Knicks Draft 2015 Round Table: Part 1

The KnickerBlogger staff has decided to spend the 8 days prior to the draft discussing the upcoming event. Each day will feature a different question that we will attempt to answer. Feel free to join us in the comment section!

Which of Okafor, Mudiay, or Russell would you rather fall to the 4th pick?

Kurylo: For some reason, I’m anxious about taking point guards early. I haven’t crunched the numbers on it, but they seem more likely to bust than not. Okafor is the most likely to not be a bust, and the Knicks need a sure thing here, so I’m good with the center.

Silverman: Okafor, not just because it would feel like some kind of Karmic payback for getting yoked out of a top two pick. But I think he’ll make for a better defender as a pro than he showed at Duke. Also, butt jokes. All the butt jokes.

Gibberman: Wow, this is a difficult question because all three are high quality prospects. I don’t think it happens, but I lean towards Okafor. Despite how the NBA is changing if you get a big man who you can build an entire offense around that’s incredibly valuable. His ability to post up, as long as he improves his free throw shooting, will make it hard for teams to take advantage going small. In the right scheme I think he can be fine on the defensive end too.

Okafor & Melo -- it's fate!
Okafor & Melo — it’s fate!

Fisher-Cohen: I’ll go with Okafor even though I’m not super-high on him because 1) he’s the guy Jackson is probably least likely to trade (he’s got that NBA butt), 2) it’s easier to find competent talent at guard than center, and 3) there’s something exciting about how hard it is to find a comparison for him. The only college freshman big to score like him at similar efficiency in recent history was Kevin Love.

Topaz: I worry about players that, if they’re sitting in the fourth quarter of a close game, you have to ask why. Is it because he’s a 51 percent free-throw shooter and the other team is hacking him? Or because his slow footwork and ineffective pick-and-roll defense is killing the team against a good offense? Everything points to Jahlil Okafor safely being a tremendous scorer, but the defense is worrisome. It’s a cliche, but the NBA is growing increasingly dependent on athleticism, rim protection and position-less basketball, and Okafor is mostly at odds with all three. And though this is a secondary concern, the thought of Melo and Russell on defense together is a bit horrifying. I’ll take Russell.

Cronin: I’d be thrilled if Okafor was there. I have been drooling over him and Melo playing the inside out game ever since last season began (well, as soon as the Knicks looked terrible, that is).

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

87 thoughts to “Knicks Draft 2015 Round Table: Part 1”

  1. I’m curious about something. There is a perception out there that European players have a higher “bust potential” than American players but, in my mind, for every Darko there’s a Stromile Swift and for every Tskitishvili there’s a Mike Sweetney. Conversely, for every Dirk, Manu, Rudy Gobert or Tony Parker who out-performed their draft position, there is an American player who has done the same thing. Has anyone ever done an analysis of how European players pan out compared to their draft position, how “one and done” types do compared to their draft position and how guys who play 3 or 4 years of college ball do compared to their draft position?

  2. I guess much of that has to do with adapting to the culture, and with the coach/front office in place when the Euro guy makes his way to America. Do we have Dirk without Don Nelson? Do we have Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker (and Tiago Splitter, and fat Boris Diaw, and sharpshooting Marco Belinelli) without RC Buford and Pop? Do we have prime Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic without Adelman?

    This is why I’m overly skeptical of drafting Euro guys in NY: I don’t think we have the culture to make them grow as they would need.

    I also think that any pick based on potential and not actual production has a good chance to be a complete bust. I mean, when Tskitishvili was selected he played what, 35 minutes total in the Italian League? Meanwhile, in drafting Gallinari you already had a proven if young player who already was tested on the biggest stage not named NBA of the world: EuroLeague.

  3. Re: all the “team” talk

    This all ties in to what makes a team successful. All teams that win have great players, but complementary in a system. If you have great players that are only good at A, but decent in B, awful on C, then you’re not going to succeed. GSW has an amazing combination of shooting, passing, coaching, defending, and rebounding. Miami had much of this. What makes LeBron great is that he is elite on A, B, and C, so most good players will complement him. What made the Spurs great was that they had great all-around players as well.

    It’s a combination of system, coaching, offense, defense, passing, rebounding. (Right now, we suck at all 6.)

  4. It’s a cliche, but the NBA is growing increasingly dependent on athleticism, rim protection and position-less basketball, and Okafor is mostly at odds with all three

    I think this “position-less” basketball thing is a little bit overblown at this point. Yes, teams are going small and daring opponents to beat them with size over quickness. But you have to have the players that can do it. If GS didn’t have Draymond Green, they couldn’t do that. Honestly, if Cleveland had anyone that could hit an open 3 pointer or make the Warriors pay for all the switching and doubling, Cleveland might have won the series and no one would be talking about position-less basketball. They’d be talking about how Mozgov dominated the smaller Warriors front line, how Kyrie Irving shot 45% from 3 point range, and how Lebron is the best player ever.

    Haven’t gotten around to reading much of the post-finals gaga articles over the Warriors, but their entire offense is built around how ridiculously awesome Curry is shooting off the dribble out to 30 feet, to the point where teams HAVE to trap him and allow GS to play 4-on-3 on the rest of the court. Curry breaks the defense on every possession. Add to that a “big” who can hold up on the defensive end despite only being 6’6″ and who is a true playmaker/passer on his own, and of course the W’s are great. But no one else has a shooter like Curry, a jack of all trades like Green, and a defender who can guard Lebron 1-on-1 like Iguodala (who is a playmaker in his own right – has averaged 5.5 assists/36 for his career).

    Ultimately Kerr had a team that basically does what Phil said he wants — guys who are interchangeable at the positions, who all can pass, shoot, and dribble.

  5. The other hilarious narrative is that the Knicks were (in part) bad because we didn’t embrace the 3 pointer like the Warriors, Rockets, and Hawks did. Really? WE DON’T HAVE GOOD 3 POINT SHOOTERS. Who do you want shooting 30 3 pointers/game other than Melo? You want Galloway? Shved? Jah Smith? We had no post presence to cause double teams that would open up open 3’s. No guard that could break the defense down and cause the defense to collapse. I’m not one to drink all of Phil’s kool-aid but he’s said from day one that all offense starts with penetration. We had no one (especially after Melo got hurt on, what, day 3 of the season) that could force the defense to break.

    What would the GS offense look like if Curry and Thompson were 35% 3 point shooters? It’d look bad.

    If anything, it was the defensive strategy against 3’s that was more harmful to the team than the offensive strategy. Hopefully that changes going forward, but my feeling is part of why we were bad against 3’s is just that we have bad defensive players who just can’t get out on 3 point shooters and we couldn’t stop dribble penetration to prevent all the open looks.

  6. If the Cavs had stayed healthy and beaten Golden State, Zach Lowe would be writing an article trumpeting the return of bullyball, after the huge front line of the Cavs simply overwhelmed all the 6’7″ interchangeable pieces the Warriors played.

  7. I guess much of that has to do with adapting to the culture, and with the coach/front office in place when the Euro guy makes his way to America.

    If this were true, then so would the opposite. Do we think that every team in Europe, China and elsewhere are geared to take Americans (who are statistically not well travelled)?

    It just comes down to talent. Starbury has the talent to do well in China, and so he does. Not because some kind of positive culture mix. Same with any foreigner coming here. I don’t think culture is preventing Andrea Bargnani from grabbing rebounds or playing any sort of passable defense.

  8. @7
    +1

    History is written by the winners. A bounce here, an injury there, and the series goes another way. That’s why I don’t pay much attention to rings or championships as much as other (better) indicators.

  9. Hows this for alternative history, Steve Kerr signs to manage the Knicks in 2014, and the Warriors get Derek Fisher.

    Would we be praising Harden for his scoring and Trevor Ariza for his defense on LeBron? Maybe it’s the redemption of Josh Smith or the interior defense of Dwight Howard?

    Narratives are always written after the fact.

  10. PJ wanted Steve Kerr for the Knicks coaching job from the get go. It didn’t happen, BUT, Kerr went to GS as we all know and WON IT ALL. Is that a good sign that PJ has really a good eye for talent and maybe he really knows what he’s doing??? (Honest question)

  11. Starting to get the feeling that I am no longer considered “staff”.
    It’s like the scene in Office Space where they fired Milton, but never bothered to tell him.

  12. First off, that guy can shoot the rock, regardless of size. He can make a college 3, midrange, free throws.

    Forgive me for being pedantic, but KAT actually made 2 college 3s.

  13. Tell him what? Is my fly open? Crap, there must be something stuck in my teeth. Come on guys FRIENDS TELL FRIENDS

  14. I’m confused about the notion of Mudiay falling to the Knicks. He’s pretty much expected to go in the 4-6 range in the draft, isn’t he? The only guys who can “fall” to the Knicks are Okafor, Towns, or Russell, and probably only if Philly decides to go Porzingis or trade down.

  15. Okafor looks like he would profile as something like what Eddy Curry was supposed to be. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

  16. We really got the shaft during the lottery. It’s too bad we have to hope for one of these guys to fall. I’d much rather just be able to pick one. That being said, hopefully Okafor gets picked first. Yeah, right….

    I’m pro trading down for WCS now if we can get another first round pick somewhere and shed Calderon.

  17. New Grantland article interviewing NBA scouts on Towns, Okafor, and Russell: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/ryen-russillos-nba-draft-confidential-real-scouts-on-towns-russell-and-okafor/

    After I read that I couldn’t figure out why we would take Okafor even if he fell down to us. I’ve been afraid of an Okafor pick for a long time. When a guy can’t defend, there’s talk about getting in better shape, talk about a lack of real passion for the game, talk about not having a quick jump to block shots, talking about getting up and down the floor better etc.. and everything positive is about his scoring inside, it starts to remind me of a former Knicks C that didn’t work out so well.

  18. Okafor looks like he would profile as something like what Eddy Curry was supposed to be. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

    Exactly.

    I brought that comparison up a month or so ago. It’s not exact, but there’s enough there to scare the crap out of you if you are a Knicks fan. I wish I watched more of him during the year so I could judge for myself a little better.

  19. Yeah, some of the Okafor stuff is scary, but they have to take him if he falls to 4. All guys have some ? marks, most notably what happens when the $ start rolling in. All of these guys will make a lot of money starting very soon.

    I seem to recall reading that Okafor had a lingering ankle problem during the year that might have affected his mobility.

  20. that’s the scary part about okafor… this was during the season.. if you can’t stay in shape while playing d1 ball… what’s going to happen during a nba season.. or god forbid a lockout… wild weight fluctuations can be a battle your entire life…

  21. Wow, I was not expecting all that from the article. (PS “scout 2” is fucking hilarious, can we have him on here??!)

    Not sure about Okafor anymore: Poor effort, weight issues, no love of the game, really bad D at times? I don’t know, he may actually fall to us if the scouts are talking like that, and for the first time, I’m not sure if this guy will end up being a bust/alwaysinjured/Bynum

  22. That’s part of why I’m so pro trading the pick. Look at how highly some of them spoke about WCS in that article while talking about Towns and he’s not even the topic. Okafor could be flat out amazing andget over his issues, but I’d rather have that defense show up every night and work on improving WCS offense instead.

  23. Lou Williams? I’d pass. Decent player, but 3/27 or more is paying him to produce like he did last season, and he’s been a pretty inconsistent guy and he’s 28.

  24. i totes agree on passing on OK4. high floor on one side of the floor, but too much intangibles that make me cringe and say fat eddy 2.0
    imo, KAT, zinger/maybe russell, mudiay, WCS = top five.

  25. PJ wanted Steve Kerr for the Knicks coaching job from the get go. It didn’t happen, BUT, Kerr went to GS as we all know and WON IT ALL. Is that a good sign that PJ has really a good eye for talent and maybe he really knows what he’s doing??? (Honest question)

    I wanted to get my girlfriend an engagement ring, but the one I wanted to get her from the jewelry store was sold when I got there. So I got her a Ring Ding.

    So what I’m saying is Derek Fisher is the Ring Ding of coaches.

  26. Lou Williams is a nice player who just had what was apparently a career year at the age of 28. That age is about right for a career year. So he probably won’t improve. That said, he’s likely to stay a productive player for the life of his next contract. But if he’s in demand as the article says, we will not get a bargain, and probably shouldn’t go after him at all unless there some reason he fits or like NY particularly well. So call me skeptical.

  27. I feel like the Okafor stuff is being a little overdone.

    Dude shot like 67% from the floor as an 18-19 year old.
    Ginormous wingspan and standing reach.
    Solid defensive rebounder, excellent offensive rebounder. (6.7 Drebs/40, 4.7 ORebs/40)
    Not a foul magnet (2.8 PFs/40)

    It’s funny how there’s so much love for Russell (as there should be) — yet pretty much it’s unanimous that he was awful on defense to the point that Ohio State changed their entire defensive strategy to hide him. Okafor literally could not play better than he did on offense (FT% notwithstanding) and was apparently bad on defense, yet everyone is killing him and calling him the next Eddy Curry, when in fact the only thing in common about the two is that they’re both big people that were back to the basket guys.

    Curry – awful rebounder. Turnover machine. Fat from day one and only got fatter. Terrible passer. Never shot better than 58% from the floor.

    Okafor – good rebounder. Relatively low TOs given his usage. Not fat. Good passer out of double teams. Crushes in the post.

    I think Okafor’s floor is Al Jefferson, medium range would be someone like Rik Smits. Ceiling, dunno. Not quite Tim Duncan.

  28. Lou Williams? I’d pass. Decent player, but 3/27 or more is paying him to produce like he did last season, and he’s been a pretty inconsistent guy and he’s 28.

    Are you sure? He seems pretty consistent besides his injury years.

  29. Karl Anthony Towns is the only clear standout to me, the only real sure thing; everyone else could be a franchise player or a bust.

    I might even take WCS over Okafor. Maybe it’s because I’ve been blinded by bad defense for so long, but I just can’t take another year or more of being among the worst defensive teams in the league. And Ewing learned to be pretty decent at offense, so I don’t think those skills are unteachable.

    I’m not sold on Russell, either. Slowish, non-D playing PGs…haven’t we been in this movie before?

  30. like a previous poster said, okafor has questionable effort, almost no defense or desire to play any, has weight and being in shape problems, and is not terribly athletic. i’m not doubting his offensive ability. actually i think he’d instantly be a better than average NBA scorer his rookie year. especially if he was inside-out with melo on knicks. but the fact that his mentality and effort has been questioned all year, not just the past month pre draft, scares me. i haven’t liked him for the knicks all season and i can’t really start now cuz we’ve been burned by bums in the past. if it looks like a bum and it smells like a bum, more often than not. it’s a bum.

    also.

    word is Love is gonna test FA? Thoughts?

  31. I don’t think Russell was awful on D he just didn’t stay focus all the time. His on ball D look great at times.

    Re Ok4: People talk about OK4 being out of shape but do not mention that he was not practicing late in the year because of his ankle injury. Also, I put some of his problems on D on Coach K. He seems like he lets his offensive stars do their thing and let the others pick up their slack. I am not sure he holds his one and dones accountable on D

  32. Here’s a list of college freshman that have been able to score more than 500 points on a eFG% above 0.65 since 1995:

    Jahlil Okafor

    That’s it. The guy has the potential to be a once in a generation low post scorer. And he’s 19. He rebounds well and is a pretty good passer. If you have the chance, you take him no matter what the hell some anonymous scouts say. Let’s judge guys on actual production.

  33. Another thing about the Grantland Article is how much Scout #2 mentioned Stein but I guess that’s an easy thing to do when you bring up Towns. However he seem to really like Stein.

  34. Eddy Curry, on solid usage and playing 20 minutes a night led the NBA in TS% when he was 20 years old. That’s where the Okafor comps come in-I think we’d all be happy if we drafted Okafor and he led the NBA in TS% next season.

    But yes, he should be a better ball handler, ORBer and not as much of a shithead. So you get a good Eddy Curry. How good is a good Eddy Curry, though?

  35. Oops, I didn’t know we were starting the round table today! I thought it was for next week. I edited in my answer. I’d love to have Okafor. I’ve been going on and on about my dreams about Melo/Okafor running the inside-out game, and, well, it remains my dream. :)

  36. But yes, he should be a better ball handler, ORBer and not as much of a shithead. So you get a good Eddy Curry. How good is a good Eddy Curry, though?

    Eddy Curry was a very efficient scorer at his best. He used to draw double and sometimes even triple teams in they post. If he stayed in shape and had the passion to become a better player, he might have eventually turned into a good player. Lots of young players turn the ball over and commit a lot fouls when they first come into the league. But instead of going forward he went backwards as he gained weight, showed up to camp in terrible shape, and then started getting injured.

    That’s what concerns me about Okafor.

    If you tell me he’s bad from the FT line, I’m not happy, but I can live with that if you also tell me he’s a gym rat and will work on it non stop.

    If you tell me he’s a bad defender, I’m worried, but if you tell me he loves watching game film and is a fast learner, I can live with that.

    If you tell me he’s not in the best shape, doesn’t really have any passion for the game, etc… and give me a list of potentially critical flaws, then I’m scared. He could just as easily go backward like Curry once he makes a few million dollars.

  37. You got her a ring ding??? The ring that you wanted got sold and came out to be a great piece of jewelry, so you have a great eye for quality and next thing you do is get her a ring ding. Sorry, but logic tells me that the intelligent thing to do is to go get the next great piece of jewelry that is available in the store. Not a ring ding. Now, I’m not saying that DF is the 2nd coming of Red Aurbach. All I’m saying is that maybe PJ do know what he’s doing. Maybe I’m being to optimistic, but I still have a very little tiny ray of hope. That being said, I would like to see the Knicks drafting WCS or Russell with that 4th pick. If they take a stretch pf who doesn’t play any defense…I’m done with them.

  38. I guess what worries me about Okafor is this: how many good all offense no defense centers are there in the NBA? Okafor could very well be the rare exception, but there are some red flags. Winslow was a better defensive rebounder and he’s 6’5″.

  39. I get that someone would not want Okafor for his lack of D or something else regarding basketball skills.

    But “passion for the game”?

    Come on… that’s just BS

  40. I guess what worries me about Okafor is this: how many good all offense no defense centers are there in the NBA? Okafor could very well be the rare exception, but there are some red flags. Winslow was a better defensive rebounder and he’s 6’5?.

    Well I could ask it the other way – how many bad offensive centers became really good offensive centers (very few).

    How many bad defensive centers (at age 19) improved significantly as they got older? Probably at least a few. Marc Gasol for sure. Deandre Jordan was considered a sub-par defender (at least in his DX draft profile) despite his gifts.

    I dunno. I think it’d be REALLY hard to turn down Okafor if he somehow fell to us at #4. Part of me thinks we’d be better off with WCS regardless, but if we come out of this draft with Okafor I couldn’t be anything but pleased.

  41. speaking of rumors that will never happen, Chad Ford mentioned something about the Knicks trading back with the Suns for Eric Bledsoe (and his $13.5M 2015-16 cap#) + #13. Thoughts?

    I really don’t know much about Bledsoe since he’s been on the West Coast his whole career. I guess he comes with a great defensive reputation and is a boxscore stuffer.

  42. that is most likely eric bledsoe + trey lyles for the #4… which is basically bledsoe for #4… so that would be horrible…

  43. Kurylo: For some reason, I’m anxious about taking point guards early. I haven’t crunched the numbers on it, but they seem more likely to bust than not.

    They’re not. (I could write a post on it:)

    In a nutshell:

    The 1st PG selected in the draft between 2002-2012 has resulted in 6 All Stars, 3 core starters, and 3 freak injuries (non-degenerative) that detailed careers. That’s a 75% success rate even if you count the freak injuries as busts.

    The 1st C drafted in the same period has resulted in 4 All Stars, 1 core starter, 3 bad players, and 4 epic busts. That’s a 40/60 success to bust ratio.

  44. I’m not sure if either Mudiay or Russell should be PG’s in the NBA…even in the triangle. I really believe that they are more suited to play SG, on both sides of the ball. Neither of them are noted as great on ball defenders, even though Mudiay has more defensive potential. With all these dynamic PG’s in the league, I just can’t see either prospect becoming great PG’s. I think they are likely to become better SG’s than PG’s. When it comes to PG’s with size, neither of them are close to a Penny Hardaway. But SG’s with PG skills are really nice to have. I think Russell, in particular, can be closer to a Harden than a Penny. I’m using Penny as a measuring stick because Magic might be too tall a measuring stick. Penny had size and could compete against any PG. He scored well, boarded well, and saw the floor well. I have no idea who to compare Mudiay to. But, with the competition not being as thick at SG as it is at PG, shouldn’t those guys get looks there first? Shouldn’t those guys, who are not pure points, be more valuable at the 2 than the 1? They certainly stand a better chance defensively at the 2. What do you guys think?

  45. “How many bad defensive centers (at age 19) improved significantly as they got older? Probably at least a few. Marc Gasol for sure. Deandre Jordan was considered a sub-par defender (at least in his DX draft profile) despite his gifts”
    There is a difference between a poor defender who is really making an effort on defense but is weak fundamentally or hasn’t learned how to defend and a guy who is a poor defender because he is lazy or doesn’t try hard on defense. Poor defenders who try hard can become good defenders, but I can’t think of any lazy defenders who became good defenders. In the three Duke games I watched this year, Okafor appeared to be an extremely lazy defender — kind of Curry-esque. I will be shocked if he ever becomes even a decent defender in the pros. (The anonymous scouts’ comments on Russell’s incompetence on defense don’t instill a whole lot of confidence either.)

  46. The other hilarious narrative is that the Knicks were (in part) bad because we didn’t embrace the 3 pointer like the Warriors, Rockets, and Hawks did. Really? WE DON’T HAVE GOOD 3 POINT SHOOTERS.

    I don’t think that’s fair, Frank. The narrative is that way because of Phil Jackson’s very public criticism of three pointers. If he hadn’t said that stuff, the narrative wouldn’t have been as strong. Moreover, if he didn’t have these beliefs, the Knicks likely would have more three-point shooters, no?

  47. Moreover, if he didn’t have these beliefs, the Knicks likely would have more three-point shooters, no?

    We exchanged Ray Felton for Jose Calderon, one of the best 3 point shooters in the NBA. Galloway was a pretty good shooter in college and the D League. Cle was at least supposed to be a good 3pt shooter. Carmelo is a very good 3 point shooter when he has 2 legs. I think Phil’s twitter ramblings are way overblown.

  48. I don’t think that’s fair, Frank. The narrative is that way because of Phil Jackson’s very public criticism of three pointers. If he hadn’t said that stuff, the narrative wouldn’t have been as strong. Moreover, if he didn’t have these beliefs, the Knicks likely would have more three-point shooters, no?

    Honestly I think Phil does a very poor job of getting his point across in his tweets, if only because he tweets other stuff at times that gives context to the 3 pointer thing. He has consistently said that penetration is the most important part of offense, whether by pass (preferred) or dribble penetration. My impression is that he doesn’t dislike 3 pointers in principle, but rather that a team shouldn’t be hunting 3’s to the exclusion of good midrange or paint shots. And i think he’s just utterly bored with offenses like Houston’s. Speaking of Houston – I would love to see what their offensive efficiency would be minus Harden flops.

    Re: the Knicks having more 3 point shooters – well, he brought in one elite shooter (Calderon). But it’s not that easy to find great 3 point shooters who can do the other things he wants all his players to do.

  49. GS’s game 1-3 offense was exactly what Phil doesn’t like about offenses hunting 3’s. It was basically Curry and Thompson running through an endless series of screens at the 3 point line. They had so little dribble penetration in those games that it was basically impossible to score. Once they figured out how to get the ball into the paint again, it was good.

  50. Bledsoe from what I remember is smallish but a monster athlete. And super high motor. Unless I’m thinking of someone else I might be wrong. I wouldn’t mind having him. But idk about the 13 pick.

  51. phil’s teams were usually pretty good 3pt shooting teams… i think they only fell out of the top 5 in 3p% like once or twice…

    he’s old… he uses technology like twitter like how any of our grandfathers would…

  52. Any interest in Danny Ferry here? I don’t think he can be a GM any time soon after those comments, but he’s probably an excellent underling. This team already hired an adjudicated sexual harrasser to run their women’s basketball team, so I suppose they couldn’t get much worse, PR-wise, by hiring a guy who repeated a racist comment.

  53. Oh man, I didn’t know that Ford also loved Nikoloz Tskitishvili back in the day. That’s kind of hilarious.

  54. But “passion for the game”?

    Come on… that’s just BS

    It’s not possible for me to disagree with anything more than I disagree with this.

    One of the biggest reasons some players improve and others don’t is work ethic. Work ethic is often an extension of how badly you want something which turn comes from how much you actually enjoy it.

    I did fairly well in my first career entirely on aptitude, but I hated every minute of every day, of every year, I did that job. The end result was that I didn’t go nearly as far as people that were way less talented than me. They were willing to read the latest journals, take more classes, work late etc… I had no passion for it. I just wanted to cash my paycheck and get the hell out of there.

    Now I do something I love. Everything has changed. I have a real passion for doing good work, creating good products, and getting better at what I do.

    Athletes are no different.

    There are guys that are willing to eat right, not drink too much or get high, get to practice early, stay late, work on their game in the summer, etc.. and there are others that take their new found money and want to go out clubbing and getting laid. They will get different results.

  55. I agree that work ethic is important, but I think the issue is that so many of these things seem so intangible when it comes to determining if they apply to a specific player. To wit, Towns quit playing basketball when he was 14! But no one would ever knock his “desire for the game.”

  56. @61

    +1

    LeBron is the greatest player of his generation. A good chunk of that is just natural talent and athleticism. But there are other players just as talented and athletic (or close enough to it that the disparity between LeBron and everyone else shouldn’t be so dramatic). What separates LeBron from the rest of the pack is his desire to actually be the best. LeBron’s physical gifts are extraordinary, this is true, but it’s his mental approach to the game that truly defines him, imho.

    LeBron will go down as one of the greatest players of all time, and will legitimately belong in the “Who’s the greatest of all time” debate, and it will be in no small part due to his passion to actually enter that debate with a legitimate claim to the title of “best ever.”

    KD is the same way. The guy religiously studied his shot chart, how defenses approached him and tried to force him into certain shots, and then he came up with a way to shoot the shots he’s best at (those with the best chance to go in) and avoid most of the shots he’s not good at. Then, boom: instant scoring title with true super-star level efficiency.

    MJ was the same. Magic was the same. Shaq was the same. Hakeem was the same. Bird was the same. The list goes on and on. Basketball players are not robots who are able to remove all emotion from their job and go about it with the same methodical efficiency as a machine (though some do make it seem that way). To completely discount one’s emotional approach to the game is extremely short-sighted.

    There will be others who are as physically gifted as LeBron, and they’ll be able to ride those physical gifts pretty far and earn millions of dollars in the process. But to get to LeBron’s level (and that of MJ, Maigc, Bird and the like) takes a nearly obsessive level of passion.

  57. Magic partied his fucking ass off. Denis Rodman loved to go out, and he was one of the most well conditioned NBA players I’ve ever seen. Shaq had weight problems. Barkley had weight problems. Etc. These dudes all put in work, but let’s not go crazy

  58. I don’t believe I mentioned anything about whether these players partied or not. You can be obsessively passionate about your job and still have a good time.

  59. Of course different guys have different motivations on their jobs. They are not robots.

    I’m questioning the passion for the game narrative. How the hell do you now if player A “have more passion” for basketball than player B?

    Because he doesn’t play defense? Because of his big butt?

    This is just the old boring story that succesful players have the “will to win” or the “winning mentality”.

    BS that may vary according to your opinion on the player.

  60. You can also work really hard without being obsessively passionate about your job. And it’s all impossible for us to really know much about. Definitely worth investigating if you’re the team doing the drafting and you have good sources, but we’re all basing our analysis of prospect passion/work ethic on hearsay and speculation.

  61. Anyway… Back to the draft.

    if Russell falls to us, fantastic.

    But if Towns, Russell, Zinger go 1, 2, 3; I think it’s a tough call between Okafor and WCS. Is WCS better on offense than Okafor is on defense? And if so, by how much? Is it worth passing on a guy with a higher ceiling (if that’s even true) to take a guy who will contribute right away?

    That’s not even taking Winslow into account (I’m assuming they don’t want Mudiay.)

  62. If the Knicks, with the #4 pick, draft based on need instead of best player available, then we may as well get used to 4 more years of stupid management until Isiah swoops in to save us.

  63. Look on the bright side-we need everything but a high volume shooting forward, so taking the bpa is drafting for need

  64. Well they need everything besides an overpaid chucker, and I’m not sure who’s better than who. Are you?

  65. If it’s between Okafor and Russell, Okafor would probably have more trade value, right?

  66. I suppose. Neither seem to play much D.
    I wonder if Porzingis is in play if he falls to 4?
    I think if Russell or Okafor is there, we take them. Zinger or anyone else, and they trade down for WCS or Lyles.

  67. Wow, the speculation on who thinks what is laughable. It’s so easy to say, “Well, he struggles at this or that, so he doesn’t have enough passion to improve.”

    In my view:
    99+% of becoming a professional basketball player is natural ability (physical make-up, emotional make-up, hand-eye coordination, basketball-related intelligence.)

    90+% of the difference between NBA players is natural ability.

    90+% of NBA players work really hard on most aspects of their game, under the guidance of top-notch trainers and coaches.

    90+% of NBA players are passionate about playing basketball and being as good as they can be.

    I think it’s a disservice to the rank-and-file NBA player to assume that he’s not an all-star because the all-stars work harder at their craft or love the game more. It’s a lazy assumption at best.

  68. I think it would be lunacy not to take Okafor at #4 if he drops. He was the consesnus #1 for most of the year, and his team actually WON the NCAA championship!!! Frankly, I think there are just as many question marks about Towns and even more about Russell. Any team that passes him over is gonna be sorry.

  69. Yeah but it’s highly unlikely that the Lakers pass on him.

    Really only think they would take Russell at 4, but if he’s gone, I could see us trading down for the Bledsoe/Lyles platter.

  70. Would love me some Bledsoe. 25, getting better, without Dragic and Thomas to drag down his effectiveness. Reasonably priced. Explosive athlete, good defense. Just hitting his prime. Could be a 20 pt, 8 assist, 5 rebound, 2 steal guy. Would be great if Mudiay turned into that eventually. Bledsoe is ready now. Pick up a big forward – Lyles/Portis/Wood even Kaminsky or shooter -Booker/can’t think of anyone right now, and then add Monroe and I think we’d be a fun team.

  71. I think the knicks are staying put… i cannot possibly fathom that they are so high on lyles that they would trade back that far and simultaneously be that down on any of the winslow/porzingis/mudiay/stein group… it would be unprecedented… and most importantly.. it would be dumb…

  72. Good grief. If Russell or Okafor falls to #4, the Knicks take him and we all start partying. I know that I will be!

    Hopefully the rumblings that Okafor is lazy or some such and that Porzingis is so awesome are just subterfuge being slyly spread by agents of Jedi Master Phil Jackson.

  73. bledsoe is okay, but he’s had two meniscus surgeries. I wouldn’t count on him being an effective player past about 28. He also makes a lot of money. I’d rather save the free agency money and keep the pick.

  74. although some possibilities do open up if we can get the kings involved.. ship bledsoe there and then pickup the #6 along with #13…

  75. Given the choice of Okafor, Russell and Mudyia falling to the Knicks, I would prefer them in that exact order. I would be delighted with any of them. Beggars can’t be choosy and I don’t think any of them will be a complete bust. I may be wrong and just hope that those who can scout talent, know what they’re talking about.

  76. The idea that Okafor lacks a good work ethic is absurd. His unprecedented productivity was from skill not natural born athletic gifts. How do you think he developed those skills? You don’t become the most dominant freshman interior scorer of the last 30 years without working really hard. He’s not a gym rat, he does not sleep in the weight room and probably doesn’t love running laps, that will need work and is cause for some concern but the idea that he is lazy or not passionate is completely out of line. You could not possibly be that good without being passionate and working hard.

    Everyone talks about Stein but it seems to me his work ethic should be more concerning. He is an amazing athlete and probably does live in the gym working out but why did he not improve at all over three college seasons, why was he unable to use his otherworldly athleticism to dominate on the court.

    At the end of the day production is what matters. Okafor produced like no other player ever, he was the best player on his team and his team won.

  77. Everyone talks about Stein but it seems to me his work ethic should be more concerning. He is an amazing athlete and probably does live in the gym working out but why did he not improve at all over three college seasons, why was he unable to use his otherworldly athleticism to dominate on the court.

    I think this is totally overblown. He did improve in his 3 years. FT% 37–>62. Overall improvement in turnover rate (0.21–>0.16). And his defense versatility improved — and even though he was pretty much guarding the other team’s best offensive player, his fouls/40 improved from 4.1–>4.5–>3.1. The ability to effectively guard (and shut down) without fouling is HUGE, and is one red flag on Towns — dude averaged 5.6 PF/40 (ie. couldn’t play 40 minutes even if he wasn’t on a deep team) despite really never guarding the other team’s best player, and never having to deal with fatigue-related fouls because he only played 20 minutes/game.

    IMO – the free throw percentage improvement says a lot and means a lot. #1 – it’s not everyone that can do that- see Deandre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Rondo, all the Hack-a-whoevers. You have to go to the gym and work on that, so it says to me that he is interested in getting better. In a less nebulous sense, it means that you can’t Hack-a-Stein in the NBA, and you don’t have to take him off the floor at the end of games. In fact, because he can switch onto anyone, you don’t have to ever take him out except for rest or foul trouble. Teams can’t go small and expect your rim protector to be taken out.

    For me – I guess I’d take Okafor or Russell over WCS but assuming those two are off the board, I’d like to see WCS- ideally in a trade-down to #6 or 7 (I don’t think I’d feel comfortable going down farther than that) + an asset, but I wouldn’t be at all upset if we just took him at 4.

  78. Someone mentioned it on Twitter and I’d be all for a #4+THJ for #6 + Ben McLemore. Mclemore statistically looks just like THJ but by all reports is a far superior defensive player. That = a pretty decent player who is still on his rookie contract and is only 22.

    Re: trade down talk ie. for Bledsoe. I like Bledsoe a lot but in order to move down from 4 to 13 I think we need to get a difference making player (Bledsoe qualifies) BUT that player has to be on a rookie or very underpaid contract (ie. like Demarre Carroll before this year) OR we need to get cap relief (Calderon) instead.

  79. I’ll just keep going.

    Re draft smokescreens – I think the Knicks have to put out really strong indicators that they LOVE Porzingis and will take him at 4 if he’s still available. Reports seem to indicate that Orlando loves him too, and so if we could somehow either swap 4 for 5 or have them trade with Philly for him, that would leave Russell for us.

    (I still have some reservations about Russell and his defense. Not sure how that isn’t being played up as much in the media as Okafor, who was just as dominant (if not more so) than Russell on offense)

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