Knicks 2015 Free Agency Round Table: Derrick Williams

Will the Knicks be the last NBA team Williams plays for?
Kurylo: True. Going to the Knicks has been like bringing that pet home to the kids. Just make sure you get something that is cheap enough, and easily discarded. I’d bet that since 2000, more players spent their last minutes on the Knicks roster than any other team. Recent examples from the last 3 seasons: Chris Smith, Metta World Peace, Jeremy Tyler, Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, Quentin Richardson, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, James White and Andrea Bargnani. Well I’m hoping about that last guy.

Gibberman: I’ll say no. Teams always need bottom of the bench fodder and someone with the athletic gifts of Williams can always find a team looking to take a risk. Just look at how many chances Michael Beasley has received.

Fisher-Cohen: I advocated trading for Williams when he was stuck behind Love in the rotation, getting ripped left and right by Rick Adelman and playing most of his minutes out of position. He seemed like a talented player whose development had been obstructed by an unsupportive coach. His inability to approach his college numbers (57% three point percentage!), even from the free throw line, seemed to support the idea that the Wolves had screwed him up mentally.

Now he’s 24, and he just hasn’t improved at all in his four year career, making him a lot less exciting of a player. Still, Williams is a competent end of bench player who I think will probably stick in the league for at least a couple more years because of his draft pedigree. If Michael Beasley and Hakim Warrick can do it, so can Williams.

Cronin: The dude’s still only 24 years old. I think he has at the very least two more teams left in him. Guys with this much talent in college tend to stick around for a while. Look at his most common comparison, Michael Beasley. Beasley has had a terrible career in the pros and yet teams (well, team – the Miami Heat) keep giving him a second, third and fourth chance.

Will Bismack Biyombo earn more money in the NBA than Derrick Williams, when both careers are done?
Kurylo: Derrick Williams will be 24 years old, and will have earned $31M after he’s done with New York. Biyombo will be 23 years old, and will have earned $19M after he’s done in Toronto. Derrick Williams won’t make another cent in the NBA after his Knicks contract is done. If Dwayne Casey can find a thousand minutes for 29 year old Tyler Hansbrough last year, and nearly twice that many for Amir Johnson, then Biyombo will likely see ample playing time. And there’s always room in the league for a center that can rebound, block shots, and run the floor for 20 minutes a night.

My money is on Biyombo, if there is any karma in this world.

Gibberman: Most likely yes.. Effective defensive centers eventually get paid, but sometimes it takes extra time for teams to catch up with guys not putting up box score statistics. He’s only 22, so carving out an Omer Asik type career seems plausible.

Fisher-Cohen: Biyombo is a specialist, so on the right team, he can be a big contributor. I’d say the odds are in his favor even with the current handicap. However, Williams has a huge advantage: his player option. Teams are going to be throwing money at anything that moves next summer, so if Williams is decent, he could end up with a big stack of money from an imprudent team.

Cronin: Fascinating question. I think Biyombo will have the longer career, but I think he might be looking at low-level contracts for the rest of the way. Williams, on the other hand, has a real chance at another $5 million contract out there, so I’m actually going to go with Williams. The main thing is that Williams has a big head start on Biyombo, money-wise.

If Williams is playing more than 24 minutes per game, chance that Derek Fisher will be fired before the season is over.
Kurylo: 100%. This guy brings nothing to the table. A moderate amount of scoring volume, at an efficiency that would be embarrassing for a New York city street court, and nothing else. He doesn’t rebound, pass, steal, block shots, or even hit threes or free throws at the rate you’d expect from an NBA player. I’m sure Fisher will find playing time for him, especially after Carmelo Anthony gets hurt from playing lots of minutes. Williams will be win the KnickerBlogger “Jason Smith Award” in 2016.

Gibberman: Depends on the context. If Anthony ends up getting hurt again Fisher might not have a choice. If the Knicks are showing growth and Williams keeps getting thrown out there while playing poorly that won’t be a good look.

Fisher-Cohen: I think Fisher has another year without a ton of pressure. Jackson hired him. He’ll get burned in the process if he fires him, so unless we’re at like 10-30 come the midway point, I doubt he gets fired. I mean, consider the depth chart. The Knicks have Anthony, Porzingis, Williams, Early and Antetokounpo at the forward spots. O’Quinn will probably play center primarily while Afflalo may or may not be the starting shooting guard. There aren’t great alternatives.

Cronin: With this roster, is Williams at 24 minutes even all that crazy? Fisher can only play who he is given to work with, so no, I don’t think Fisher is going anywhere any time soon. If Year 3 is also terrible, then his seat might get a little warm. But not yet.

What does this signing say about the Knicks’ front office?
Kurylo: It takes the luster off of it for sure. Fans are mixed about Porzingis, but the front office can always fall back on Zinger’s “potential” as an excuse. Afflalo seems reasonable and a low-risk move. But sometimes you can judge a team by who they fill the bench with, and Derrick Williams stinks. He’s shown nothing. Actually that’s not true. He’s been given more than 6000 NBA minutes and has proven that no team should be seriously considering him for their roster.

Gibberman: Williams is the one move the Knicks have done this offseason that I haven’t supported immediately or come around on. If they give him a chance and he continues along the path of his previous play there’s no reason to play him. I don’t think Williams turns his career around, but he’s only played for the Timberwolves and Kings. You can’t find two more poorly run franchises during that time. Lets not get it twisted here either, New York isn’t far behind. Williams going to be interesting to see if they can do a better job developing him than they did. There are some useful physical tools here. Good organizations find ways to maximize what players have versus letting their flaws shine through.

Fisher-Cohen: I could have better appreciated this deal if not for the player option we gave Williams. Because of that, you can’t even rationalize the signing as high risk/high reward as on the off chance Williams gets his shooting touch back (after four years…), he leaves.

That says to me that Jackson’s thinking hasn’t changed much. He’s thinking short term — get players on “discounts” by giving them a player option on the hope that next year’s FA class doesn’t look past the Knicks’ win total and see the valuable role players are free agents. Maybe he thinks that this season will prove to the league that the triangle is awesome and that that will sell free agents.

In either case, he’s wrong. Players are smarter than that. Dwight Howard cited the youth and cap flexibility of the Rockets as the the thing that sold him. Monroe likely went to the Milwaukee Icicles for the same reason.

Jackson has done some good things, but he’s still making too many bad choices for me to buy into the possibility that this team could become great under his stewardship.

Cronin: I don’t think any one move defines the front office either way, but yeah, this was an awful, awful signing. Not only is $5 million too much for Williams, but the player option given to him was insane. Just cuckoo. If the only way that you can woo Derrick Williams to play for your team is to give him a player option after year one, then just let him go. There is no way that you need Derrick Williams so badly that you give him a player option after year one. So now your best case scenario is that he turns his career around and opts out of his deal. How does that make any sense? How in the world did Derrick freakin’ Williams have the leverage in the negotiations to get that player option? It doesn’t make any sense. The Afflalo second year player option was dumb, as well, but at least Afflalo sort of kind of had a market out there.

Knicks 2015 Free Agency Round Table: Robin Lopez

Should we be concerned with the lack of defensive rebounds from Lopez?
Kurylo: He’s pulling down only 4.7 dreb/36 over his career and only 4.5 dreb/36 last year []. Someone call the stat guy for basketball-reference, because that’s got to be a typo! Seriously, those are swingman numbers.

On the other hand Portland was 7th last year in dreb%, and 13th the year before. New Orleans was 8th in Lopez’ year there. Meanwhile, 82games has the Trailblazers neutral to slightly better on defensive rebounds (+0.8) with the Boy Wonder on the floor.

Given all that information, I’m going to be brave enough and say “I don’t know.”

Fisher-Cohen: If David Lee’s rebounding was inflated because he left his defensive assignment to steal rebounds, then surely there’s a reverse scenario where a guy’s rebounding numbers are depressed because he boxes out and focuses on getting stops before rebounding. The fact that the Blazers’ rebounding was better on both ends of the floor when RoLo played offers a bit of support for that idea.

But in terms of fit, Melo is no Aldridge when it comes to rebounding, so even if Lopez is a bigger rebounding contributor than the box score suggests, he’s still not a good rebounder at his position, which means there’s reason to be concerned that the Knicks are going to struggle on the boards — that Lopez isn’t an ideal fit.

Gibberman: No, I’m not concerned about Lopez’s rebounding at all. During his career teams have rebounded on the defensive glass 2.1% better with him on the floor versus off. He’s excellent at boxing out and creating room for his teammates to grab boards. Lopez has been on the Trail Blazers the last two seasons and they’re the only two years of LaMarcus Aldridge’s career he’s averaged over 10 rebounds per 36 minutes. That’s not a coincidence.

Cronin: It’s weird. I wouldn’t say “concerned,” but it seems to be a consistent thing with him, so I guess it is at least something to keep track of. But no, I wouldn’t say I was concerned about it.

How much does Lopez help the Knicks defense?
Kurylo: Good question, but I’ll answer with another question: how worse would the Knicks defense with Monroe or Aldridge instead of him? If there is one aspect I really like about the Lopez signing, is that it’s a defensive minded acquisition. Since I started covering the Knicks, it seems that they play lip service to defense. Lots of defense first guys have been on the roster that have been basically ignored: Aldrich, Balkman, Gadzuric, Matt Barnes, etc. Not all of them were worthy of an NBA spot (Jerome James and Jared Jeffries come to mind), but plenty were never even given the opportunity. This seems odd for a team that had two successfully periods in their history (70s & 90s) that were centered around defense.

Gibberman: I’m a big fan of how Mike complimented his own question. I think all the questions I ask are awesome too. [Editor’s note: yes I wrote the question. But I was being highly objective when I complemented it.] Another simple answer: Nope. Lopez is a solid defender that understands how to play on that end. He might not have the best physical tools from an athletic perspective, but he has good core strength, understands angles and is competent in all areas (defending PnR, Iso, post ups and team defensive in general on that end).

Fisher-Cohen: Here are the defensive tracking stats for Lopez, Chandler (in 13/14), Amundson and Aldrich. Here’s Deandre Jordan and Bizzy Biyombo as well. Lopez seems capable of causing problems for opponents inside the three point line, but he lacks to mobility (unlike Bizzy and DJ) to switch onto quicker players. The Knicks’ had the worst three point defense in the league last year, and it could get even worse if Calderon stays healthy, Melo plays more small forward, and Afflalo’s defense is a repeat of last year.

Lopez is a big improvement compared to Amundson and Aldridge, so the defense will improve with him, but it still should be bad. I mean, Portland featured two plus wing defenders in Batum and Matthews and Aldridge, whom Zach Lowe argues was highly underrated on defense, yet Portland only hovered around the league average defensively over the last few years.

Cronin: I think an additional defender who can actually play strong defense in the post will definitely help, but yeah, I envision a lot of the same problems we saw with Tyson Chandler, where the guy in the middle is going to have to run around a lot to try to cover up everyone else’s awful defense, except Lopez is likely not quite as fast as Chandler, so he might have even more of a problem with having to run after all the mistakes.

Should we be concerned with Lopez’ offense, or lack thereof?
Kurylo: Nope. I’m quite tired of arguing against every single player being an offensive magician for an NBA team to score points. Teams can, and do, have robust offenses with one player that isn’t a wizard with the ball in his hands. I’m not a shot creation denier, but I don’t worship at its altar either.

And if such a thing were true, why the heck did the Knicks get Carmelo Anthony? How does that make sense if the offense, with one of the league’s highest usage rates, is still so fragile it needs every player to help take on the scoring load? If that is true (and it’s not) we should have stuck with Gallinari.

Gibberman: Let me think on this for a second…..NOPE. Say it with me — the Knicks got an effective starting center that gets the job done on both ends of the court. I know, I’m shocked too. Lopez isn’t outstanding from a scoring perspective and that doesn’t mean he’s useless! He can finish with both hands around the rim, has the ability to make an open mid range jumper, sets good screens and is an adequate passer. Lopez is an excellent piece to place next to Carmelo Anthony much like Tyson Chandler was. What he lacks as an elite PnR finisher, he makes up for with variety. His work on the offensive glass will also be helpful getting New York some extra possessions.

Fisher-Cohen: Fisher had the audacity to give Dalembert and Aldrich post catches last year, so if he does that again with Lopez, there’s reason to worry. However, Lopez is a pick and roll player who sets strong screens and knows how to use his mass to bully his way to the rim. As long as the Fisher/Jackson braintrust is willing to adapt to Lopez’s strengths, Lopez should be an effective player on offense.

Cronin: I agree that he will fit right in on offense. No worries there at all.

By the end of Lopez’s contract, Knick fans will feel ___?
Kurylo: Sad. My bet is they’ll want the guy back.

New Yorkers tend to obsess over scorers on other teams. They love the Carmelo Anthonys, Greg Monroes, and even the Eddy Currys, when they are Knicks in rumors only. But once said player ends up in orange and blue, Gothamites can’t help to turn on them. Meanwhile any defender considering New York is a bum that’s going to ruin the finely tuned offense. Yet once said player sets a hard pick, takes a charge, blocks a shot, and dives for a ball, the stands swoon.

Want proof? Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, and Kurt Thomas.

Gibberman: Wondering if his health will hold up to be able to pay him another decent size contract. Knicks fans who grasp basketball things outside of box score statistics are going to fall in love with Lopez and not just for beating up mascots and his awesome hair.

Fisher-Cohen: Narrative has a much larger impact on fans’ perspective than reality. Jackson spent the last year focusing almost exclusively on clearing cap space, so this free agency period has taken on enormous weight to those fans who cared enough to follow the team this year. Lopez was the premiere signing, so he has a lot of pressure on him, and as a result, he’ll receive a disproportionate amount of blame or praise, depending on how the Knicks do. I expect that reputation to be hard to shake for his entire time in NYC.

Cronin: The guy is crazy likeable, so I think Knick fans will really love the guy by the time his tenure is up.

Last year, the Clippers won 56 games and the Mavericks won 50. Considering Dallas took Jordan from L.A., how many wins for each team in 2016?
Kurylo: Dallas: 60. Clippers: 46.

Fisher-Cohen: Matthews is a concern for Dallas as who knows if or when he’ll be fully recovered. Achilles injuries have altered the trajectory of other players’ careers. But I have a whole lot more doubts about the Clippers who are an older team, ripe to be abused by Mr. Injury Bug and his bucket of fun. They had no depth last year and lucked into relatively good health. With little money this year to fix the issue, I wouldn’t bet on that luck holding up. I’ll say 55 wins for Dallas and 40 for the Clippers. The West is rough.

Gibberman: 52 for the Clippers and 46 for the Mavericks. Los Angeles still has two of the top 10 basketball players in the entire world. Dallas has no depth, no point guard, plus needs a declining Dirk Nowitizki and Wes Matthews coming off an Achilles tendon tear to play huge roles.

Cronin: The Clippers lost Chris Paul for a bunch of games last year and adapted. I think even with two star players, they’ll do pretty well (I guess it also depends on who they get to play center). I am going to predict 49 wins for the Clippers. As for the Mavericks, there are still so many question marks with that team that I don’t think I can predict more than 48 wins for them at this point. They don’t even have a point guard at the moment!

Knicks Morning News (2015.07.06)

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