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It’s times like these that turn everybody into GMs, myself included. Rampant talk of JR Smith being traded because of his on the court and off the court shortcomings has begun in the Knicks organization and it’s about time. We can all lament the JR we saw at the end of last year that won him “sixth man of the year”. Unfortunately the JR the Knicks got has been their worst nightmare after resigning a 3 year deal that pays him 5 mil this season, next season and 6 million on his final season that includes an option for a 4th. While nobody can deny that Smith was a tremendous part of the Knicks success last year, he is probably the biggest reason the Knicks have been among the worst teams in the league this year. He missed the first 5 games of the season serving a suspension for marijuana. Missing most of training camp cause of knee surgery. Both of these things derailed the start of his season and while he’s had moments of looking like he’s about to break out and pay the Knicks off for their commitment to him, it just hasn’t happened yet. It’s actually gotten worse. Chucking up bad shot after bad shot after bad shot. So much so that it cost the Knicks a much needed game on the road against Houston. Now he’s in a controversy involving untying opponent’s shoe laces.. Yea. Things have gotten completely out of hand with JR and on a team where they’re already struggling to become competitive again, the last thing they need is distractions like this. Before I break down this deal I am about to propose, let me preface by saying the Knicks have a very tough task in moving JR. The only way will be to package him around guys who actually will make an impact and who actually will hurt for the Knicks to lose. Also, the team has to be desperate for a spark of some sort.. Tough to put JR in that context at the moment but here goes…
Knicks trade away Andrea Bargnani (11 million, 2 years), JR Smith (5 million, 3 years) and Raymond Felton (3 million, 2 years)
Lakers trade away Pau Gasol (19 million, 1 year left) and Jordan Farmar (1 million, 1 year left)
Why it works for the Lakers:
Let’s start with the best potential part of the deal, Andrea Bargnani. For all the flack Bargnani gets for his defense and lack of IQ. Bargnani has been the only guy on the Knicks you can legitamitley say has been a 2nd scorer for Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks this year scoring 13 points a game and grabbing 5 rebounds. Just 2 points and 4 boards less then Pau Gasol. Bargnani is also a better defender then people give him credit for, mostly in one on one match-ups. Bargs is a versatile scorer at the 4 or 5 position. His mid range game is strong but he also possesses the ability to knock down the outside shot. In Mike D’Antoni’s stretch the floor, pick and roll offense Bargnani would be a nice addition, the fact that he’s lost at times on defense would make him an even better fit for D’Antoni. As far as his contract goes, Bargnani has another year left on his deal but he’s also got an early termination clause after this season so you can consider him somewhat of an expiring contract. Raymond Felton when he’s been on the court this year has been a +14 scoring 10 points a game and dishing 5 assists. Felton, providing he’s healthy could slide in the starting role and fill in for the even more often injured Steve Nash. If you recall as well, Felton played the best in his career behind Mike D’Antoni and his pick and roll offense. He’s under contract till the end of next season. Finally we come to the way this all got started JR Smith. Believe me I understand what a tough sell this is but it’s worth a shot. Considering the Lakers already already have Nick Young, it’s an even tougher sell. Here goes though. Look up “inconsistency” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of JR.. However he can at times be a very productive player. On the nights JR is engaged and playing well he can really stuff the stat sheet. This year he’s averaging 11 points a game with 4 rebounds and 3 assists a game. He’s even run the point at times this year for Woodson so there is some versatility there. The years left of Smiths deal make it almost impossible to imagine the Lakers would want this deal but the Lakers do get something out of this deal with Felton and Bargnani.
Why it works for the Knicks:
It doesn’t even really need to be explained why Pau Gasol makes sense for the Knicks. He’s like Bargnani but better. Averaging 15 points, 9 boards 3 assists and 1.5 blocks a game. Gasols short comings lie with his defense much like Bargs. Still, putting him in the starting lineup alongside Chandler and Melo in the back-court most definatley improves the team this year. Jordan Farmar can give the Knicks another pg. losing Felton to LA means either Prigioni or Udrih become the starting pg for NY. The team has been it’s best with Prigs running the point but Udrih has also filled in admirably and the rookie Toure Murry has also played well in small samples. Farmar could be the point guard coming off the bench even playing the 2 alongside Beno. Farmar has played very well in the absence of Nash and Blake this year scoring 8 points a game, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. The best part of the deal is both Gasol and Farmar are expiring contracts. After the season the Knicks could actually have some cap space to show Carmelo Anthony that they’re going to be in a position to bring other guys here and create a possible championship caliber team. Next season isn’t an all star free agent class but there’s always value in having cap space. Trading JR will also mean more minutes for guys like Iman Shumpert and the rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. by dealing away 3 players and getting back 2 the Knicks have an spot open to sign another wing player. Players like Stephen Jackson, Shawne Williams and Hedo Turkgolu are all free agents after being waived this week. All would be good fits for the Knicks. Maybe not Stephen Jackson, that’s almost like bringing back JR Smith but Williams, Turk or even Cartier Martin would be good 3 and D guys to add to the team while they wait and see what happens with Metta World Peace. Knicks starting 5 would be Prigioni/Udrih, Shumpert, Melo, Gasol, Chandler. Hardaway would probably become the sixth man off the bench for Woodosn but the rookie has definatley earned it with his strong play in the open court and shooting ability this year. Lakers starting 5 becomes Felton/Nash, Henry, Meeks, Bargnani and Kaman.
The deal completely makes sense for both teams as long as you look at the upside JR can bring and not just the down. Something like this the Knicks definatley need to consider.
Co-Host of the Power Play Sports Talk Show
We’re only a total of 10 games into the season but already the ship is taking on water for the New York Knicks. Riding a 2 game losing streak at the moment and a 1 and 5 record on their home floor. Some will speculate its the debut of their new Orange alternate jerseys which they’re 0 and 4 in but lets get past that nonsense and talk about the real glaring issues. First and foremost, D-FENSE. A lot of this can be attributed to the Knicks losing the heart and soul of their defense Tyson Chandler with a freak broken fibula accident against the Bobcats a few weeks back. How is Tysons absence effecting the Knicks? Well for one Felton and Bargnani on the floor at the same, have worked extremely well using Pick and Rolls and Pick and pops on the offensive but they’ve been abysmal on defense. Felton is dealing with a slightly strained hamstring since training camp but he’s making no bones about it. His defense needs to improve. Felton hasn’t been able to keep any guards in front of him. Lets go do down the line, Felton in the early season has been abused by Derrick Rose, Ricky Rubio, Jeff Teague (twice), Kemba Walker (twice), Tony Parker and of course Mr. Linsanity himself. Jeremy Lin. The ripple effect Feltons D is having on everyone else is that Felton isn’t working to get over screens. He’s not keeping his man in front of him. When this happens Andrea Bargnani, who is not a strong defender to put it lightly is either not rotating into the paint to protect the rim or he’s stuck out on the perimeter guarding a point guard who’s mostly torched him as well OR Felton is rotating to guard the screener which is a big and Felton is in a terrible mismatch of his own. All that being said, trade rumors continue to swirl of Iman Shumpert being traded and to be honest, things will only get much, much worse if Shump is moved off this team. Rumors of deals for Rondo and Kenneth Faried have surfaced and while the Knicks need to make a move, they need to do something thats going to fix their problems now and down the line. Moving Shump for Faried might get you a couple of extra boards but its not going to do anything for our perimeter defense woes. Especially with the prospect of Felton and JR Smith in the starting lineup with only Melo to help them out on the wing. The Knicks have to shop more conservatively. Heres a guy Ive had my eye on.
Point Guard, Greivis Vasquez.
I personally love Greivis Vasquez and firmly believe this guy would fit the Knicks like a glove. He’s a 6 foot 6 guard who uses his speed and athleticism to penetrate and create good shots for his team. Thats something Felton does not do. Most of the time the Knicks are just swinging the ball around the perimeter looking for a shot and then when theres a few seconds left they throw the ball to Melo to toss up a desperate shot. Which makes the Knicks an easy team to game plan against. Guard the perimeter and double Melo. Easy. Vasquez runs the point efficiently. Creating shots for his team mates and for himself. By using his ability to break down defenses off the dribble in high screen and rolls, Vasquez will open up the floor for Knicks shooters. Whether it be Melo or Shump or JR or Bargnani. The Knicks need to create open looks by moving the ball. Something once again that doesn’t happen when Felton runs the point. Early on in this season Vasquez is averaging 10 points a game with 5 assists which is right around his career average. Any given night though Vasquez is a double-double waiting to happen. While he’s not an elite perimeter defender, his 6 foot 6 frame and agility make him a much more difficult matchup for opposing point guards. Vasquez is still 26 years old and yet to really find a home. He was drafted by the Grizzlies in 2010 but was dealt to the New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans) and it seemed as though he had his home until he was dealt again this past offseason in the deal that the Pelicans acquired Tyreke Evans from the Kings. Vasquez is CHEAP, he’s making 2.15 million this year, not exactly sure the rest of his contract details. I believe he’s a restriced free agent. Not even sure if he’s on the market. However if I am Steve Mills I am keeping on him and his availability. Not that the Kings have shown any signs of wanting to part ways with him but they do have an exciting young point guard in Isaiah Thomas (no not that one) and their 1st round pick from this last year Ben Mclemore who is struggling to find minutes with the number of guards on the team. His size with Shumpert on the perimeter would create all kinds of matchup problems for opposing teams. What would it take to get Vasquez? Again I am not sure. I doubt you can just say Felton for Vasquez straight up because it seems at this point Grievis is a much better player. I’d be willing to part with some guys, not named Shumpert to get him playing in MSG though. The Knicks seem to be always one generation behind whats successful in the NBA. Now the league revolves around young athletic guys running the point, getting to the rim and opening up shots for team mates. Vasquez is certainly no CP3 or Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook but I’d say Vasquez is a poor mans Rondo and wont cost as much either. Most of all though he’s a major improvement over Raymond Felton who currently is a huge problem for the Knicks and the 3 and D kinda system they wanna run.
Knicks preseason has kicked off and while these games mean nothing to vets like Melo, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton there are guys on this team competing with each other to make the final cuts. Guards Toure Murry, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Chris Smith. Forward CJ Leslie and big men Ike Diogu, Josh Powell and Cole Aldrich are all fighting for essentially 3, possibly even 2 spots. another big man Jeremy Tyler has a partially guaranteed contract but is recovering from foot surgery so he’ll miss the beginning of the season, so he’s almost a sure shot to make the final 15. CJ Leslie the undrafted rookie out of NC state also has a partially guaranteed contract but has done very very little to impress in the summer league or so far here in preseason. After a great game 1, the Knicks have dropped their past 2 contests. Really because of the guys competing for spots on the final roster. Still some guys have shined brighter then others. Which brings me to..
I have to be honest. I am no basketball scout but CJ Leslie just doesn’t look NBA ready. His questionable motor seems to be an accurate scouting report coming out of college. He went undrafted for a reason. He needs a year in the d-leagues to work on ALOT of things. Which is why Toure Murry should absolutely make this team. Murry impressed with a 16 point performance Saturday night but his calling card is really his defensive abilities, a 6 foot 5 guard who can run the point and is young and athletic enough to cover younger, quicker point guards? Yea. The Knicks really need that. Not to mention the depth at point guard really isn’t there. Shumpert is probably not ever going to develop a game running the point. If Felton gets hurt that point guard position gets REALLY thin. Murry has that ability to give them a little bit of depth at that position and Woody won’t be stingy with his minutes as long as the kid does what he does best. DEFEND. Send him to the d-leagues as a point guard to start the year and work on his half court game, ball handling and jump shot. Leslie doesn’t have even close to the potential Murry does. Knicks need to do the smart thing and keep this kid.
A lot of people are down on Aldrich. He’s a former lottery pick but just hasn’t lived up to his potential. I am not down on him because he does a lot of things well. He boxes out. He’s provides help defense on blocking shots. He has active hands stripping the ball on defenders. He grabs rebounds to finish off defensive sets. His offensive game is a disaster though. Still, the Knicks need another center. With Chandler, Bargnani, Stoudemire, Martin and Tyler (starting the year hurt) the Knicks need to have big men to back those guys up. Powell has done nothing to impress and Diogu has been a little better then that. I’ve watched Aldrich do a lot of off the ball things I like. Things the Knicks need. He’s also 6 foot 11 and 25 years old so he’ll give the Knicks size and youth, 2 things they desperately need. Being around guys like Chandler and Martin and world peace will only help him improve and maybe just maybe Aldrich could live up to that potential. I’ll be very annoyed if they cut this kid.
The 3rd and final spot will almost certainly go to Jeremy Tyler. But given that he is starting the year hurt and he’s only got a partial contract. Maybe the Knicks could work out a deal to send him to the d-leagues till he’s healthy and open up one more spot coming out of camp.
I really haven’t been as impressed as everyone else has with Diogu. It seems like he gets beat constantly on the boards. The other team gets a lot of second chance opportunities when he’s on the floor. Both the Knicks lost and the game they almost blew fingers could probably be pointed at Diogu. Granted he’s only 6 foot 8 and playing center. I really don’t think the Knicks need anymore guys like this and Diogu hasn’t done enough to convince me the Knicks really need him. Still they could sign him and wait and see what happens with Tyler. Maybe Tyler has a setback and needs to miss more time. Gotta insure against these things. I really don’t love Diogu but he would provide insurance while Tyler rehabs.
Presumably by the time Tyler is finally healthy Aldrich or Diogu would of played themselves out of job. At that point you would cut one of them and add Tyler. I think the decisions the Knicks make here will be huge for this season. They’ve got a stacked lineup of vets but their age did them in last year. Backing up 40 year olds with 38 year olds who were already banged up from practice I guess, cause they didn’t play. Murry is 23, Aldrich is 25, Tyler is 22. These guys will provide young depth and who knows? could even emerge as a building block moving forward. Hopefully we won’t be seeing the next Chris Copeland after the season though.
When men come together in an effort to accomplish greatness the cries for glory and honor are reflective of men who know no limits, see no bounds, and know nothing but the will to win. In the arena of sport this is no exception. Throughout New York sports history there have been many of these men; Thurman Munson, Derek Jeter, and Mark Messier are just a few of the recent names that come to mind. These men were reliable, trustworthy, honorable men that win, lose or draw did everything they could to play the game the right way, the way they knew they had to if they wanted to win. They never took plays off, complained about teammates, called out their coaches or made excuses for the way the team played. You could rely on them to be there game in and game out and to set the team right when things went wrong. If the team played poor, they took the blame. If the team did well, they credited others. Every decision they made and action they took they understood had a direct reflection on the organization and their teammates. Tonight Ryan Callahan, Captain Cally, our current leader, reminded Rangers fans why he wears the “C”, because, like Mark Messier and those before him, he embodies all of those things.
As the puck dropped tonight I wondered how much of an impact Callahan’s return from shoulder surgery would have on the team. It didn’t take long to see. On his first shift, Cally skated straight across the rink at the man with the puck and laid a solid hit that drove the puck carrier into the boards. Only second later he laid yet another hit in attempt to secure the puck. He was a man on a mission and unlike this past Thursday, a fore-check was created and possession of the puck maintained. From their first shift, Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle were working the boards and creating possessions that they also maintained. I truly believe that it was their energy and drive that set the tone for the Rangers on offense tonight. From that shift on one could tell that the Rangers meant business. With solid passing and clean decisions the Rangers seemed to be in complete control. Then, at 13:32 Rick Nash takes the puck after a fanned clearing attempt by the Kings, turns to find Brad Richards across the ice, who shoots the puck past a sprawling Jonathan Quick and Kings defense to take a 1-0 lead. Nash and Richards force-checking? This is something a guy could learn to love. For the rest of the period the flow was steady with both goalies making some saves but nothing much to write home about other than clean back and forth hockey.
Starting the second period the Rangers and fans had plenty confidence, a confidence only strengthened Ryan Callahan as he started the period with a strong entry into zone and earned a solid scoring chance close to the net. Again Cally set the pace of play for the Rangers as they were flying. Then three and a half minutes in Arron Asham, in his first game of the season, flexed some muscle in a strong fight versus LA’s Kyle Clifford. The Rangers’ game was really flowing at that point and despite a poor power play at 4:51 things looked great for the Blueshirts. Then, Anton Stralman took a bad holding penalty at 8:51. Fortunately for Stralman the Rangers’ penalty kill was excellent. Then at 10:46 it happened again, Rick Nash scooped the puck up off some sloppy handling by the Kings, finds Brad Richards in the slot, who goes to pass across the ice and in the puck goes off the defenders stick right through Jonathan Quick’s legs. The Rangers took a 2-0 lead. Sadly the Rangers’ two-goal lead didn’t last long. Fifteen seconds later Drew Doughty, of the Kings, and Derick Brassard both took 2-minute minors leading to a 4-on-4. Then for the second time in two games the Rangers gave up a 4-on-4 goal, this time scored by Jake Muzzin, at 12:11. Then as a few more minutes passed I notice that Cally hadn’t been on the ice. Apparently he took a shot to the mouth that caused bleeding and the need for dental work in the locker room. That’s right I said dental work in the locker room. The rest of the period didn’t have much to offer other than yet another poor power play effort in which the Rangers couldn’t maintain the zone.
The third period for the Rangers was strong. And yet again it was Ryan Callahan setting the example. Despite having, what was reported as, “dental work” done during the second period, there he was throwing the body and making plays for his club. Only a few minutes later, something bizarre happened. After a terrible Benoit Pouliot tripping penalty, Brian Boyle wins a face-off in the Rangers’ zone; the puck is cleared off the center ice boards by Ryan McDonagh and misplayed by Jonathan Quick into the net giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead at 4:39. It was a goal like the ones you would score playing air hockey or even knock hockey. The rest of the period seemed to be the Henrik Lundqvist show. The Kings went to work landing 14 of their 29 shots in the third period forcing the goalie to bring his team to the finish. Couple that with the solid play of the top two lines and their constant pressure on the puck, the Rangers seemed to have complete control of the game.
For the most part, tonight’s team was sharp, edgy and determined to play right; all qualities constantly portrayed by their captain, Ryan Callahan. For me this is no coincidence, for that is what leaders do. They influence men to do things that without strong leadership they wouldn’t normally do themselves. Every team has a “Captain”, it is made known by the “C” on their chest and to this “Captain” they look for strength. But only the New York Rangers have Captain Cally. The true embodiment of what it means to be a New York Ranger. Lets only hope that tonight’s efforts, against a very good LA Kings team, can be continued for the rest of the season to come. Well, at least tomorrow against the Sharks.
As the days get shorter, the nights get colder; the sports world begins to buzz with excitement. Baseball’s best begin their quest for greatness. Football is in full stride as the season begins to take shape. Basketballs begin bouncing in gyms across the country as LeBron James’ greatness is debated. But for me, most importantly, the Zambonis clean the ice, sticks get taped, skates get laced and pucks get dropped! New York Ranger’s Hockey is back! And this year, it’s right on time!
As I sat down at 9:45 pm to prepare for tonight’s Ranger game a welcome anxiousness came over me. The kind of nervous anxiety that all the die hard’s know, that butterfly floating in your stomach, clammy handed, shaky legged type of feeling that screams, “What does this season hold in store?” For Rangers fans, going into tonight, that was the question. So many new factors are in play this season, such as the new coach with a new system, and no Ryan Callahan or Carl Hagelin to start the season. Will the defense still be strong? Will Henrik Lunqvuist still dominate between the pipes? Will the new coaching staff led by Alain Vigneault be able to solve the goal scoring problems of recent years past? Will they have a productive power play? Will Rick Nash be the offensive force we all pined for while he played in Columbus? All of these things create that sickening yet welcome feeling we know all to well. A feeling I get most from New York Ranger Hockey!
Then, the puck dropped. Right from the beginning it seemed as if the Rangers couldn’t connect their passes. It was obvious that the offense was different but things just weren’t clicking. They were being out-shot, quickly. The defense at times seemed to have to think about their assignments. They didn’t have that fluid flow that a well-oiled team seems to have. Derek Stepan was a step behind and Rick Nash was the invisible man. As for the Coyotes’ goal allowed early, 3:36, although it wasn’t scored on the Coyotes’ power play, it was a direct result of poor penalty killing. The Rangers were on their heels the entire time and couldn’t clear the puck allowing the momentum to carry beyond the kill. Then as they all watched the man with the puck, the void in the slot was filled resulting in a bang, bang goal. They did however settle as the period went on. The passing still stunk and the shots were few but the ones they got off were solid chances. Unfortunately, in that first period and beyond, Phoenix goalie Mike Smith was phenomenal and the solid Ranger chances were snuffed. At the end of the first despite being down 1-0 there was however a sense of confidence now joining the anxiety.
At the start of the second period the Rangers looked slow and sloppy again. However, this time, the Rangers were fortunate to have the early power play opportunity. Although they were unable to maintain the zone, a problem they had on all 4 PP, they did seem to be moving into the zone with ease and control, something they didn’t do the past two seasons. It was on one of the controlled zone entries that Rick Nash finally showed up and was able to get the puck to Marc Staal for an early second period game-tying goal at the 3:38 mark. It was all DOWN HILL form there. At that point it seemed that Phoenix woke up and the Rangers couldn’t keep pace. Shortly after that, another poor penalty kill, that only Brian Boyle worked well (despite not having a stick), led to a Coyotes’ goal, at the 7:05 mark, only 30 seconds after the PK ended. Now I will admit that Henrik Lunqvuist was 100% interfered with and the referees blew it, however, if the puck was cleared properly and the defense gave themselves a chance to make a change, they would have never been in that spot. The rest of the period consisted of more sloppy play by the Rangers as they were out shot 16-9 in the second period and seemed to be lost.
The third period was, simply put, a straight disaster. At 1:10 it was a PP goal by the Coyotes off the face off, on a shot from the point. Then came the 4 on 4 at 6:50. Rick Nash looked as if he was about to take over making a few nice moves in the Coyotes’ zone but then in the Ranger’s zone it was Nash who didn’t clear the puck and seemed to want to fall back to the bench. This gave Radim Vrbata just the opening he needed to attack the net and score again giving him a Hat Trick and the Coyotes a 4-1 lead at 7:23. The following 12:37 was nothing but the Coyotes sitting back and letting the game come to them as they cruised to, what they made look like, an easy victory. The one highlight of the Third was Rick Nash getting into some rare fisticuffs with Martin Hanzal as he defended Derek Stepan. It wasn’t much of a fight, in fact I don’t even believe Nash wanted to fight but when Hanzal threw his stick and gloves, he had no choice. However it was good to see somebody on the Rangers sticking up for a teammate because last year it didn’t happen enough.
All in all the Rangers performance was not a good one. They seemed lost, confused and unable to find each other with the puck. They did not protect their own net or slot, with three Phoenix goals coming in those areas. The penalty kill was weak at best and they seemed to be unable to maintain the offensive zone at any point during the game. There were however some bright spots. Brad Richards seemed present and effective. Brian Boyle controlled the puck when he was on the ice and played well. Zuccerello, Pouliot, and Brassard were the best producers of offense the Rangers had on the ice as they were fast, precise and effective. Marc Staal was a force, protected the net and scored a power play goal. And despite Alain Vigneault’s open ice style of play the Rangers out hit Phoenix 26-22 and blocked more shots 18-17. Its seems to be only a matter of time before the Rangers begin to fly on offense in addition to doing the things that we are used to seeing on defense. I just hope it wont be to late when they figure it out. In the meantime I’ll be the guy on the edge of his couch, with you, 81 more times this year with clammy hand, shaky legs, and butterflies in his stomach.
Maybe it’s because I just watched the rival Miami Heat win their 2nd straight championship in 2 years. Maybe it’s because I have to endure more of this over pedistaling of Lebron James, now to monumentus levels or maybe it’s just because I am a fan but for what it’s worth, the math works out. Now granted I am no GM. I am no capologist. There could be a million reasons why this deal would not work but hey it’s the off-season and this is part of the fun. Putting together deals to improve on your season weather it be a successful one or a disappointing one. In the Knicks case it was a little of both. The Knicks made the playoffs for the 3rd straight year but this year actually got out of the 1st round only to meet their demise at the hands of a defensive juggernaut called the Indiana Pacers. Lots of weaknesses were exposed during the series. Lets jump right into this. There are plenty of Knicks fans that see Jason Kidds retirement as no big deal but I beg to differ. Kidds leadership and bench depth was a huge piece to NY’s success last year and there’s nobody on the free agent market who can fill that void especially with the Knicks cap situation. Part 2 of this deal is the fact that the Dallas Mavericks want to trade their 13th overall pick. They want to make a big splash and overhaul their team and make themselves contenders once again. Part 3 is that the San Antonio Spurs are probably faced with the end of the big 3 and have expressed interest in moving Tony Parker for a top pick in this years draft. So the scenario is all set up. Here’s the framework of the deal.
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The New York Knicks Off-season
Part 1: The Draft
With an unbelievably tight cap situation, the New York Knicks have a few holes to fill and very, very little money to do so. Which is why I am going to stress the importance of having a good draft. There are a lot of high ceiling point guards and Big men in this draft this year. I can’t think of a better guy for the Knicks to take then Trey Burke but hes a lock for a top 5 pick so I am not going to get into the benefits of the Knicks getting him because it speaks for itself. The Knicks are in desperate need for another point guard after the retiring of Jason Kidd, they need young big men with the aging Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and the possibility of resigning Kenyon Martin to play another season in the garden. They could also use another scoring type swing man even though it looks as though JR Smith will be retained. So lets get started on some draft picks. I’ll categorize with Guard, Big Man and Forward. I’ll go with my pipe dreams and then my realistic picks.
The Pipe Dreams:
Point Guard: Miami, Shane Larkin
I have been enamoured with this kid since watching him in the NCAA tourney making the Miami Hurricanes a legitimate team. At first glance anyone would say he’s undersized for an NBA point guard at 5 foot 11 inches but this kid really has the potential to be a tremendous ball facilitator and mix that with an improving outside shot. The profile on Larkin is hes got all the makings to be a floor general type point guard probably because his father is Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin. Great ball handler, great passer, good shooter, improving but quick defender. His final year with the Canes he averaged 14 points a game, dishing 4.6 assists and shooting 47% from the field and shot 40% from downtown. How does he fit the Knicks? I thought you’d never ask. The Knicks lost a huge piece to their bench with Jason Kidd retiring and going across town to coach the Nets. Not only are they left with a hole at point guard but they are also left without a guy who can truly facilitate the offense. Larkin can be that guy, while letting Raymond Felton play off the ball some and score like he can. I would assume if the Knicks do get lucky enough for Larkin to fall all the way to 24 in the draft that he’d be inserted into the starting lineup, going with the 2 guard system Woodson utilized so nicely to start last year but who knows after what he put the rookie Chris Copeland through last year. Unfortunately, why this is in the pipe dream category.. Shane Larkin has impressed everyone with his athleticism and polish at the combines thus far and his stock continues to rise. Just about every mock draft i’ve seen, the Utah Jazz will not pass on him especially before the 24th pick in the draft.
Forward/Center: Louisville, Gorgui Dieng
Dieng is another guy whose stock has drastically risen. An athletic 6 foot 11 big man who eats up rebounds. Watching him in the National Championship game, I was salivating at the thought of this kid playing in the Garden. Dieng has drawn some comparisons to Serge Ibaka. He plays power forward and Center and would be just about everything the Knicks need in a big man. Why you ask? Hes aggressive on the glass, a fearless defender in the low post with a 7 foot wingspan and he can actually stretch the floor a bit, improving his outside shooting a lot this year. Oh and hes under 30. Seriously though, Dieng would fill a tremendous need for the Knicks. Dieng was a huge part of Louisville winning a national championship. He averaged 9 points, 9 boards and 2 assists a game last year for the Cards. So once again, why the pipe dream? Like Larkin, his stock continues to rise. Not to mention with teams like Chicago, Indiana, Utah and Brooklyn all picking ahead of the Knicks with either defensive game plans or a need for a young Power Forward. I don’t see any scenario where any of these teams pass on the opportunity to take Dieng.
Swingman Guard/Forward: UCLA, Shabazz Muhammad
Attitude problems and trouble getting along with teammates was a problem for Muhammad in his time at UCLA which has his stock dropping more and more everyday, still the kid is a bonafide scorer and nobody will tell you otherwise. Shabazz averaged 17 points a game for the Bruins last year and impressed on the world stage scoring a record setting 35 points for the USA at the 2012 Nike Summit. Muhammad is 6 foot 6, 225 lbs. and would absolutely fill the need for another scorer. Carmelo Anthony infamously told the media after their second round exit that he needed another scorer. Muhammad may fill that role but I am not 100% confident of how well he’ll fit on this team. Hes really a one dimensional player, he can score. That’s about it. Maybe his 6 foot 6 frame can grab some extra boards as he averaged 5 a game last year but Muhammad’s focus is scoring. Lackadaisical defense would surely put him immediately in Mike Woodson’s dog house. His off the court issues and attitude problems are a red flag but Woodson did reign in JR Smith last year and turn him into sixth man of the year, prior to his regression in the playoffs. The reason hes pipe dream pick is because, of the swing man scorers Muhammad is absolutely the best and because of this someone will take him way before 24. Theres plenty of teams that need an offensive fireplug and Muhammad has the ability to be that. I’ll personally enjoy watching him be a problem for someone else but if by some grace of god hes on the board come 24 hes a no brainer despite the extreme risk, in my opinion.
My personal (realistic) picks:
1. Forward/Center: Duke, Mason Plumlee
I know, this is probably another guy that should be in the “pipe dream” category but the reality is, for whatever reason Plumlee’s draft status has dropped. Mason is a big physical kid who can bang in the low post standing 6 foot 10 and 235 lbs. The Knicks biggest need is some young legs who can alleviate minutes for Chandler, Amare and whoever else is on the team at the forward position. Plumlee averaged a double double last year scoring 17 points a game and grabbing 10 boards. For the life of me I can’t understand why theres a possibility of him being around at 24 but with the emergence of Alex Len, Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk and the aforementioned Gorgui Dieng, Plumlees stock has dipped and a lot of people are under the impression that much like his brother Miles, Mason’s college game is made for just that. College. The Knicks biggest hurdle to overcome will probably be the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn needs a power forward just as much as the Knicks, but they have the pick before us. Ironically it could work out in our favor of Gorgui Dieng remains on the board at 22 because Brooklyn will likely spring for Dieng over Plumlee. After Indiana, it’s the Knicks pick and with some luck Plumlee will hang around. Theres also the possibility somebody reaches for Plumlee, fully recognizing his stellar Senior season. This one is half pipe dream, half realistic but regardless if for some reason Plumlee is available, hes a steal with the 24th pick.
2. Point Guard: Murray State, Isaiah Cannan
Cannan is another undersized guard like Larkin but has drawn comparisons to Rookie of the Year from last year Damien Lillard. A lot of these small school players get wildly overlooked much like Lillard did. Cannan scored 21 points a game for the Racers last year. Hes pretty good passer and if given some capable players around him, could facilitate an offense well. Theres no doubt Cannan can score, but if he does develop into a good passer as well that’d really fill 2 needs the Knicks have. A guy who can consistently score and a guy who can spread the ball around. Unlike Larkin I can’t imagine Cannan being inserted into the starting lineup right away but the potential is absolutely there. His size at 5’11 will probably scare some teams away and its not hard to believe he’ll be around for the 24th pick. A lot of mock drafts I’ve seen him going even higher but I don’t think 24 would be reaching for a kid with this kind of scoring and facilitating potential.
3. Shooting Guard/Point Guard: California, Allen Crabbe
Allen Crabbe could be the most interesting of the picks because he offers an extremely versatile package of size and ability to score. Crabbe is 6 foot 6 so he profiles more as a 2 guard but not so much as a small forward. With his passable ball handling, you could live with him playing point for a short time but not so much as a starter. Crabbe scored 18 points a game and grabbed 6 boards for Cali last year. His size would be a tremendous asset guarding younger quicker guards. He could fit into the starting lineup as the 2 with Iman Shumpert playing the 3 where he progressed dramatically last year. The combination of Crabbe and Shump could be a vital addition to Mike Woodson’s perimeter defense. Of all the guys on the list, I think this the most likely guy to be taken and I am pretty much all for it.
4. Center: Kansas, Jeff Withey
This year’s draft is laden with capable NBA big men. Jeff Withey is in the mix but very much behind the rest, still that means he’d be a steal for the New York Knicks at 24. Withey had a really strong year for the Jayhawks last year putting up 13 points a game and pulling down 8 boards. Once again, size and rebounding is something the Knicks desperately need. To go along with 7 feet, Withey is a solid` defender blocking 3 shots a game. I am not gonna go on and on about why Withey is a fit for the Knicks but of all the guys that will available in this portion of the draft, this is one guy I will not be opposed to taking.
I can mention all the guys I’d love to see play for the Knicks next year but in reality, they’ll probably take a guy who fits a need but really does nothing for you as a fan, a guy like Tony Mitchell or Reggie Bullock. Both not bad picks but I don’t really see any drastic improvement in this team with those guys. A big topic of discussion is whether the Knicks can somehow swing a deal for a 2nd round pick. This would be huge to fill another hole, me personally I am looking to fill point guard and big man 1st. There are swingmans on the market that are affordable at vets mims. But that’s part 3. For now some 2nd round picks I’d take.
Point Guards: Eric Green, Virginia Tech. Pierre Jackson, Baylor. Peyton Siva, Louisville
Shooting Guards: Glen Rice, Georgia Tech/D-League. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky. Tim Hardaway Jr, Michigan (if he gets out of the 1st round)
Small Forwards: James Ennis, Long Beach State. Tony Snell, New Mexico.
Power Forwards: Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State. Eric Murphy, Florida. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State.
Centers: AJ Matthews, Farmingdale State. Mike Muscala, Bucknell (if he gets out of the 1st round)
Written By Anthony Strano of the Powerplay Sports Talk Show which can be found on www.thepowerplaynetwork.com