was out of reach.

With Melo out, KPP is the Knicks’ best player—why is he not being given the ball? I understand that it’s never good to force up shots when they’re not there, but he was wide open from three point range multiple times and was ignored in favor of awkward, off-balance, mid-range attempts.

The team ended up scoring twelve points in the fourth quarter. Maybe, just maybe, ignoring Young Kristaps had something to do with it.

It’s especially annoying as the Knicks entered the final quarter tied, on the road, without their best player, against the best team in the Eastern Conference, but gave the game away. The points they left on the table could have given them the game.

Notes From Knicks-Sixers

Last night, I watched the sloppy Sixers-Knicks game in its entirety. Here are a few observations from the game.

First off, the viewing experience of watching the Knicks on MSG is made five times as enjoyable thanks to Walt Frazier’s entertaining phrasing. According to this article from ESPN, Frazier acquired his massive vocabulary by reading the New York Times’ Sunday Arts & Leisure section and writing down whatever words that caught his eye. After he wrote down the words, Frazier then studied how each was used in a sentence using a method he calls “linking and thinking.”

Anyways, last night, Frazier produced a few classics in “shaking and baking,” “wheeling and dealing,” and “moving and grooving” before moving on to more eclectic ones, such as “swooping and hooping,” “hanging and banging,” and “slamming and jamming.”

Carmelo Anthony looked awful last night. Even in a game against the sorry Sixers, he’s just been off. Anthony missed layups and chucked up badly off-target three-pointers. He finished with twelve points off of sixteen inefficient shots in a subpar game. I don’t know if this is a trend (I sure hope not), but it’s something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

In last year’s draft, Nik Stauskas, a shooting guard, was taken by the Kings 8th overall. He started exactly one game for them, the season finale against the Lakers. Over the summer, Sacramento traded him to Philadelphia in a salary dump so they could open up extra cap space to sign the eight superstars who were all lining up to come play for the Kings.

Putting aside the hilariously lopsided deal, that put Stauskas in Philadelphia, on a team that didn’t care about winning whatsoever. The trade allowed him to play more minutes which would give him a larger opportunity to work through whatever issues he’d dealt with in his rookie season. Accordingly, his playing time has increased by nine minutes per game.

He didn’t have a big game or anything last night, with four shot attempts over twenty-four minutes, but one thing I noticed was his lightning-quick release on his three-point jumper. It was almost Curry-esque.

Last of all, let’s talk about Young Kristaps, who put up seventeen points, ten rebounds, and four blocks over thirty minutes in a customarily spectacular game.

Despite his height, Young Kristaps has a lovely jumper he used twice from three-point range, nailing both shots. Nothing about his shot seems forced; it’s natural and he’s able to smoothly catch the ball and rise up for a graceful shot.

Young Kristaps had a couple of impressive passes last night. Early in the game, he reached around his defender to deliver a nice pass to Robin Lopez for a layup. Later on, Jose Calderon and Young Kristaps ran a pick-and-roll. Calderon passed it to Young Kristaps as he came around the screen, and Young Kristaps started to drive towards the basket, but instead hit Calderon with a behind-the-back pass. He had another fine pass to Calderon where he spotted that the point guard had a step on his defender and lofted the ball over to him for an easy layup.

I can’t believe we’ve gotten this far into the article without mentioning a single one of Young Kristaps’ thunderous dunks. He had one where he drove lefty into the lane on Nerlens Noel and rose up for a tomahawk slam and another where Derrick Williams lobbed the ball up to him from behind the three-point line for a monstrous alley-oop.

Young Kristaps blocked four shots last night, but we’ll focus in on one. In the middle of the opening quarter, Isaiah Canaan drove to the basket with Young Kristaps moving along with him. Now, one of the concerns about Young Kristaps before the draft was that he was too thin to survive in the NBA. Although that’ll go away as he gets older, it was a problem in this case as, on his way to the rim, the 6’0″ Canaan rammed into the chest of the 7’3″ Young Kristaps, pushing him back. Despite this, Young Kristaps’ arms are some long enough that he was able to envelope Canaan, blocking the shot with ease.

Along with collecting four blocks, Young Kristaps picked up only one foul. This is a marked departure from Summer League, where across four games and 82 minutes, he picked up seventeen fouls, including a game with seven fouls in only 22 minutes. Working on his trouble with fouling was a high priority for Young Kristaps entering the season.

The problem was that Young Kristaps was often committing fouls due to his aggressiveness on defense. To measure the worth of his aggressiveness on defense, I used Young Kristaps’ SB/F (steals+blocks/fouls), a new statistic I made up to measure whether or not a player’s tenacity on defense is a positive, was a .647 during Summer League. So far this season, he’s improved it to a .881.

Using statistics from basketball-reference.com, there have been 276 games played so far this season, with roughly 2208 steals, 1435 blocks, and 5741 personal fouls across all 276 games. That works out to a league-average SB/F of .634, so, to my surprise, apparently Young Kristaps was roughly average during Summer League and has been exceptional so far this year.

Now that Young Kristaps can play aggressive defense while still staying on the floor, that combination, along with all of his other talents, makes it look like he’ll be a star.

Thanks to Young Kristaps, for the first time in a decade, Knicks fans, there’s a reason for hope.

I noticed I wrote “Young Kristaps” a lot this article, so here’s a quick explanation for why I call him that, rather than Porzingis. In the 2015 NBA Draft Diary, I wrote:

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 7.20.14 PM

That’s it. Maybe as a compromise with myself I’ll alternate Young Kristaps with YK. I guess we’ll figure it out.

Super-duper quick pick for Thursday Night Football: Detroit +2 over Green Bay. Neither team makes me feel any good about betting on them, but Detroit’s been playing better lately so that’s as good a reason as any.

Catching Up on the NBA

My picks are already looking awful. Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal have been hurt. The Pelicans have been plagued by injuries. Washington has been average at best. Without Corey Brewer’s miracle three-point attempt to send last night’s game to overtime, the Rockets would be an atrocious 4-8. Nothing at all has been working out as planned so far.

Well, almost nothing. The Warriors have been customarily dominant. If you follow basketball at all, I’m sure you’ve seen amazing stats lauding the team for their historic achievements, but here’s one you probably haven’t heard: the Warriors are currently on pace to go 82-0, shattering the 72-10 mark set by the 1995-96 Bulls.

All jokes aside, Steph Curry has been insane. I’ve watched a few of Golden State’s games so far, and every time he takes a shot, it seems to be almost a technicality when it goes in. A couple of weeks ago, the Warriors were down to the Clippers late in the game, and Curry just took over and Los Angeles couldn’t do anything to stop him.

Curry’s the clear frontrunner for MVP at this point and he’s way ahead of the pack. Who can challenge him? LeBron is resting for the playoffs, Davis has been hurt, John Wall hasn’t been great, Kevin Durant has been hurt, and James Harden has been an inconsistent player on an inconsistent team. Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook are my 2-3 behind Curry, but who’s next? Honestly, it might be Andre Drummond. That’s just weird.

In other news: Young Kristaps is everyone’s new favorite player. Young Kristaps has been surprisingly great so far for the Knicks. For all the talk about how he’s a project and how he’s a year or two away, he’s been really really good. Earlier this week, he put up a 29-11 double-double on an efficient 17 shots. He’s been able to shoot threes effectively (including an almost game-winner against Charlotte that was just after time expired) while being a force down low. He’s thrown down a few monstrous put-back dunks (including this beauty against the Raptors) and has been able to serve both as a stretch-four when on the court with Robin Lopez and as a more conventional big man when playing alone.

I think it’s hilarious what’s been happening in Brooklyn so far this season. They’re absolutely, unequivocally atrocious and seem OK with it. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. After all, tanking has worked in the past and the Sixers have been happy to lose again and again over the past few years in the hopes of landing a franchise player. However, the so-called “brain-trust” in Brooklyn seems to have forgotten one important detail: They don’t own their own pick. So while Brooklyn’s incessant losing will likely result in the acquisition of a franchise player, that franchise player will be heading to Boston as part of the Pierce-Garnett-Terry trade from a couple of years ago. While we’re here, I can’t get over how lopsided that trade was. Exploring the ramifications of that horrendous trade might be worth an article in the near future.

Anyways, as we can see, the NBA isn’t lacking in storylines. We haven’t talked at all about the competitive Rookie of the Year race or the exciting young teams coalescing in Orlando and Minnesota or Kobe Bryant’s quest to miss the most shots in the history of the NBA. We’ll discuss all of this, and more, in the future, but for now, let’s just enjoy the impending bloodbath between the Warriors and Clippers on national TV tonight.

The 2015 NBA Draft Diary

Hello all, and welcome to the 2015 NBA Draft Diary. This is our second straight year recording the draft in this format (here’s last year’s: https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/the-2014-nba-draft-diary/) and it should be as great as the last one.

Although I doubt this draft will reach last year’s hilarious high when Zach LaVine couldn’t hide his dismay at having to play for Minnesota, there’s a similar amount of doubt about what will happen.

Last year, no one knew what was going to happen at the top between Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid. This year, Karl-Anthony Towns is the consensus number one pick, but the next few picks are muddled.

The Lakers are able to dictate what will happen for the rest of the draft from their perch at number two. They get to choose between a wealth of talented players; Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell. and Kristaps Porzingis are all options at their pick.

Philadelphia, at number three, could be trapped if the Lakers take Russell. That’d leave them with a choice between the two big men, Okafor and Porzingis, when they already have Nerlens Noel and Embiid, or reaching a little to address a need.

The Knicks, at number four, are hoping that Russell drops to them, as he’s a good fit for Phil Jackson’s fabled triangle offense. Of course, Isiah Thomas has talked about trading the pick for a veteran in a win-now move. Wait, did I say Isiah Thomas? Whoops, I meant Phil Jackson, although it’s easy to get the two confused, especially if Jackson trades away this pick. Let’s hope he doesn’t make that trade for the sake of all the scarred Knicks fans at the Barclays Center tonight.

The most important quality teams are looking for in this draft is positional flexibility, meaning that they want a player who can defend multiple positions on the defensive end. Why is this? Well, the Warriors just won the NBA title in part because of a switching machine on defense. Draymond Green is getting a max contract this summer in part because he can defend all five positions credibly. Justice Winslow, a wing, and Willie Cauley-Stein, a big man, are both highly ranked players who can defend multiple positions at elite levels, particularly Cauley-Stein.

My personal favorite player this draft is Frank Kaminsky. To me, he seems to be exactly what NBA teams are looking for nowadays, big men who can shoot threes, run the floor, and play decent defense. Kaminsky can be one of the first ever stretch-5s.

There’s one important domino yet to fall: DeMarcus Cousins. His screwed-up team, the Kings, and its screwed-up owner, Vivek Ranadive, are considering firing George Karl four months after they hired him. If they trade Cousins, either because they side with Karl against him or because he gets fed up enough with their BS that he finally demands a trade.

Anyways, the draft is about to start, so let’s end this bloated introduction and begin!

7:35: Adam Silver opens up with the same type of speech that he gave last year, going through the reigning champions and where players integral to their team were drafted.

7:39: As expected, Towns is selected first overall.

7:39: Now the real intrigue begins. As we discussed earlier, what the Lakers do here will set the tone for the rest of the draft.

7:40: Apparently the Timberwolves are the first team to ever have three consecutive first overall picks on their team, with Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, and now Towns.

7:41: In its congratulations to Towns on its Twitter, Kentucky used this hashtag: #succeedandproceed. Calipari definitely isn’t shy about his team-building strategy.

7:45: The Lakers take…

7:46: D’Angelo Russell.

7:46: Can’t quibble with that pick. Okafor is the most NBA-ready player in the draft, with a developed post-up game, but the Lakers already have an elite post-up threat down low in Julius Randle. Also, if they took a defensive sieve in Okafor, along with creaky old Bryant and Randle, they might somehow be worse at defense than they were last year. Taking Russell also allows the Lakers to shift Jordan Clarkson out of the starting lineup into a role as a sixth man where he’ll be valuable instant offense off the bench. Russell just works better for the Lakers on so many levels.

7:50: Also, thinking more about Okafor, the Lakers could just look across their stadium at the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan was unplayable for swaths of time in the playoffs because he couldn’t shoot free throws. Okafor, while not as bad as Jordan, is still only a 51% free throw shooter, making him a liability. To me, that’s significant enough of a risk that it’s tough to look past it, especially because Jordan is an elite defensive center while Okafor, well, is not. Because of this, it wouldn’t be as surprising as it might otherwise be if he dropped a little in the draft.

7:52: Conspiracy Theory Alert: Maybe the Lakers didn’t take Okafor because they have a wink-wink agreement with Kevin Love to come to Los Angeles and won’t have a starting spot for Okafor.

7:53: Philadelphia’s pick is in. Let’s see what Sam Hinkie does…

7:55: Okafor.

7:55: There are a couple of ways to spin this: either Hinkie is seriously worried about Embiid and decided that he needed another big man, or he’s just sticking to his overall strategy of taking the best player available, believing that talent will work itself out in the end.

7:56: In the crowd, a Sixers fan was holding up a sign, reading “#trusttheprocess”. At this point, that’s really the only thing Philly fans can do, but that’s depressing nonetheless.

7:58: I guess Okafor’s woes on the defensive end could be less glaring when playing next to the defensive force named Nerlens Noel. That’s a bright side, I guess.

7:59: Ooh! Just thought of another positive: Okafor’s poor free throw shooting won’t become a serious problem in the playoffs because the Sixers won’t make the playoffs any time soon.

8:00: Jalen Rose’s team needs for the Knicks is “Everything”. Ugh.

8:02: The Knicks take Porzingis.

8:02: Some Knicks fans in the crowd appear to be pleased but most seem extremely upset.

8:03: C’mon Knicks fans, look on the bright side: At least Jackson didn’t trade the pick. That’s a positive, isn’t it?

8:05: This pick is risky, obviously, because they’re taking a foreign player, but more importantly, it’s just a really bad fit. Carmelo Anthony is most valuable at power forward but Porzingis’ natural position is at the 4.

8:10: Orlando takes Mario Hezonjav, another Eastern European, fifth overall.

8:11: Another risky pick and another bad fit. Hezonja is a shooting guard, but they’ve already got Victor Oladipo, an established player who’s still young and getting better, at that position. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me. I would have rather seen them go with Justise Winslow here, as their only weak spot in their starting lineup right now is at small forward and teams can always use an elite defender, particularly when that player can defend multiple positions.

8:17: Willie Cauley-Stein to Sacramento at sixth overall. Interesting pick. Cauley-Stein is a center, just like Cousins, but at least he’s flexible and an amazing defender, making him a fit pretty much anywhere. Still, it’s curious that they’d pick him when it might offend Cousins enough that he’d insist on being traded.

8:24: Another interesting pick as the Nuggets select Emmanuel Mudiay with the seventh pick.

8:25: My favorite thing about Mudiay is that he realized that the NCAA is corrupt and unfair and blew them off to go play in China while getting paid for his services. Hopefully more players will follow his lead instead of playing for free in the NCAA.

8:27: By taking Mudiay, Denver is saying, quite clearly, that it’s done with Ty Lawson, its star point guard. He’s been on the trading block for months, and is now almost certainly going to be traded before too long.

8:29: Stanley Johnson is taken by the Pistons eight overall. He should be a nice fit at small forward, playing on the wing next to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, shooting threes off passes from Brandon Jennings.

8:36: This is somewhat ominous for Charlotte. Last year they also had the ninth pick and the player they drafted, Noah Vonleh, has already been traded away.

8:37: The Hornets take…

8:37: FRANK THE TANK!!!!

8:41: I actually really don’t like this pick for Charlotte. They’ve already got Al Jefferson at center, who, while oft injured, is still a force on the offensive end. Kaminsky is going to be forced to play power forward, but that negates one of his biggest assets: his ability to shoot threes while being able to play center defensively. It’s a poor fit and this poor fit might submarine Kaminsky’s career

8:42: Rose makes the good point that the Hornets just traded for Spencer Hawes, another guy who can play center and shoot threes, while trading away Lance Stephenson, who’s an elite defender, to get him. Then, in the draft, they turn around and draft someone who can play center and shoot threes, in Frank Kaminsky, while passing on an elite defender, in Justise Winslow. Not a good sign as to the quality of Charlotte’s brain trust.

8:43: And the Heat take Winslow tenth.

8:44: It’s a good pick because, as I’ve repeated again and again, when you’re taking a guy like Winslow, it’s never a bad pick. It’s really that simple.

8:50: The Pacers select Myles Turner eleventh overall.

8:52: This pick is intriguing because it signals that Indiana is moving away from Roy Hibbert and the grinding defensive mentality that they’ve relied on for years.

8:53: Apparently, Turner can hit threes, another harbinger of offensive change for the Pacers.

8:57: The Jazz take Trey Lyles, the third Kentucky player picked today.

9:00: Here’s my problem with this pick: Utah has Rudy Gobert, an elite defensive player, who’s pretty much Tyson Chandler in his prime. Similarly to Dwight Howard’s teams in Orlando and in Houston this season, Chandler’s teams in New York and Dallas won when he was surrounded by three point shooters while he worked alone in the paint on both ends of the floor. Lyles can’t shoot threes, cramping up Utah’s spacing and preventing them from becoming the elite teams that Howard and Chandler’s teams were.

9:04: Phoenix takes Devin Booker, the fourth Kentucky player taken today, thirteenth overall.

9:05: It’s a good pick. Booker’s a shooter and can play off of Brandon Knight. Booker also fills Phoenix’s weakest spot, at shooting guard.
9:11: With the final pick of the lottery, the Thunder take Cameron Payne, out of Murray State. He’s a point guard, as is Russell Westbrook, so it’ll be interesting to see who the Thunder have play off the ball when they’re on the court together.

9:18: Here’s where the Nets would’ve picked if they weren’t totally incompetent. Instead, the sixty-win Hawks will add another asset to their deep team.

9:19: Atlanta takes Kelly Oubre. He’s a good defender and he plays small forward, so he’ll be able to replace DeMarre Carroll, who’s likely going to be leaving the Hawks in free agency.

9:26: Never mind, Oubre is headed to Washington, with Washington’s pick and two second rounders going back to Atlanta. He’ll be a good fit for Washington as well, phasing out the aging Paul Pierce, although Otto Porter Jr. broke out in the playoffs and I’m surprised the Wizards don’t want to explore what they have with 2013’s third overall pick.

9:27: Terry Rozier goes to the Celtics 16th overall. He’s an elite scorer but he’ll be in a dogfight for minutes at guard with a few other players.

9:33: Rashad Vaughn is taken by the Bucks. This is the first player I don’t know enough about to have a genuine opinion about him. He plays shooting guard, but Milwaukee already has Michael Carter-Williams, Jabari Parker, and the Greek Freak, and all three of those guys can play shooting guard. Perhaps Vaughn will come off the bench and act as depth for the team instead of being an important part of it.

9:39: Houston takes Sam Dekker with the 18th pick.

9:40: Dekker’s good, but I can’t claim to love this choice. In normal lineups, Trevor Ariza plays small forward and James Harden plays there when the Rockets go small. Still, Houston doesn’t have any holes in its starting lineup, so I guess it’s worth it for them to get a player who can be valuable off the bench.

9:46: Washington, picking for Atlanta, takes Jerian Grant. The Hawks already have Jeff Teague so I’m not sure why they need him. Maybe Atlanta will play more small ball, with Kyle Korver at small forward, Grant playing shooting guard, and Teague running the point.

9:48: Wait a second… Now, Grant is apparently going to the Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr. I really like Grant and I’m ambivalent about Hardaway. I think this is ultimately a downgrade for Atlanta and a very nice trade for Phil Jackson and the Knicks..

9:53: Delon Wright, from Utah, is taken by the Raptors with the twentieth pick. He’s not going to start, not while Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are on the team, but he’s like Lou Williams in that he’ll be instant offense off the bench.

9:55: I’m extremely excited for the upcoming interview with Phil Jackson. While this last trade was rock solid, I’d like to hear an explanation for his choice of Porzingis.

9:58: Jackson just called Porzingis “Young Kristaps”. I think I know what I’ll be calling Young Kristaps for the rest of his life.

10:00: Jackson pretty much just said that since Young Kristaps is athletic and willing to work, he’ll be fine. I’m dubious, and besides, I’m not exactly happy about waiting the year that Jackson admitted it would take for Young Kristaps to develop.

10:00: The Mavs take Justin Anderson. He’s the guy whose absence proved to be the undoing of Virginia; once he got hurt, the Cavs lost in the second round to MSU. It’ll be interesting to see where he plays, though, because he’s a forward and Dallas’ two forward spots are already filled with Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki.

10:06: Chicago selects Bobby Portis. There’s no way he’ll ever see the light of day at power forward with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott all ahead of him on the depth chart.

10:14: Rondae Hollis-Jeffersonn goes to Portland with the 23rd overall pick.

10:15: I like this selection for Portland. He’s not a good shooter but with Damian Lillard on his team, he won’t be asked to ever be a big part of the offense. Hollis-Jefferson’s specialty is defense and he’ll be a useful piece for the Trailblazers off the bench.

10:18: The Cavs are up next and the decision they have is fascinating. If they can choose a good shooting guard, such as RJ Hunter, then their only comparative weakness in their starting lineup will be shored up.

10:23: Cleveland takes…

10:23: TYUS STONES. Well, Tyus Jones, but he’s earned his nickname when he hit clutch shot after clutch shot in the NCAA championship game. Great pick for the Cavs. He’s small, but he can score, and he might be able to carry Cleveland’s offense in limited minutes off the bench, a unit that simply wilted in the playoffs when LeBron sat.

10:28: Never mind, Jones is headed to Minnesota for the 31st and 36th picks in the draft. Jones will act as bench depth on the Timberwolves. It’s a good trade for the Cavs as they’ll get dirt cheap players to act as depth while not tying up much cap space.

10:29: The Grizz take Jarell Martin from LSU. I’m confused. Memphis really needs a guard who can shoot threes, but Martin shoots threes rarely, and when he does, he usually misses, only hitting just over a quarter of his threes this past season. He’s another power forward but the Grizzlies don’t have a serious need for one with Zach Randolph safely the starter at that position.

10:33: The Spurs take Nikola Milutinov, the first player in this draft whose name I have never heard. Normally I would say that I’d never hear his name again, but this is San Antonio we’re talking about, so I assume Milutinov is about to be a Hall of Famer with a string of eighteen consecutive seasons of averaging 25-12 every night.

10:39: The Lakers take Larry Nance Jr. We’re officially on a streak of players who I’ve never heard of.

10:46: RJ Hunter goes to the Celtics at 28th overall. As a Nets fan I was hoping Hunter would last until the next pick. As a basketball aficionado, I was hoping that he’d drop to thirtieth where Golden State could add to their wealth of shooting talent. In Boston, just like Terry Rozier, he’ll scrap for minutes with all the other guards there.

10:48: Rose’s Team Needs for Brooklyn? Speed and athleticism. That seems accurate to me. The Nets are exceptional at everything except for running and jumping, but since those two traits aren’t needed at all while playing basketball, they’re looking very good for the future.

10:51: The Nets take Chris McCullough, a power forward from Syracuse. I’ve seen him mentioned as a sleeper in a couple of different places and I’m happy with that pick. He’s a useful player and he could become a starter on this sorry Nets team.

10:57: With the final pick of the first round, Kevon Looney is taken by the Warriors. He adds size and rebounding to the champions and will be valuable off the bench for them.

We’ve finished the first round, a round that will help define the league for years to come. Who will be the defining star from this draft? Towns? Okafor? Russell? Young Kristaps? No one yet knows, but whatever happens, it’ll be fun to watch.

Derek Fisher and the Knicks

I thought it’d be worthwhile to talk for a bit about Derek Fisher’s hiring by Phil Jackson to become the next coach of the Knicks.

There seems to be a bit of a trend in hiring coaches, in that ex-players are going to be good coaches.

Don’t believe me? Derek Fisher played for the Thunder this past season before retiring to coach the Knicks. Same for Jason Kidd last year. He played for the Knicks in 2012-2013 before retiring to become the head coach of the Nets this past year. Steve Kerr, the new Golden State coach, isn’t moving into coaching directly after retiring (he retired in 2003 and has since worked as the GM of the Suns and as a TV analyst) but he is an ex-player. He played for 15 years and won five rings as a part of the second Bulls three-peat and the first two Duncan-era Spurs titles. Clearly, there’s now something inherently good about ex-player coaches.

The question is, of course, what the advantage is. As Jackson very well knows, coaching isn’t all about strategy; in fact, strategy might not be the most important part.

During Jackson’s long years as a coach, first with the MJ Bulls, then with the Shaqobe Lakers, then with the Kobe Lakers, he acted more as a peacemaker and a psychologist than as a master tactician. He understands the need for someone who understands the locker room dynamic and can act accordingly to make sure everyone is happy and performs to the best of their abilities. Who better to know what happens in a locker room than a former player?

Also, ex-players know tactics just as well as, if not better than, non-ex-players. While the latter may know more about advanced stats than the former, the former knows what makes basketball sense, not to mention what the players are actually capable of doing.

With all of these advantages to having a ex-player as a coach, why are there no player-coaches in the NBA anymore? While the NBA prohibits someone from being paid as a player and paid as a coach, an assistant coach could be given the title of assistant coach while the player actually coached. Why would this not work? The player is in the locker room and knows what’s happening, They know what the team needs, be it rest, motivation, or just to be left alone. Especially as players are already the emotional leaders, (like Kevin Garnett on the Celtics) why not make them the leaders in name as well?

On most teams, especially on those without an elite coach, the best player, the superstar of the team, rules alongside the coach. If the relationship between that player and the coach sours, that team can kiss good-bye to any success and wave hello to a dysfunctional year. Erasing that risk from the equation can certainly be beneficial.

In fact, there’s something already like that in basketball today. Doc Rivers is the coach and GM of the Clippers. Doc the GM made a couple of bad moves over the summer, for instance signing JJ Redick, which didn’t work out. Doc the coach wouldn’t have been very happy about those moves but, of course, he couldn’t exactly feud with himself. A potential power struggle was averted because one person already had all the power. While in governments that may not work too well, on an NBA team, it seems to work pretty well.

Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson should work pretty well together, mostly because they already have. Fisher and Jackson won five rings together in Los Angeles, in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, and 2010, in two separate stints for each of them. Although they (obviously) aren’t the same person, they still have much of the same experiences and philosophies, making it more likely that Fisher will, rather than be his own coach, act as an extension of Jackson, making sure that there’s no tension

With Jackson and his philosophies coaching the Knicks through Fisher, the Knicks seem to be in good shape. The biggest problem is that tension might arise because their coach is better than their starting point guard. Other than that, I like their hiring a lot.

 

In NBA Finals news, Duncan continued his throwback with another monster double-double of 18-15, and LeBron had an F-You game and scored 35 along with 10 rebounds. So much for cramps.

The question, of course, is what the idiots who blindly hate LeBron are saying. Here’s my best guess:

“Why didn’t LeBron score 50 points and grab 20 rebounds along with garnering 10 assists. What a slacker! And all his team did was win the game. He should have won these Finals, along with the next four this game. LeBron really sucks.”

On that comedic note, here’s to another great game tonight!