What Did The Knicks Do? Grading & Reviewing The Knicks Offseason

image via the New York Knicks

The Prequal

Heading into the shortened 2020 offseason, Leon Rose and company had a bevy of decisions to make in hopes of turning around the Knicks’ downward spiraling roster. First and foremost, Rose had to decide which players on expiring deals were worth keeping. New York declined the options on Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, and Elfrid Payton. They also elected to not resign Damyean Dotson or Kenny Wooten Jr., while waiving Allonzo Trier awhile back. Rose did resign Payton to a team-friendlier deal at $4.76M for 1 year (waiving him from his previous contract cost the Knicks $1M too, yet the total still amassed to less than the $8M he would’ve been owed). Reggie Bullock was also retained as a valuable 3 & D player on a tremendously cheap contract considering his talents ($4.2M). With oodles of cap space and a decimated roster, the Knicks were positioned to be one of the biggest players in the free agent and trade markets. For the first time in forever, New York elected to utilize discipline and restraint in their efforts to rebuild the Knicks the “right way”. A subpar free agent class meshed with a murky trade market led to the Knicks valuing flexibility and assets over short-term upgrades. Rose elected to make minute moves in free agency while drafting a sure fire hit at pick #8. Here I take a look at the additions, subtractions, build of the current roster, and what’s next.

Additions (2019-20 Stats)

Alec Burks (SG/SF)

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  • 26.6 minutes, 15 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 turnovers, & 0.9 steals per game
  • 41.8%/38.5%/88.7% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 44.1% of shot attempts were pull-ups (22.6% from 2, 21.5% from 3)
  • FG% of 43.4% on pull-ups from 2, 39.4% on pull-ups from 3
  • 11.6 FGA per game (4.6 3PA per game)
  • 23% USG%
  • Played 28.9% of his minutes at Forward

Austin Rivers (SG/PG)

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  • 23.4 minutes, 8.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, & 0.7 steals per game
  • 42.1%/35.6%/70.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 32.3% of shot attempts are catch & shoot 3s (shooting 36.4% on them)
  • 54.2% TS%
  • 15.3% USG%
  • In 4 starts last year he shot 21.2% from 3 and averaged 2.8 turnovers per game (In 64 appearances off the bench he shot 36.7% from 3 and averaged 0.6 turnovers per game)

Immanuel Quickley (SG/PG) *Kentucky

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  • 33 minutes, 16.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals, & 1.6 turnovers per game
  • 41.7%/42.8%/92.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 59.5% TS%

Theo Pinson (SG/SF)

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  • 11.1 minutes, 3.6 points, 1.7 assists, 1.6 rebounds, & 0.5 steals per game
  • 99.7 DEFRTG
  • 28.3% %STL

Myles Powell (SG) *Seton Hall

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  • 31.5 minutes, 21 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, & 1.2 steals per game
  • 39.8%/30.6%/79.5% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 9.2 3PA per game
  • 35.6% USG%

Jacob Evans (SG/SF)

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  • 14.4 minutes, 4.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.4 steals, & 0.4 blocks per game
  • 33.6%/33.3%/86.2% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF/PF)

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  • 11.2 minutes, 2.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 turnovers, & 0.1 steals per game
  • 33.3%/25%/78.6% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 99.3 DEFRTG
  • 23.5 %REB

Obi Toppin (PF) *Dayton

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  • 31.6 minutes, 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 1 steal, & 1.2 blocks per game
  • 63.3%/39%/70.2% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 28.1 USG%
  • 68.4 TS%
  • 14.5 TRB%

Omari Spellman (PF/C)

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  • 18.1 minutes, 7.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.1 turnovers, 0.7 steals, & 0.5 blocks per game
  • 43.1%/39.1%/79.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 2.2 3PA per game
  • 1.3 PF per game
  • -8.5 NETRTG
  • 55.1 TS%

Nerlens Noel (C)

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  • 18.5 minutes, 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 turnovers, 1 steal, & 1.5 blocks per game
  • 68.4%/33.3%/75.5% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 3 3PA all season
  • 71.1 TS%
  • 63.6 %BLK
  • 29.6 %STL
  • 31.5 %REB

Subtractions

Wayne Ellington (SG)

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  • 15.5 minutes, 5.1 points, & 0.4 steals per game
  • 35.1%/35%/84.6% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Damyean Dotson (SG)

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  • 17.4 minutes, 6.7 points, & 0.5 steals per game
  • 41.4%/36.2%/66.7% (FG&/3P%/FT%)

Allonzo Trier (SG)

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  • 12.1 minutes, 6.5 points, 1.2 rebounds, & 1.2 assists per game
  • 48.1%/35.8%/79.1% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Maurice Harkless (SF/PF)

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  • 23 minutes, 5.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, & 0.9 steals per game
  • 50.2%/34.7%/59.1% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Bobby Portis (PF/C)

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  • 21.1 minutes, 10.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, & 0.5 steals per game
  • 45%/35.8%/76.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Taj Gibson (PF/C)

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  • 16.5 minutes, 6.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, & 0.5 blocks per game
  • 58.4%/28.6%/73.2% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Kenny Wooten Jr. (PF/C) *Westchester Knicks

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  • 24.9 minutes, 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, & 3.6 blocks per game
  • 65.1%/0%/57.8% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Depth Chart (2019-20 vs. 2020-21)

Position2019-20 Knicks2020-21 Knicks
PGElfrid Payton
Frank Ntilikina
Dennis Smith Jr.
Elfrid Payton
Frank Ntilikina
Dennis Smith Jr.
SGR.J. Barrett
Wayne Ellington
Damyean Dotson
R.J. Barrett
Alec Burks
Austin Rivers
SFReggie Bullock
Maurice Harkless
Kevin Knox II
Reggie Bullock
Kevin Knox II
PFJulius Randle
Bobby Portis
Julius Randle
Obi Toppin
Omari Spellman
CMitchell Robinson
Taj Gibson
Mitchell Robinson
Nerlens Noel
Note- PG Jared Harper, SG Immanuel Quickley, SG Theo Pinson, SG Myles Powell, SG Jacob Evans, SF Ignas Brazdeikis, & SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are all currently under contract.

Grades

FA Signings

Alec Burks (1 Year, $6M) B+

Alec Burks will likely slide in as the 6th Man and primary scorer off the bench for the Knicks. He is a versatile SG/SF who can facilitate for others while being a tremendous three point shooter. Burks’ contract can be a valuable asset for a contending team at the trade deadline via trade and has no longterm effects on the Knicks cap space. He was a very solid signing that may be flipped at the deadline for more assets, while filling a major need (shooting) for the Knicks while he’s on the roster.

Nerlens Noel (1 Year, $5M) B+

Similar to Burks, Noel fills a major void for the Knicks and does so without sacrificing much flexibility or cap space. Noel excels as an anchor and shot blocker on defense, while utilizing his size and length on offense around the rim. His rim protection will be vital, whether he’s paired alongside Randle, Toppin, or Knox at Power Forward. Noel is a safe bet, great fit, and has the Kenny Payne, Kentucky, connection. Signing him was a no brainer and I wouldn’t count out the Knicks signing him back in 2021-22.

Elfrid Payton (1 Year, $4.76M) C

The signing of Elfrid Payton independently could be considered a very savvy move. However, when considering the situation and structure of the Knicks backcourt, it is impossible to overlook the consequences of this signing. Payton has triple-double upside and on several nights last year, he was arguably the Knicks best player. His value to the Knicks is limited though. New York is in dire need of finding their Point Guard of the future. Payton obviously isn’t it. Ntilikina has some hope, although the optics of him becoming a longterm starter aren’t promising. Smith Jr. is an enigma, but it appears he’s a shell of his former self and won’t ever be the starter many projected him to be at the beginning of his career. Bringing back Payton not only limits the playing time and upside of these two Knicks, but he also doesn’t provide the teaching and leadership they could both use from a more experienced and higher touted Point Guard. Payton is also a very weak three point shooter which makes him a terrible fit alongside the Knicks’ most prized possession, R.J. Barrett. New York would’ve been better off signing a player to the likes of D.J. Augustin, Jeff Teague, or Rajon Rondo as a teacher and 1 year stopgap. If Payton shoots the three ball at a higher clip this season, this signing may pay off in the end. Either way, bringing Payton back feels like the Knicks waiving the white flag as they’re pushing off their pursuit for a longterm answer at Point Guard further into the future.

Austin Rivers (3 Years, $3.17M) B

The Knicks needed shooting and shooting the Knicks have received in Rivers. He isn’t the most polished facilitator or defender, but his ability to knockdown catch and shoot threes will significantly help the Knicks space the floor offensively. Rivers will be a nice piece off the bench when the Knicks are without a knack for scoring and need a punch from deep. He should fit quite easily with everyone on the roster due to his ability to score without dribbling the air out of the basketball too. The best part of the Rivers addition other than the added shooting (the Knicks really needed shooting), is the longterm flexibility, low salary, and unguaranteed money involved in the deal. Rivers was a quality pickup, but it will be interesting to see who he plays alongside with and how many minutes he gets per game. I vision Rivers joining Burks/Bullock off the bench with a Point Guard and two big men.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Exhibit 10) N/A

The one time 2nd overall pick has never found a way to impact the game offensively in the NBA. Kidd-Gilchrist is a very solid defender and rebounder, but his lack of a jump-shot make it very hard for coaches to put him on the floor. I’d be surprised if he makes the Knicks roster post training camp.

Theo Pinson (Two-Way) N/A

One of the top celebrators and bench fanatics of the league, Pinson is an energizer and defender. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, his offensive game just isn’t at a high enough caliber for him to play consistently in the NBA. Pinson will likely find himself spending the majority of the year in Westchester.

Players Acquired via Trade

Jacob Evans (2 Years, $2.01M) N/A

The trend of the Knicks last few roster spots are that they all defend well. Evans is a quality defender and he owns a decent jumper. Even though Thibodeau loves his defense, Evans might not be talented enough to make the team due to the Knicks crowded Guard/Wing situation.

Omari Spellman (2 Years, $1.98M) C+

Spellman was worth a flyer for the Knicks who lack shooting and depth in the front court. Kenny Payne, the big man guru, has his work cut out for him, but Spellman has the tools to become a solid bench piece if he can get in better shape and hone his skills.

Draft Picks/Undrafted Signings

Obi Toppin (4 Years, $4.86M) A

I had Obi Toppin as the 6th best player in the 2020 draft. The Brooklyn native and the New York Knicks are a match made in heaven on paper. He wants to live/play in New York, give back to the community, and turn the Knicks into a winner. What more could you want? Dunks? Well he’s also the best dunker coming out of this draft and will surely have plenty of highlights in MSG. Toppin’s offensive game has tons of upside and will be successful on day one in the NBA. Defensively, he needs to get a lot better, but he’s recognized that. He’s accepted the challenge and looks forward to improving through the coaching of Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the Knicks staff. Toppin has a real chance to win Rookie Of The Year and become a fan favorite. It’s worth noting though, actions speak louder than words. Toppin hasn’t done anything yet and Knicks fans know their’s no such thing as a sure bet. Still, Knicks fans should be excited to have this promising phenom on their squad.

Immanuel Quickley (4 Years, $2.1M) B

Shooters come at a premium in the NBA and Quickley can shoot it. He’s a quality defender and can play on or off the ball offensively. Quickley needs to become a better facilitator and work on his handle, but his shooting and defense will likely earn him a roster spot this year. In a few years, Quickley may be a very serviceable role player.

Myles Powell (Exhibit 10) N/A

The Seton Hall standout was a nice pickup for the Knicks. Powell is a prolific scorer and has infinite range. He’s not the greatest defender or facilitator, but getting him in camp and seeing what he has was a smart move by the Knicks. I don’t think he will make the NBA roster, but I could see him playing in Westchester and possibly joining the Knicks later in the year or the following season.

Current Roster B-

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A pretty weak defensive roster, Thibodeau will rely heavily on Robinson and Noel to protect the paint. Ntilikina and Bullock appear to be destined for tons of run as well because of the roster’s construction. Their front court is balanced and talented, although it does lack some depth. New York’s issues arise in the backcourt. All of their guards tend to struggle at making the rest of their team better. Ntilikina is the best passer, but struggles at getting to the rim and breaking down defenses. Payton gets into the paint, but turns the ball over and can’t space the floor by knocking down threes. Smith Jr. struggles with turnovers, shooting, and defense as well. Rivers is a pure shooter, but not much of a facilitator. Barrett has shown the ability to play PG, but it’s clearly not his best position nor where his greatest potential lies. The Knicks desperately need one of these guards to step-up and make their teammates better. Knox’s shooting could prove to be a valuable asset and earn him much more playing time this season after the Knicks didn’t bring back Wayne Ellington, Damyean Dotson, Maurice Harkless, and Bobby Portis. Barrett, Burks, and Bullock will all likely spend time playing Small Forward, despite them all primarily being Shooting Guards. The biggest holes left on the Knicks roster are perimeter defense and facilitating. It will be very interesting to see how the minutes at Point Guard are distributed and how much Thibodeau will play defense over offense. The Knicks are currently looking like a 20-30 win team in the 2020-21, 72 game, season.

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Moving forward the Knicks find themselves with minimal longterm contracts, tons of draft picks in the near future, and a solid core comprised of R.J. Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Obi Toppin. They also have several role players who could blossom into nice pieces such as Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, and Dennis Smith Jr.. Burks, Bullock, Rivers, and Noel are good role players as well. Julius Randle is a quality player, but doesn’t fit with the Knicks longterm after the Toppin selection. Despite the Knicks solid base, the NBA is a league run by stars. For the Knicks to truly turn around their franchise, they likely will need to acquire a star. R.J. Barrett has a chance to be a perennial All-Star, but he will probably become a really good #2 option on a winning team. The Knicks have the cap flexibility and assets to acquire a superstar via trade or in the 2021 offseason. A year of losing could lead to another high draft pick and give them a swing at the highly touted 2021 draft class as well. Regardless of how the Knicks look to acquire a star caliber player, they need to add an All-Star caliber player in the next year or two if they want to make the jump from acquiring assets to winning games.

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2020 NBA Draft Big Board (Top 30) Videos & Analysis

image via clutchpoints.com

First Tier

  • LaMelo Ball

Second Tier

  • James Wiseman
  • Anthony Edwards

Third Tier

  • Tyrese Haliburton
  • Isaac Okoro
  • Obi Toppin
  • Onyeka Okongwu

Fourth Tier

  • Devin Vassell
  • Deni Avdija
  • Killian Hayes
  • Kira Lewis
  • Patrick Williams

Fifth Tier

  • Saddiq Bey
  • Aaron Nesmith
  • Jalen Smith
  • Cole Anthony
  • Aleksej Pokusevski
  • Jaden McDaniels
  • Josh Green
  • Tyrese Maxey
  • RJ Hampton
  • Precious Achiuwa
  • Malachi Flynn

Sixth Tier

  • Desmond Bane
  • Leandro Bolmaro
  • Nico Mannion
  • Udoka Azubuike
  • Theo Maledon
  • Isaiah Joe
  • Tyler Bey

1. LaMelo Ball (PG, 6’6″, 180 lbs, USA)

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Strengths

  • Ball Handling With Both Hands
  • Pass Accuracy & Consistency (Even On Flashy Plays)
  • Ball Security (Doesn’t Turn The Ball Over)
  • Playmaking (Creates Open Looks For Teammates)
  • Vision
  • Basketball IQ (Passing/Cutting/Driving/Defensive Rotations)
  • Rebounding
  • Physical Tools (Tall, Long Wingspan, Quick)
  • Creating Turnovers/Steals

Weaknesses

  • Getting Through Screens
  • Jump Shot (Guide Hand Pushes The Shot)
  • Leadership
  • Motor

Player Comparisons

  • Trae Young
  • Lonzo Ball
  • Spencer Dinwiddie

Keys To Success

  • Being A Leader
  • Being Pass First
  • Respectable Three Point Shooting
  • Having A Consistent Motor On Defense

Overall

Ball is sneaky good defensively, but struggles at getting through screens and lacks effort at times. Although his motor and leadership are definitely question marks heading into the draft, LaMelo’s talent offensively goes without question. He’s slippery and tight with his handles, an elite passer with impressive vision, and can finish at the rim with ease. Showing no weakness dribbling or passing with his left, LaMelo puts defenders on skates and delivers dimes to open teammates in the blink of an eye. Ball’s inconsistent jump shot may weaken his value, led by poor mechanics and subpar shot selection, but he is a decent free-throw shooter. He makes up for his lack of a consistent mid-range jumper with a nice floater package and can create open looks for himself or others whenever he wants. LaMelo also rebounds very well for a guard and creates many turnovers with his length and IQ. LaMelo Ball is a weapon who deciphers and decimates defenses with the combination of his height, speed, and length coupled with his All-Star caliber playmaking ability. Ball will be a triple-double candidate every time he steps on the floor and is my top player in the 2020 draft class.

2. James Wiseman (C, 7’1″, 240 lbs, Memphis)

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Strengths

  • Height, Length, Athleticism
  • Footwork Offensively
  • Touch Around The Rim & From Further Out
  • Smooth Jumper For A Big (Lots Of Upside)
  • Good Free Throw Shooter
  • Finding A Body & Boxing Out
  • Crashing The Offensive Glass
  • Highlight Reel
  • Solid Handle (Lots Of Upside)

Weaknesses

  • Defending The Pick & Roll (Mostly Hedging)
  • Leaving His Feet On Defense (Leading To Fouls)
  • Not Using His Strength Down Low (Mostly Defensively)
  • Vision In The Post (Finding Cutters/Shooters)

Player Comparisons

  • Chris Bosh
  • Anthony Davis
  • Bam Adebayo
  • Mitchell Robinson

Keys To Success

  • Becoming A Defensive Anchor
  • Knocking Down a Mid-Range/Three Point Jumper Consistently
  • Running The Floor
  • Passing Out Of The Post (High & Low)

Overall

James Wiseman is equally an anomaly and an enigma. The star, Center, only played in 3 games before dropping out of Memphis after he was suspended 12 games by the NCAA. Wiseman was built to play Center in today’s NBA. Standing at 7’1″, the 240 pound athletic phenom can run like a gazelle and finish off a lob in transition with an exclamation point. Even more impressive than his stature is Wiseman’s feel around the basket. His touch translates to the foul line, wing, and three point line as well. Wiseman possesses the ability to put the ball on the deck too, making him truly unguardable. Defensively, Wiseman’s presence is felt through his strong rebounding and volleyball-like shot blocking (10.7 rebounds and 3 blocks per game). The best Center in the draft has an extremely high floor, but to reach his full potential, he must work on his pick and roll defense, use his legs instead of reaching defensively, and continue to develop his offensive tools. James Wiseman may have played just three games in college, but there is no dispute that he has a very bright future ahead of him.

3. Anthony Edwards (SG, 6’5″, 225 lbs, Georgia)

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Strengths

  • Quick, High Release, Elevates On Jump Shot
  • Upper Body Control On Shot
  • Unlimited Range
  • Tough Shot Maker (Step Backs/Contested)
  • Size/Frame
  • Explosiveness

Weaknesses

  • Shot Selection
  • Consistency
  • Playmaking
  • Loose Handle
  • Finishing At The Rim
  • Getting Beat Off The Dribble
  • Getting Over/Through Screens
  • Defensive Rotations (Off Ball Help & Looking To Switch)

Player Comparisons

  • Bradley Beal
  • Buddy Hield
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.

Keys To Success

  • Being More Than A Scorer
  • Taking Good Shots
  • Consistent Shot Making
  • Utilizing His Size & Athleticism Defensively
  • All-Around Defense

Overall

Anthony Edwards has oodles of untapped potential, but flashes of excellence don’t always translate to greatness. He can score from every inch across half court, is built like a beast, and can jump out of the building. What’s not to like? Well, Edwards has struggled in almost every facet of the game at times, drawing some serious red flags. He hasn’t created much at all for his teammates, shot the three ball at a poor percentage (29.4%), and has had many rough stretches defensively. Despite his struggles, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Edwards has all of the tools to be an NBA All-Star if he can connect the pieces to his jigsaw like game. Without a question Edwards is the purest scorer in this draft and can put up points in a hurry. Yet the question still remains, what else will Anthony Edwards provide for the team that selects him?

4. Tyrese Haliburton (PG, 6’5″, 175 lbs, Iowa State)

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Strengths

  • Shooting From Three (Spot Up Or Off The Dribble)
  • Vision & Passing
  • Finishing With His Right (Floater & Layups)
  • Free Throw Shooting
  • Off Ball Defense (Jumping Into Passing Lanes, Digging, Closing Out, & Blocking Shots)
  • Rebounding (Uses Height & Length, Superior To Most Point Guards)

Weaknesses

  • Physicality (Avoiding Contact At The Rim, Not Drawing Fouls, Stopping Drives Defensively)
  • Shot Creating (Especially Mid-Range)
  • Driving & Finishing With His Left Hand

Player Comparisons

  • Lonzo Ball
  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Jrue Holiday
  • Devin Booker

Keys To Success

  • Shooting At A High Percentage
  • Adding Strength
  • Creating Himself Open Looks Off The Dribble
  • Getting Into The Paint
  • Sticking With Quicker Guards

Overall

Shooter! Tyrese Haliburton’s game is like a balanced breakfast; he can shoot it, he can drive it, he can dish it, and he can defend. The crafty playmaker is one of the safest picks in this draft, due to his consistent shooting from three (42%). Haliburton is arguably the best three point shooter in the draft and can play point guard or shooting guard, making him an easy fit for any team. He can improve his handle and imagination off the bounce, but Haliburton’s rock solid game and steady shooting make him a sure fire hit in this weaker draft class.

5. Isaac Okoro (SF, 6’6″, 225 lbs, Auburn)

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Strengths

  • Finishing Through Contact (And 1s)
  • Driving/Finishing With Both Hands
  • Passing/Vision (Reads/Decision Making, Accuracy)
  • Athleticism (Quick, Has A Burst, Explosive Around Rim)
  • Can Guard 1-4 (Slides Feet Well Vs. Guards, Strong & Tough Vs. Forwards)
  • Instincts Defensively (Creating Turnovers & Blocking Shots)
  • Energy/Hustle
  • Rebounding (Endless Pursuit Of The Basketball On Rebounds & Loose Balls)

Weaknesses

  • Shooting (Mid-Range, Three Point, & Free Throw)
  • Fouling (A Little Too Handsy/Aggressive)
  • Turnovers

Player Comparisons

  • Andre Iguodala
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Jaylen Brown

Keys To Success

  • Consistent Shooting On Catch & Shoot Threes
  • Playmaking Off The Dribble
  • Guarding 1-4
  • Playing With A High Motor
  • Creating Turnovers

Overall

Isaac Okoro is the best defender in the draft, without question. He can guard everyone on the floor excluding the Center, generates turnovers, and blocks shots. Offensively Okoro is currently just a threat in transition and on cuts for the most part, but made steady improvements throughout his Freshman year at Auburn. Okoro shot 34.4% from three in his last 10 games and displayed and impressive ability to drive to the basket and finish with either hand. Okoro is built strong and quick and has a serious motor, leaving his finger prints all over a basketball game. If he can continue to develop offensively and break some bad habits (fouling & turnovers), Okoro can be just as good as anyone in this draft. However, if he can’t shoot the ball consistently, Okoro may just be a lockdown defender with little game on the offensive end. Either way, Okoro will be a valuable asset and I believe his work ethic will shine on the offensive side of the ball in due time.

6. Obi Toppin (PF, 6’9″, 220 lbs, Dayton)

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Strengths

  • Athleticism/Vertical
  • Highlight Reel
  • Rim Running (Transition, Rolling, & Cuts)
  • Solid Passing & Vision For A Big
  • Finishing With His Right Hand
  • Stays In Control When Driving To Basket (Not Susceptible To Charges)
  • Shot Blocking
  • Communicating Through Switches Off The Ball
  • High Basketball IQ Offensively (Feeling A Double Team, Going Back Door, Finding The Open Shooter)

Weaknesses

  • Positioning & Footwork On Defense (Stands Tall, Doesn’t Initiate Contact, Reaches, Sags Far Off Screens, Weak Help Defense, Loses The Ball While Watching Man)
  • Doesn’t Box Out Well (Gets Rebounds With Athleticism & Pursuit)
  • Falls Back On Jump Shot
  • Setting Screens (Slips/Rolls Early When It’s The Wrong Play Occasionally, Avoids Contact)
  • Lacks Multiple Post Moves (Mostly Uses A Nice Drop Step)

Player Comparisons

  • Amar’e Stoudemire
  • Blake Griffin
  • Julius Randle

Keys To Success

  • Three Point Shooting (Pick & Pop Or Catch & Shoot)
  • Being More Versatile (Ways Of Scoring Offensively & Being Able To Switch Defensively)
  • All-Around Defense
  • Drawing Fouls

Overall

A prototypical stretch four with a not so typical 7’2″ wingspan and uncanny leaping ability, Obi Toppin is an intriguing player. Toppin has tools reminiscent to Blake Griffin with his absurd vertical coupled with the ability to shoot from three and drive through the lane. There’s a lot to like about Toppin offensively… but defensively… there’s a lot to fix. He struggles in many facets on the other side of the ball, although he communicates well and has a great feel for the game. Toppin relies on his athleticism a lot on defense and while rebounding, instead of using his body to create contact and gain positioning. A highlight machine with All-Star potential, Toppin needs to sharpen his tools offensively while sewing his tears defensively to reach his full potential.

7. Onyeka Okongwu (C, 6’9″, 245 lbs, USC)

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Strengths

  • Hands (Catches Tough Passes, Passes In Traffic, & Lobs Well)
  • Finishing With Both Hands (Very Impressive/Natural With His Left)
  • Working Out Of The Post (Hooks With Either Hand, Drop Step)
  • Rim Running
  • Highlight Reel
  • Offensive Rebounding
  • Shot Blocking
  • Switching Onto Smaller Guards (Quick Feet, Versatile)

Weaknesses

  • Jump Shot Needs Work (Inconsistent, Limited Range)
  • Vision/Decision Making When Passing
  • Defensive Rebounding (Finding A Body, Being Physical)

Player Comparisons

  • Bam Adebayo
  • Hassan Whiteside
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Clint Capela

Keys To Success

  • Playing With A High Motor
  • Adding To His Offensive Repertoire (Shooting, Handle, Post Moves)
  • Boxing Out & Grabbing Defensive Rebounds
  • Being A Premier Shot Blocker

Overall

Onyeka Okongwu is the kind of player every team would love to have. He’s efficient, can switch/guard everyone, is efficient offensively, and play with electrocuting energy. His ceiling is limited due to his severe lack of range on a jumper and inability to dribble much, but his floor is very high. Okongwu is an imposing shot blocker with DeAndre Hopkins like hands. He can catch lobs/passes in bumper to bumper traffic and follow it up with nice touch, using either hand or finishing with an emphatic slam. If Okongwu can work on his shooting, passing, and defensive rebounding; he can quickly turn himself into one of the top Centers in the league.

8. Devin Vassell (SF, 6’6″, 194 lbs, Florida State)

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Strengths

  • Shooting (Three Point & Mid-Range, Quick & High Release, NBA Range, Makes On Contested Looks)
  • Poise Offensively (Doesn’t Turn The Ball Over, Isn’t Scared Of Pressure Or Shot Contests, Makes The Right Play/Pass)
  • Defensive Capabilities (Quick, Long, Strong, High Effort, Slides Well, Solid Rotations)
  • Generating Turnovers
  • Rebounding

Weaknesses

  • Creating Off The Dribble
  • Finishing At The Rim
  • Drawing Fouls
  • Poise Defensively (Over Aggressive & Falls For Fakes Sometimes)

Player Comparisons

  • Khris Middleton
  • Justin Holiday
  • Danny Green

Keys To Success

  • Consistent Shooting On Catch & Shoot Threes
  • Becoming More Capable Off The Dribble (More Then 1-3 Dribbles & A Pull-Up Jumper)
  • Staying Smart Defensively And Not Over-Pursuing
  • Adding Strength

Overall

A heady player with a steady jumper is always a good pick. Vassell is a three and D option who can guard the 2,3, or 4. His most impressive ability is to rise and knockdown mid-range and three point jumpers over defenders blanketing him. Of course his length and outstanding defense are also major positives as well. Vassell has lots of room to grow as a playmaker and shot creator offensively and can benefit from not getting over aggressive defensively. Vassell will be a very nice floor spacer in the NBA who can run in transition and hold his own defensively better than most.

9. Deni Avdija (SF, 6’9″, 215 lbs, Israel)

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Strengths

  • Basketball IQ
  • Size/Length
  • Quick, High Release On Jumper
  • Finishing At The Rim (Has A Large Repertoire In This Area)
  • Slashing/Cutting
  • Post Play (Scoring & Passing/Vision)
  • Pushing The Ball After Rebounds (Outlet Or Bringing The Ball Up)
  • Defensive Rotations/Weak Side Help
  • Slides Feet Well Against Quicker Opponents (Including Guards)

Weaknesses

  • Ball Handling
  • Driving With Left Hand
  • Consistent Jump Shot
  • Running The Offense (Not Necessary At Forward Position, But Is Limiting His Potential)
  • Has Issues Finishing Against Prominent Shot Blockers (Needs To Be More Aggressive, Create Contact With Body, And Explode To The Rim)
  • Rebounding (Lacks Physicality & Doesn’t Look To Box Out)

Player Comparisons

  • Gordon Hayward
  • Kelly Oubre Jr.
  • Mario Hezonja

Keys To Success

  • Consistent Shooting On Catch & Shoot Threes
  • Driving To The Rim
  • Playing Physical
  • Guarding 1-4

Overall

Deni Avdija is one of the most all-around prospects in the entire draft. He has solid length and athleticism with the ability to play with or without the basketball. He will fit on any team, anywhere. Avdija sports a savvy game with high basketball IQ. He is at his best when he’s slashing/cutting to the rim or driving in transition. He has also shown a nice stroke from three while displaying an ability to facilitate too. Defensively, Avdija tended to guard the opponents best player regardless of their position. There’s a lot to like with Avdija, but he also needs to grow in a lot of areas across the board. Still very young, he’s still a little weak and needs to develop more physicality/strength. Deni could also be a more polished ball handler and consistent shooter. Avdija is a very safe pick in this draft, but does appear to have a lower ceiling than the players ranked above him.

10. Killian Hayes (PG, 6’5″, 195 lbs, France)

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Strengths

  • Passing & Vision (Tremendous Accuracy- Especially On Lobs)
  • Shooting (Mid-Range, Three-Point, & Free Throw)
  • Efficient Scorer (Shoots At A High Percentage Across The Board)
  • Finishing With His Left Around The Rim (Crafty Moves Such As A Floater)
  • Playing Out Of The Pick & Roll (Shooting Or Passing, Making The Right Reads)
  • Active Hands On Defense (Forces Turnovers)
  • Moves Feet/Slides Well Defensively

Weaknesses

  • Ball Handling, Driving, Finishing, & Passing With His Right Hand
  • Being Stronger With His Dribble (Not Getting Stopped So Easily, Kept Out Of The Paint, & Slow Setting Up The Offense)
  • Picks Up Dribble Too Soon Sometimes
  • Gets Caught Out Of Position Or Too Upright At Times Defensively
  • Off Ball Defense (Late Rotations, Caught Ball Or Man Watching)

Player Comparisons

  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Goran Dragic
  • George Hill

Keys To Success

  • Getting Into The Paint
  • Having A Solid Right Hand
  • Proper Defensive Positioning

Overall

Killian Hayes is a very efficient scorer, solid passer, and has plus size/length for a point guard. He shoots at a very high percentage in every category, due in part because of his smart shot selection. Hayes is very shifty and crafty when breaking down defenses, but struggles to move the ball and get the offense set when versing top defenders. He is a great passer, but mostly only with his left hand. Hayes needs to work on his right hand dribbling, passing, and finishing to be a more versatile offensive weapon. Defensively, Hayes’ size, active hands, and quick feet are very promising. He does need to clean up his off ball defense though. Hayes is a solid point guard that won’t blow many people away in the NBA, but can be a very efficient and steady option as long as he improves his ball handling/security.

11. Kira Lewis (PG, 6’3″, 165 lbs, Alabama)

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Strengths

  • Athleticism (Speed, vertical, explosiveness)
  • High Motor
  • Playing In Transition
  • Shooting (Three Point and Free Throw)
  • Generating Turnovers
  • Rebounding For His Size
  • Passing/ Driving With Both Hands
  • On Ball Defense (slides feet well, good positioning)

Weaknesses

  • Making The Right Reads Offensively
  • Size
  • Mid-Range Jumper

Player Comparisons

  • De’Aaron Fox
  • Terry Rozier
  • Darren Collison

Keys To Success

  • Adding Strength
  • Making The Right Reads
  • Playing With A High Motor
  • Scoring/Shooting Efficiently

Overall

Speed kills! Kira Lewis is probably the fastest player in the draft and can shoot the lights out. Lewis has a lot of explosiveness and is most dangerous in transition. He uses his length and speed to generate ample turnovers, but his lack of strength makes him a liability at times on the defensive end. Offensively he can become a better playmaker/facilitator, but his ability to shoot from three and get into the paint at will, opens up opposing defenses plenty. Although Lewis will need some help from his shot blockers defensively, his speed and offensive game are much too valuable to overlook.

12. Patrick Williams (SF, 6’8″, 225 lbs, Florida State)

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Strengths

  • Athleticism (Strong, Fast, High Vertical)
  • Highlight Reel
  • Great Cutter & PnR Ball Handler
  • Mid-Range Jump Shot (Rises Up, Smooth)
  • Tremendous Off Ball Defender (Rotating, Helping, Blocking Shots)
  • Free Throw Shooting

Weaknesses

  • Discipline (Falling For Shot Fakes, Taking Bad Shots, Dribbling Into Trouble)
  • Defensive Rebounding (Lacks Aggression & Doesn’t Look To Box Out Hard)
  • Passive (Doesn’t Attack/Score As Much As He Should)
  • Getting Beat Off The Dribble (Athleticism Helps Him Get Away With It vs. Lesser Athletes)
  • Jump Shot From Three (Stiff/Not Fluid)

Player Comparisons

  • Paul Millsap
  • Aaron Gordon
  • Jerami Grant

Keys To Success

  • Figuring Out What He Does Best
  • Being Aggressive Offensively
  • Consistent Shooting
  • Improving Footwork, Positioning, & Poise Defensively

Overall

One of the rawest, most versatile players in the draft, Patrick Williams is a major question mark. He’s clearly a freak of nature with freakishly impressive touch and finesse. He also doesn’t have a go-to part of his game and lacks aggression at times. He can shoot from all three levels, but it is uncertain how consistantly he can and if he can take over a game. Also a great defender, Williams sometimes gets lazy and recovers thanks to his superior athleticism. In the NBA he will need to cleanup his footwork and be more aggressive if he’s going to be a major impact player. Williams has a ton of potential, but has a long way to go to being a high caliber player. His defense alone makes him a nice addition for any team and a consistent jumper could catapult his career significantly.

13. Saddiq Bey (SF, 6’7″, 216 lbs, Villanova)

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14. Aaron Nesmith (SF, 6’7″, 215 lbs, Vanderbilt)

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15. Jalen Smith (PF, 6’10”, 225 lbs, Maryland)

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16. Cole Anthony (PG, 6’3″, 190 lbs, North Carolina)

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17. Aleksej Pokusevski (PF, 7’0″, 195 lbs, Serbia)

18. Jaden McDaniels (PF, 6’10”, 200 lbs, Washington)

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19. Josh Green (SG, 6’6″, 210 lbs, Arizona)

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20. Tyrese Maxey (PG, 6’3″, 198 lbs, Kentucky)

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21. RJ Hampton (PG, 6’5″, 192 lbs, New Zealand)

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22. Precious Achiuwa (PF, 6’9″, 234 lbs, Memphis)

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23. Malachi Flynn (PG, 6’2″, 185 lbs, San Diego State)

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24. Desmond Bane (SG, 6’6″, 217 lbs, TCU)

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25. Leandro Bolmaro (PG, 6’7″, 185 lbs, Spain)

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26. Nico Mannion (PG, 6’3″, 190 lbs, Arizona)

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27. Udoka Azubuike (C, 6’11”, 260 lbs, Kansas)

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28. Theo Maledon (PG, 6’5″, 187 lbs, France)

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29. Isaiah Joe (SG, 6’5″, 180 lbs, Arkansas)

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30. Tyler Bey (SF, 6’7″, 216 lbs, Colorado)

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Where Do Rose & Thibodeau Begin? Analyzing Where The Knicks Are Now & What Needs To Happen Next

Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

When the Knicks hired Leon Rose to be their President, followed by the hiring of Tom Thibodeau at Head Coach, New York had selected the two brains behind their future blueprint. Rose and Thibodeau have been handed a ball of clay with total freedom to mold it however they please. The Knicks have young talent, cap space, draft picks, and very few long-term commitments. It is entirely up to their braintrust to turn this blank canvas into a contender. Once Rose and Thibodeau finish up hiring the rest of their staff, they will need to completely analyze what the Knicks have and what they need. Finding the right pieces at the right costs to fill their voids will be the life or death of the new regime. Here I take a look at what decisions Rose and company need to make and what value each player on their current roster brings. After, I presume and question what the Knicks will do next to initiate their roster-turnover and make progress in building a roster poised for longterm success under Thibodeau.

Analyzing The Current Roster (21-45 Record)

PG- Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., Jared Harper

SG- Wayne Ellington, R.J. Barrett, Damyean Dotson, Theo Pinson

SF- Maurice Harkless, Kevin Knox II, Reggie Bullock, Ignas Brazdeikis

PF- Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Kenny Wooten

C- Taj Gibson, Mitchell Robinson

Point Guards

Elfrid Payton (1 year- $8M, $1M Guaranteed)

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Elfrid Payton came into an already tricky point guard situation with the expectations of being the starter. The most steady and reliable Knicks’ Point Guard displayed his knack for filling the stat sheet (6 double-doubles & 1 triple-double), earning himself the starting job. Woeful shooting has plagued Payton’s potential to be next year’s starter. He shot a slash of 43.9%/20.3%/57% from the field/three/foul line. Shooting below 30% from three and 70% from the line tends to be a death sentence for point guards in the NBA.

Elfrid Payton’s 2019-20 Shot Chart

However, Payton remained the best option for the Knicks to run the offense last season due to his abilities to create open looks, get to the rim, and generate turnovers defensively. He averaged 10 points, 7.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Payton displayed his ownership of the “clutch gene,” raising his three point and free throw percentages to 36.8% and 69.6% in the 4th Quarter. New York will be seeking any route to grow their promising, young, star in R.J. Barrett. When playing alongside Barrett, Payton and their centerpiece totaled a NET Rating of -4.7; the 2nd best NET Rating of any 2 Man Lineup involving Barrett (Barrett paired with Wayne Ellington +2.8 was the best). The backcourt duo also averaged an impressive field goal percentage of 47.7%, a three point percentage of 34.6%, and an assist to turnover ration of 1.63 when sharing the floor together. The question still remains, is Elfrid Payton the best option to play alongside Barrett in the future to help him reach his full potential?

Payton was the most reliable and consistent starter for the Knicks last season, while averaging 27.7 minutes per game, yet many still believe it is unlikely that he will be the starter next year. Although Payton and Barrett seemed to flourish together, his ceiling remains to be underwhelming for a Knicks team looking to blossom in 2020-21. If Payton makes progress shooting the ball and the Knicks don’t add a big name point guard to the roster in the offseason, don’t count out Payton to win the job to start next season. Starter or not, I’d expect the Knicks to bring Payton back next year unless they need the cap space to make a big splash in Free Agency.

Frank Ntilikina (1 year- $6.1M + QO- $8.3M in 2021-22)

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Frank Ntilikina is a winning basketball player and could be the biggest benefactor to the Knicks recent hiring of Tom Thibodeau. He is undoubtedly New York’s best defender and has steadily improved every season. Ntilikina has shown he can guard all five positions, lockdown some of the best scorers in the league, and play with high IQ on defense. The make or break part of Ntilikina’s game is his offense. He hasn’t been a successful shooter or floor general to this point in his career, making it very difficult to play him big minutes or in crunch time. Ntilikina only shot 39.3% from the floor and 32.1% from three, while shooting a tremendous 86.4% from the charity stripe this season (all career highs). Despite his precarious shooting, he has shown an ability to knockdown various types of shots… such as step-backs, catch and shoots, off the dribble, left and right handed runners, coming around screens, and from the post.

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Ntilikina has struggled with consistently knocking down his shot attempts, shooting below the league average in the majority of the field goal zones. During Thibodeau’s recent interview, he talked about wanting to bring more corner threes into the Knicks offensive game-plan to create better spacing. Ntilikina has thrived from the left corner and could be the beneficiary of more looks in the corners next season.

Frank Ntilikina 2019-20 Shot Chart

There’s no secret that Thibodeau is a defensive minded coach that demands effort and intelligence on both sides of the ball. Ntilikina could be the next player to blossom under his coaching such as the likes of D.J. Augustin or Jeff Teague (here’s the link to a great piece by Jonathan Macri regarding players who flourished under Thibs that could sign with the Knicks this offseason).

Ntilikina’s versatility should earn him plenty of playing time under Thibodeau, but at which position? Ntilikina has been most successful as a Point Guard in his early NBA career, but has displayed the ability to play at the 2,3, or even 4. Ntilikina is only 6-4, but his 7-1 wingspan and uncanny defensive ability allow for him to cover just about anyone in the league. Ntilikina could be moved to a position off-ball or as a point-forward to the likes of a Draymond Green or Pascal Siakam. If he is used just as a Three and D guy, Ntilikina could be utilized similarly to how Luol Deng was when he was with the Bulls under Thibodeau’s tutelage. Ntilikina appears to have his greatest ceiling while playing Point Guard, due to his ability to switch off onto bigger players, disgruntle opposing ball handlers, and have a major size advantage most of the time. His offensive game could be reminiscent of a Jrue Holiday (three level scorer that also goes into the post as a guard) in the future, excluding his significantly worse shooting. However, if Ntilikina can continue to up his shooting percentages, utilize his size, get to the charity stripe, and continue to be a lockdown defender; the Knicks may have something special in their French Prince.

Dennis Smith Jr. (1 year- $5.6M + QO- $7.7M in 2021-22)

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Dennis Smith Jr. is an enigma that perfectly emulates the New York Knicks. Once upon a time, Smith Jr. was the centerpiece of a return involved in the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster trade. It seemed certain that his dramatic, acrobatic, highlights would flood the bright lights of the Mecca and take the league by storm. However, Smith Jr. was decimated by a back injury, oblique injury, the passing of his stepmother, and battling the yips this season. A season that appeared to be primed by success, ended with Smith Jr. having the worst year of his career. He averaged 5.5 points, 2.9 assists, and 1.7 turnovers per game while shooting a slash of 34.1%/29.6%/50.9% (FG%/3P%/FT%).

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Rumblings throughout the year that Smith Jr. wanted out of New York and that the Knicks were looking to move him never came to fruition. Now the Knicks and Smith Jr. find themselves in quite a predicament. Smith Jr.’s value is at an all-time low, making it very difficult for the Knicks to move him for little value after trading so much to acquire him (plus other assets). The Knicks have a hard time finding playing time for Smith Jr., due to his poor play, the emergence of Elfrid Payton, and the necessity of playing Ntilikina for defense. Thus making it both difficult to boost Smith Jr.’s value and for him to get into a groove. Now, New York is likely going to add another point guard to the mix this offseason whether it be a free agent such as Fred VanVleet or D.J. Augustin, or through the draft with LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, Cole Anthony, Killian Hayes, etc.. As for now it appears the Knicks will be keeping Payton and Ntilikina while adding another point guard to push for the starting job. Smith Jr. may be the odd man out, due to a crowded backcourt and inconsistent play.

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Leon Rose recently referred to Smith Jr. as a “special talent”. Just as I believed the news on Thibodeau’s contract price/length being too high/long was just a business play to try a bring his price down… I could see this being a way for Rose to try and raise Smith Jr.’s value as much as he can with the intention of shopping him this offseason (perhaps during the draft). Trading Smith Jr. isn’t the smartest play on paper, but it appears to be inevitable. The addition of Jared Harper may not seem like a big transaction, but he may be the new quick-paced, scoring guard, the Knicks have selected to take Smith Jr.’s place at a fraction of the cost. The only way I see Smith Jr. staying on this roster is if the Knicks elect to move Payton or Ntilikina instead.

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Jared Harper (QO- $1.5M)

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The Dennis Smith Jr. and Lamar Peters’ fan clubs certainly didn’t like this addition. However, adding talent is never a bad thing; especially for the struggling Knicks. Harper has only played in 3 NBA games with the Phoenix Suns after going undrafted last year. Harper had a fantastic season in the G-League though, racking up assists and scoring in bunches.

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Harper is undersized, standing at 5-10. Scouted back in 2019 by the Knicks when entering the draft, Harper’s strong play in the G-League was enough to earn him a contract with the Knicks. He will be in a battle with many options at point guard next year, possibly relegating him to Westchester. The release of Allonzo Trier leaves Harper as easily the strongest shooter of the current competition. Will his dynamic scoring and speed earn him a role off the bench next season? Time will tell.

Shooting Guards

Wayne Ellington (1 year- $8M, $1M Guaranteed)

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The savvy sniper was a solid role player for the Knicks in 2019-20, but never turned into the weapon they had hoped for. Ellington brought solid defense and at times nailed multiple jumpers to ignite the Knicks offense. Ellington averaged just 5.1 points per game, but did shoot at a 35% clip from three (significantly better than most of the Knicks). Despite his lack of contributions on the court, Ellington proved his value as a leader and teammate off the court. Marc Berman wrote an article about Ellington a few months ago headlining his professionalism and ability to help the young guys grow. Berman also notes how Ellington likely will not be brought back next season unless he is released and then resigned to a more team-friendly contract.

Wayne Ellington’s 2019-20 Shot Chart

As I noted earlier, Thibodeau wants to utilize the corner-three more often. Ellington is one of the best three-ballers from those zones in the league. Couple that with his gritty defense and impressive leadership, Ellington would be a nice piece for the Knicks to bring back in 2020-21. Ellington’s contract at $8M is not justifiable considering the little time he played on the court this season. However, don’t be surprised if the Knicks eat the $1M guaranteed, release him, and look to sign him to a cheaper deal. At the age of 32, Ellington still possesses value in areas the Knicks desperately need. Then again, every team in the NBA could benefit from a pure shooter with strong defensive and leadership skills. A contending team would likely be willing to outbid the Knicks and secure Ellington to a more critical role.

RJ Barrett (3 years- $8.2M Escalating with 2021-22 & 2022-23 being Club Options + QO- $14.3M in 2023-24)

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Rowan Barrett Jr. is the core and key to the New York Knicks. Barrett showed exactly why he was the 3rd overall pick last year, averaging 14.3 points, 5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1 steal a night while playing multiple positions. His ability to weave through defenses and finish at the rim through traffic with surgical precision was tremendously impressive. With that being said, the left-handed neophyte still has ample room to grow.

RJ Barrett’s 2019-20 Shot Chart

Barrett struggled mightily with the midrange jumper, shooting off the dribble, and from the foul line. Off the dribble, Barrett shot 27.7% from inside the arc and 25% from three, while also shooting 61.4% from the line. Some may look at these numbers as a major concern, but they really are a beacon of hope. Barrett was the Knicks 3rd leading scorer and rarely took bad shots. Another offseason of working on his limitations could lead to a significant jump in his shooting percentages. Adding a floater to his finishing package, could significantly improve Barrett’s percentages from 5ft or so too. The sky is the limit for Barrett offensively. On the other side of the ball, Barrett isn’t stellar, but he has improved a lot. Barrett made big strides throughout the season and displayed active hands on defense, effectively generating turnovers.

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RJ Barrett is a crucial building block for this Knicks team and will be at the forefront of their future plans with Thibodeau and the rest of the roster.

Damyean Dotson (RFA, QO- $2M)

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Damyean Dotson, AKA the player who deserves more playing time, has proved to be a valuable piece for the Knicks. After Morris Sr. was dealt to LA, Dotson led the Knicks in 3P% at 36.2%. Dotson did only average 6.7 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 17.4 minutes a night last season. As unimpressive as those numbers are, Dotson still deserves a promotion. The shooting guard is one of the Knicks best defenders, most consistent shooters, and was 2nd on the team only committing 0.4 turnovers per game (Brazdeikis was first at 0.2 in 9 games played).

Damyean Dotson’s 2019-20 Shot Chart

The Knicks were 27th in 3P%, 24th in FG%, and 30th in TS% in 2019-20. Damyean Dotson adds plenty of shooting and floor spacing when he’s on the court, which could’ve helped the Knicks significantly on offense had he played more minutes. New York would be wrong to cut ties with Dotson and not resign him as long as his price is reasonable.

Theo Pinson (Club Option- $1.7M + QO- $2.1M in 2021-22)

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Theo Pinson is a strong defender that brings high energy to makeup for his minimal NBA experience. Although Pinson is solid on defense, his offensive game is likely not good enough to earn himself many minutes. His talent isn’t the only thing that draws interest from NBA teams. Pinson is recognized as one of the best teammates/hype men in the NBA and is constantly shown on social media for his bench celebrations and positive personality.

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Every player on an NBA roster can’t play significant minutes. It is important to have role players on the end of your bench that bring something to the table on the court, while also being great teammates and not complaining or causing issues when sidelined. If Pinson can prove to be a weapon defensively and knockdown the occasional shot as a team favorite, he will earn a role with the Knicks and help build their new culture.

Small Forwards

Maurice Harkless (UFA)

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Harkless was acquired primarily as a salary filler in the Morris Sr. trade, but added additional value through stingy defense and quality leadership during his short stint with the Knicks. The unrestricted free agent is notorious for being one of the top defenders in the league, while being passive yet reliable on offense. Harkless is a nice piece to have for contending teams, but his value tends to be diminished when playing alongside lesser talent and poor defending. He is a winning player, but the Knicks weren’t a winning team in 2019-20. The New York native could be worth bringing back next season as a stretch four to sure up the Knicks defense in the 2nd unit.

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Although Harkless has said to be interested in rejoining the Knicks next season, it remains unlikely the Knicks sign him to a deal. Harkless would be better off signing with a contender and the Knicks need to spend their money this offseason on more critical pieces to their longterm success. Similar to Ellington, if he comes at a bargain, Harkless would be worth bringing back.

Kevin Knox II (2 years- $4.5M Escalating with 2021-22 being a Club Option + QO- $7.9M in 2022-23)

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Kevin Knox II is arguably the biggest question mark Leon Rose, Scott Perry, Tom Thibodeau, and the Knicks have to answer. After an encouraging rookie campaign, Knox II saw his points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes plummet along with his shooting percentages. The soon to be 21 year old forward looks lost sometimes and an offensive juggernaut at others. Most youngsters struggle with consistency, but Knox II’s struggles have been more than that. He has completely been either uninvolved or just unsuccessful for multiple games in a row. Even with such struggles, Knox II has improved his defense and finishing at the rim recently. His marginal improvements seem to be just enough to justify his value as a future starter and core member of this Knicks roster.

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When the Knicks selected the forward out of Kentucky a couple years ago, his former head coach John Calipari was adamant that Knox II should not be evaluated until the conclusion of his 3rd season in the NBA. After Knox II’s sophomore campaign, there are more questions surrounding him than when he was drafted. Many people who’ve been around Knox II rave about his work ethic and support from his inner circle. One thing I’ve found to almost always be the case in sports is that the work shows. Undeniably, Knox II has the talent to be successful in the NBA, making his recent troubles inexplicable.. Still, talent + hard work = success in my book. He’s still extremely young, played for multiple coaches, and hasn’t had a consistent role or position. Consistency and maturity could be the final piece to unlocking Knox II’s untapped potential. Three point shooting comes at a premium in the NBA, especially for a player standing at 6-7. It is also worth noting RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson (the core pieces of the Knicks) are tremendous interior scorers and will benefit exponentially by being surrounded by quality shooters (which the Knicks clearly lack). Knox II can be a big help to Barrett and Robinson’s future success just as much as they may pull defenses and lead to open jumpers and a successful career for Knox II. It is clear as day that now is not the time to throw in the towel with Kevin Knox II.

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Reggie Bullock (1 year- $4.2M, $1M Guaranteed)

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Reggie Bullock owns the most ΓΌber team friendly contract on the Knicks (excluding rookie deals). Bullock is a great teammate, sharp veteran, top-tier shooter, and an excellent defender. His value is much more than the just over $4M per year he’s making. Bullock is an absolute bargain for a Knicks team who tends to pay the premium.

Reggie Bullock’s 2019-20 Shot Chart

Just by looking at his shot chart, it’s easy to see Bullock’s worth. The Knicks can lock Bullock in as a sharpshooting 3 & D man in the starting lineup, main contributor off the bench, or potentially trade his extremely valuable abilities and contract for more assets this upcoming season. If I were Leon Rose, I’d keep Bullock around at least until the trade deadline and make this roster as good as possible. The more talented this roster can become, the easier it will be for the young core to grow and play important minutes in close/big games.

Ignas Brazdeikis (2 years- $1.5M Escalating with 2021-22 being a Club Option + QO- $2.2M in 2022-23)

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Ignas Brazdeikis was incredibly successful in the G-League, but clearly overmatched while playing the few minutes he did with the Knicks. Brazdeikis is crafty and clever with a knack for scoring. He can shoot it, put the ball on the deck, and finish with both hands. Brazdeikis’ clearest issue is his defense, often finding himself in poor positions and not being athletic enough to makeup for his mistakes. His lack of control on offense at times can lead to poor shot selection and turnovers as well (2.5 turnovers per game in the G-League). It remains to be seen if Brazdeikis will be able to be an efficient scorer at the NBA level, but for the time being he’s certainly worth a roster spot.

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Power Forwards

Julius Randle (2 years- $18.9M Escalating, $4M Guaranteed in 2021-22)

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Julius Randle was brought in to be the leader of the Knicks and catapult them back to the playoffs. He certainly was valuable, but didn’t live up to the expectations he arrived with. Now the Knicks are in a tricky position with Randle. He’s currently their top gun and still pretty young at the age of 25 (closing in on 26). He was the Knicks leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. All seems well on the surface, but he has his flaws. Randle averaged 3 turnovers per game and only averaged 0.3 blocks per game while playing the Power Forward position. Randle’s defense was very lackluster at times as well. Equally worrying is that of the 16 different 2-Man lineups RJ Barrett was in, the 14th best +- lineup was with Randle (-3.7). Randle and Barrett also combined for a worrisome -7.3 NET Rating while sharing the floor. When Barrett and Randle shared the court the ebb and flow of the offense seamlessly disappeared and there was a lot of over-dribbling, a congested paint, and poor three point shooting. Not to mention both aren’t the strongest defenders on the other end. With Barrett being a foundational piece for the New York Knicks, Rose and Perry will look to place players alongside him who elevate his game. Randle appears to clash with Barrett on the court making him more useful off the bench and away from Barrett or used as trade value to add someone else who will fulfill Barrett’s potential.

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Randle will always be able to get his which is a necessity to have on every NBA roster. Night in and night out, NBA teams need to have guys they can count on to score the rock. At roughly $19M you could even argue Randle is slightly underpaid for his production. Although Randle’s play has been very strong, keeping him on the roster appears to be too costly due to the hinderance he may place on RJ Barrett’s future success. Randle’s gameplay likely will never link well with Barrett’s and his penchant for turnovers are debilitating for a Knicks team that lacks the ability to shoot themselves out of trouble. Julius Randle is just slightly below All-Star caliber and could be a tremendous piece for certain teams/rosters; that team just isn’t the New York Knicks. If the Knicks look to make any big splashes via trade in the next year, Randle will likely be one of the assets sent away.

Bobby Portis (Club Option- $15.7M)

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Bobby Portis is a certified bucket off the bench and has the ability to take over a game with his scoring prowess. However, his defense and ill-advised shot selection can make a team reluctant to pay him big money. Portis is set to earn $15M if the Knicks pickup his option which is just too much money for a backup stretch 4/5. There’s zero chance the Knicks resign him at that salary, despite him averaging over 10 points and 5 rebounds per game in just 21.1 minutes per contest.

Bobby Portis’ 2019-20 Shot Chart

On the other hand, Portis would be an ideal candidate to play backup Power Forward/Center next season. Frank Ntilikina and Portis formed a formidable duo off the bench this year, being the Knicks 6th best 2-Man lineup to average at least 10 minutes per game (+0.7).

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I wouldn’t expect Portis to be back in Orange and Blue next season, but if the Knicks miss out on some of their top choices to shoot the three ball at a high percentage (such as Davis Bertans), it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sign back on a 1 year prove it deal.

Kenny Wooten (1 year- $- + QO- $1.6M in 2021-22)

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Kenny Wooten will be an NBA player next season for the New York Knicks and I’m buying all of his stock. The Knicks were 18th in the NBA, averaging 4.7 blocks per game (Mitchell Robinson averaged 2). No wonder the Knicks defense struggled mightily. New York couldn’t protect the paint or guard the perimeter. Like Robinson, Wooten can erase defensive mistakes with his absurd athleticism and emphatic blocks. Wooten also draws ample attention on offense due to opponents needing to respect lobs into him. Regardless of how you slice it, Wooten is the real deal and will be a human highlight real once he is unleashed by the Knicks.

Centers

Taj Gibson (1 year- $9.4M, $1M Guaranteed)

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If one of the expiring vets of Ellington, Harkless, Portis, and Gibson is likely to be back, Gibson is certainly the frontrunner. Gibson and Thibodeau had a great connection in Chicago with the Bulls for years and almost appear to be a lock to be reunited next season. With that being said, the Knicks would be generous to retain Gibson at $9.4M. Perhaps they will stretch his contract out or sign Gibson to an entirely new deal. Gibson’s defense, grit, leadership, and connection to Thibodeau make him a perfect option off the bench and to build the culture for the 2020-21 Knicks.

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Mitchell Robinson (2 years- $1.6M Escalating with 2021-22 being a Club Option)

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Scott Perry hit a colossal home run by selecting Mitchell Robinson in the 2nd round back in 2018. Robinson has built himself into one of the most explosive bigs in the NBA. Forceful shot blocking, dazzling dunks, and uncanny athleticism built around his freakishly long arms and height, make Robinson an anomaly. The 7 footer averaged 9.7 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game this season while shooting 74.2% from the field- shattering the previous record for a single-season field goal percentage of 72.7% held by Wilt Chamberlain.

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Robinson can turn a game upside down due to his ability to play volleyball on defense and tomahawk slams at a very efficient rate on offense. He is also extremely mobile for a big man making him unguardable in transition and a sneaky-good defender when switched onto guards. Robinson has had his struggles with foul trouble, averaging over 3 fouls per game in both his Rookie and Sophomore campaigns. Foul trouble has relegated Robinson to the bench in previous seasons, but if he can stay disciplined, he will be primed for stardom.

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Mitchell Robinson is the Knicks most prolific player and has continuously improved throughout the early stages of his career. He has been working on his offensive repertoire this offseason, looking to improve his ball handling and outside shooting. If Robinson can take 1-2 hard dribbles from the top of the key or when rolling on a Pick & Roll and knockdown the occasional jumper… he will become one of the most dominant Centers in the NBA. Mitchell Robinson appears to be poised for yet another breakout season and soon will become a serious All-Star candidate.

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What’s Next?

After analyzing what the Knicks currently have, it’s clear their core of RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson need to be built around. To do so, the Knicks need to decide who their longterm answer at Point Guard will be. It appears the only option on the current roster who could possibly be their answer is Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks will likely look elsewhere to add competition or fill this need via the draft, free agency, or a trade. Regardless of how the Knicks do it, having a solidified general at Point Guard is often critical to NBA teams’ success. The recent NBA Champion starting Point Guards have been Kyle Lowry, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Tony Parker.

The Knicks will also look to improve their dreadful shooting this offseason. Barrett, Bullock, Knox and Dotson seem to be likely candidates to stay. The shooters brought in will probably be bigger forwards or a Point Guard. While looking to add shooting from the wing, the Knicks need to keep in mind their plans with Kevin Knox II. Do they want him to grow into the starting Power Forward alongside Mitchell Robinson or will he be a Shooting Guard/Small Forward? If the Knicks want to play him more at the 4 and alongside Robinson, the Knicks will need a Small Forward with size and defensive capabilities to play next to him (leading candidate would be Reggie Bullock). New York would also need to either trade Julius Randle or move him to the bench to fully integrate this longterm play.

Excluding finding their answer at Point Guard and adding shooting, the Knicks lack interior defense and leadership. New York will likely promote Kenny Wooten as a full-time NBA player, but if not they will need to add another shot blocker to play when Robinson isn’t on the floor (perhaps Christian Wood, Serge Ibaka, or Willie Cauley-Stein). As for leadership, Taj Gibson, Carmelo Anthony, and D.J. Augustin are all possible candidates. Carmelo Anthony’s pedigree for both shooting and leadership coupled with his deep roots to the Knicks; make another return home to New York a plausible storybook ending to Anthony’s Hall of Fame career.

Leon Rose, Scott Perry, and Tom Thibodeau certainly have their work cut out for them to end the underperforming Knicks 7-year playoff drought and bring a winning team back to Madison Square Garden. After rapping up their Coaching Staff and Front Office, the Knicks are fully armed with assets and options to retool this roster. Will the Knicks finally build the roster from the ground up with longterm fixes, or will they add another set of bandaids for quick fixes and unlikely success? New York’s future entirely depends on this offseason and their ability to find longterm answers.

The Knicks Sacrificed Their Current Heartbeat For Future Life: Analysis Of The Marcus Morris Sr. 3 Way Trade

image via Clutch Points

The Trade

The New York Knicks Receive

  • Maurice Harkless (Via The Los Angeles Clippers)
  • Los Angeles Clippers 2020 1st Round Pick
  • The Right To Swap 2021 1st Round Picks With The Los Angeles Clippers (Can Only Swap Their Own 1st, Can’t Swap The Mavericks Pick)
  • The Detroit Pistons 2021 2nd Round Pick (Via The Los Angeles Clippers)
  • The Rights To Issuf Sanon (Via The Washington Wizards)

The Los Angeles Clippers Receive

  • Marcus Morris Sr. (Via The New York Knicks)
  • Isaiah Thomas (Via The Washington Wizards)- Has Been Waived

The Washington Wizards Receive

  • Jerome Robinson (Via The Los Angeles Clippers)

What Did The Knicks Give Up?

Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Marcus Morris Sr.

The Knicks lost their top scorer, premier shooter, go-to man down the stretch, and veteran leader. Morris Sr. has made a major impact on the players and the entire organization throughout his short stint in New York. He will notoriously be known for pressing the Knicks to play like “dogs” and hitting a clutch 3 catapulting the team to a victory over the Dallas Mavericks, in Kristaps Porzingis’ return to Madison Square Garden. Morris Sr. led the Knicks in points per game (19.6), three-pointers made per game and percentage (2.7 and 43.9%), and free throws made per game (3.8). His scoring/shooting abilities will be severely missed by the Knicks, who are amongst the worst shooting teams in the league (26th in FG%, 28th in 3P%, 30th in FT%, and 30th in TS%).

Along with losing the 4th best shooter in the league from three (percentage wise), the Knicks will be losing the heart and soul of their roster. Morris Sr. brought grit, tenacity, and toughness to a Knick team that was and still is, searching for consistency and an identity. Morris Sr. may not be on the team any longer, but his presence prior to the deadline will continue to affect New York’s locker room and play positively. He will be an unrestricted free agent at this season’s end. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Knicks make another run at Morris Sr. in July (or on June 30th), after he potentially wins the championship he deserves with the Los Angeles Clippers.

What Did The Knicks Gain?

Maurice Harkless

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Maurice Harkless’ shot chart from this season displays he rarely shoots from mid-range. Harkless mainly elects to shoot around the rim, while also spacing the floor from three (mainly from the corner).
Maurice Harkless’ career shot chart shows his struggles from mid-range and the right-corner three. Harkless throughout his career has taken the majority of his shots around the rim.

Statistics (Via His Time With The Clippers This Season, Averaging 22.8 Minutes Per Game)

Positives

  • 51.6% Field Goal Percentage (On 4.3 Attempts Per Game)
  • 37% Three-Point Percentage (On 1.5 Attempts Per Game)
  • 4 Rebounds Per Game
  • 1 Steal Per Game
  • 14.5 Assist Ratio
  • 60.6% Field Goal Percentage From Inside 10 Feet
  • 0.9 Turnovers Per Game

Negatives

  • 57.1% Free Throw Percentage (On 0.8 Attempts Per Game, Career 61.2% Free Throw Shooter)
  • 1 Assist Per Game
  • 26.7% Three-Point Percentage When Open (Closest Defender Is 4-6 Feet Away, Career 32.6% Three-Point Shooter In General)

Strengths

  • Size (6-7, 220 lbs, 7-2 Wingspan)
  • Finishing Around The Rim (Through Contact, Mostly Dunks & With His Right Hand)
  • Quality Passer (Great Decision Maker, Rarely Turns The Ball Over)
  • Plays In Control (Uses Multiple Speeds)
  • Only Takes Good Shots (100% Of His Three-Pointers This Season, He Was Either Open Or Wide Open- No Defender Within 4 Feet Of Him)
  • Cutting Off-Ball
  • Tone Setter On Defense (Utilizes His Length, Footwork, & Athleticism)
  • Forcing Turnovers & Bad Shots On Defense (Tight Coverage & His Length Makes Oppositions Uncomfortable)

Weaknesses

  • Three-Point Shooting
  • Free Throw Shooting
  • Shooting Off The Dribble (62% Of Shots Were Without Dribbling, Shooting 40% On Pull-Up Jumpers)
  • Ball Handling (Not Tight & Mainly Drives With His Right Hand)
  • Not Physical When Rebounding (Relies On His Length/Athleticism)

Review

Maurice Harkless isn’t going to blow anyone away with his offensive game. He makes the right play, makes a decent percentage of his open looks, and drives to the basket when he’s open. Harkless earns his money on the defensive side of the ball. He can guard positions 1-5, generates turnovers, and has the ability to protect the paint. Harkless will surprise people with his ability to make “highlight” plays, through dunks and blocks too. The 26 year old, forward, will have a chance to impact the Knicks on and off the court with his experience. Harkless has played serious minutes in big games, most notably last season, when he matched up against Paul George for the majority of the Trail Blazers vs. Thunder playoff series.

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The Rights To Issuf Sanon

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Statistics (Via FIBA Europe Cup, Averaging 24.4 Minutes Per Game In 8 Games)

Positives

  • 47.9% Field Goal Percentage (59.6% Two Point Percentage)
  • 77.3% Free Throw Percentage
  • 1.5 Steals Per Game

Negatives

  • 25% Three Point Percentage
  • 2.1 Assists Per Game
  • 2.9 Personal Fouls Per Game
  • 3 Turnovers Per Game
  • -2.9 Plus/Minus

Statistics From The Previous Two Years He Played In The Summer League With The Washington Wizards (Averaging 13.8 Minutes Per Game In 8 Games)

Positives

  • 1 Steal Per Game

Negatives

  • 22.7% Field Goal Percentage (On 2.75 Attempts Per Game)
  • 21.4% Three-Point Percentage (On 1.75 Attempts Per Game)
  • 33.3% Free Throw Percentage (On 0.75 Attempts Per Game)
  • 0.62 Assists Per Game (Didn’t Record An Assist In 4 Games Played During The 2019-20 Summer League)

Strengths

  • Athleticism (Quick Feet, Fast One-Lane Sprinter, Very Agile, Explosive Off 1 Foot, Impressive Lateral Quickness)
  • Finishing With The Right Hand
  • Pushing In Transition
  • Sleight Of Hand On Defense
  • High Motor

Weaknesses

  • Ball Handling
  • Turnovers
  • Finishing With His Left Hand
  • Shooting From Three/ Jump Shot In General
  • Fouling On Defense (Over Agressive)

Review

Issuf Sanon is a very raw prospect. His size (6-4, 185 lbs) coupled with his incredible athleticism, makes him an intriguing player. He thrives in transition, while getting into the paint often. His issues offensively surround his ball handling and shooting. He currently isn’t crisp and savvy enough as a ball handler to play point guard in the NBA. Sanon’s shooting stroke is still a work in progress, making it very hard to play him as a shooting guard. Sanon’s numbers with the Wizards in the Summer League display him being very passive and shooting poorly (he played shooting guard for the majority of these minutes). However, Sanon has much better numbers in the FIBA Europe Cup where he presumably played point guard. Sanon’s strengths of pushing the ball in transition and getting into the paint (leading to easy baskets or assists) seem to be negated by playing off-ball. Defensively, Sanon has all of the intangibles to be a lockdown defender. He is quick and strong, while displaying an impressive ability to generate turnovers. Sanon can improve defensively by displaying more poise and not over-pursuing steals, leading to fouls and open looks. Issuf Sanon is an athletic ball of clay, waiting to be molded. The Wizards planned on turning him into a prototypical 3 & D wing, as seen around the league. I believe that would be a poor decision by the Knicks once he joins the team in the U.S., likely in next year’s Summer League. Sanon has the upside to be a solid backup point guard, where his size and explosiveness will give him the largest advantage. When it comes down to it, ball handling and shooting will either be why in a few years, Sanon’s name is recognizable or it isn’t.

The Right To Swap 2021 1st Round Picks With The Los Angeles Clippers

The Knicks will only swap picks with the Clippers if they finish with a better record next season (very unlikely). Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, and the rest of the gang will be very hard to top next year. On the bright side, the Knicks will definitely be drafting before the Clippers in the 2021 draft (barring any more trades).

The Detroit Pistons 2021 2nd Round Pick

This is going to be a very valuable draft pick. The Detroit Pistons seem to be destined for a down season next year after moving Andre Drummond for Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a 2nd round pick. The Pistons will be headlined by Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose (possibly traded this summer), Reggie Jackson (unrestricted FA this summer, must resign), Sekou Doumbouya, Luke Kennard (possibly traded this summer), and Christian Wood (restricted FA this summer, must resign). The Pistons do own their 2020 1st round pick, but don’t currently own another 1st or 2nd round pick in this year’s draft. The Pistons are currently 19-36, 23rd in the NBA.

High 2nd round picks, in general, are valuable assets. This is due to the significant drop in salary (but minimal drop in talent), between the final picks in the 1st round compared to the first few of the 2nd. It is worth noting, the 2021 draft class is expected to be much stronger and deeper than this year’s draft class. Thus, this draft pick holds higher value and can be utilized to draft a cheap, quality, player or be used as an asset in a trade.

Comparable Deals (Recent Trades Similar To The Situation The Knicks Were In, Moving Marcus Morris Sr.)

  • The Memphis Grizzlies traded Andre Iguodala to the Miami Heat (2020)

The Grizzlies traded Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, & Solomon Hill for Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, & James Johnson.

Along with trading Andre Iguodala, the Grizzlies gave up two veteran, role players on expiring contracts. In return they obtained promising 23 year old, Justise Winslow. Winslow is making $13 million annually with 3 years remaining on his deal. Winslow is still recovering from a back injury and is certainly a risk (has missed 113 of 353 career games- 32%). The Grizzlies also received the poor contracts of Dion Waiters ($12.1 million annually with 2 years remaining) & James Johnson ($15.3 million with 2 years remaining).

The Grizzlies decided to flip the veteran, Johnson’s overpriced contract for Gorgui Dieng and his equally bad, contract ($16.2 million annually with 2 years remaining). They have already waived Waiters, yet will have to pay his entire salary for the remainder of his contract. Memphis was forced to move Iguodala as he was sitting out the season unless they traded him to a contender. It can be argued getting a young, talented, player such as Justise Winslow is a big win for them. However, Winslow does come with lots of risk and the Grizzlies had to attach two good vets on expiring contracts, along with taking on two bad contracts, to get the deal done. From the outside, it appears the Grizzlies could’ve done better, but it completely hinders upon Winslow’s production and health from here on out. It is also worth noting this summer doesn’t have many attractive free agents and both Waiters & Dieng will be coming off the books in 2021. Both players could be moved as assets due to their expiring contracts in a year from now, as well.

  • The New Orleans Pelicans traded Nikola Mirotic to the Milwaukee Bucks (2019)

The Pelicans traded Nikola Mirotic for Jason Smith, Stanley Johnson, & four 2nd Round Picks- 2019 via Denver, 2020 via Washington & Milwaukee, & 2021 via Washington.

The Pelicans decided not to extend Stanley Johnson’s qualifying offer at the end of the season, making him an unrestricted free agent. Johnson proceeded to sign with the Raptors after only playing 18 games for New Orleans. Jason Smith played 2 games for the Pelicans and was eventually waived to make room for Christian Wood (about a month & a half after the trade). Thus, the Pelicans essentially hauled in four 2nd round picks and opened up some cap space from the deal.

The Pelicans drafted Jordan Bone with the Nuggets 2019 2nd rounder and traded him along with De’Andre Hunter, Solomon Hill, & a conditional 2023 2nd round pick for Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, & Marcos Louzada Silva on draft night. Time will tell how New Orleans utilizes the remaining three 2nd rounders from the Mirotic deal, but this seems to be a decent return for Mirotic (who currently plays in Europe).

  • The Brooklyn Nets traded Bojan Bogdanovic to the Washington Wizards (2017)

The Nets traded Bojan Bogdanovic & Chris McCullough for Marcus Thornton, Andrew Nicholson, & The Wizards 2017 1st Round Pick (lottery protected).

Brooklyn made a good trade in this case, due to them making most of the draft pick they acquired. After the 2016-17 season, Bogdanovic has shot over 40% from three and is currently averaging a career-high 21.2 points per game. He was going to be a restricted free agent that summer and the Nets could’ve possibly gained more value for him if they held onto him longer. However, the Nets acquired Andrew Nicholson on a bad contract (4 years, around $6 million annually) and Marcus Thornton. Nicholson averaged 3 points per game as a Net (playing in 10 of the final 25 games) and was later flipped for Allen Crabbe (another bad contract- took his player option of $18.5 million after the season, later traded along with two 1st rounders, yes two, for Taurean Prince & more importantly cap space for last summer). Thornton never suited up for Brooklyn, released after the deal was finalized. That late 2017 1st round draft pick turned into the 22nd pick of the draft. The Brooklyn Nets selected Jarrett Allen, their current starting Center and valuable asset (averaging 11.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game this season). Ultimately, Allen appears to have made the trade worth it for Brooklyn.

Review

The Knicks were in similar positions to the Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Nets in trading an expiring, talented, wing player at the trade deadline. Both the Nets and Grizzlies received a promising, young, player, but had to take on bad money. The Grizzlies had to take on two bad contracts, while giving up two good ones. The Nets took on one bad contract and utilized the 1st round pick well by drafting Jarrett Allen. New Orleans received no bad money and hauled in four 2nd round picks, but didn’t acquire a 1st or a player already in the NBA. Scott Perry and the Knicks not only managed to take on no bad money or add anyone else to the trade, but they netted a 1st round pick, a high 2nd round pick, the draft rights to Sanon who was a 2nd round pick last year, and Harkless, a veteran, wing, on an expiring contract. Comparing the net assets in all four of these trades, the Knicks seem to have made the best deal. However, this relies on the Knicks making the most of their cap space and draft picks in the future.

Losing the heartbeat of your team is never easy. Marcus Morris Sr. was the leader on and off the floor for New York. It remains to be seen how this will impact the Knicks, but moving Morris Sr. was necessary. The Knicks are in the stages of a rebuild, when acquiring assets is key. Flipping an expiring contract into multiple picks is a major victory and can be crucial for the team’s future success. New York will have their options open in the offseason, possibly resigning the Queens native and St. Johns product, Harkless, looking to sign Marcus Morris Sr. to another contract, or looking to spend their finances elsewhere. As for the draft picks, the Knicks have netted RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox as 1st rounders, along with Mitchell Robinson and Ignas Brazdeikis as 2nd rounders, in the previous two drafts. Barrett and Robinson are both clear home-runs and the Knicks will have more opportunities to swing for the fences, owning seven 1st rounders and five 2nd rounders, in the next 4 years. Bringing in more young, talented, players on rookie contracts will only help rise the Knicks trajectory.

No matter how you slice this move, the Knicks lost a lot in the short-term to gain a lot in the long run. Due to the Knicks current record and roster, the future is where their sights should be set. Now it is up to Leon Rose to make sure the Knicks make most of their future assets.

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Four Of The Knicks Most Likely Trade Targets

Malik Monk

image via Clutch Points
PositionHeightWeightAgeTeamSalaryYears Left On Contract
Guard6-3200 lbs21Charlotte Hornets$4,028,4002
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Monk’s current shot chart displays his primary struggles are the corner-three and just in front of the foul line (many floaters in this range). It also shows a significant decrease in shot attempts around the rim from the left side, compared to the right. Monk takes just over a third (34.63%) of his shots from three, excluding both corners (may have to do with Charlotte’s dribble handoff offense).

Statistics (2019-20)

Positives

  • 43.4% Field Goal Percentage (56.6% From Inside The Three-Point Line)
  • 80.8% Free Throw Percentage
  • 52.6% True Shooting Percentage

Negatives

  • 25.6% Three-Point Percentage (On 3.5 Attempts Per Game)
  • 1.60 Turnover Ratio
  • 26.5% Turnover Frequency When Handling The Ball During A Pick & Roll
  • 0.8 Steals Per 36 Minutes
  • Net Rating -7.9

Strengths

  • Attacking The Rim
  • Passing
  • Pick & Roll As The Ball-Handler (Shooting Off The Dribble, Rejecting Screens, Getting Into The Paint)
  • Speed, Getting Downhill & Pushing In Transition
  • Getting Over/Through Screens
  • Sliding His Feet Well On Defense (Good Lateral Quickness)

Weaknesses

  • Three-Point Shooting
  • Shot Selection
  • Finishing With His Left Hand
  • Floater
  • Turnovers
  • Help Defense (Doesn’t Dig Much & Rarely Slides To Protect The Rim)
  • Doesn’t Box-Out (Although He Does Look To Rebound Defensively)

Review

Monk is amidst his worst season from three and the charity stripe. A change of scenery and some regained confidence, could help his shooting numbers tremendously. Monk has issues staying balanced when shooting and taking bad shots, hindering his shooting percentages (especially beyond the arc). His shooting numbers should progress significantly in the next few years, making him a very dynamic scorer (three-level threat). He is great at getting into the paint and scoring around the rim, but he could really improve his left-handed finishing and work on developing his floater package. Also, Monk tends to play too fast at times and get out of control, leading to too many turnovers. Defensively, Monk shows flashes of being a very sound 1 on 1 defender. His issues are primarily rotating and playing help defense. He could also improve his rebounding, by being more physical and boxing out (instead of roaming towards the rim).

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Fit

Malik Monk is a combo-guard, capable of playing the 1 or 2, while occasionally playing the 3. Monk is a bit undersized at the 2/3, but his speed and scoring ability allow for him to makeup for his defensive struggles at those positions. He could be a nice fit alongside Frank Ntilikina, manning the backcourt. Ntilikina and Monk could utilize dribble-handoffs, leading into the pick and roll, to generate offensive flow for the Knicks (similar to Charlotte’s offense, highlighting Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier). Monk’s driving could free up more open looks for Ntilikina, who is shooting 37% from three when he’s wide open (closest defender is 6+ feet away). Defensively, both players are very quick and can contest the three-point line well (the Knicks are last in the NBA, allowing opponents to shoot 38.5% from three). Monk’s lack of size and defensive capabilities could be shadowed by Ntilikina’s prowess on that side of the ball. Monk would also have ample opportunities to run the offense and play in transition, due to Ntilikina’s passiveness on offense and ability to generate turnovers on defense (Ntilikina is averaging 5.8 field goal attempts and 1 steal per game in 21 minutes of action).

Charlotte’s Interest

Monk has been a disappointment for the Charlotte Hornets, since being drafted at pick 11 in the 2017 draft. Monk is in his third season and has yet to average 20 minutes, 10 points, 2.5 rebounds, and/or over 2 assists per game. Monk has also failed to shoot over 35% from three for a season and is currently shooting a career worst, 25.6% from downtown. The Hornets seem to have their backcourt of the future set, after signing Terry Rozier to a 3 year, $58 million deal and second year standout, Devonte’ Graham, leading the Hornets with 18.3 points and 7.6 assists per game. The Hornets are currently last in 2 point field goals made, 26th in the NBA in rebounds, and 27th in steals. Julius Randle (21.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 0.9 steals per 36 minutes) and Bobby Portis (16.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 0.9 steals per 36 minutes) would be two Knicks who could significantly help Charlotte’s struggling, front court. Charlotte may also have interest in hometown hero, Dennis Smith Jr..

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Jalen Brunson

image via Clutch Points
PositionHeightWeightAgeTeamSalaryYears Left On Contract
Guard6-1190 lbs23Dallas Mavericks$1,416,8523
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Brunson’s current shot chart shows his impressive ability to score from all three levels. Brunson does a great job at using his body and shot fakes to finish around the rim. He is also a really good jump-shooter. His biggest struggles are the corner-threes and just behind the right block (where he has to rely on his right hand and is harder to free up his left to shoot).

Statistics (2019-20)

Positives

  • 46.6% Field Goal Percentage
  • 78.8% Free Throw Percentage
  • 55.1% True Shooting Percentage
  • 6.7 Assists Per 36 Minutes
  • 5.0 Rebounds Per 36 Minutes
  • 2.3 Turnovers Per 36 Minutes
  • Net Rating 7.5
  • 47.1% Score Frequency On Pick & Roll As The Ball Handler

Negatives

  • 1.0 Steal Per 36 Minutes
  • 34.4% Three-Point Percentage (On 2.0 Attempts Per Game)
  • 2.6 Free Throw Attempts Per 36 Minutes

Strengths

  • Pick & Roll As The Ball Handler
  • Shooting/Scoring From All Three Levels
  • Gets Balanced & In His Legs When Shooting (Impressive Footwork, Especially Off The Dribble)
  • Multiple Speeds When Driving
  • Finishing With His Left Hand
  • Using His Body To Protect The Ball When Finishing At The Rim
  • High Basketball IQ
  • Ball Security

Weaknesses

  • Shooting From Both Corners
  • Matching Speed & Physicality On Defense
  • Giving Shooters Too Much Room
  • Seeing The Man & The Ball On Defense (Gets Caught Ball Watching Or Not Seeing Opponents Driving Too Often)
  • Finishing With His Right Hand

Review

Brunson is a former two-time champion and player of the year from his time at Villanova. He is a very intelligent player that plays under control, with great poise. Brunson displays an uncanny ability to create space for himself and knock-down shots all over the floor. He utilizes multiple speeds and his strong upper body to generate open looks. Brunson thrives in the pick and roll and also has a nice post game against players of similar size. He is a very good passer and consistently makes the right play on offense. He has room to grow, finishing with his right hand and shooting a higher percentage from the corners. Defensively, Brunson’s lack of height and athleticism hurt him. He struggles to stick with quicker guards and can be taken advantage of by bigger players, when he switches on to them. Brunson can improve defensively by seeing the man and the ball at all times and looking to draw more charges when bigger players drive on him.

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Fit

Jalen Brunson is already a fantastic offensive weapon in the NBA. He has consistently demonstrated his ability to create good looks for himself and his teammates in many ways. His formidable shooting and crafty playmaking, would really help the Knicks space the floor and generate open looks for the rest of the Knicks. However, his defensive struggles would be a concern. Brunson struggles at defending the three-point line and the Knicks already own one of the worst perimeter defenses in the NBA. Brunson paired with Reggie Bullock or Damyean Dotson off the bench, could be a nice combination of three-point shooting and additional defense on the perimeter to help Brunson. Mitchell Robinson or another shot blocker would be of value as well, allowing Brunson to play tighter coverage on the perimeter and sacrifice paint touches from being being beat off the dribble more often.

Dallas’ Interest

The Mavericks have been rumored to have interest in adding scoring to their front court. They already have a solidified backcourt in Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr.. Dallas could utilize Julius Randle, Marcus Morris Sr., or Bobby Portis to fill their need. Porzingis plays away from the basket on pick and pops, most of the time. This makes Julius Randle a really nice fit for them (averaged over 10+ points in the paint per game in his last 3 seasons).

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Landry Shamet

image via Clutch Points
PositionHeightWeightAgeTeamSalaryYears Left On Contract
Guard6-4190 lbs22Los Angeles Clippers$1,995,1204
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Shamet’s current shot chart displays his impressive perimeter shooting. He clearly prefers to shoot from the left side of the floor, but can shoot from three at a high percentage in any zone. Shamet has the ability to score around the rim, but his lack of athleticism makes it tougher for him to score over the premier shot blockers of the NBA. It is worth noting that he rarely settles for a midrange jumper.

Statistics (2019-20)

Positives

  • 38.9% Three-Point Percentage (On 5.8 Attempts Per Game)
  • 94.3% Free Throw Percentage
  • 59.9% True Shooting Percentage
  • 1.1 Turnovers Per 36 Minutes
  • 41.5% Three-Point Percentage On Catch & Shoots

Negatives

  • 2.9 Rebounds Per 36 Minutes
  • 2.2 Assists Per 36 Minutes
  • 0.5 Steals Per 36 Minutes
  • 36.7% Field Goal Percentage On Pull-Up Jumpers

Strengths

  • Perimeter Shooting
  • Catch & Shoot Opportunities
  • Cutting And Relocating Off The Ball
  • Has A Nice Floater & Can Finish With Both Hands
  • Consistent Shooting Stroke (Quick With High Release)
  • Quality Passer

Weaknesses

  • Lacks Explosiveness & Burst
  • Slow Laterally (Hard Time Staying In Front Of Quicker Players)
  • Shooting Off The Dribble
  • Finishing In Traffic Around The Rim

Review

Landry Shamet is an offensive weapon from the perimeter. He has shown to be one of the top, three-point, shooters in the game. Moving off the ball well and spacing the floor, makes him a valuable piece for any team offensively. Shamet can improve his ability to finish/draw fouls against opposing rim protectors and facilitate more off the dribble to take his offensive game to the next level. It is possible that Shamet is used almost exclusively as a catch and shoot player due to that being his role on the Clippers and he may have the tools to show more facilitating in a larger role elsewhere. Defensively, his lack of quickness and athleticism makes it difficult for him to stick with opponents off the dribble. When faster guards put the ball on the deck, he tends to get beat or drop off too far, sacrificing the open jumper. In general, Shamet does a good job contesting the three-point line, but struggles at defending around the rim. It would behoove Shamet greatly on both sides of the ball if he added some strength/weight to his 190 pound frame.

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Fit

Shamet could be of great help to the Knicks offense. The Knicks offensive play style is conducive to playmakers getting into the paint and shooters stretching the floor. The Knicks are 27th in the NBA in three-point percentage (33.7%) and need better shooters for their system to be efficient for their roster. He also covers the three-point line pretty well, another area where the Knicks need help. The issue with Shamet is he can be too slow to guards 2s, but too small to guard 3s. Pairing Shamet with a 2/3 such as RJ Barrett could prove to be beneficial for both players. Shamet could guard the weaker wing player, while Barrett (who is capable of guarding both positions) pick up the tougher assignment. Offensively, Barrett will have more room to drive with Shamet spacing the floor. Shamet would also get good looks when defenses collapse to stop Barrett from getting open looks around the basket. Also, Shamet’s struggles with interior defense could be shadowed by the Knicks top shot blocker, Mitchell Robinson.

Los Angeles’ Interest

The Clippers are currently tied with the Toronto Raptors for the third best record in the league. After acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers will be all hands on deck in trying to win the championship this season. Los Angeles may be one piece away from winning or losing the title. Marcus Morris Sr. has been rumored to be an asset they are interested in, due to his incredible shooting/scoring ability and veteran leadership. Morris Sr. is currently 5th in the NBA, shooting 43.9% from three and is averaging a career-high, 19.2 points per game.

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Jerome Robinson

image via Clutch Points
PositionHeightWeightAgeTeamSalaryYears Left On Contract
Guard6-4190 lbs22Los Angeles Clippers$3,567,7203
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Robinson’s current shot chart displays his ability to make midrange jumpers and three-pointers towards the top of the key. He appears to be more comfortable shooting from the left side of the floor, while struggling significantly from the corners and 5-10 feet from the basket.

Statistics (2019-20)

Positives

  • 1.9 Turnovers Per 36 minutes

Negatives

  • 33.6% Field Goal Percentage
  • 28.8% Three-Point Percentage
  • 58.8% Free Throw Percentage
  • 42.1% True Shooting Percentage
  • 4.1 Personal Fouls Per 36 Minutes
  • 1.3 Free Throw Attempts Per 36 Minutes
  • 3.4 Assists Per 36 Minutes

Strengths

  • Smooth Shooting Stroke With A High Release
  • Really Good Footwork On Catch And Shoots, Step Backs, & When Utilizing Screens
  • Very Good Mid-Range Jump Shooter
  • Finishes Consistently With Both Hands At The Rim
  • Basketball IQ
  • Getting Into Passing Lanes
  • Solid Help Defender (Rotates Well)

Weaknesses

  • Strength
  • Facilitating (Doesn’t Create As Many Opportunities For His Teammates As Someone With His Scoring & Passing Ability Should)
  • Short Jumpers/Floaters
  • Lateral Quickness (Gets Beat Off The Dribble)

Review

Robinson is your prototypical jack of all trades, master of none. He’s shown spurts of being a very good facilitator and three-point shooter, but his current numbers don’t show that. Like most young players with inconsistent minutes, his play on the court has been inconsistent. Robinson’s game is very dependent on his three-point shooting. When he’s knocking down the triple, opponents are forced to guard him tighter on the perimeter, offering him more opportunity to elude them off the dribble and score around the rim (also sets up his mid-range game). Otherwise, Robinson’s lack of acceleration makes it hard for him to drive past sagging defenders. Defensively, Robinson is pretty technically sound off the ball, but struggles 1 on 1. Adding strength/weight and sharpening his footwork/positioning would help him on this side of the ball.

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Fit

Jerome Robinson would be another young player that will take time to grow with the Knicks. He’s only 22 years old and could be a nice piece down the road. His scoring and shooting ability are exactly what the Knicks have severely lacked from their guards as of late. Robinson could grow into the role of the 6th man in a few years and consistently score off the bench. As for now, he’s had a hard time getting many minutes with the Clippers. He can play the 1 or the 2, giving him a chance to play alongside Ntilikina/another guard off the bench if Dotson moves to the 3 or starts. Robinson would definitely be a longterm, value addition for the Knicks, rather than instant impact.

Los Angeles’ Interest

The Clippers may be in the market for adding veteran shooting, but unwilling to sacrifice any of their usual contributors. Robinson could be a name that pops up for players such as Wayne Ellington or Reggie Bullock. This would be a minor move for the Clippers, possibly giving them one more shooter/weapon off the bench. He could also be apart of a larger deal involving Marcus Morris Sr.. Moving Robinson, a former lottery pick two years ago, could be tough to pry away, unless the Clippers are sold on the return they obtain, takes them over the top.

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