Brooklyn Nets 112 – New York Knicks 104 – Game Recap

Why does it have to be so hard?

One of my favourite definition of insanity is the (misattributed to Einstein) following quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. For the umpteenth time this season, and more specifically the fourth in a row, the Knicks looked lost both on and off the court well into the second half of the game. On the court, well, for 30+ minutes this game was borderline unwatchable, full of defensive mistakes, stupid turnovers, and even an iffy own-basket by Kanter and Vonleh. Off the court, there was a minutes distribution so puzzling it made me question my sanity, because if you’re losing by a lot and not playing well at all, why in the hell do you keep the youngsters glued to the bench?

Then, with 3:43 to go in the third quarter, Frank came into the game for Mudiay and Robinson was brought in for Kanter. Forty seconds later, Knox was subbed in for Hezonja. From there to the finish line (15 full minutes of play), the Knicks trotted out the following lineup: Frank-Trier-Dotson-Knox-Robinson. Did we win the game? No, but with that lineup who cares. Did we make the game competitive and spirited? Hell yes. Did it make the game watchable and, most importantly, meaningful? HELL YES. This is our future. Our (cue the eyeroll of who just wants to hear and read about day-to-day basketball) cost controlled future. Our all-upside, no-downside future. That lineup, made of two genuinely good prospects, a solid wing in the making, and two mostly sucky first round picks, was +9 and suddenly made the Garden remember what it’s like to play defense with passion – and length.

Do you want more of that? Because I do. The fact that we lost, and in a competitive way nonetheless, while Atlanta and Cleveland won made it easy to find the sweet core of this sour, bitter candy. But setting aside the final result or the tankathon projection, playing the young guys gives you hope. Let’s see if those five will see the court through the next few games. We need Fiz to stop sending young guys to that infamous dungeon of his.

The good:

– Honestly, it’s hard to dub anyone really good for this game. The aforementioned uber-young unit was good as a whole, but none of the guys played well per se. So, counter-intuitively, I’ll hand the first good mention to Enes Kanter (23 pts, 14 rebs, 3 ast, -9 +/-), because without him the first 30 minutes of play would have been a sh*tshow of epic proportion. His presence, and his flawless touch around the rim, kept the game a sliver from rock bottom in terms of watchability, and even if he’s not a good team player he still is a good player, and I have to give credit where it’s due. That’s even more true tonight, when Vonleh straight up stank and the third best rebound tally of the team (after Enes and Mitch) went to Mario. Enes was his usual unrelenting machine on the glass and was efficient, hitting 10 of his 13 field goal attempts. I still don’t want him around here anymore after April 2019, but I have to commend his good performances. He even dusted off a nifty eurostep in the first quarter. If the game was only predicated on offense, Kanter would probably be in the top 5 of all NBA centers. Again, he’s just playing a different game from a different time. If you kept the same finishing lineup with Enes instead of Mitch, I think we wouldn’t have been that exciting overall and goodish on defense.

The above-average

– Sorry but I have to say it: Frank Ntilikina (7 pts, 1 reb, 3 ast, +7 +/-) was quite good tonight. The numbers are mediocre, even if he shot 3/6 from the field, and one attempt was a end of period heave (Trier should teach him to stop doing that to preserve his efficiency – lol). His impact on the game, on the other hand, was not. I know, defensive numbers don’t paint him like the total pest he is on primary offensive threats on opponent teams, but they’re so noisy that it’s all a bit inconclusive. He smothered D’Angelo Russell from the first possession. He got smoked just once by Dinwiddie (and then nobody came in to help). I’ll put it simply: guys were scoring effortlessly on us in the first 35 minutes. In the last 13 minutes, they committed three 24-second violations. Also, handing the reins to someone who wasn’t Trier was big for Zo. He’s not at his best when he’s asked to create first. If there is someone else capable of doing that, even if not at the rate we’d like to, and also to defend, Zo can untap his potential. Frank still tends to suck, but we need him a lot more than we need Mario or 5 extra minutes of THJ and Mudiay. Great finishing in the paint for him, too.

– Damyean Dotson (12 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, -1 +/-) was the most evident beneficiary of Frank comeback. Dot in his first 15 minutes without him: 0 points, 0-3 from the field. Enter Frank: 12 points (8 in a row in a span of 63 seconds) on 5-for-7. As I said: this guy need someone to set him up to get in a rhythm. Defending better helps getting into transition which in turn helps finding guys open. That’s why defense is so important: a good defensive possession is the best start for a great offensive possession. This is his 16th game (on 22 played) that he goes off for 10+ points. I’ll say it again: Dotson is a keeper.

– Allonzo Trier (15 pts, 2 rebs, 46% FG, +5 +/-) didn’t play his best game and made mistakes on the last two plays (he should have passed the ball to a very open Mitch under the rim in his last foray), but was a force to be reckoned when driving to the rim. He was a bit less listless than Dotson before the late game spurt, but he too benefited from Frank’s insertion. Dinwiddie ate him alive, but I have a hunch that Zo will recover his at least average defensive presence in the next few games. By the way: the deadline to sign him to a real contract is approaching very fast. Does anyone have an idea about what’s going to be the offer? Nobody seems to be talking about it.

The bad:

– Tim Hardaway Jr. (7 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, -9 +/-) threw out a real stinkbomb. He was nowhere to be found on offense tonight, trying to empirically prove that the cold hand fallacy is not a fallacy at all. I love his method to get out of a slump: just shoot it more with even less preparation, like it’s ever gonna work. His FG% for season has plummeted to 39.1, and his free throw rate is going down as well. He’s hovering around his career advanced stats, and that’s definitely not promising, as it wasn’t his body language for the whole game. He went 0-for-5 from three and every three pointer was a bad one. Someone should try to explain to him he’s not Steph Curry, or even Reggie Miller. I hope some fringe contender needs a sixth man sooner or later. Yeah, a 17 million dollars sixth man, but I hear that in Houston and in New Orleans they’re getting a bit desperate.

– Noah Vonleh (4 pts, 3 rebs, 4 ast, -7 +/-) played one of his worst games, maybe the worst when he wasn’t plagued by foul trouble. I don’t know why, but he just wasn’t there with his head tonight. I won’t blame him too much, but you really can feel when he’s not doing his best job out there. The whole team suffers and it’s pretty evident. His defense was lackadaisical too, as he even failed to rotate more than a couple times. The 4 assists are cool to see; the traveling violations in the first quarter 30 feet from the cup aren’t. I think he’ll be better against Charlotte.

Fun-sized bits:

– Mario Hezonja shot well for the first time in ages (4-8, 3-4 from downtown) but still was a game-worst -14 +/- and got a few of his teammates demonstrably angry at him for how he was misusing possessions. He’s unconceivably unaware of how bad he is at this game, but I don’t think it’s his fault, like at all. He’s not appointing himself a starter, there are other guys doing that for him.

– Mudiay is so bad on defense it’s incredible. They put him in the pick and roll, he dies on the first screen over and over again and then doesn’t know where to rotate. The Nets killed us with that simple action all night (again, defensive stats don’t tell all: watch film of Mudiay defending and of Frank doing the same, and tell me you don’t see differences).

– Mitch in full octopus mode on defense in the fourth quarter (three steals on passing lanes, a swallowing block) and with a pair of circus tricks on offense. If he only could avoid committing stupid fouls (and technicals) and could work on his hands – free throws included – he’d be a solid contributor right now. Just imagine where he’ll be in two years from now.

– Knox had a meh game. Not bad, not good (50% from the field though! And two confident drives to the rack). It was still nice to see him on the court not making too many mistakes during that fun fourth quarter.

– Four minutes for Courtney Lee. Thanks, Phil!

– The MSG crowd gave a heartwarming cheer for Frank as soon as he touched the ball. I’ll admit it: I’m a Frank fan. That melted juuuust a bit my cinical soul.

– During an intermission MSG gave a community award to Dr. Strange. No, not the comic book one. A certain Dr. Theodore Strange who saved the life of a fellow marathon runner. I mean, not all superheroes wear costumes, but some of them have their destiny in their name. Waiting for the first Bob Stark to save a kitten in a flying suit.

– Alan Shearer at MSG tonight. One of the most prolific scorer ever in soccer. It was funny to hear the contrast between Rebecca’s and Alan’s accents. OT: I have a much harder time understanding British people than American one. I wonder if it’s the same for you native speakers.

Are you ready for the French Heritage Night? I hope Frank is. A back-to-back against Kemba on a France-themed night should grant at least 15 minutes of gameplay to our offensively-challenged defensive savant.

See you tomorrow!

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Just an Italian basketball fan with an insane passion for all things Knicks (and yes, linguine Alfredo is not a real Italian dish).

58 thoughts to “Brooklyn Nets 112 – New York Knicks 104 – Game Recap”

  1. Here’s where we see how much this is an actual meritocracy, and how much is driven by office politics and egos. After a game like that, Frank has earned his way back into the rotation. And the all-kids lineup should play as much as is humanly possible together. Will either of these things happen? I guess we will learn a lot about our coach in the next couple of days.

  2. And if this really WAS just a motivational ploy by our coach to get a chronically timid over thinker to be more aggressive? Than bra-bleeping-vo.

    ( I am not entirely convinced of that yet, however. For one thing, he wouldn’t have waited that long in the game to insert Frank. Unless he was planning to put him back in the rotation for today’s game, because of the France theme, and our utter suckitude moved it up a day.)

  3. Alan Shearer is from Newcastle. Even his fellow brits struggle to understand a proper Geordie accent – his is actually pretty mild. Try listening to Paul Gascoine…

  4. Great cap!!! I love waking up and finding you noticing all the same things we noted in the game thread, although the narrative last night was blindingly obvious.

  5. I think Fizdale is experimenting with lineups trying to find combinations that work (perhaps with some politics sprinkled in favoring Perry’s players over Phil’s just like Hornacek did). I have no real problem with experimentation. We have 3 rookies, some new players, and he’s a new coach. What I have a problem with is that he clearly favors offense over defense, merit has NOT been driving force behind the minutes, and some of the lineups are so ridiculously bad it hints of incompetence. If you actually think Kanter, Hezonja, Hardaway, and Mudiay is a good combination, I don’t know what to say.

  6. I mean, in the second quarter we played two minutes with a Mudiay-Hez-Knox-Vonleh-Kanter lineup. I’m more than ok sperimenting, but what sense did it have?

  7. Nice write up Farfa. I couldn’t watch the game but after reading that it felt like I did.

  8. The first three quarters were as unwatchable as an NBA game can be, I thought, until I looked at the Bulls box score.

    Spencer Dinwiddie is a pretty interesting player. Good pickup for them. I think I remember him popping up in predraft screens. Seems to be holding up in the NBA. They guy really knows how to beat his defender.

    Overall, I think the Nets look like a much better team than us. Some solid veterans in Davis, Carroll, Harris, etc and good youth with Allen, Dinwiddie, etc. I think our tank is much stronger than theirs….

  9. Sorry, I haven’t been keeping up with the threads lately. But are you saying that you stuck with this team through the Ewing Trade, the McDyess Trade, the Marbury Trade, the Curry Trade, the Randolph Trade, the Anthony Trade, and the Bargnani Trade, but a Frank Ntilikina Trade is the hill you’re ready to die on?

    I’ve been a Knicks fan since Frazier, Bradley, Reed, DeBusschere etc… I admire defense, sharing the ball, and “team first”. Phil/Gaines were drafting the kind of young players I like. I love Frank. He has a long way to go on offense. Maybe he’ll never get there. But to trade him now for some non defending iso heavy player that can create his own shot will convince me that this team is doomed to failure. It’s more about the message it would send than the trade itself.

    I’m impressed with the way Mudiay and Burke have used this opportunity to breath new life into their careers. Maybe Hezonja can do the same. But I’d way rather see Frank and Dotson out there now and can’t wait until we add KP to the mix with Robinson.

  10. this week should be very lucrative for our department of minutes whining with trey and lance due back. i’m not gonna lie i don’t love ron’s spot in the queue. but the real action will in our off balance sheet sheet joint venture for freaking out about the contractual status of fringe assets when trier ends his two-way deal.

  11. I’m not sure if a deal exists, but I might try to trade Lee and Burke for an expiring contract. When we dump Baker, I hope someone is smart enough to pick him up. He’s better than given credit for even if he’s an end of bench defensive pest. His problem on this team is that he can’t create shots off the dribble and chuck. He probably doesn’t impress pinheads like Mills and Perry.


    What are the options for Trier?

    I like Trier so far, but I think he’s a bit over-hyped. I see no real evidence he defends well from watching games and he turns the ball over a lot. Plus, he’s also a lot older than the typical rookie. So he should be ahead of them at this stage. He seems more like a 6th man type like Hardaway.

  12. I loved Frank’s assertiveness yesterday, and I always love his defense. But oh boy, the couple of times he moved the ball past half court and then almost turned it over on an east-west pass to Trier, and once *backwards* to Trier were awful. These have to stop. You’re the point guard. Create something!

  13. I missed the game, then wasted two hours of my life watching the replay w/o knowing the outcome. I assumed we would win b/c the Nets left it all on the floor vs. Toronto, but lo and behold, we pull out the loss! Atkinson’s the perfect coach for that team, really like him even though he may be screwing up their tank.

  14. Here’s where we see how much this is an actual meritocracy, and how much is driven by office politics and egos. After a game like that, Frank has earned his way back into the rotation. And the all-kids lineup should play as much as is humanly possible together. Will either of these things happen? I guess we will learn a lot about our coach in the next couple of days.

    I think you (and others) are reading much too much into the day-to-day decision-making of the coach. The next couple of days will likely tell us nothing about the next couple of months. I think that Fiz will continue to tinker and play odd lineups all season.

  15. Frank looked good, definitely something to build on. Still plays six inches shorter than he is on offense.

  16. But oh boy, the couple of times he moved the ball past half court and then almost turned it over on an east-west pass to Trier, and once *backwards* to Trier were awful. These have to stop. You’re the point guard. Create something!

    The sense I’ve gotten from both watching and reading Zach DiLuzio and the Knicks Film School guys is that the handoffs and east-west passes are designed plays, to give Trier or Hardaway or Burke a chance to make something happen one-on-one, then for them to pass it if the shot’s not there. Mudiay starts that action sometimes, too. The problem with Frank in the past is that he would give the ball up and then disappear into the corner. And there were long stretches where that was the only thing he would do. Last night, he was not only much more active on offense even off-ball, but was ready to break down the defense if he saw an opening, or look for his own shot. Still very much a work in progress, and I’m not sure if his 3-point shot is broken or just related to his shoulders, but his passive instincts were an enormous part of his problem. He’s long and smart enough to more regularly attack the basket like he did a few times last night. If he can do that, it changes an awful lot for him, and for whomever’s on the court with him when he’s playing PG.

  17. What are the options for Trier?

    1. They can keep him on a two-way and send him to the G league immediately.

    2. They can unilaterally convert him to a minimum one-year deal (getting rid of someone else) and he becomes a RFA at year-end without bird rights.

    3. They can sign him to a two-year deal if he agrees. This could be for anywhere from the minimum to the $3.4m/year biannual exception (prorated).

    4. They could technically sign him to a 3 or 4 year deal using what remains of their mid-level exception if he agrees. They have so little left (hi Mario) this would amount to a minimum deal.

    5. They could make a trade that gets them under the cap and use that space to sign him.

    6. They could trade him.

  18. 5. They could make a trade that gets them under the cap and use that space to sign him.

    You’ve reminded me that this team has $110M in salary this year. Unbelievable. Like, jesus fucking christ how is this possible.

  19. I really hope Fiz puts Mudiay and Hezonga back on the bench. Let them play maybe 10-15 minutes a night. We’re not re-signing either of them (he says hopefully) and no GM is giving up anything for either of those guys (but wait, they’re both lottery picks!)

    On the other hand, I’m a little torn, because Mario as a starter guarantees that we’ll get off to horrible starts and be playing from behind the whole game. Which is great for the tank and all.

  20. Last night I posted my wish that the 4th quarter lineup become the “second unit” and get to play a good, solid 20 mpg each together. Okay, start Kanter and Mudiay if you must, but with the intention of TRADING them for something. If they can’t be dealt, then release them after the trade deadline (at the latest) and really let the kids play. None of this will happen, I know.

    Don’t we all want to at least see a KP-MitchRob-Knox-Trier-Frank lineup? Of course, it’ll lose a lot of games, but it also might be fun to watch. You know, ENTERTAINING, and with some upside.

    I’d release Hezonja to sign Trier. Say all the starts were a courtesy to him and his agent so that he can hook up with another team. He’s a sunk cost.

    Then, insert Lee or LT into the starting lineup…again with the intention of showcasing that they are healthy enough to maybe trade in December or January.

    THJ? Please find a taker…

  21. I think out of the non-rookies I think Hezonja and Lance have no market (they could have as expiring contracts but we shouldn’t be adding salary long term anyway), Vonleh probably doesn’t also (and might be worth keeping), then there’s Mudiay, Kanter and Lee.

    Like I said before, I refuse to believe Kanter has no market, but it’s hard to see as most playoff teams have their centers already. Maybe the Wizards or the Hornets, but it seems unlikely there will be much interest around him unless the Knicks take back salary, which should be a no go. Mudiay should also have very little interest, maybe only the Suns or a team that eventually loses their PG to injury, and I still think the Knicks would have to pay for someone to take Lee.

    So yeah, the Knicks should definitely do a fire sale, but I’m having a hard time thinking where those players would go. I’d trade them all for 2nd rounders but even that might be hard to accomplish.

  22. “Zion train is coming our way
    The Zion train is coming our way
    Oh, people, get on board (you better get on board)
    Thank the Lord (praise fari)
    I gotta catch a train, ’cause there is no other station
    Then you going in the same direction”

    Bob Marley

  23. Gotta hand it to that jackass Cuban and the Mavs. Doncic looks like a legit stud in the making.

  24. It’s pretty incredible how Cuban has continued to keep the Mavs relevant without a major rebuild. Dude is pretty goddam shrewd, clever, slick…

  25. Doncic looks like a legit stud in the making.

    And what’s weird is that he came from nowhere! I mean, he didn’t even play a minute in the NCAA so we had no real way to know if he’d be an impact player in a real basketball league. And don’t forget the lack of clutch situations we’d need to evaluate whether his “numbers” were inflated against inferior talent in low-pressure situations.

    But maybe if we had seen him up close, at practice day in and day out, we could have seen this coming. I mean, that’s the reason we have so many draft busts on our roster. Can’t figure out if they’re any good if you can’t make them do 3 on 3 drills live and in person.

  26. It’s pretty incredible how Cuban has continued to keep the Mavs relevant without a major rebuild.

    Yeah, it’s amazing what tanking *just one time* will do for ya.

    I don’t know why people are talking about lineup changes. This one is finally settling in and playing perfectly. And it’s exposing the 4 vets Knicks’ brass inexplicably love. Let’s at least squeeze an 11 game losing streak out of Mudiay-Timmy-Mario-Kanter before we give up on them.

  27. I wonder if it’s just coincidence that the Mavs seem to play much better w/o DSjr…

    I doubt it. Smith is still bad on both ends even if he’s a little better this year. Plus, they don’t need him. There’s no reason they can’t make Doncic the primary play maker and try to put a more efficient scoring defender with different skills on the court to replace Smith.

    It’s not just Doncic that’s helping them turn it around. They also added Deandre Jordan and a couple of their other players (Mathews and Finney-Smith) are having more efficient years so far.

    I may have to start watching more of their games to see if Doncic can defend at all. The one night I watched closely he was terrible, but I have to see more.

  28. Do the Heat have the worst salary situation in the league?

    Here’s their commitments next year:

    Whiteside $27M
    Tyler Johnson $19.2M P/O (holy shit that’s awful)
    Dragic $19.2M P/O
    James Johnson $15.1M
    Waiters $13.3M
    Olynyk $13M
    Josh Richardson $10.1M
    Winslow $13M

    I don’t know if any other team can boast that number of terrible guaranteed contracts. There’s just no chance that Johnson or Dragic decline the options, so they’re at $135M next year and they’re sitting at #21 in SRS with the #9 slot in the draft lottery. WOOF.

  29. Big picture wise I’d have no problem with the useless vets playing, because a smart, open-minded front office would have no trouble at all finding the right trades to make, even if they’d be very lateral moves.

    History and gut feeling, though, tell me that Mills (the history part) and Perry (mostly gut feeling) are all about saving face, so they’ll look at perspective trades only under the light of looking good.

    That’s why the Melo trade was good: Melo was a Phil guy, there was nothing to swallow there. Ditto for Willy and McDermott (not good trades but you get the point). I’ll be very surprised if Perry pulls a smart trade with one of his guys (Mario and the rookies, maybe Vonleh) or THJ.

    It’s like those guys who act uber-confident with girls they don’t like and are a mess with girls they like.

  30. Why would any tank-lover oppose a diabolically bad lineup that includes Hezonja, Thomas, Baker, Ntilikina, Kornet, Mudiay, Burke, Knox and Kanter in any order or combination, playing within Fizdale’s patented ‘no-real-system’ system?

  31. @30

    Doncic is a bad defender (but is an NBA rookie and doesn’t have an NBA body yet), but his build makes it so that it’s easier to hide him on the least dangerous opponent between SG and PF roles. A smart coach will never have trouble building an average to good defense around him, given other good pieces.

  32. @33

    I wouldn’t hate if it didn’t eat at the development of our first- and second-year players.

  33. Ah yes, flashbacks to 2016 when people focused so much on Harden’s defense that they forgot to vote him onto an All-NBA team. He never fully recovered.

    Doncic is 19.

  34. My feeling on defense is that you can still win a championship with 1 bad defender, but it gets really hard to hide and/or cover for 2. The problem compounds itself. -1 + -1 = -3. So if your best offensive player is a bad defender (Dirk, Harden, etc..) you will probably need a strong rim protector and some other strong defenders on the court that can help him and also more than hold their own.

    That’s part of Houston’s problem now. Aside from some injuries, they lost high quality defenders (and Paul may have lost a step or has been playing at less than 100%). Now it doesn’t matter if they have a good night shooting or what Harden does, they can’t stop anyone.

  35. Paul has apparently lost many a step. Take a quick look at BRef’s Paul profile and you’ll be very set aback. Small sample size and all, but Paul’s decline might have already started.

  36. I still couldn’t care less about Doncic’s defense because it really shouldn’t be a factor. The Mavs are 13th in defensive rating with Doncic playing 32 minutes, with also DSJ being a poor defender and Barnes isn’t exactly a stud too. DeAndre has taken a big step back on defense too since last season.

    What the Mavs did that nobody paid attention to was filling their bench with very useful players who have flown under the radar so far. Kleber is an extremely good defender who can shoot, so is Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell is another very strong defender and an efficiency monster. Those 3 plus Barea have been huge for them.

    You can find those strong defenders all around the league, you can’t find a guy who does what Doncic did last night anywhere outside of the upper echelon of talent. The Rockets messed up hard not only because they lost those players, but then they went and replaced them with Melo, MCW, Ennis, players we all knew wouldn’t be able to pick up the slack.

    Still, it’s much easier to find the next Mbah a Moute than it is to find a James Harden.

  37. I can’t defend Riley, Miami has operated like their objective is to patch a leaky kayak just long enough to survive until help arrives. But not all of those contracts are terrible.

    Richardson is maybe being overrated by some but that contract is fine to good. You can definitely pay Josh Richardson 8 pct of the salary cap.

    Olynyk is so aesthetically displeasing that people forget he is a pretty good player on a fair contract. He’s a versatile big who can shoot the 3, get to the line, pass decently, and isn’t a zero on defense.

    I can’t defend this but I think Winslow’s extension will turn out okay, especially year 3 being a team option. I know he’s sucked but I swear a player hiding in there. I would lose my mind with excitement if we traded Timmy and Lance for Winslow.

    Tyler Johnson obviously isn’t worth $19 million but I will point out he basically signed the same contract Lee did at the same time (his was backloaded by the Nets) and he will almost definitely produce more Win Shares and Vorp over their deals. Faint praise, I know.

    The Heat are also the only tram to have traded away an unprotected 2021 first.

    On the hand, Bam is good. Is there any NBA twosome you’d take in a tag team fight over Bam and James Johnson?

  38. People have been jumping on the Spurs and Popovich for their bad moves, but Riley has done equally as bad if not even worse. The only difference is that his team is in the east and might eventually be in the playoffs by virtue of everyone else sucking more, while the Spurs don’t have this luxury.

    I do like Adebayo, Olynyk and Richardson, but I’ve left Justise island and I do not intend to come back anytime soon. Spoelstra has build this weird offense around mediocre point forwards with Winslow, Richardson and James Johnson initiating plays and while it’s cute and creative in the end it’s just not good. Would love to see him coaching a team with actual talent.

  39. Yeah, it’s amazing what tanking *just one time* will do for ya.

    Sure, when it was ok do do so. That kind of tanking, where you tell your vets to lose on purpose, is no longer really an option. 5 of the top minutes-getters on that team were vets.

    Not to mention that the #5 pick was parleyed into the dumbest trade ever. I gues if you mean that by tanking, you are in a better position to fleece another team, yeah. But Cuban has kept his team relevant for decades without tanking, so there’s that. too.

  40. I’ll say this about Winslow, though you should probably ignore it because I think I am like 80pct cognitive dissonance 20pct rational when it comes to him…he has now played over 5000 minutes on four years of mediocre Heat teams that have been slightly below par when he sits. Yet they have played plus 3 per 100 with him. They’ve been much better defensively when he plays every year of his career. plus minus numbers are notoriously noisy but this is a lot of minutes and a rare degree of consistency with no obvious confounder (I.e. he doesn’t play all his minutes with Rudy Gobert or anyone at all, actually). I think he is the defensive force he looked like he would be.

    yes, he’s sucked offensively. and maybe he always will, but the guy has great size, good handle with both hands and pretty good vision. He’s not Solomon hill (pls tell me he’s not Solomon hill). He doesn’t have to do all that much to be a really solid player with his defense. more than he’s done so far, though, yeah.

  41. yes, he’s sucked offensively. and maybe he always will, but the guy has great size, good handle with both hands and pretty good vision. He’s not Mardy Collins (pls tell me he’s not Mardy Collins). He doesn’t have to do all that much to be a really solid player with his defense. more than he’s done so far, though, yeah.


  42. I think Riley DEFINITELY paid Winslow because of defense and at last some hope of him becoming an adequate offensive player.

    Miami is more geared towards defense (though they haven’t been as good this year so far). That’s why some of the contracts look so horrible. People are looking at the boxscore stats and ratings but they are hoping to be a top 5 defense and decent offense at his stage.

  43. Still, it’s much easier to find the next Mbah a Moute than it is to find a James Harden.

    No doubt. My point is that if your backcourt is Harden and Lillard, you better have 3 world class defenders with them. Even then you probably aren’t sniffing the championship. It’s virtually impossible to build a very good defense with 2 bad defenders in the starting 5.

    That’s why I still put so much value on KP.

    I can see same mediocre TS% and rebounding stats as everyone else. However, it’s pretty easy to fix the TS% of a guy that shoots 40% from 3, 80% from the FT line, and can finish on OREB and lobs. You can also find a player like Vonleh to clean up on the boards and hopefully score efficiently on low usage. Try finding a 7’3″ guy that can wreak havoc in the paint, help other players on defense effectively, AND score effectively in a variety of ways. Boxscore models be damned. Tweak his shot selection and get him out there with a play making PG, a rebounder, and a little other firepower and the team is going to be a lot better once he’s 100%.

  44. But the thing strato is that specially with superstars on the playoffs, defense is hard to judge. Harden himself is pretty bad on defense usually, but there’s an argument to be made that he doesn’t suck as much as people make it out to be. He has decent to good steal rates and he can hang with bigger guys who want to post him, for example, and his steals are very valuable as they generally lead to a fastbreak with the ball in his hands, which is probably one of the most efficient plays in basketball. There’s also another argument to be made about offensive efficiency limiting fastbreaks for the other team, which I still believe is a big component of the Warriors success.

    My guess with Doncic is that he will be an adequate defender on some situations due to his size and strength, he has pretty good hands and already doesn’t foul much. Might never be a plus defender but he might not be a complete negative too. As long as you pair him up with a very strong wing defender who can draw the toughest forward assignment on the other team, there shouldn’t be many teams that can exploit that.

  45. Riley is in the phase of his career where he’s too old to do a real rebuild, so he’s just staying in forever “win now” mode. It was the same problem with Phil Jackson. Phil’s old, and thinks he knows everything, so there was just no way he was gonna do some slow, long slog of a rebuild. Riley was a fine GM at one time but that Heat team is no fun at all. They’re headed into the teeth of many years of mediocrity.

  46. All that said 538’s updated model has the Pistons at 78pct to make the playoffs and the Heat at 25pct. If I could fade those odds I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  47. Riley is in the phase of his career where he’s too old to do a real rebuild

    This is where Jerry West is really a fucking legend (helped by the fact that he doesn’t hold the GM position since his Memphis days): he thinks about basketball like he will never die.

  48. I really don’t get this “I’m too old for a rebuild” on a GM. I get it when it’s a coach, because you’re going to have to train and you’ll be evaluated by the performance of the scrubs you’re having to play to tank.

    But for a GM, I can’t really understand it. I think it’s much more presumption and thinking he knows everything and will be able to turn garbage into something amazing, in the sense that Phil for example really thought he was building a contender in NY. Riley himself was never allergic to rebuilding, he went full tank in 07-08 when it became clear the 06 team was done, for example. I think it’s more that he thought he was building a good team and would be able to make it work in trades etc, like he was reportedly very interested in Butler for example, but this time it hasn’t worked so far.

    I don’t think he’s like “fuck this I’m not going through a rebuild I’d rather win 40 with a mediocre team”, but it’s more that he thinks the team will be better or could become a contender eventually with the right moves.

  49. I wonder if the best strategy is to sign anyone for vets minimum just to field a team and hope for the best outcome in lottery. This way you essentially strip a poor front office of any decision making process. Don’t let them resign anyone that is a not a top 20 player. Don’t let them trade anyone. You draft based on consensus ratings. Just a thought experiment.

  50. I love watching Mudiay and Kanter get blown off the court. Please, Fiz, stay with your guys.

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