Knicks 2016 Season Preview Roundtable

Is Jerian Grant ready for the NBA?

Kurylo: In preseason Jerian Grant managed a ts% of 42.1%, including 0-4 from three. His last year in college he hit only 31.6% from the shorter arc. That doesn’t bode well for his ability to shoot at this level, especially for a point guard in the triangle. Toss in that I once did a study that showed PG is the position that takes the longest to learn, and I’m doubtful he’ll be able to contribute too much this year.

Gibberman: Any rookie point guard is going to struggle if asked to playing significant minutes in his first season, but in the context of the Knicks I’d consider him ready. Even with whatever flaws he has in his game, below average jumper and defensive issues, his ability to break down a defense off the dribble is desperately needed by New York. The roster can be slow, plodding and unathletic — Grant is the opposite of all these things. He might not be ready per se, but considering the other options the Knicks it will make him look better than if he was on other teams with more competent point guard play.

Cronin: I think Bryan nailed it. It’s interesting, we were just having a discussion of which players on this team would play on good teams. I think Grant pretty clearly would not. He’d be like Dennis Schroder and Shane Larkin two years ago on the Hawks and Mavericks, respectively. But since the Knicks need a point guard, he will play right away here. Now is he ready? I think he’s ready to be not as good as Shane Larkin, but with more upside. In other words, probably not that good this year.

Ephus: I think that he will likely get exposed on defense if he plays when the Knicks face the toughest Western Conference PGs, and the few excellent Eastern Conference PGs. While he may eventually be a plus defender, he is going to have to learn PnR defense without a lot of quickness on the backline. On offense, his pedigree says he will be a good Triangle player, but his 3FG% says he will miss a lot of open shots. I think that if he gets more than 15 mpg, it means that the Knicks are not a .400 team.

Fisher-Cohen: He’s ready for the Knicks as he fills a gaping hole in their roster: dribble penetration. At 0.42 FTA/FGA, a higher ratio than anyone on the Knicks last year other than Shved, Grant’s preseason numbers show a strong ability to get to the rim and give defenses a headache. That is his current NBA skill. His ability to make a positive impact on the team will depend on how well Fisher structures rotations to emphasize that strength and minimize his poor perimeter shooting. That means he needs shooters around him, and he needs to be the creator on offense.

Here are Derrick Williams pre-season scoring numbers: 27.5 pts/36, 67.5% ts%. When the Knicks acquired Williams, I wrote this:

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.

So my question is: is he going to make me look like an idiot this year?

Kurylo: Prove me wrong Derrick Williams. Prove me wrong!

Gibberman: I’m obviously still not sold on Williams despite his preseason. BUT I’ll say there’s a chance he can give them positive minutes off the bench in an uptempo unit that plays to his strengths. So yep, there’s a chance the dude with the awful hair can make me look like an idiot.

Cronin: My position on Derrick Williams was never really about him as a player, but about the contract. He’s a young player who was drafted highly a few years ago. He’s more likely to be the player he has been so far in his career (i.e. a bad player), but I’ve always allowed that there is a chance that he turns it around this year, and that’s my problem with a two-year deal with a player option after one year. Derrick Williams has not been a good enough player in his career to be getting a contract where if he sucks again, he’ll get $5 million and if he is good, he’ll leave or take a big raise. How does that make sense? Especially since a raise to Williams almost certainly takes the Knicks out of MAX free agent money. And what if the reason a MAX free agent would want to come here is because the Knicks did surprisingly well in large part due to Derrick Williams doing surprisingly well? That’s why I don’t get giving him the player option. He gets all the benefit and the Knicks get all the risk, all for a player who has not played well in his career so far. In other words, he can have a great year and it would still be a bad contract.

Ephus: There are two possibilities with Derrick Williams. #1) He is the player that he has been for the rest of his NBA career, and we should not get carried away with some Pre-Season Stats (combining the worst of small sample size and less than hard-core competition); or #2) He had some impediment to reaching his potential that has now been removed. I’m rooting for #2, but expecting #1.

Fisher-Cohen: If Derrick Williams can really shoot threes now, he becomes maybe a Rudy Gay type player, I guess. A lot of scoring and the skills to be an efficient scorer but not the brain. But I’m fully on board with Brian. Thinking about Williams’ potential is like thinking about that time in 2011 when you almost bought some Bitcoin. It’s over. There’s no way for you to get that value back. The contract we gave him neuters our potential to get any value from him. Okay, sure, he could bump us from 31 to 35 wins this year. Whatever. We should be focusing on developing pieces for the time when we have a chance to be a great team. I would have been happier seeing Jackson give him four years and $28m than the deal he gave him since at least it would have shown Jackson knows you can’t get better by playing conservatively.

Carmelo Anthony was 4th on the team in minutes before the season even started. Should we be worried that one the games count, Fish is going to run this pony into the ground?


Kurylo: I stand on my previous statements that I don’t trust Fisher, and I believe him to be a weak spot on this team. I’m open to the possibility that he’s learned much from last year and will be a better coach this year. However I think the Knicks should be cautious with Anthony’s minutes until they actually need him. It’s unlikely New York will be in contention, so there’s no reason to trot him out for 38.7 minutes per game again.

Gibberman: The Knicks have enough depth in the front court that there’s no reason for Anthony to be playing more than 32 minutes a night. There’s a lack of depth at the wing, but even at the three you can play Williams, Arron Afflalo when both his legs are functioning and Cleanthony Early (ughhh). There’s no reason to run Melo into the ground to get the 8th seed and pounded by the Cavaliers. Fisher needs to trust the other players on the roster and start developing the entire team rather than leaning on his star exclusively.

Cronin: Clearly Melo should play less. It’s pretty obvious. In fact, I think it is so obvious that even a bad coach would figure that out. So if Fisher doesn’t…well, yes, that would not be good. I have faith that he will, though. Heck, Woodson would even play Melo less this season. Dude’s 31, coming off a major knee injury and they have a packed front court!

Ephus: There was a vicious cycle with playing Carmelo Anthony so many minutes over the last two years. In order to keep Carmelo on the court so many minutes, the Knicks needed to play at a walk-it-up pace. At that pace, defenses were always able to get set to deal with Carmelo, so he did not get many cheap baskets. Because he did not get cheap baskets, he had to work hard on offense. Because he had to work hard on offense, the Knicks had to slow the pace. The Knicks need to push the pace this year and get early offense. The only way to make that work is to have fresh legs on the court. That means no one, including Carmelo, should play more than 36 minutes in any game. As a bonus, a fresh Carmelo might actually have the steam to be a positive offensive contributor in the last five minutes of games.

What have you seen from Kristaps Porzingis in the preseason that you’ll be watching as the season progresses?


Kurylo: His rebounding. First off he’s pulled down 11.1 reb/36 in the preseason, which was third highest on the team. Porzy has put on few pounds since summer league, but he still has issues with weakness, especially against bulkier forwards and centers. How many rebounds did he have that the opponent just rip out of his hands during the preseason? I want to see if he’s putting a body on someone when the shot goes up, and if he can hold onto the ball once he’s secured a rebound.

Gibberman: I just want to see continued progress as the season goes on. Can this Knicks staff be trusted to properly develop him? I’m already worried with how stubborn they’re being using him as the starting power forward. I don’t think the skills of the players in the first unit fit Porzingis’ game or having him guard starting 4s is particularly smart at this moment. He’s a very talented individual and there’s a player to extract here. We get to start to see the process of what the Knicks are going to be able to mold him into and I’m excited for that.

Cronin: I agree with Mike about the rebounding. If he can keep up the strong rebounding numbers during the regular season, then that’d be amazing.

Ephus: I think he – like Grant – is going to get exposed on defense. He is stronger than expected, but still not strong enough to hold post position against the tough guys. He does not have the foot speed to chase stretch 4s. But, no matter what he does, he will be a “quantum leap” (to use a Clyde-ism) from Amar’e (aka, the worst defender ever).

Which position is worse, SG or PG?
Kurylo: Guard is certainly a weak spot on this team, but of the two I’m going with point guard. Sure Calderon is steady on the offensive side, but he’s failed to manage 55 games played in two of the last four seasons. If he goes down, Langston Galloway (ts%: 48.9%) and Jerian Grant (see above) don’t seem to be NBA-starter material. At shooting guard Affalo is more likely to stay healthy (has yet to have a season with less than 62 games played) and is a more well rounded player.

Gibberman: Can it be equally terrible? The starting backcourt on opening night is either going to be Jose Calderon and Arron Afflalo or Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic. I have higher hopes for the backup duo of Jerian Grant and Langston Galloway. They at least have skills that somewhat look like a modern NBA guard duo. If those two don’t exceed expectations it could get really ugly fast.

Cronin: Afflalo is definitely the best of a bad batch (right this second, I suspect Grant will eventually be better), so I guess point guard. I’d like to see them pick up a point guard for their final roster spot. Lorenzo and/or Jabari Brown?

Ephus: Shooting guard, but only because PG is so de-emphasized in this offense.

Knicks Morning News (2015.10.27)

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    LeBron James understands what it takes to reach the NBA Finals.

  • [New York Times] Kobe Bryant Heads Group of Aging, 37-Plus Ex-All-Stars (Tue, 27 Oct 2015 07:15:42 GMT)

    Kobe Bryant is still a Los Angeles Laker. NBA fans are anxiously waiting to see what he has left, wondering if this is his last year.

  • [New York Post] Centers of attention: Robin Lopez vs. Greg Monroe in Knicks’ opener (Tue, 27 Oct 2015 01:19:46 -0400)

    Robin Lopez found it intriguing Bucks center Greg Monroe is slated as his very first matchup as a Knick.
    Monroe was among Phil Jackson's very top choices to fill the center position as a free agent in July. After getting spurned by Monroe, the Knicks president turned to the 7-foot Lopez, claiming afterward to be just as happy because of the defensive presence the former Blazer brings. The Zen Master spent a pretty penny — four years, $54 million.
    "It's a heck of a coincidence,'' Lopez said. "I'm excited. Anytime I get to play against a great big man, I love that, especially as a defender. I love defending good big guys, and he's one of the best on the block. Anytime I play against a really good big guy, I get excited.”
    Jackson, Derek Fisher and general manager Steve Mills met with Monroe in Washington at the stroke of midnight July 1. Wednesday night in Milwaukee, the clock begins on the Lopez Era, when the Knicks play their season opener against the Bucks. Let the comparisons rage.
    "Free agents are free to decide who they want to play with,'' Fisher said after Monday's practice. "I don't recall any promises when we left the room that he's definitely signing with us. We were the first of his meetings. We had our opportunity. He chose Milwaukee. He seems like a really good fit. He's a really, really good player…. We like the guy we got at the center position. We'll see how it works.''
    There's been some revisionist history since the Monroe decision. The Knicks' company spin had Lopez as a higher priority because of Monroe's defensive shortcomings. In fact, there were whispers the Knicks didn't initially offer a maximum contract to the low-post demon out of Georgetown. However, Monroe's agent David Falk told The Post emphatically the Knicks offered him a max deal for short-term and long- term.
    For his part, the 25-year-old Monroe has fit in exceedingly well in the preseason, averaging 12.7 points and 8.2 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game.
    Yahoo Sports quoted Monroe last week saying the Bucks were his top choice, and the Blazers were the runners-up — not the Knicks. Shortly after Monroe signed, Falk said the Bucks were the choice because they were coming off a playoff berth and Monroe expected them to be even better with their young core. The Knicks were coming off 17 wins.
    "Like I've always said, this was a basketball decision,” Monroe told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel over the weekend. "What they did last year, I saw it. I didn't really need much more.”
    In last week's NBA GM prediction poll, Monroe was rated the third best offseason acquisition and was tied for fourth for most underrated signing. He averaged 16 points and 10.2 rebounds last season for Detroit.
    Lopez, 27, isn't nearly the low-post offensive force, but the Knicks want him to anchor the defense, protect the rim and rebound. Last season, Lopez collected 394 rebounds — 56 more than any Knick. And Lopez played just 59 games due to a broken hand.
    "I'm excited to be here,'' Lopez said. "I feel I fit in next to Melo and KP [Kristaps Porzingis] and KO [Kyle O'Quinn] and Derrick [Williams], a lot of different guys. I'm glad to be here. I hope they're glad to have me.''
    Having played his entire seven-year career out West with Portland and Phoenix, Knicks fans haven't seen him all that much at the Garden. Lopez likes to talk about defense as much as comic books — his passionate hobby.
    "One point I'd like to make: I get myself going on the defensive end,'' Lopez said. "That's at the beginning of the game. If things are out of rhythm for me on offense, I like to refocus by getting it on the defensive end.''
    Lopez is not yet ready to call the team's defensive deficiencies from last season solved and said with "a lot of new guys and turnover,'' the Knicks will have to improve as the season goes on.
    "It was up and down,'' Lopez said of the team's defense in the preseason. "I think we're still getting accustomed to the coverages and each other. Defense is a team concept. People have to be on the same page.''
    Monroe has praised the Bucks' recruitment presentation, highlighted by comedian Marlon Wayans' video joking about Jason Kidd, Milwaukee's new ownership and new proposed arena.
    Jackson is waiting to see if the joke's on him.

  • [New York Post] ‘Greatest city’; ‘f–k this place’: Carmelo’s relationship with NYC (Tue, 27 Oct 2015 00:49:42 -0400)

    Carmelo Anthony, in a video released Monday on Vice Sports’ website, is shown in the driver's seat of a car weaving out of traffic and speaking bluntly about his native New York City.
    "New York is the greatest city on the planet,'' he says. "But you're not a New Yorker if you don't wake up in the morning and sometimes say f–k this place. I don't care who you are — the mayor, governor all the way down to the mailman. Everybody wakes up some days: ‘Hey, f–k New York.' ''
    Indeed, Anthony is nothing if not moody, but currently is not saying anything derogatory about the Knicks as they embark on what could be another dismal season Wednesday in Milwaukee. Anthony is not seeing it that way, not yet, even as they go in against a rough first 10 games and likely without starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo (hamstring) for half of them.
    In fact, Anthony said he sees as deep a squad since he's been here, giving him confidence he can take a night off occasionally to keep fresh.
    "That's the importance of having a deep roster,'' Anthony said. "Guys being able to step up. Arron, we don't know how long he'll be out. We have a deeper roster where before my problem in the past was in being able to take a game here, a game there, feeling I had to do it all myself. I got to be smart about it. If I have to take a game off, I'll take a game off.''
    In their opening 10 games, the Knicks play eight opponents that made last season's playoffs, including the Bucks twice, the Cavaliers twice, Atlanta and San Antonio. And it starts with a dreaded back-to-back that Anthony loathes.
    "I was excited about our schedule,'' Anthony said. "Just knowing the excitement surrounding our team and the players we are opposing, against playoffs teams, we get tested right away. I love that.''
    Anthony was asked for the billionth time this preseason if he's OK with Phil Jackson's plan that didn't exactly field Miami's former Dream Team with his $30 million cap space.
    "I'm still chasing a championship, I'm just chasing it here in New York,'' Anthony said. "I've come to peace with that. I'm doing it in my own way on my own time.”

    There won't be either Antetokounmpo for the season opener. Thanasis was cut by the Knicks and brother Giannis, the Bucks star, is suspended one game for a preseason flagrant foul. The Post reported Thanasis could wind up on the Knicks' Westchester D-League team but as an NBA free agent. The Knicks no longer own his rights.
    Asked if he still could have an NBA future, Derek Fisher said, "We'll see. We obviously liked him and drafted him. We spent some time trying to help him improve, he has improved. We had conversations with him before making the decision and we did share some things with him about where he is.''

    Fisher hinted he could go "bigger'' at shooting guard in place of Afflalo, which could mean Derrick Williams, who has often talked about playing three positions in preseason.

    The Knicks still have a roster spot but aren't expected to use it on PF Maurice Ndour, waived by the Mavericks because of a serious stress-reaction injury that has him out indefinitely. Ndour was a Knick summer-league star and but they were outbid by the Mavs. …C Kevin Seraphin sat out with his recurring sore right knee and could miss the opener — already a suspect signing.

    In an unusual scene, Fisher unveiled a championship belt to the players during practice that will be awarded monthly to the top free throw shooter.

  • [New York Daily News] Charles Barkley picks Knicks to make playoffs this season (Tue, 27 Oct 2015 01:51:28 GMT)

    Pigs aren’t flying and hell is probably still scorching, but Charles Barkley believes the Knicks are going to be better than expected.