Summer League Recap: Hornets 82, Knicks 79

The SummerKnicks are undefeated no more after falling 82-79 to the SummerHornets Saturday afternoon. Like the majority of Summer League games, this game wasn’t pretty. TGe  shot a gruesome 22.7 percent from beyond the arc and 34.9 percent overall, but still managed to keep it close thanks to a fairly dominant starting-five unit.

The Good:

Tim Hardaway Jr. led all scores (yes, again) with 27 points on 20 field goal attempts, but he wasn’t just gunning from deep this afternoon, though, as the second-year wing made a number of pretty drives and cuts to draw a couple of 3-point plays inside.

As previously mentioned, the Larkin-THJ-Early-Tyler-Henriquez quintet had a combined plus/minus of +54 in this game. When one cog was removed from this beastly machine, things fell apart pretty quickly.

I’m convinced Shane Larkin is spending his free time in Vegas watching nothing but Pablo Prigioni film from the last two seasons. Larkin registered a team-high three steals and kept the SummerHornets on their toes all game long. He still didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, just 5-of-14 from the field, but he was all over the place, grabbing rebounds, attempting circus passes, and possibly cleaning up at the blackjack tables. He’s our Hunter S. Thompson Game MVP, because he did pretty much everything. I’m not saying he ingested pure adrenochrome, but then again…

Cleanthony Early has been the SummerKnicks second-best player, despite a lack of gaudy numbers. Best of all, he showed he’s probably ready to contribute at the NBA level right out of the gate. He is just a really smart basketball player that picks his spots on the floor to shoot extremely well, can crash the boards (10  today!) and he works his ass off on both ends of the floor. I’m all in on the Early-Should-Be-In-The-Rotation-From-Day-One train. For the 34th pick in the draft, that’s all you can ask.

The Bad:

The Knicks of Summer’s front court struggled again without the irresistible object that is Cole Aldrich protecting the rim. The Bugs got to the line 26 times, converted 22 of those chances and generally made life tough for the Tyler and company.

The Knicks added another big this week, Jason Smith and thus the odds of Jeremy Tyler making the big-league roster got a tad slimmer this week, so he REALLY needed to have a big last hurrah in Vegas. That didn’t happen. He shot just 3-of-12 from the floor, and once again just didn’t look exactly fluid in the geometrically-shaped offense

Shannon Brown, Heroball Gawd.

Clyde Quote Of The Game:

Bye SummerKnicks, you were surprisingly cool and fun. Hope against hope that the RealKnicks pick up where y’all left off.

Summer League Recap: Knicks 71, Blazers 69

Despite shooting paltry 34.3 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from three, but the New York SummerKnicks eked out a less-than-pretty 71-69 victory over a Portland SummerBlazers squad that featured a lot of guys that will be in their regular season rotation.

The Good:

Tim Hardaway Jr. is a 3-point gunner, we know that, but Summer League Hardaway Jr. is a totally different beast. The former Michigan Wolverine scored a game-high 20 points including 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. Hardaway took a lot of shots, but the leading gunner of the day was Brandon Triche, a former Syracuse guard, who jacked up five 3s in just 11 minutes of action, and connected on zero of them.

I really liked what I saw out of the Knicks’ two second-round picks, Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, but for very different reasons.

Early shot the ball with a lot of confidence in the first half. You could tell Early is used to being the guy on a team, and that should help ease his transition into the League. He went 3-of-8 from the field and 1-of-2 from beyond the arc while doing a nice, active job on the boards, grabbing six rebounds. I can’t say what exactly it is, but he just gives off that “I’m going to be a rotation player for the next ten years” vibe.

Thanasis is like that guy in pick-up who presses all game long, jumps around and is just an all-out pest on the basketball court. He’s somebody you’d hate to be matched up against, but if he’s on your team he’s a lot of fun because of how active he is on the floor. And then, in the 3rd quarter, we got this (Via @cjzero)

Shane Larkin’s game-winning floater. It was pretty.

The Bad:

Shannon Brown 4-on-1 breaks. *Shivers*.

It would have been nice to see Jeremy Tyler have a good game with Cole Aldrich sitting out, and … he didn’t deliver. He shot 2-of-9 from the floor, had four turnovers and six personal fouls. There are just a lot of dudes on the Knicks’ roster right now. Some strong LVSL performances would go a long ways to helping the powers that be make up their minds. Like with Cole, who got a two-year deal hard on the heels of a boffo 15-rebound performance. See that, Jeremy? Do what Cole does.

Clyde Quote Of The Game:

Next game is Monday at 4:00 EST against the Charlotte Hornets on MSG. Oh yeah, Melo’s coming back. Sort of a big deal. Go SummerKnicks!

2014 NBA Draft Open Thread: The Knicks Have Picks!

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2014 NBA Draft takes place tonight at the Barclays Center at 7:30 EST. Earlier this week it appeared like a longshot the Knicks would be involved in the Draft tonight in any capacity, but the the Knicks-Mavs trade from yesterday included two second-round picks from the Mavericks at No.34 and No.51.

It’s been reported that Phil really wants to get into the first round, but we shall see if he can pull it off shortly.


3-on-2: Fisher, Melo and Phil’s Off the Court Triangle

Getty Images/ Charles Wenzelberg

So the Knicks have a new head coach, Derek Fisher, and it appears to be a pretty good hire, on paper. How do you ultimately think Fisher will unfold?

Robert: No idea. The whole “hiring a coach with zero actual experience” is a relatively recent trend. It worked out just fine for Hornacek and Kidd (after a few TPS-based bumps in the road) and Mark Jackson (clash of personalities with an Ayn Rand-loving dude like Lacob notwithstanding). I think Fish could certainly make for a fine clipboard-holder, but his success is going to largely depend on what the Zen Daddy does as a first-time Team Prez.

Look at Doc Rivers, another guy that went straight from the TV booth (or in this case, court) to the bench. He had a dandy first season with the Magic in ’99, dragging a team that was openly tanking, and whose best player was Darryl Armstrong to within inches of of a playoff berth.

He was considered nothing more than a pedestrian coach for years after that until Ubuntu showed up, and now he’s one of the best in the league. (I agree, he is a great coach now, but it took a lot of on-the-job training). If the Suns/Nets come crashing back to Earth next season, is Kidd/Hornacek still held in such high regard? Probably not. It’s a hoary cliche, but it is a player’s league, y’all.

Mike: Hiring a coach in the NBA is a crap shoot. D’Antoni was thought to be a good hire, but he didn’t work out here (or in L.A.). Larry Brown was thought to be a shoe-in, but that turned into a disaster. A few years back Thibodeau was the most desired “never-head-coached-before”, but now some Chicagoans are starting to sour on his lack of offensive production.

It seems that even established coaches have their ups and downs. Warren Spahn once said that he pitched for Casey Stengal “both before and after he was a genius.” So unless you’re getting the very best (Jackson, Popovich) roll the dice and hold on. It’s more likely that a team will be ruined by a bad coach, than over-produce due to a good coach, and it’s highly unlikely to come across a great coach. So if Fischer isn’t harmful to the team, I’ll take it.

Woj dropped another bomb Saturday morning, reporting that Carmelo Anthony is leaning towards leaving the Knicks. Chicago and Houston are considered to be the favorites to sign him. If you’re Melo, which route do you take? Should the fans be upset with him if he decides to leave?

Robert: I wrote a few things about that here. It really depends on what Melo wants. If New York really is the apple of his eye, he may be willing to wait out a rocky couple of seasons as the team retools (They never rebuild. Such a dirty word). If he wants to compete for a title now, then yeah. He’s packing his bags and looking at real estate listings in Texas and Illinois. The “What would I do if I was Melo” question is one I’m not remotely equipped to answer that question. I’m not a great, well-paid athlete. I don’t know what his priorities are in life outside the court, or if he’s just tired of dealing with traffic on the FDR/Holland Tunnel.

Should fans be upset? Again, I think yes, they certainly can feel that way. If I was 12 and Melo was my favorite player, seeing him leave would be heartbreaking. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you have to be in grade school to react as such. But as a purely emotional response, if Melo’s a player you love–or even if you coldly/logically think retaining him is the Knicks best path to sustainable success–you’re gonna get mad. That’s a wholly understandable, justifiable thing.

“Should” implies that Carmelo Anthony owes fans something beyond playing as hard as he can for the Knicks while he is a Knick. Say what you will about his game, but there’s zero question in my mind that Melo busted his hump the last two seasons.

Saying fans “should” be upset smacks of ownership, as if rooting for/loving a player means that the player is obligated to repay that love in kind. or that they should make life decisions based on that love, and if they fail to do so, well then they’ve betrayed the fans, and are a person of low character. Greedy. Selfish. Egotistical. Another Spoiled Athlete. And on and on.

That’s a pantload of Angry Facebook Dad grumpery. Carmelo (shocker) is a human being. And like you and me, he’s got a job and he will do things to maximize his own personal happiness and/or profit at that job. Sometimes those decisions make us sad. Deal with it.

Carmelo Anthony opting out, as played by Tom Hanks.
Mike: Wow, if I were ‘Melo? That’s tough. Because yes I’d love to be remembered as a guy who won a championship. And so as Robert suggested, packing his backs for Chicago or Texas is the right move.

But there are millions of reasons to stay in New York, and they’re all the same reason. Money. If I’m ‘Melo adding an extra 8 figures to my bank account for post-retirement enjoyment is completely rational. And basketball is just a game anyway. Am I really supposed to care about winning a championship vs. the benefit of my family? Oh and if I stay in New York, I’ll be seen as a hero. A noble knight in quest of bringing that highly desired championship to Gotham. A guy that didn’t turn his back on New York. And if I actually win one, and I’ll be in bronze in front of Penn Station.

Also who the heck wants to live in the Mid-West during the winter, or Texas at any time of year?

So if I stay in New York, it’s win-win, right?

Onto a happier a subject, the NBA Finals! The San Antonio Spurs are up 3-1 on the Miami Heat, which most, like myself, didn’t see coming. Let’s say the Spurs finish this at home in Game 5, who is your Finals MVP? Also, are you surprised with how this series has gone?

Robert: Can you give the MVP to an entire team? Or a coach? No? Poop.

Well, then my vote goes to Kawhi Leonard, who just turned twenty freaking two, by the way. It’s going to be fascinating to see if Leonard can continue to grow to a point where he’s carrying the offense a la Parker and Duncan before him, but he’s right there with Paul George in the “Who will be the next Scottie Pippen?” sweepstakes.

I said “Spurs in Six/Seven” before the series started, so winning in five isn’t that much of a shocker. Watching their Tiki-taka offense morph into something resembling the Godhead of basketball? Yeah, against this Heat defense…that’s not something I saw coming. But boy oh boy, has it been a mind-meltingly glorious spectacle to watch.

I’m with Robert, Popovich. Oh wait you said Poop?

Kawhi Leonard is a good choice. Sure this way we can keep forgetting that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are on this team. Are they they greatest players in NBA history that everyone just overlooks? Is this the most overlooked team in history? Liking the Spurs must be like being Haley Joel Osment in the 6th sense. I can see things that no one else does.

Want to prove my point? Go to a bar and ask someone to name the best NBA teams of all time. They’ll undoubtedly say the Jordan Bulls, the Lakers (Magic or Shaq), the Celtics (Bird or Garnett), and the Heat (LeBron or Wade). You’ll probably get the Pistons or even the Rockets. No one ever says the Spurs. No one ever wonders if the one of the Spurs 5 championship teams could overtake Jordan, Magic, or Bird in their prime in seven games. No child has ever lost sleep over that.

This will be Duncan’s 5th championship, but for some reason his name sticks out like a sore thumb against Jordan’s swagger, Shaq’s brute strength, Magic’s smile, or Bird’s determination. How bad is it that I couldn’t even remember if Duncan/Robinson’s commercial was about lawn products or lemonade? [Hint: It’s neither.]

A First-Round NBA Mock Draft (Plus A Pick for the Knicks!)

AP Photo, Gety Images
AP Photo/Getty Images

Note: I’m not a fan of putting together mock drafts based solely on what I think is going to happen. That’s boring. Instead, I put together a mock draft that’s a combination of what I think teams will do and what I’d like to see them do. 

Also, the Knicks will have a pick in this mock draft! The team may not have a pick as of right now, but Phil seems determined to purchase at least one pick in either the first or second round. Snagging a first-round pick seems highly unlikely, but purchasing one the several second-round picks the Philadelphia 76ers own is plausible. In this mock, I have the Knicks successfully purchasing the 32nd pick in the draft from the Sixers. 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

Analysis: It took every fiber of my being not to put Noah Vonleh here because Cavs. If Embiid’s back checks out, he should be the pick. The only problem with picking Embiid is that the Cavs would have a front court that would include Embiid, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller. That’s a lot of minutes to divvy up. At least one of these big men would need to be traded for a quality wing, or more picks. It’s a good problem to have, though.

2. Milwaukee Bucks – Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke

Analysis: Bucks General Manager John Hammond is not good at his job, for the most part, but he does draft well. Drafting either Parker, or Wiggins, is a win-win for different reasons. If you draft Parker, you have a nice offense-defense combination for years to come with Parker and Giannis Antekounmpo. If you go Wiggins, the Bucks may never score, but a front court core of Giannis, Wiggins and John Henson would be a nightmare for opposing offenses. Still, I think the better option for the Bucks is to take Parker to play the 4 and build around him from there.

3. Philadelphia 76ers – Andrew Wiggins, SF/PF, Kansas

Analysis: I really, really like the long-term fit of Wiggins with Philadelphia. Even with Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, and Michael Carter-Williams the club is still a couple years away from competing for a playoff spot, so Wiggins won’t have the pressure to flourish right away, like Parker in Milwaukee or Embiid in Cleveland. With this pick, the Sixers will have a really good shot of having back-to-back lottery picks win Rookie of the Year, either Wiggins or Noel,  so can we stop the, “tanking is bad” narrative, please?

4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum, PG, Australia 

Analysis: The Magic are quietly getting really close to putting together a young, fun roster that could be really dangerous in a couple of years. Victor Oladipo was the easy and correct pick last year. Dante Exum, if he’s there, is the easy and correct pick this year. Exum, Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris is a solid foundation, and they still have a very nice trade-asset in Arron Afflalo that could net them more picks and quality young players sooner rather than later. Keep doing what you’re doing Rob Hennigan.

Utah Jazz trades 2014 No. 5 pick to Toronto Raptors for 2014 No. 20 pick, 2015 first-round pick.

5. Toronto Raptors – Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Toronto Raptors

Analysis: #TakeThatMasaiUjiri!!! The worst spot to be in this draft is No. 5, and the Jazz got saddled with it. They have a bunch of quality young players, but really need one potential star — they’re not going to find him here. Rather than reach on a Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon the better option is to trade out for more picks and try their luck in the lottery again next year.

The Raptors reportedly want to move up, and this is probably as high as they can go. The Raptors are coming off a 48-win season, but are still one or two players short of being a contender in the Eastern Conference. Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson are quality rotation bigs, but the Raptors could really use a big with high offensive upside — Vonleh fits that bill. A Lowry/Ross/DeRozan/Vonleh/Jonas core is incredibly intriguing going forward. Remember, don’t ever doubt Masai Ujiri.

6. Boston Celtics – Aaron Gordon, SF/PF, Arizona

Analysis: A lot of writers and analysts think the Celtics or Lakers trade out of No.6 or No.7, but I don’t think they will. The Celtics and Lakers should go BPA, and maybe flip them for a star down the road. I prefer Randle’s game, but Gordon is probably the more likely of the two to end up in Boston with a defensive-minded coach in Brad Stevens.

7. Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle, SF/PF, Kentucky

Analysis: I don’t think Randle is going to be a star in the NBA, but I think he could be the third or fourth best player on a contender. The Lakers lack talent up front (Hi, ex-Knick Jordan Hill!), so drafting Randle would be a step in the right direction.

8. Sacramento Kings – Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

Analysis: I could definitely see the Kings trading out of this spot, but I don’t think they should if Marcus Smart is here at No.8. Isaiah Thomas is a great 6th man, but Kings’ head coach Mike Malone you’d think would love a point guard like Smart to pair next to Ben McLemore.

9. Charlotte Hornets – Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton

Analysis: The Hornets are in good shape defensively with Steve Clifford in charge, but they really need more guys who can space the floor, so I like McDermott a lot here. I’m not sure if he’s a 3 or a 4 in the NBA, but I do think he’s a guy who could contribute right away for a team that needs shooters like Charlotte.

10. Philadelphia 76ers – Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia

Analysis: Even if Saric hasn’t fully clarified his intentions to play in the NBA next season, his talent merits being taken at No. 10 by the Sixers. It’s going to be another developmental year in Philly, so worst-case scenario, they can still afford to wait one more season for the Croatian point forward.

Denver Nuggets trade No. 11 pick, Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari pick to Brooklyn Nets for Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Andray Blatche and a 2018 first-round pick.

No, seriously, it works! 

11. Brooklyn Nets – Jusef Nurkic, C, Bosnia

Analysis: The Nuggets need a serious roster shakeup, and the Nets are interesting match. I don’t think Lopez or Deron are untouchable, and I think Denver would be a good landing spot for the duo. On the flip side, the Nets would get a lot younger with Lawson and Gallo, so that’s a major plus to a team with too many veterans. You need a balance of youth and veterans, so I think both teams would benefit greatly from a deal like this.

12. Orlando Magic – James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky

Analysis: I think there’s a big possibility Afflalo is traded this summer, and the Magic can find his replacement here in Young. The one concern I have with Young is whether or not he’ll be able to guard NBA forwards. On the flipside, the Magic really need to surround Oladipo and Exum with shooters who can space the floor to give them open lanes to get to the line or find open guys on the perimeter. Out of all the 3-and-d guys available, Young probably has the highest upside.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Nik Stauskas, SG/SF, Michigan

Analysis: I have no idea what the Timberwolves are going to do here, but they definitely need outside shooting, so I like Stauskas here for the Wolves. If the Wolves decide to keep Love around for next season, they have to surround him with better shooters. If Chase Budinger can stay health lineups with Chase and Stauskas on the floor could be lethal for opposing defenses.

14. Phoenix Suns – Gary Harris, SG/PG, Michigan State

Analysis: A lot of quality wings are going to go off the board here, and Harris makes the most sense for Phoenix. Harris gives Phoenix a nice a combo guard to backup Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic going forward. I don’t think Harris profiles as a starting 1 or 2 in this league, but in a situation like this where he can play next to Dragic or Bledsoe at all times would be the perfect situation for a player like Harris.

15. Atlanta Hawks – Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Duke

Analysis: DeMarre Carroll had a more than solid season, but he’s probably at his peak right now/is best served as a defensive hellion coming off the bench. I think Danny look to get younger at the 2 or 3, and draft the best 3-and-D guy available. In this case, it’s Rodney Hood. Also, if John Jenkins can stay healthy next year a wing tandem of Carroll, Korver, Hood and Jenkins would put a ton of pressure on opposing defenses from downtown.

16. Chicago Bulls – Zach LaVine, SG/PG, UCLA

Analysis: I was really tempted to go Tyler Ennis here, but I don’t think we’re at that point with Derrick Rose where the Bulls need to be looking for his replacement — maybe if things go sour again next season.I could also see the Bulls grabbing a 4 or 5, but I think that largely depends on whether or not Mirotic comes over next season. LaVine has a lot of bust potential, but this would be a really good situation for him. The Bulls need more wing help with Luol Deng’s departure, so I think this works out well for both sides.

17. Boston Celtics – Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse

Analysis: I think Rajon Rondo’s days in Boston are numbered. If so, Ennis makes a lot of sense here. The Celtics need more dynamic offensive players, and Ennis definitely fits that bill. I wouldn’t hand him the keys right away, either, so they could keep Rondo around for another season until Ennis is ready. Kind of like the situation in Atlanta with Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder.

18. Phoenix Suns – Kyle Anderson, SF/PF, UCLA

Analysis: More wings for Phoenix! It seems unlikely the Suns keep all these picks, but unless they’re making a deal for Kevin Love, or any other superstar, their best bet is to keep going BPA — that’s why I like Anderson here. What the Suns got out of Gerald Green this year was incredible, so I’d love to see them get their hands on a player like Anderson to develop from the start.

19. Chicago Bulls – Adreian Payne, PF/C, Michigan State

Analysis: Drafting Payne, along with Mirotic coming over, would signal the end of the Carlos Boozer Era in Chicago, which I don’t think would be an issue for most Bulls’ fans. Payne would add a dimension to the Bulls front court they’ve missed since Boozer’s decline. Anybody that helps make the Bulls more watchable offensively — I’m all for it.

20. Utah Jazz – Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C, Latvia 

Analysis: I’ve started to notice I may an unhealthy obsessions with tall, lanky, stretch 4s who can shoot 3s, and defend, in the NBA. Porzingis doesn’t turn 19 until August, but is already 7-feet-tall and 220 pounds. He has the Andrea Bargnani frame, so that’s a bit scary, but if Porzingis lucks into a situation like Utah I think he could be the kind of player people hoped Bargnani would become.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Clint Capela, PF/C, France 

Analysis: Capela is one of the more raw prospects who will probably have to be brought along slowly by whichever team drafts him. In OKC, he can play behind Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, Adams and Kendrick Perkins until he’s ready to become a serious contributor for the team.

22. Memphis Grizzlies – Jordan Adams, SG/SF, UCLA

Analysis: The Grizzlies don’t need a lot, but they do need wing help to limit Tayshaun Prince’s minutes, and Adams would be a nice fit for this team. Adams is a really talented offensive player who shot 35 percent from 3 last year, can rebound, and is a solid passer for his position. The Grizzlies need all the floor spacers they can get, and Adams fits that bill.

23. Utah Jazz – Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG/SF, Serbia

Analysis: Bogdan Bogdanovic might be my favorite player in this draft for his name alone. I like this pick for Utah because it’s basically Gordon Hayward insurance, in case the front office allows him to bolt this summer. Either way, the Jazz need more wing depth so Bogdanovic makes a lot of sense here.

24. Charlotte Hornets – P.J. Hairston, SG/SF, UNC

Analysis: The Hornets got McDermott earlier in this mock draft, and now they’ll get another floor spacer in the backcourt with Hairston. I was much more of a Reggie Bullock guy last summer, Hairston’s former teammate at UNC, because of his lethal 3-point shot. Hairston flourished in the NBA D-League this summer, though, and the Hornets could use another combo guard to play off Kemba Walker. Kind of like Reggie Jackson’s role in OKC.

25. Houston Rockets – Walter Tavares, C, Cape Verde

Analysis: The Rockets really want that third superstar, but they’re not going to find him with the 25th pick in the draft. But they can find Omer Asik’s long-term replacement at the center position in Tavares. If the Rockets want that third superstar they’ll have to trade Asik to make it happen, so they might as well find his replacement here.

26. Miami Heat – Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn

Analysis: The Heat, and Mario Chalmers, have a tough decision on their hands this offseason as Chalmers can move on this summer if he wants to get paid. Chalmers has a small role with the Heat, but he’s effective at it and plays within their system really well. That said, he’s still replaceable and if some team like the Milwaukee Bucks wants to give him a nice payday you let him walk and find a perfect replacement in Napier here.

27. Phoenix Suns – K.J. McDaniels, SF/PF, Clemson

Analysis: K.J. McDaniels seems like the perfect guy to have on your team in a pickup game — a lot of energy, insanely athletic, and an above-average defender, but I’m still not high on him as an NBA player. His game kind of resembles DeMarre Carroll, and if McDaniels ever develops a 3-point shot, maybe he can get there. What McDaniels can do on the basketball court is exactly what the Suns like in their wings.

28. Los Angeles Clippers – Jarnell Stokes, PF/C, Tennessee

Analysis: The Clippers only glaring weakness is their front court depth behind DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Most analysts don’t have Stokes going in the first round, but he’d be a really nice fit in Los Angeles, I think. If Lob City is still a thing, how can you not draft Stokes here?

29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Elfrid Payton, PG, La-Lafayette 

Analysis: Derek Fisher is probably retiring, and I’m not convinced Reggie Jackson will be in Oklahoma City for the long-term. The Thunder are probably going to need a new backup for Russell Westbrook, and Payton fits that bill.

30. San Antonio Spurs – Mitch McGary, PF/C, Michigan

Analysis: What a difference a year makes. McGary probably would have been a lottery pick a year ago, but this year he’ll be lucky to go in the first round of the draft. San Antonio, like OKC, don’t need much but adding McGary to the front court of Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Boris Diaw should only help things. His injury concerns are troublesome, but the Spurs can take the risk.

 *Knicks purchase Sixers 32nd pick in the draft for the amount James Dolan refused to add to Steve Kerr’s offer sheet.*

 32. New York Knicks – Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia

Analysis: Phil reportedly wants to buy either a first-round or second-round pick in this draft, but the second-rounder is more likely. The Sixers have more second-round picks than Cersei Lannister has glasses of wine before noon. If I had to bet, Steve Blake is the starting Knicks point guard on opening night next year, and whether or not Phil can send Raymond Felton packing this offseason (doubt it), finding his long-term replacement has to be a part of New York’s agenda.

The Knicks could go one of two ways here, and I like both options, by either taking Micic or Nick Johnson with the pick here. Johnson played primarily at the 2 in college, but DraftExpress thinks he could make the transition to a point guard in this league. He’s smart, athletic and can shoot the basketball. Still, it’d be risky to plan for Johnson to be your point guard of the future. For that reason, I think Micic should be the pick here. Micic is 6-foot-5, (Phil’s Zen senses are tingling), a natural point guard, excellent passer, unselfish, and is an above-average 3-point shooter. There’s a lot to like about Micic’s game, but most importantly it’s a style that can work within the Triangle.

New York Knicks Coaching Roundup, Part 3: Brian Shaw And Friends

Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

If you looked up “Phil Jackson” in the Urban Dictionary (do not look up Phil Jackson in the Urban Dictionary) I imagine the definition would essentially read “winning.” Phil Jackson has won a lot of championships, and so he’s become synonymous with winning. Even though it’s a bit of a tautology, It’s a reputation he, himself, has earned, but one his protégés have not.

Phil’s coaching tree is more like a Whomping Willow which includes: Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright, Frank Hamblen and…Brian Shaw. The jury is still out on Shaw’s coaching acumen, but turning a 50-plus-win team into a 36-win team isn’t a great first impression. But that’s what makes the Brian Shaw to New York situation so interesting. Why are the Nuggets dead-set on holding onto a Phil Jackson’s young squires when the rest of the branches the tree has a combined winning percentage of 46 percent?

Whenever a head coach or a manager is traded–which is a very rare occurrence–they’ve typically already established themselves as elite coaches or managers either by winning a championship(s) or just winning a lot of games. That is not the case here. You trade draft picks and cash for elite head coaches like Doc Rivers or Stan Van Gundy or Tom Thibodeau. But you can’t do that for somebody like Shaw, and it looks like the Knicks, outside of Phil, understand that.

Still, being able to trade coaches is weird. It’s weird because you can’t trade players for coaches, but you can trade cash and draft picks (which turn into players) for them. It’s also usually an awkward situation that is littered with organizational drama (see: Gruden, Jon and Rivers, Doc.) It’s typically not a good look for you organization if your head coach is trying to get traded to another team, which is another reason it’s such a rare occurrence.

The Knicks want Shaw, but they don’t have the assets to get him. For the Clippers to get Doc they had give up a 2015 first-round pick that was unprotected. The Orlando Magic had to give up multiple draft picks and cash to the Miami Heat for Van Gundy, and he had already been replaced in Miami. Trading for a guy with only one year of head coaching experience and sub-.500 record shouldn’t require a team to give up multiple draft picks and cash. Sure, it’s a small sample, but Shaw is not the hot commodity he once was when he was an assistant in Indiana. The Knicks would be foolish to give up anything but cash to bring him aboard (although that’s also their only option).

The Knicks aren’t the only team trying to trade for another team’s head coach, but they’re not swinging for the fences (more like just trying to get on base) like the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves are. The Grizzlies reportedly want to make a major play for Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, while the Timberwolves are in deep discussions to trade for current Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. Yes, it’s as confusing as it sounds.

As confusing and as crazy as those situations are, it’s still easy to see why both teams are making the choices they are. Stealing Thibodeau away from Chicago would be a major coup for Memphis. Flip Saunders needs to make a major splash to try and make a last-ditch effort to convince Kevin Love to stay — Joerger qualifies as a major splash. Giving up a couple of draft picks and cash for an elite coach(s) when your roster looks like Memphis’ or Minnesota’s that’s OK. When your roster looks like the Knicks’, it’s not OK. Shaw isn’t the answer in New York, but Thibodeau and Joerger could be in Memphis and Minnesota.

Phil appears to be dead-set on hiring a head coach that he can mentor and mold. Perhaps that potential synergy between GM and head coach is what finally turns Phil’s coaching tree around. Maybe Shaw can still be an elite head coach in this league if he has Phil around to guide him once again. It was clear that the current Nuggets roster doesn’t mesh with Shaw’s vision, but how long are the Nuggets and/or Shaw willing to wait turn that vision into reality? If Shaw doesn’t turn it around next season, would it really be that shocking if the Nuggets decided to fire him? I tend to think no, especially when you look at the Golden State situation, because head coaches in this league typically have a very small window of time to make significant progress.

Brian Shaw is probably not going to be the next head coach of the New York Knicks, and that’s OK. The Nuggets have all the leverage, and the Knicks don’t have the assets to make it happen. That’s also OK. This is perhaps the one instance that the Knicks’ lack of draft picks is a good thing because it’d be a mistake to give up multiple draft picks for a head coach with his track record.

Shaw and Phil could be great together in New York, but so could Fisher and Phil — without the cost. However, wrestling Fisher away from the Oklahoma City Thunder could also be a challenge for Phil. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Fisher could return to the Thunder next season as a player/assistant in a role similar to Juwan Howard’s role in Miami. It’s a win-win situation for Fisher. He either stays in Oklahoma City to get some coaching experience with a franchise that adores him, or goes to New York where Phil would also love to have him. Fisher can’t lose, but the Knicks can.

Then there is Tyronn Lue, an assistant under Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, who you would think would jump at the opportunity for the Knicks’ head coaching position, if he’s offered the gig. Lue is just 37-years-old and has played and coached under Phil Jackson, Rivers, Jeff Van Gundy and other great current and former head coaches in this league. Of course, Lue, like all the other Knicks’ head-coaching candidates, is an unknown, simply because he hasn’t been a head coach in this league. If Fisher elects to return to Oklahoma City, you would expect Phil to turn Lue. It may not be a sexy hire, but you could argue Lue is the most qualified candidate of the bunch.

I have no idea which route the Knicks are ultimately going to take, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Knicks’ next head coach will be one of Phil’s former point guards.

The MD’A and the Thibs: A Parable

You have probably heard the  cliché “defense wins championships” more times in your sports-watching and -enjoying life than you can recall. Even though there have been a number of teams that have relied more on their offense than their defense, it’s a phrase that will bring conversations about the games we love to a shuddering halt.

But the fact that we’re calling it a cliché speaks to the fact that both causal and utterly devoted fans are starting to realize that there’s a lot more to winning than simply blurting out those three three words like slamming a concrete block on the table in the midst of a dinner party, folding one’s arms, glaring at the shocked and/or pearl-clutching fellow guests and assuming that  evening is over.

Which brings us to former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni and current Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. For both these gents, the general assumption is that they’re fairly one-dimensional, wringing as much juice out of their innovations on one side of the floor while totally disregarding the other, while getting the most out of role players and playing guys way too many minutes. The thing is (again, we’re talking about the casual fan’s view here), Thibs is a genius and D’Antoni is a tired hack whose philosophy has been more or less incorporated by many of the teams in the league and probably should be sent out to the coach’s version of an old folks’ retirement community.

Prior to Phil Jackson’s arrival in New York, Thibodeau was the guy that many Knicks fans wanted. The ‘Bockers have been down this road before, though,  with the offensive genius that is/was D’Antoni. We know how that turned out, but there are a lot of parallels between the two situations. D’Antoni was as hot of a commodity around the league as Thibodeau is now, and left Phoenix for what he thought would be greener pastures. Thibodeau may be feeling the same sense of wanderlust, what with Derrick Rose’s injury history and his reported rift with the front office. It wouldn’t shock me if Thibodeau stayed in Chicago, but it wouldn’t shock me if he left for what he thinks might be a nicer coaching neighborhood either.

D’Antoni had a great thing going in Phoenix, but ultimately decided to cash in on his demand. That’s a decision he reportedly still regrets to this day. Thibodeau hasn’t achieved the playoff success he probably would have liked by this point in his tenure, but he still boasts former league MVP on the roster and the current Defensive Player of the Year. Thibodeau would probably be wise to ride it out in Chicago like D’Antoni should have chosen to do in Phoenix.

If you have a below-average roster, but your guys play hard and are statistically above-average on defense the team becomes a great story. Sure, they may be basically reenacting Sharknado on the offensive end of the floor, but if they’re gritty and trying hard defensively they’ll typically still be viewed as a lovable underdog. The 2013-14 Chicago Bulls fit this description for the most part, and Thibodeau is praised for it. Does Thibodeau deserve a lot of credit for getting the most out of his players he possibly can? Of course, but the team was still 28th in the league in offensive efficiency. On the flipside, the Bulls were second in the league in defensive efficiency.

Would having Derrick Rose in the lineup change things significantly for the Bulls offensive efficiency? Of course, the 2010-11 Bulls team was top-5 in both categories. So, Thibodeau has shown he can craft an effective stratagem on both sides of the floor when Rose is around to run it.

Like Thibodeau, D’Antoni has had the misfortune of not having an elite point guard for a long time dating all the way back to his Phoenix Suns days with Steve Nash. He didn’t win a championship, but he came pretty close in a much more competitive conference. With Nash, the Suns had seasons where they were the most efficient team in the league offensively, and still fell in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency. Just because he didn’t win a title doesn’t mean D’Antoni’s time in Phoenix wasn’t a huge success. It was.

At the time, fans and analysts loved the Suns, and more importantly D’Antoni’s style, but time went on and he was never able to win a title. He never got the Suns to the NBA Finals, but neither has Thibodeau. The former has seen his reputation become increasingly diminished because of how his tenure in New York and Los Angeles turned out. The latter has seen his reputation continue to rise and could possibly replace the former in Los Angeles. Why? Because defense and grit is an easier sell to the fans.

Thibodeau is praised for winning almost 50 games with D.J. Augustine at point guard, while D’Antoni got just the same production out of lottery bust Kendall Marshall, if not more. But narratives you see. The reason being the Lakers were a dumpster fire this season with all of their injuries, while the Bulls played an Eastern Conference schedule and weren’t decimated to the extent of the Lakers. It’s just the nature of the beast.

D’Antoni isn’t an elite NBA head coach, but he’s a really good one who can win a lot of games when he has an above-average point guard and a roster that fits his style. Same can said for Thibodeau, and that’s perfectly fine.

Thibodeau hasn’t been a head coach in the league as long as D’Antoni, and his teams are easy to cheer for, much like D’Antoni’s Suns teams. That’s not something he can control, obviously, but if things go sour in Chicago and Rose never returns to his MVP form the Bulls fan base will get more seasons highlighted by one-dimensional play. The big question will be how long they’ll put up with it.  If Thibodeau goes to Los Angeles or anywhere else and gets saddled with the roster and injury concerns D’Antoni’s last two coaching jobs have had he too may suffer the same unfair scrutiny D’Antoni has undergone in recent years. Again, that just seems to be the nature of the beast.

Granted, there is fact-based underpinning with regards to the defense/offense schism. As Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal wrote today:

Since the NBA’s first season in 1946-47, only 10 teams that led the league in scoring went on to win the title. Just two of those have been since the 1970s, none since 1998. And statistically speaking, there has been a slightly negative correlation between a fast-paced team’s number of possessions a game in the regular season and winning in the postseason, according to Stats LLC.

Or maybe the narrative will always be different for coaches like Thibodeau. Perhaps no matter how similar D’Antoni and Thibodeau are as head coaches, being known as the defensive-minded coach will always trump the offensive-minded coach in the national spotlight.