A Few Initial Thoughts On the Knicks Schedule

A few of the notable games:

  • The Knicks start the season October 30th at MSG versus the Bucks. Big picture, the first game doesn’t really matter all that much. It’s nice to win, but it’s not like the season is over for a team if it loses it’s first game. While there’s been a bit of negative backlash among the fan base about starting the season against a blah team like Milwaukee, I actually like the first matchup. Marquee opening night matchups are awesome, unless your team loses the game. It’s likely now that the Knicks start the year 1-0, and I’m totally fine with that.
  • They play Milwaukee, at Chicago, Minnesota, at Charlotte, Charlotte in their first five games. At the worst, the Knicks should be 3-2 through this first handful of games. People have tweeted me saying “4-1!” but they forget that a healthy Minnesota team makes for a very worthy opponent.
  • First Knicks-Nets matchup is December 5th at Barclays Center. It’s a Thursday night game, meaning it’ll be on TNT.
  • On Christmas Day, New York welcomes Oklahoma City to Madison Square Garden. I think this is a crappy Christmas day matchup. Of course both teams should be good, but I’d rather have seen the Knicks square off against an Eastern Conference rival like Brooklyn or Chicago. Oklahoma City should’ve played one of the other real elite teams like Miami or San Antonio.
  • After the OKC Christmas day game, New York plays a home-and-home vs Toronto. There’s a Bargnani joke in here somewhere. Those games also end this calendar year.
  • I always love seeing Felton get torched Steph Curry play, so naturally I’m excited for the Feb 28 Knicks-Warriors matchup at MSG, as well as March 30 at Oracle.
  • In April, the Knicks play Brooklyn twice, Chicago once and Miami once. Given how close the records of seeds 2-5 in the Eastern Conference project to be, these should be incredibly important games for New York.

I’m going to go get a cheeseburger now. Goodbye!

Knicks Reach Agreement to Sign Metta World Peace

It needed to happen. Everyone wanted it to happen. It happened. The man formerly known as Ron Artest, Metta World Peace, is now a New York Knickerbocker. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! reported first that the Knicks had reached a 2 year agreement with World Peace, and it has been reported by others that the second year of the deal is a player option. New York used the second half of their mid-level exception (the other half used on Pablo Prigioni) to sign World Peace. Make no mistake, World Peace is not the player he once was, but he’s still an excellent fit for the Knicks.

The best part of this signing is the lineup versatility MWP brings to the table. In addition to playing the 3, he can play the 4 in super small lineups sans Carmelo Anthony. World Peace played some small-ball 4 in Mike D’Antoni’s offense last season, so he has experience playing different positions. He’s also a near-perfect fit next to Anthony – something the Knicks didn’t totally have last season.

Defensively, he can guard 4s that Anthony doesn’t want to, as well as most 3s. According to Synergy, opposing post up players scored just 0.75 points per possession against MWP. In an era where most traditional 4s are going by the wayside, the 260 lb World Peace will be just fine defending bigger guys. On the wing, he can’t pester the elite guys like he used to, but he’s more than serviceable against most the other guys in the league. The Knicks love switching on screens, and he’s versatile enough to fit into that scheme. Last season, the Lakers were a full 4 points per 100 possessions better defensively when World Peace was on the floor. At age 33, he’s not the defensive savant that he once was, but he’s still a net positive on that end of the floor.

Offensively, he’ll do just fine as a floor spacer in the corners. He shot 19.7% of his shots last season from the corner three, hitting 37.4% from the left corner and 36.1% out of the right. Assuming the Knicks do what they should, keeping the small-ball lineup and running spread pick and roll, World Peace should get a ton of open corner threes – much like the shots Ronnie Brewer was getting earlier in the season. He shot 35% on spot ups last season, not great, but serviceable when you factor in the two-way nature of his game.

From day 1, Metta World Peace should be a starter at small forward. Again, he’s big and versatile enough to guard 4s, thus Woodson should have no reason to supplant Anthony at the 4 against bigger teams. I suspect this signing means Anthony stays at power forward – something that had been in question prior to the signing. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Bargnani and Stoudemire as it looks like both guys will be coming off the bench, but I digress.

Summer League Recap: Pelicans 77 Knicks 72

The Knicks lost 77-72 to the Pellies (stolen from Zach Lowe) today at UNLV in Las Vegas. Mike Woodson’s hat game was on point as he sat in the stands with Glen Grunwald, a man who hasn’t gotten a haircut in a while. Jim Todd and his wonderful accent coached the team today – unfortunately, he wasn’t interviewed. There isn’t much to take from summer league games, so I don’t have a ton of notes for you today. However, there are some interesting prospects that will be relevant later on in the process, so I mainly paid attention to them.

  • Shumpert. Is. Not. A. Point. Guard. I’m all for developing his point guard skills – ball handling, creating off the dribble, distributing – but come meaningful hoops, he should be playing strictly off the ball. As we’ve seen in regular season action (remember that game in Memphis when Shumpert played point and was like 0-45 shooting at halftime?), Shumpert was ineffective running the point today. He had a nice lob to Tim Hardaway Jr and another good lob to Jeremy Tyler (I think it was Jeremy Tyler), but overall he wasn’t very good. He can’t really create anything in the pick and roll, nor can he create clean looks for himself off the dribble. These are skills he’ll need to develop as his career progresses. Again, you can’t take much from summer league games – hell, Renaldo Balkman looked like god in the 2006 LVSL – but I think it’s pretty clear at this point that Shumpert isn’t a point.
  • So we got to see Tim Hardaway Jr play for the first time. I wasn’t overly impressed, but he did some nice things. He got off to a good start shooting the ball, though he cooled down as the game went on. A player who was passive in college, Hardaway was anything but today. I liked his aggressiveness on offense, but his shot selection wasn’t great and his efficiency suffered because of it. However, we saw his athleticism on display on multiple occasions, which was nice. I thought he played pretty average defense. His off ball defense was solid, but Austin Rivers (ew) cooked him off the dribble a few times. Overall, I thought he was fine, not great. For his first NBA action, he held is own and showcased some of why the Knicks liked him in the draft.
  • On the broadcast, Breen asked Clyde about the Bargnani trade. Hilarity ensued as Clyde, as he’s done in the past, continued to pronounce Andrea’s name “Barn-yar-knee” and said it about 6 times. Also, he talked about how he didn’t really like the move (because Clyde is smart).
  • CJ Leslie is athletic. That was about it today. He moved well in transition, getting to the hoop once or twice, but his half-court offense was gross and his defense was iffy. Leslie had a wide open three that he bricked. If he’s going to make it in the NBA, he’s got to start hitting shots like that.
  • Jeremy Tyler intrigues me. He’s only 22 and obviously has a lot of room to grow. Today, we saw Tyler’s athleticism multiple occasions. Unfortunately, we also saw him not being good at basketball on multiple occasions. He gave really good effort and was trying to do the right things, except when he shot jump shots – DON’T EVER SHOOT ANOTHER JUMP SHOT JEREMY! THEY ARE DISGUSTING! – he just couldn’t quite do them. To be fair, his second half was actually pretty good. I’m not sure if he can ever develop into a starter or even a rotation level guy, but there’s clear room for growth here. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays moving forward.
  • Chris Smith was better than expected, but still below average. He played hard on defense and had a good sequence in the second half where he forced a pair of turnovers back-to-back, but his offense was atrocious. Smith’s shot selection was bad on multiple occasions, he air-balled an open three and had a play where he tried to alley-oop Hardaway (I think) over three people – needless to say, it didn’t work.
  • Eloy Vargas played a good game. He’s really big and can shoot a little bit, though I’d like to remind people on twitter that this is summer league. Vargas hit a three and immediately I saw a few tweets RT’d on my feed saying “Yeah Vargas! This guy is the next Copeland!” No more of that please, but yes Vargas can shoot a little bit. He was pretty much a non-factor on defense and on the boards, so he has a long way to go before he even gets a camp invite.
  • Toure’ Murry had a good game. Despite having to share a name with that douchebag on MSNBC, Murray scored 11 points on 6 shots. He played hard, and looks like he could be a nice D-League shooting guard. He hit some jump shots and had one of the few memorable plays of the game, splitting the Pellies defense and scoring at the rim.
  • Liam McMorrow is huge. That’s all I’ve got.
  • AJ Matthews played and scored a basket. I know literally nothing about him, other than that he’s from Brooklyn and that he’s tall.

There were like three other guys who played, but nothing notable happened. Knicks play again Sunday. Enjoy the weekend!

Takes From the Last Week in Free Agency

I haven’t had a chance to get on here and blog about some of the recent happenings in the last few days of free agency. Here are my takes on some of the most interesting developments from around the league:

  • JJ Redick, Jared Dudley to the Clippers, Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler to the Suns, picks to Milwaukee. I love this trade for the Clippers and Suns. LA gets back two of the league’s better perimeter shooters, on good contracts, to put around Chris Paul in a new Doc Rivers/Alvin Gentry run offense. Both guys are good team defenders as well, making them both upgrades over the severely one-dimensional Jamal Crawford. Crawford’s ball handling abilities will still have value, but Redick and Dudley are both better fits (and players) next to Chris Paul. From Phoenix’s standpoint, they acquire one of the prized young assets in the league right now. Just about every team with a need at point guard was rumored to be going after Bledsoe at one point or another, but Phoenix is the team that gets him – and they didn’t give up that much. Jared Dudley is a good player, but at age 27 he’s not an ideal player for a rebuilding team. The question now for Phoenix is if they move Goran Dragic or play him and Bledsoe together. In 185 minutes last season, the Clippers were a +11.1 NET-RTG with Bledsoe and Paul on the court together, so it’s clear that Bledsoe can succeed in a 2 point guard alignment. The issue will be with Dragic, who is a much better player with the ball in his hands and who has struggled to play shooting guard in two point guard sets. Milwaukee was the loser of this trade, but not for the trade itself. Losing JJ Redick for second round picks isn’t ideal, but they were going to lose him anyways and did well to at least get minor assets for him. The problem was acquiring Redick in the first place. They parted ways with Tobias Harris, who was impressive late in the season, to get Redick for their meaningless playoff run that ended with a first round shellacking at the hands of the Miami Heat. I hated the trade then, and I don’t like it now.
  • Dwight Howard picks the Houston Rockets. Howard usually lacks any sort of logic when making decisions, but he made the right decision in picking the Rockets in free agency. Laker fans would tell you differently (they’d be the only ones), but Houston is much closer to contending than the Los Angeles is. Daryl Morey has assembled an analytically friendly team led by one of the most efficient scorers in basketball in James Harden. The Lakers are old, old, and old. Nash and Gasol were shells of themselves last season and Kobe is sidelined with his achilles injury. After those three, there isn’t much there. With Howard on the Rockets, Houston becomes a contender in the West. They now have two top-10 players and a host of assets they can flip to put better pieces around them – such as Omer Asik who has been rumored in multiple trade scenarios. For me, the question is what kind of offense will Houston run? Ideally, they run 4 out with Howard as the roll man to James Harden’s ball handling, but Howard expressed his disdain for this style of play last season. He wants to post-up 20 times a game. It will be interesting to see how they re-tool this offense moving forward. There’s no reason why Houston shouldn’t be dominant on both ends of the floor. There will probably be an adjustment period early in the process, but the Rockets will be contending sooner rather than later.
  • Josh Smith gets 4 years $56 million from Detroit. Josh Smith is one of the more intriguing players in basketball. A top 15 defender that nobody knows about, the great parts of Smith’s game are usually overshadowed by his appalling shot selection. That being said, I hate this fit. Unless they move Greg Monroe, Detroit is not a good fit for Smith. With Andre Drummond and Monroe already there, it looks like Smith will play small forward. His defense will be fine, but this team is going to be a complete mess on offense. Drummond can’t shoot a lick and Monroe isn’t a three point threat, making it near impossible for Smith to spend most of his time on offense closer to the basket. With Smith you want to limit his perimeter touches. In Detroit, he’ll probably get more of them, which doesn’t bode well for the Pistons – Smith is a 28.3% career three point shooter and shot 30.5% from mid-range last season.
  • The Knicks re-sign JR Smith and Pablo Prigioni. The Knicks got Smith back on a 4 year $25 million deal with a player option for the final year, which is both good and bad. Good from a year-to-year salary perspective in that about $6 million annually is good value from Smith. Bad in that the Knicks gave him 3 years guaranteed, thus compromising more of their cap room in 2015. Smith’s deal makes the Bargnani trade – thought to be made to clear cap space in 2015 – even more mind-boggling. Regardless, the Knicks will be better off in the short-term with Smith. He was incredibly valuable to them last season, providing positional versatility, passable defense, and shot creating skills that the team badly lacks. It would’ve been very difficult to fill Smith’s spot had he left, but that’s no longer an issue. An equally as important signing, the Knicks also brought back Pablo Prigioni. They had to dip into the taxpayer mid-level to keep Prigioni, so really they were picking between him and Chris Copeland. While I hate the Bargnani trade, it did supply the Knicks with a replacement for Copeland – albeit a worse and more expensive one. With Prigioni back, the Knicks have a more than capable backup, as well as a two point guard lineup combination (with Raymond Felton) that has proven to be very effective.
  • The Bobcats give Al Jefferson 3 years $41 million… OH GOD LOOK AT ALL THE BLOOD. I hate hate hate hate this contract and this fit. There’s no doubt that Jefferson is one of the few NBA centers with above-average back to the basket skills, but offense only big men are really not that valuable unless they’re elite guys like late 2000′s Amar’e Stoudemire. Jefferson is a good, not elite, offensive player and a horrid defender. With Cody Zeller starting alongside Jefferson, Charlotte could be significantly better on offense this season. However, their league worse defense will see little to no improvement and even possibly some regression. The Bobcats have stockpiled a few decent assets, but overall they’re still going to be a bad team. Jefferson isn’t enough to move the needle in a positive direction and Charlotte overpaid badly for him.
  • The Mavericks acquire all of the point guards. After missing out on Howard, the Mavs have gone all David Kahn circa 2008 on the league. Before Howard’s decision, they had drafted point guard Shane Larkin from Miami and brought over Israeli triggerman Gal Mekel. After missing out on Howard, they brought in Jose Calderon and Devin Harris. He isn’t good at defense, but I don’t think Calderon’s 4 year $29 million contract is an overpay. Harris is likely the primary shooting guard, a move I like a lot. And despite acquiring 7,000 point guards, I think I kind of like what they’ve done. Do these moves make Dallas a contender? Absolutely not. There doesn’t seem to be a clear long-term plan, and Dallas is scrambling to put a team together for next season. What’s to like? They’re now stockpiling their assets, while leaving good cap flexibility for the future.They’ll have less than $20 million in guaranteed salary on the books at the start of next off-season. With Calderon, Harris, Larkin and Mekel all on longer contracts, they don’t have to worry about building a backcourt for the next few seasons – unless those guys are really bad, but I don’t see that happening. I’m a sucker for two point guard lineups and I think there are some interesting backcourt combinations Rick Carlisle can run out there. If the Mavericks do go out and get Andrew Bynum, they’ll have plenty of guys who can get him the ball in the paint. Dallas won’t be a contender, but I think they’ve got some interesting pieces moving forward.
  • Warriors get Andre Iguodala. I absolutely love this move for a few reasons. In a vacuum, Iguodala is a fantastic team player. His half-court offense is shaky, but he’s electric in transition and he’s one of the elite perimeter defenders in basketball. His 4 year $48 million contract is fantastic value for him. In signing Iguodala, Golden State could very well be ushering in a new era of analytic friendly small-ball style play – the same style that was the catalyst for their post-season run. In adding another 2/3 wing, the Warriors now have the flexibility to move Harrison Barnes to the four spot permanently, something they should do, but probably won’t right away. Detractors of this move will point to the steep price tag Golden State paid to sign Iguodala. They sacrificed a handful of draft picks and had to renounce the rights to Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack to make space for Iggy, but I think it was all worth it. An issue that will be harder to solve is what to do with David Lee and his mammoth contract. It’s clear that small-ball is the way to go for these Warriors, but Lee doesn’t fit into that at all. With 3 years and $44 million left on his deal, it’s quite unlikely that Golden State finds a trade partner for his services. I think they probably start the game with him and Bogut on the court, but limit Bogut’s minutes and fill them with Lee at center. They’ll get killed inside, but they’ll score a ton of points as well. With Lee at center, Golden State will be banking on Iguodala, Barnes, and Thompson to compensate on the defensive end of the floor. Make no mistake, the Warriors are far from a finished product. They need to figure out what to do with Lee, find a legitimate 32 minute per game center, a backup point guard, and overall just add more depth. But the Iguodala signing is a great move for a franchise on the rise.
  • Cleveland signs Jarrett Jack. While I’m not a huge Jarrett Jack guy, I love this signing. He got a 4 year $25 million deal with a team option on his fourth year, which I think is a pretty fair contract. In Jack, Cleveland gets another guard that can initiate the offense, along with their young backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. He’s a guy that can play as your primary ball handler, but also shoots well enough to play off the ball alongside Irving. I think he actually compliments both Irving and Waiters well, especially Waiters. The former Syracuse guard has point guard skills, but will be helped by playing alongside another guard who can create for him. Jack is a big upgrade over the Boobie Gibson/Shaun Livingston backup point guard situation the Cavaliers had last season.
  • Sacramento signs Carl Landry. This is an interesting move, in that Landry really doesn’t fill a need for Sacramento. It’s hard to evaluate exactly how Landry will fit, because there are corresponding moves to be made. The Kings front-court is suddenly crowded with power forwards and it would be truly mind-boggling if they didn’t get rid of at least one of them. Either way, Landry had a pretty good year with the Warriors last season. If this was the Kings old-regime, I’d be fearful of how this signing would work out. During his first stint in Sacramento, Landry was too jumper happy. Given that Mike Malone has coached Landry at New Orleans and Golden State – where he shot fewer jump shots and was more properly utilized – I don’t think this will be an issue the second time around. He’s a really efficient scorer, though he does nothing for a notoriously bad Kings defense. In a vacuum  he’s better than what Sacramento has at the position, though the other guys all do similar things well. I think he’s one of the first pieces in what will be a total overhaul from the Kings, and so I can’t exactly say he’s a poor fit or that this is a bad signing. If the season started tomorrow, Landry would be a poor fit, but they’re going through an overhaul in Sacramento. Only time will tell if this is a good or bad move.

As free agency progresses, I’ll be giving more takes everything going on in NBA land. If there are any moves I didn’t touch on that you would like to hear my take on, hit me up on twitter or send me a note in the comment section and I’ll get back to you.

Andrea Bargnani Roundtable

1. What are the Knicks getting in Andrea Bargnani?
  • Taylor Armosino (@tarmosino): A 7-footer that hasn’t shot well in three seasons, can’t defend or rebound, and is injury prone. Statistics aren’t a skill, rather the result of a skill, but the numbers on Bargnani are scary bad. There’s no denying that he has the ability to shoot from three, but he hasn’t been good at it for a while now. Since shooting 40.9% from three in 2008-2009, his three point percentage has rapidly declined, topping off at 29.6% and 30.9% each of the past two seasons. If he isn’t able to be an above-average shooter, he’s a minus-minus (or minus x2) player. He can’t rebound a lick, can’t defend a lick and takes tough shots.
  • John Gunther (@EmbraceAnalytix): A restoration project and a lot of questions. The hope is that the Knicks are getting the floor spacing, scoring big man that Bargnani was from 2008 through 2011. A volume scorer to help ease the burden off Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith (if he returns). In reality, that Bargnani has not really existed the past two seasons. He averaged 21.4 PPG in 2010-11 while shooting 34.5% from 3P with a 44.4% 3FG%.  But his long distance shooting has plummeted consistently since he shot 40.9% in ’08-09, down all the way to 29.6% and 30.9% the past two seasons. Accordingly, his eFG% has come down as well. As his efficiency has decreased and his scoring tapered off, he suddenly became the bane Raptors fans existence so much so that Bryan Colangelo was publicly shopping him at the trade deadline. All this has left the Knicks to acquire Bargnani as a “fixer-upper.” Is he still a “floor spacer” despite his noticeable drop off in 3P%? Could a change of scenery bring him back to his previous self? Is his previous self (scoring yes, but Bargnani has consistently rebounded at a historically low rate for a 7 footer) even the type of player the Knicks really need? Time will tell.
  • Brandon Rushie (@Ayo_Rush): The optimist in me says we’ve just added a 7-footer with a pretty set shot who can contribute in the pick and pop and can draw rim protectors away from the paint. His presence will generally improve spacing for a team that loves to stretch the floor and shoot the three. Andrea clearly crumbled trying to shoulder the weight of being “the guy” in Toronto, but in New York he’d be a 2nd/3rd option, and probably playing no more than 20-22 minutes a game. The wary Knick fan in me is disgusted at the fact we just gave up three picks to get rid of two bad contracts, and received a disappointing one-way player who was reportedly on the verge of being amnestied. He’s an atrocious rebounder for his size and a sub-par defender, compounding two of our biggest weaknesses, and comes with durability concerns – having only played 66 games over the past two seasons.
  • John Dorn (@JSDorn6): The Knicks are getting something they already have too many of: a one-way player. Sure, they needed a big. But they needed a big that can help on the glass and that can defend. Bargnani, in 7 seasons, hasn’t proven that he can do either. He’s an offensive center whose offensive game isn’t good enough to justify that label. Spot-up three shooters didn’t last in Woodson’s system last year, and there’s no reason to believe they will any time soon. Overall, Bargnani is a decent scorer, who scores in ways the Knicks don’t need.
  • James Griffo: (@J_Griff): To be exact, the Knicks are getting a stretch-four/stretch five floor spacer in Bargnani. But something that is very important in a stretch-four/stretch five is that the player is capable of hitting perimeter and mid-range jumpers, hence the rudimentary floor spacing skill, which is something Bargnani can’t do. He’s an average-to-mediocre-to-subpar shooter. Combine that with also being a poor rebounder and injury-plagued for the past two seasons.
2. Who won this trade?
  • Armosino: The team that plays in Canada. From a player standpoint, the trade was probably a wash. Camby and Novak were minor role players at best, and the Knicks get back a project that still has potential to be a positive contributor. What puzzles me is why the Knicks, negotiating from a point of leverage, had to give up any picks at all, much less a first round pick. Everyone covering the Raptors is a) happy Bargnani is gone and b) shocked they got draft picks for him. This was a guy who was probably going to be amnestied because he was horrible and had a huge contract. New York did Toronto a favor by simply taking him off their hands. Why they had to throw in picks is beyond me, and really is a fireable offense by Glen Grundwald. In today’s NBA, teams should only give up first round picks to either move up in the draft or acquire a superstar. Bargnani is certainly not a superstar and they didn’t move up in the draft obviously. This was a very puzzling and disappointing trade from New York’s standpoint.
  • Gunther: Raptors. In some cases trades do not have a winner or a loser, but work out well (or poorly) for both teams involved. There is still an outside chance that both teams will come out winners depending on how Bargnani plays in NY, but the Raptors are already undoubtedly in the win column. Masai Ujiri (yes, of Melo trade fame) pulled off a coup that no one expected; actually getting a 1st round pick in return for Bargnani. The deal itself is really just an exchange of bad contracts, and without the picks being exchanged would have likely been a wash.  But since there were picks exchanged, and all 3 of them went to Toronto, its pretty clear Ujiri accomplished more than anyone expected he would have.
  • Rushie: It appears the Grunwald is making this move with 2015 in mind; Novak was the only player on the roster who’s contract extended into 2015 (Felton has a player option in 2015/2016), and now with his contract off the books, we’ll be looking at a sizable amount of spending money come that off-season. Considering Melo doesn’t opt out, it could be a legitimate chance to pair another big name alongside him. As great as that is though, the Raptors just got a trio of picks, including a first for their equivalent of Amare Stoudemire. Anyone who knows me understands that I am vehemently against trading away picks; its the cheapest was to add young rotation players, an asset you’d think a team in the position of New York would covet. However,if management is able to stand pat and see this supposed plan through, then in the long run they may be the victors. Dolan isn’t known for his patience, though.
  • Dorn:  You have to say Toronto “won” the deal. They shed a player they haven’t wanted in a long time, for one. Also, they received Steve Novak, who can be a serviceable offensive player–but that barely has anything to do with them “winning.” Masai Uriji ditched not only an albatross contract, but a player who isn’t very good , but he also got back draft picks. One second rounder could have been sufficient. Maybe two. But they netted a first as well. A first round pick. One of the first 30 picks in the draft. I’m rambling because I still can’t wrap my mind around it. It’s a no-brainer. Bargnani can go onto be a serviceable Knick, and it would still wouldn’t justify trading a first round pick.
  • Griffo:  To say that the Knicks won this trade is like saying “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theater when there’s actually no fire, but there are some that argue the Knicks won this trade (somehow). The people that argue for the Bargnani trade may bring up Marcus Camby’s uselessness due to injury from last year as a key point in their argument, which is very true, but the fact that Steve Novak, who has shot above 40% from beyond the arc in his two seasons with the Knicks, compared to Bargs .309 and .296 3P%’s from the last two seasons, is hilarious. Not to mention that Novak is a slightly crappier rebounder than Bargs, with a 5.4 TRB% compared to Bargs 7.6 TRB%. The Knicks are totally contradicting their concept of “win now.” Wait until Bargs gets injured with the training staff we have.
3. Do the cap implications of this outweigh giving up a first round pick?
  • Armosino: If it came down to choosing between more cap space in 2015 and a late first round pick, I could see the argument in going with the cap space. However, there was literally no good reason to throw in a pick to get this trade done. The Knicks were operating with leverage, taking a horrible player off a team desperate to move him. They could’ve, and should’ve, had both the pick and the cap space.
  • Gunther: No. You could argue that the cap savings in 2014-15 is one the shrewd move here by the Knicks, but that would be discounting the fact that Bargnani was a potential amnesty candidate, and the Knicks just gave up 3 picks (including a 1st) for the right to pay him $22M over 2 years. You simply cannot give up assets, which picks are (especially under the new CBA), for someone that every team around the league determines to be a liability from a cap standpoint. Additionally, if we take Blake Griffin’s Kia back to 2010 and the Tracy McGrady trade, you will remember that the Knicks paid the price of a 1st rd pick for the Rockets to take on the contract of Jared Jeffries. The cost of the 1st rd pick in this instance? $6.88M in cap space. Steve Novak’s salary in 2015-16 is $3.75M. There are countless other examples where greater cap space has brought back less than the 3 picks the Knicks just gave up in order to both take on Bargnani’s contract and shed Novak’s salary in 2015-16. Regardless of whether Denver has the right to swap the 1st rounder, the value is not made up in the cap space alone.
  • Rushie: Again, what we do with that cap space will determine if this was a smart move or not, but as of today, the Knicks got fleeced by Ujiri. For a second time.
  • Dorn: They absolutely don’t. The Knicks are saving themselves $4 million in salary two years down the line, and paid the price of 3 future picks. Picks (basically FREE talent) that would have ushered in the next era of the franchise, seeing that the team’s books are being wiped clean after 2015. Now, sure, they’re free of Novak’s $4 mil in two seasons. But they’re also free of any sort of cheap, young help that could come in to be part of the future.
  • Griffo: Eh, no. Let’s take the time machine to 2015. Melo, Amare, Tyson, Shump, among the rest of the team, is coming off the books that year (except Felton, who has a player option in 2015-16). Draft picks are incredibly valuable, even if a team makes a terrible selection after the fact. Every draft pick will have a boom-or-bust outcome, no matter what the circumstance. I guess the terms “draft pick” and “future” makes the Knicks front office gag. If the Knicks won’t be able to retain at least one of their big three that offseason, then that’s where the traded away picks would’ve came in handy, helping them to stockpile assets. On the bright side, the summer of 2015 will provide an ample amount of cap space, along with having the ability to offer a max contract, so trading away Steve Novak is beneficial for financial reasons, because he’s due cash for his final two years on his deal. If the Nuggets are nice enough to swap their 2016 first rounder as well, then woo-hoo! And, thankfully, the second rounders that are being dealt away are very low picks, so that’s good, for the most part.
4. How does this crowded front court fit together? Does this mean the end of Melo at the 4?
  • Armosino: It looks that way. Unless they plan to stash Bargnani at the end of the bench and use him only when Stoudemire gets injured, it’s hard to see how this fits together with Melo at power forward. I can see the rationale offensively of pairing Bargnani next to Anthony and Chandler. The Knicks can continue to run their small-ball style, just with a bigger lineup. Unfortunately, they have to play defense. Rather than adding defensive pieces to compensate for Anthony, Stoudemire, and Felton, the Knicks added another horrid defensive player. Moving Anthony to the 3 takes him from below average to putrid on that end of the floor, without anything other than Chandler to cover up his deficiency. Offensively, they can fit Bargnani in, but they’re going to get killed defensively.
  • Gunther: Offensively I think they can fit. Even if the Knicks go with Tyson-Bargnani-Melo frontcourt either to start or in stretches, it won’t be much different than when Novak played alongside Tyson and Melo. In theory, Bargnani would still be able to create that all important space and allow Melo to operate on the block and create for himself and others. This isn’t as bad a fit as say, Amar’e at the 4 in this lineup. Defensively, however, I am concerned. The choice is either have Melo chase around opposing 3s (bad), or sacrifice rebounding and defense by having Melo or Amar’e play PF with Bargs at C (worse?). Neither of those options are optimal. So, Melo may see his minutes at the 4 decrease this season, but I think this move says more about where the team thinks Amar’e is right now than about them writing off Melo playing the PF position. Management is putting no eggs in the Amar’e basket. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking (I like Melo at the 4), but further evidence to suggest that they will play Melo at least some at the 4 is in the drafting of Tim Hardaway, Jr and the continued courtship of the likes of Francisco Garcia, Matt Barnes, and Carlos Delfino in free agency.
  • Rushie: I believe so. While Andrea isn’t exactly in a position to demand starting minutes, a healthy Amare will almost surely start, but I expect him to begin the season with a minutes restriction. That will probably lead to him splitting his playing time with Andrea at the 4, and Melo moving back to the 3. I think the best combination would be a Melo/Andrea/Tyson frontcourt: Melo on the right block, Chandler roaming the middle as usual, and Andrea setting picks at the top of the key, drawing a big out of the paint and looking for the pick and pop.
  • Dorn:  You have to think that this is the end of small-ball for the Knicks. I can’t see Stoudemire and Bargnani both settling for a bench role. At the same time, there’s no way the team could get away with those two playing simultaneously on the second unit. Nobody really knows how this is all going to fit. You’d think either Amar’e or Andrea would be shipped out before the season, but they may be the two most un-tradeable players in the league.
  • Griffo: Just looking at the projected starting five for next year, that 18th ranked defense from last season is going to plummet all the way down to the gallows of hell, into the abyss, a dungeon that’s filled with fire, brimstone and skeletons. At least Tyson Chandler is still there. But when Mike Woodson has to adjust his rotations in-game, there will be a unit of great disaster – featuring Felton, Melo, Bargs and Amare. It seems like that Woodson’s genius Melo-at-the-4 will be on a respirator, for now. Maybe Melo at the three might work with Bargs on the floor, but that means if Melo-iso is going to occur, he won’t get a ton of spacing like he did at the 4. So, it’ll be interesting to see how Mike Woodson deals with that conflict.
5. Does this significantly move the needle in either direction?
  • Armosino: It has the potential to, and not in a good way. If the Knicks do in fact move Anthony back to small forward, their defense could implode at a level they cannot overcome. Bargnani won’t be a 30 minute a game player (I hope) so I don’t want to overstate what his impact will be. I think he’ll actually probably shoot the ball well in this offense with Anthony and Chandler directing most the focus of the offense. I’m not worried about the Knicks scoring, I’m worried about their 17th ranked defense getting even worse.
  • Gunther: It all depends on Bargnani. In all likelihood it doesn’t move the needle. But if Bargnani is as bad as he was last season and this acquisition leads them to play more traditional lineups w/ one PG and Melo at the 3, then it will definitely move the needle in the negative direction. If Bargnani can improve with the change of scenery, then there is a chance the trade will help the Knicks by adding another scoring option and another big that, while he doesn’t do some of the things traditional bigs do, can frustrate rival bigs like Noah and Hibbert by drawing them out of the paint. Is Bargnani alone going to be enough to topple Miami and the rest of the East? Of course not, but since the team was desperate for more scoring it could help them keep pace with the Nets, Bulls, and Pacers if Bargnani can perform to his potential. But given the recent evidence, I’m not banking on Bargnani being the best that he can be, so it is likely the team just threw away a couple of picks while not totally mortgage the future by also compromising cap space. The Knicks keep treading water while the Heat raise banners.
  • Rushie: No. They didn’t necessarily get worse; Camby battled injuries all season and fell out of favor with Woodson. Novak stopped being a focal point after the departure of MDA and Lin, and it was pretty clear that Woodson himself had no idea how to incorporate him into the offense. Both were signed to terrible contracts that are no longer on the books. However, the Knicks finished last year as the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, not to mention one of the top overall offenses in the league. Their biggest needs after draft night were a point guard, rebounding, and defense. Andrea addresses none of those. Even if he bounces back and becomes a more efficient shooter, it’ll be hard to stomach watching a possible frontline of Melo, Amare, and Andrea attempting to defend. It’s even plausible that Chandler’s struggles to stay healthy stem from the fact that the Knicks ask him to do so much defensively. Our inability to defend, especially on the perimeter, leads to him being asked to clean up everyone else’s messes far more often than not. This personnel change certainly doesn’t give him any help. A friend of mine even joked with me that we essentially traded for a “7-foot Novak with a worse contract”. All we can do is hope for the best.
  • Dorn: No, they’re not getting any better. Bargnani isn’t good. They’re also not getting a whole lot worse, since Novak was more or less a non-factor by season’s end and Camby barely stepped on the court. I’d say they’re getting slightly worse, only because Melo-at-the-4 is most likely dead, and there was no real reason to stray from that.
  • Griffo: I’ll end this on a positive note. Bargnani is only 27 years old, not old enough to be considered a washed-up first overall pick, although, it sure seems like he is. Only time will tell to see if he can turn back the clock to 2009-10, and if the future draft picks that were given away in this deal will pan out. Hopefully this trade can move in the right direction. I’m trying to be optimistic, but as of now, I’m still puking bile from this trade.

2013 Mock Draft

Hey the draft is tonight! I put together a mock draft of what might happen tonight, though each pick is probably incorrect.

1. Cleveland – Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky. Though the Cavs have a void at small forward, I think they dip into their $22 million in cap space to fill that spot. I think Noel is going to be an absolute superstar on defense, though he’ll be a project in the short term. Coming off an ACL injury, Noel probably won’t be ready to play until late December, which works out for a Cavs team that would benefit from being in the lottery again next year. They’ll ultimately try and trade out of this pick, but I think they’ll ultimately be unable to move it and they’ll take Noel.

2. Orlando – Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana. The Magic will take Noel if he falls, but their pick is up in the air if he doesn’t. I think ultimately they’ll be deciding between Ben McLemore and Oladipo. Oladipo is a better prospect and I think his defense and motor win out over McLemore’s shooting stroke.

3. Washington – Otto Porter, F, Georgetown. I think the most often used comparison of Tayshaun Prince is right on. Like Prince, Porter is a long wing who understands floor spacing well. The biggest question mark with him is whether he does any single thing at an elite level. Nonetheless, I think the presence of guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, guys who can break down a defense, will help Porter get open looks as a floor spacing wing.

4. Charlotte – Ben McLemore, G, Kansas. The choice is between McLemore, Cody Zeller and Alex Len, and all three of those picks make sense here, but I think they go McLemore. They can either start him alongside Kemba Walker or bring him off the bench in a scoring role, and his outside shooting stroke is something they could definitely use – they were the 4th worst team in 3PT% last season.

5. Phoenix – Alex Len, C, Maryland. If Len’s here, he seems like the obvious choice for Phoenix. He has medical question marks, but there’s no better training staff in the league than Phoenix’s. With Gortat in the last year of his deal, it makes sense to have Len as the heir apparent. He’s high risk, but has Hibbert like potential defensively. In this draft, I think that’s a gamble worth taking at 5.

6. New Orleans – Trey Burke, PG, Michigan. With Burke, CJ McCollum, and Michael Carter-Williams all still on the board, there are three legit point guards deserving of being taken here. I think the Pelicans go with Burke. The national player of the year brings New Orleans a scorer with legit three point range that can push the ball in transition. If Eric Gordon forces his way elsewhere, they’ll need somebody to pick up the scoring. Also, Burke in the pick and roll with Anthony Davis could be lethal.

7. Sacramento  – CJ McCollum, PG, Lehigh. McCollum is one of my favorite prospects in this class. Not only is he a true student of the game and articulate, but he really can play. Sacramento needs a guard who can shoot the ball, and McCollum certainly fits that role. With the roster as is, he’d probably play off the ball quite a bit. However, I think the new regime will/should blow up that roster. He’ll be a good player for a rebuilding franchise. He’ll work hard, be coachable and contribute on the court.

8. Detroit – Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse. With Brandon Knight looking like more of an undersized 2 than a point guard, I think the Pistons grab Carter-Williams. At 6’6, he’ll provide good size at the position, and he’s more of a pure point than a scorer.

9. Minnesota – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia. I think Pope is the obvious choice here for Minnesota. He can’t create his own shot, nor shoot mid-range, but he does pretty much everything else well. I like him as an off-ball shooter next to Rubio, who will be handling the ball the majority of the time anyways.

10. Portland – Cody Zeller, C, Indiana. With all three point guards and Caldwell-Pope off the board, I think the Blazers bolster their front court with Zeller. With Meyers Leonard already there, Portland would have a young and exciting duo at center.

11. Philadelphia – Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV. Bennett has great potential as a dynamic 4 who can step out and shoot the three. He’s super athletic and can score inside as well. Philadelphia needs more impact players alongside Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, and Evan Turner. Bennett can be that.

12. Oklahoma City – Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh. Oklahoma City gets a very good value pick here. Adams is raw on offense, but has ridiculous defensive upside as a 7 footer with 7’3 wingspan. He’s not there yet, but Oklahoma City is in as good a position as any to be patient with young players.

13. Dallas – Sergey Karasev, F, Russia. The Mavs have been trying to move this pick for cash. If they can’t, I think they get a draft-and-stash guy. I’m giving them Karasev. He’s a guard who can play multiple positions and has a high basketball IQ. He just feels like a player Rick Carslile would be able to get good production out of, whenever he comes over to the NBA.

14. Utah – Shane Larkin, PG, Miami. Utah has needs at point guard and PF/C with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson being free agents. I think they address point guard here and go big with their pick at 21.

15. Milwaukee – Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany. With Larkin off the board, I think Milwaukee has to jump on the next best point guard. Schroeder has been lauded as the next Rajon Rondo, except that he can actually spot up and make shots. He’ll be a good fit with new coach Larry Drew.

16. Boston – Shabazz Muhammad, F, UCLA. Paul Pierce appears to be headed to Brooklyn, leaving a void at small forward. I think Muhammad has been scrutinized to the point of where he’s now underrated. Boston gets a good value pick here.

17. Atlanta – Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Greece. Multiple reports say the Hawks love this guy, and it makes sense. His reputation suggests he’s a point forward type who can handle the ball and pass well. With coach Mike Budenholzer coming over from the Spurs, it makes sense he’d like a guy like this.

18. Atlanta – Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil. Al Horford is a one of the best centers in basketball, but the Hawks get a bigger, shot blocking center they can bring off the bench. Nogueira is raw offensively, but has great potential as a shot blocker.

19. Cleveland – Reggie Bullock, F, North Carolina. Knicks fans weep as Bullock comes off the board here. He just makes too much sense for the Cavs, given what they need.

20. Chicago – Gorgui Dieng, C, Lousiville. Given his defensive prowess and ability to pass, I think Dieng fits in nicely as a backup center in both Tom Thibodeau’s offense and defensive systems.

21. Utah – Jeff Withey, C, Kansas. Al Jefferson is probably gone in free agency. Utah replaces him with the gigantic Withey, a big who has high upside defensively.

22. Brooklyn – Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga. Olynyk has good size and a versatile game. If he develops, he and Brook Lopez could be a very formidable front court.

23. Indiana – Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State. Indiana gets a fantastic pick here. They need a point guard that can score, which is exactly what Canaan is. He’s not a great distributor, but Indiana runs much of it’s offense through the post anyways. He’s a good fit here.

24. New York – Tony Snell, F, New Mexico. A 3 and D SG/SF, Snell fits in nicely with the Knicks. Part of New York’s problem is that they have too many one dimensional players – Novak, STAT, Melo, Felton. They need more guys like Shumpert who can contribute on both ends of the court and I think Snell can be that. He can’t dribble much or create his own shot, but he’s a guy who is an excellent spot up shooter, as well as a good defender with NBA athleticism and length.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – Tim Hardaway Jr, SG, Michigan. Hardaway gives Doc Rivers and Alvin Gentry yet another offensive weapon to an already dominant offense.

26. Minnesota – Rudy Gobert, C, France. I think this pick comes down to Gobert or Allen Crabbe from Cal. Minnesota could easily add Crabbe to bolster their non-existent shooting even more, but they got Caldwell-Pope at 9 and I think they grab the 7-2 center from France.

27. Denver – Allen Crabbe, G, Cal. Another team that needs outside shooting, the Nuggets snag Crabbe. He’s got good size and length and will allow them to continue to play versatile lineups with all the wings they have.

28. San Antonio – Mason Plumlee, C, Duke. San Antonio needs size and might lose Tiago Splitter in free agency. I think Plumlee is a good fit here.

29. Oklahoma City – Jamaal Franklin, G, SDSU. They need to find a replacement for James Harden. Franklin can’t shoot, but he’s incredibly athletic and gets himself to the foul line. Without Russell Westbrook, OKC was unable to breakdown defenses with anyone other than Durant. Franklin gives them a guy who can do that.

30. Phoenix – Lorenzo Brown, G, NC State. Phoenix takes the best player left on the board. They’d probably think about Ricky Ledo here, but his off-court question marks might scare the Suns away – they don’t exactly have a sound veteran locker room in place.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Rudy Gobert

There is some international talent to look out for in this year’s draft. Brandon has already covered Croatian superstar, Dario Saric, who is considered to be the international crop of NBA Draft prospects, according to the great Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, and German point guard, Dennis Schroeder. In last year’s draft, Frenchman, Evan Fournier, was drafted by the Nuggets with their 20th pick, the first international prospect to be picked off the board. Fellow high-rising 7-2 Frenchman, Rudy Gobert, is considered to be the second best international prospect below Dario Saric. It’s actually a back and forth battle between draft analysts and writers with Saric and Gobert. They really get into a war over the two, which is pretty hilarious to say the least. But I’m only touching on Gobert in this post.

Gobert’s career in the French Pro A League was mostly a successful one, due to his gargantuan 7-2 height and length. He has a whopping 7’9 wingspan, bigger than both Javale McGee and DeAndre Jordan’s wingspans at 7’6 at their pre-draft measurements. It’s absolutely nuts looking at Gobert’s arms. Just thinking about them gives me nightmares, but good nightmares (that sounds weird). Like McGee, Gobert’s wingspan is on a lanky frame of 238 pounds. He can extinguish pick and roll lanes with ease, resulting in an abundant of steals when he sticks his hand into passing lanes. Opposing offenses would have horrific hallucinations of his wicked length. If a team is implementing traps and or double teams and Gobert is one of the trappers, then forget it; throw up the white flag and surrender, because you’re not going to find a cutter or someone open in general like Lebron James does when he’s doubled.  I WANT YOUR EXTREMELY LONG ARMS, RUDY. ALL I’M ASKING FOR IS JUST ONE, ONE I TELL YA! ONE!!!!!! I WOULD LIKE BOTH, BUT THAT’S ASKING FOR A LITTLE TOO MUCH.

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In some scenarios, big men have clumsy hands, but Gobert? He has hands like Elmer’s glue. Imagine throwing lobs to him in game. Every point guard, no matter how good the point guard is, would acquire the NBA 2K13 alley oop signature skill. Gobert wouldn’t even have to jump to receive the lob with that ridiculous standing reach of his; he could just stand on his tippy-toes and dunk it while in transition, probably. He’s also a fantastic finisher off of pick and rolls, cuts, and offensive rebound put-backs with those soft hands of his. You can’t bring up a center without talking about an awesome sweeping hook, so guess what that means? Gobert has a nice hook that is virtually unstoppable,

Not surprisingly, Gobert is a rim protector to the max. In 27 games played, he lead the Pro A league in BPG with 1.9, his biggest strength by far. The defensive end is where Gobert will definitely thrive. It’s not a revelation that a big man like him has great instincts and timing when blocking opposing shooters. It is almost impossible to chuck up a shot over him, while going up against him man-to-man with that length of his. The offensive equivalent of that would be Dirk Nowitzki doing his patented, insurmountable-to-defend fadeaway.

Unfortunately, like the lion’s share of tall, skinny big men, there are certain limitations, particularly outside of the paint. I bet every draft writer you talk to will say that 85% of the big men in this draft, with the exception of Gorgui Dieng and somewhat Jeff Withey, have no game outside of the paint. And Gobert is part of that 85%. He has little-to-no jump shot that he can apply, along with not being a smart decision maker when he gets touches. He isn’t a dependable post player either, especially with lack of lower body strength, and going face-to-face with the basket too much. His offensive majority comes from inside the realms of the paint, which isn’t shocking. If, somehow, Gobert can hit the weight room and develop the abounding lower body strength he needs, then he can be capable of becoming a post option in the future, not so much now, but it can happen later, so he doesn’t keep facing the basket all the time. Gobert’s post defense kind of corresponds with his post game, in that because of his lower body strength inadequacy, he’ll get pushed back a lot while defending someone in the post. Let’s say if Al Jefferson, a post player by heart, posts him up; he’ll get killed right away. Tall guys like Gobert, and I mentioned this in my Jeff Withey profile, are klutzy, uncoordinated, and, in Gobert’s case, weak at times.

Comparing Euro league players to NBA players is difficult to do. I’m always skeptical when it comes to drafting Euro players, because the Knicks have either traded them away (Kostas Papanikolaou. Yes, I needed to search his name on Google), or they never played a single game (Frederic Weis aka the guy that got dunked on by Vince Carter in the 2000 Olympics). Gobert has said that he’ll be working on his poor offensive game the most throughout the offseason. His work ethic is simply “get better” at whatever he needs to really work on, and I really like that. His projected draft stock is about a mid-to-late first rounder.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Dennis Schroeder

Today’s featured draft profile will be on German point guard, Dennis Schroeder. A literal unknown several months ago, Schroeder began soaring up draft boards after a strong performance in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit in April, leading the World Team to a decisive 112-98 victory over the U.S. Junior Select Team. Schroeder took on a leadership role for a young World Team roster, contributing 18 points, 6 assists, and 2 rebounds to grab the attention of the numerous NBA scouts in attendance. Fast and intelligent, Schroeder’s talent is already remarkable, and at the young age of 19, his potential for growth has many labeling him as not just one of the best international point guards of this year’s draft, but one of the best available period.

Birthday: 9/15/93 – Projected NBA Position: Point Guard – Class: International – Ht: 6-2 – Wt: 168 – Team: New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig – Hometown: Braunschweig, Germany

2012-13 Per Game Averages: 12.0 Points – 3.2 Assists – 2.5 Rebounds – 42.2 FG% – 40.0 3P% – 83.2 FT%

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Schroeder’s Pre-Draft Combine Results

Strengths

– Explosive first step

– Very crafty and shifts speeds with ease

– Excellent passing ability/sees the whole floor

– Good ball handler

– Runs the pick and roll well/very patient

– Defensive pest on the perimeter

Weaknesses

– Can get careless with the ball/turnover prone

– Poor shooter off the dribble

– Trouble finishing over length

– Doesn’t seem too comfortable going left

Schroeder’s biggest strength is his elite level speed and quickness. He can blow by his defender with his lethal first step, and get to the basket almost at will. He’s a strong ball handler who employs a wide array of dribble moves to get his defender off-balance, and does well with splitting double teams when defenses apply pressure. He also makes use of an effective floater when finishing in traffic. Schroeder is at his best when he’s attacking, and when he decides to do so, is extremely difficult to stay in front of.

Schroeder is also a solid play-maker for others, as he’s very good at scanning the entire floor, and finding the open man on the perimeter after he gets into the paint and breaks down the defense. He can fire the ball from one end of the court to the other in the blink of an eye, yet still has the touch to throw a great lob pass to the diving big on the pick and roll. Schroeder is equally solid as a pick and roll ball-handler, as he shows great patience waiting for the play to develop, and is very good at finding the roll man in traffic with a chance to finish. Schroeder is unselfish and always willing to move the ball.

Schroeder also makes an impact on the defensive side of the ball as he is an excellent perimeter defender. Making use of his long wingspan and superb lateral quickness, Schroeder can harass opposing guards the entire length of the court, and generally cause havoc when locked in. He plays with passion and energy, doing a good job of navigating screens and contesting shots with his length. He also has solid instincts for his age, playing the passing lanes and staying with his man when off-ball.

Despite being a dependable shooter in catch and shoot situations, Schroeder has yet to develop a consistent shot off the dribble, and it hampers him in the pick and roll. Until Schroeder can steadily make defenders pay for going under the screen, he’ll see NBA defenses play him as such. While he has a quick first step to get to the rim, he isn’t an explosive leaper, which makes finishing over length an issue. He’s liable to beat his man to the rim, only to see the weak-side help arrive and pin his layup attempt on the backboard.

Schroeder’s biggest deficiency at this stage of his career is his decision-making. Although he’s shown he has the ability to be a distributor and run an offense, he’s still suffering from the growing pain that most young players are guilty of: trying to do too much. Schroeder sometimes gets unnecessarily flashy, trying to force the issue instead of making the smart pass, and ends up turning the ball over. He can also get loose with his dribble in traffic, unknowingly setting himself up to get ripped by a defender.

All things considered, Schroeder’s flaws become much easier to accept realizing that he’s only 19 years old, and most of the deficiencies in his game can be corrected with experience. His unique combination of instincts and physical tools even have some NBA personnel going as far as to compare Schroeder to All-Star and NBA Champion, Rajon Rondo. While those are lofty expectations to live up to, it’s hard to ignore the immense potential Schroeder possesses, and it’s a big reason why so many teams have reached out to his camp in recent weeks.

Schroeder’s journey to this point has been an interesting one, and after being a labeled a possible second round pick at best, he’s now been projected by many mocks to go anywhere from 16-24. A rumor began to surface last week that the Boston Celtics had made Schroeder a promise to draft him at #16 but his camp has vehemently denied the report, and Schroeder has continued doing workouts for teams, including some selecting before the Celtics, so take from that what you will. If Schroeder can further develop his offensive game, and continue to mature as a decision maker, he could become one of the stars of this class a few years from now. It goes without saying that he’d be a great pick for New York at #24.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Isaiah Canaan

Four year hundred-proof Murray St. phenom, Isaiah Canaan, is yet another unique point guard that is contained in this year’s draft. He intrigues me the most. Canaan is perhaps the most underrated player in this year’s draft. He has draft steal written all over him, literally.

Canaan decided to return to Murray State for his senior year, after his ridiculously awesome junior season, in which he lead Murray State to a 31-2 record, including 23 straight wins, and to a 15-1 record in the Ohio Valley Conference under 1st year head coach, Steve Prohm. That 23 game win streak start is also the third best winning streak for a coach starting out in his inaugural season. If I was in Canaan’s position, I would have felt the same, too. I would have been like “hey, we ended up at March Madness…for two games, until we got eliminated. But still, what a mirthful ride that was! Let’s do it again, team!” That’s exactly what Canaan did, except, obviously, he didn’t say those same exact words in the quote. Maybe the “team” part, but, yeah. He has everything in a point guard you want: leadership while running the offense, and most importantly, confidence.

As the centerpiece of Murray State’s offense, Canaan ran it like a floor general should. He exterminated his teammates when it came to scoring. Canaan’s 21.8 PPG lead the team, 8 points more than teammate’s, Stacy Wilson’s total at 13.5 PPG. A large component of Canaan’s game is pulling up off-the-dribble when running pick and rolls, which already shows his fundamental point guarding attributes. You’re really going to pay when you get yourself under a screen when the pick and roll is being ran, because Canaan’s NBA-like range while shooting off-the-dribble with his swift, deft release makes it a huge nuisance to defend. According to DraftExpress.com, Canaan made 43% of his pull-up jumpers, second to Michigan freak of nature and near-top 5 prospect, Trey Burke, who hit 45% of his pull-ups. Speaking of Burke-Canaan comparison statistics, Canaan accumulated the highest true shooting percentage out of anyone, with a 60.6 TS%, while Burke had shot close to a 57 TS%.

Throughout his collegiate career, Canaan made sure he was the main marksman for Murray State. In his freshman year, Canaan shot a whopping 48% from beyond the arc, because of his catch-and-shoot proficiency and the good looks he was getting, but, however, that total plunged down to 40% in his sophomore year. But, Canaan recouped by amassing 45% from downtown in his very successful junior year, the reason why he returned for his senior year. But again, Canaan’s total dove back to 37% flat, mostly due to the amount of three point attempts he averaged in his senior year this year, which was at 8.2 a game, compared to 6.5 a game in his junior year. Canaan’s three point numbers explain his shoot-first mentality. He’ll add to the Knicks three point shooting repository.

Even though this generation of point guards have major large-scale bounce above the rim, (most of them) Canaan’s vertical explosiveness isn’t what you would call great at 6 feet tall, but he has impressive acrobatic poise like a gymnast when driving to the tin. He’s not what you would call lightning fast, but with his muscular 200 pound frame, Canaan is able-bodied enough to draw contact at great rates. He causes defenses to collapse with his dribble penetration, giving himself a ton of leeway while in drive and kick situations, forcing the opposing defense to implement help defense, finding the open shooter where ever, particularly in the corner. Canaan is also a 82% free throw shooter, which is an ideal free throw shooting percentage for a point guard that draws contact consistently. I’m not saying Raymond Felton doesn’t do that, because after all, he’s the bulldog! But someone that can get to the line as much as Canaan would definitely assist the Knicks’ free throw shooting.

The first time I saw a highlight reel of Canaan, I immediately thought of Damian Lillard, not just because of the small school size of Murray State and Weber State being eerily similar, but because of their playing styles. Going by their playing styles and by looking at their stats, if you were to compare Lillard and Canaan’s offensive attributes, they are almost exactly identical; high volume scorers that can score at will, and that can dish at a mid to high rate, depending on the situation. But that’s the common weakness among draft scouts when they evaluate Canaan’s game. I remember some draft writers stating that with Lillard, and whether or not he could accept that role. And surely, he did, beating Anthony Davis in this year’s ROY voting by a landslide. With Canaan, scouts question whether or not he can can place himself into a pass-first role. They already know that Canaan is a score-first guard, because he’s already proved that. He can score at anytime he wants, and anytime he can. But his assist to turnover ratio catches eyes…in a bad way: 4.3 APG to 3.2 TPG. Yes, it’s not really appealing to anyone. So, Canaan may have to accede to become a pass-first guard.

Last Wednesday, the Knicks had worked out Canaan, and he thinks that they should take him with their 24th pick, despite his high-to-mid second round draft stock. I don’t dispute with him at all. As I said earlier, Canaan’s extremely high confidence level plays a colossal role in his playing style and his personality. It would be fantastic if the Knicks draft Canaan. In fact, I think the Knicks will take him because of the recent retirement of Jason Kidd, but don’t guarantee it, cause anything can happen on draft day. I really want it to happen, though. Hopefully it does. Reiterating what I said earlier, again, he’s hoisting a “DRAFT STEAL!” sign right in front of every team’s front office’s faces. Lastly, you can’t not like this photo.

yes-we-canaan

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Allen Crabbe

Today’s featured draft profile will be on the University of Cal’s 3-point specialist, Allen Crabbe. Arguably the best pure shooter in this year’s class, the 2013 PAC-12 Player of The Year is best known for his seemingly unlimited range and easy-going attitude on the court. At 6’6 with good length, he has the frame of a prototypical shooting guard, and possesses a solid skill-set that could fill a need on just about any team in the NBA. Labeled as a late first round pick when he initially declared, it appears that an impressive performance at the pre-draft combine has upped Crabbe’s value, as some mocks have him going in the teens. The Knicks will be bringing in another group of possible picks for workouts on Monday, and Crabbe will be one of the prospects in attendance.

Birthday: 4/4/92 – Projected NBA Position: Shooting Guard – Class: Junior – Ht: 6-6 – Wt: 197 – Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

2012-13 Per Game Averages: 18.4 Points – 2.6 Assists – 6.1 Rebounds – 45.9 FG% – 34.8 3P% – 81.3 FT%

Crabbe_Pre_draft_info

Crabbe’s Pre-Draft Combine Results

Strengths

– Pure shooter

– Displays excellent form and elevation on shot

– Deadly in spot-up situations

– Very good coming off screens and curls/understands how to work without the ball

– Runs the break well

– Solid size for the position/has length to be defensive pest

Weaknesses

– Inconsistent effort on defense/lacks focus

– Can’t consistently create off the dribble

– Not a strong ball handler/uneasy in traffic

– Questionable finishing ability

– Lacks explosiveness/not an exceptional athlete

Crabbe is without question one of the best shooters in this year’s draft, and it doesn’t take long to see why. At 6’6, with his long arms and a textbook shooting stroke, Crabbe has the ability to effectively shoot over the top of his defender. His mechanics are sound and consistent, with the next attempt no different from the last, whether or not there is a hand in his face. His ability to receive the pass and seamlessly enter his shooting motion makes him equally dangerous in catch and shoot situations, as well as when spotting up on the perimeter. He squares his shoulders to the rim, elevates, and releases the ball at the apex of his jump without any hitch in his shot.

Crabbe also shows a solid understanding of how to work without the ball and get himself open. Being one of the top 3 scorers in the PAC-12 Conference last year, Crabbe often saw opposing teams throw the kitchen sink at him defensively, but he countered with his ability to use screens and curls to get open. His footwork is very good and he never stops moving on the offensive end, always making his defender work. Crabbe is also a solid threat on the break, as he runs the floor well and takes good angles to the basket.

Although he’s a pretty good athlete, creating off the dribble has proven to be to weakness for Crabbe. While not terribly slow, he doesn’t have a quick enough first step to beat defenders off the dribble, and the few times he enters the lane (only 4.2 free throw attempts per game in 2012-13 season) he’s still not very consistent when finishing over length. His sub-par ball-handling can also get him into trouble when he tries to attack the basket, as he isn’t especially comfortable in traffic.

Although Crabbe has a good frame at 6’6, and possesses a near 7-foot wingspan, he isn’t as good of a defender as he should be. When defending on-ball, Crabbe is at his best; he’s engaged and uses his length to harass the ball-handler. Off-ball is where Crabbe’s deficiencies come to light, as he suffers from lapses in focus. He can get caught ball-watching and will lose his man, often leading to backdoor cuts and alley-oop opportunities. Crabbe’s motor on that side of the ball is a question-mark as well, as it’s too easy for his man to shake him with a single screen. He also has a bad habit of standing straight up and not getting down into a strong defensive stance, making it too easy for the ball handler to get a step on him. At 197 pounds, he’s still somewhat wiry and could stand to add some mass and strength to prevent getting bullied by larger shooting guards.

Despite being one of the NCAA’s purest shooters in 2013, and being named the best player in the PAC-12 Conference last year, you probably know of Crabbe for something much less flattering: this famous incident with his former head coach at Cal, Mike Montgomery. During a February home game against the USC Trojans, the Golden Bears found themselves down double-digits early in the 2nd half. Cal had just surrendered another bucket to see the deficit balloon to 12, and when Crabbe jogged across half-court after in-bounding the ball, Montgomery had seen enough.

He called a timeout, confronted Crabbe, and shoved him before several players had to intervene. A teammate pulled him off the court to calm him down, and minutes after returning to the bench, was reinserted into the game by Montgomery; sparking a 40-20 run by Cal, including 14 points from Crabbe. After an inspiring 76-68 comeback win, Crabbe handled the situation with professionalism, and deemed it as water under the bridge. Montgomery claimed Crabbe was out of it and he needed his best player to wake up, and this leads into one of my concerns regarding Crabbe.

A talented player who has drawn comparisons to Allen Houston from some NBA scouts, he’s often been criticized for too often going through the motions. Much of his defensive deficiencies are mechanics/mental, and on the offensive side of the ball for the Golden Bears last year, it was too common to see him not being as aggressive as he should have been. Crabbe is a natural scorer who when engaged can be very dangerous, it’s just odd as to why he doesn’t play like it more often. While I don’t condone what Montgomery did that day, it’s clear that Crabbe sometimes needs a kick to get going, and I believe he’d get that from head coach Mike Woodson. Crabbe is a knock-down 3-point shooter with good size and length for the position, as well as a decent rebounder who will run the break and add some depth. Don’t be surprised if you see Crabbe in a New York cap come draft night.