Anniversary Mailbag, Part II
I continue to answer your bevy of inquiries.
News & Notes
The Athletic dropped an report yesterday which stated that the NBA lost an estimated $694 million from its 258 canceled regular-season games. Of interest locally, the Knicks lost $45 million - more than any team except the Lakers - which was due to the fact that they have the highest Fan Cost Index (the price for a family of four to attend a game) in the league at $901.
This may be relevant when thinking about how important it will be for James Dolan to get fannies in seats next season.
According to Jonathan Wasserman, Obi Toppin is a safe bet to go between 2nd and 6th, with the Wolves lurking as a possibility at one. He’s all yours, guys.
Anniversary Mailbag, Part II!
More of my answers to your questions (with one more edition still to come, because you guys really answered the call here)…
The easy answer is that they trade for Chris Paul, but I think even if they do, there’s an argument that they still fall short:
Barring injury, the Bucks, Nets, Heat, Celtics, Raptors, and Sixers are all in.
Looking at that list, even if the Knicks traded for Paul, signed a perfect mix of helpful vets, got significant contributions from the rookies and got upticks in productivity from all of their remaining young players, there’s still a chance they go 2-18 or 3-17 against their own division (barring some of those teams resting players against them). If there’s a season with fewer games – let’s say 72 – it seems like intra-division games are the one thing that won’t be sacrificed because of the proximity factor and the league’s desire to reduce travel. We could even see an uptick in divisional games, and it wouldn’t shock me if a third of New York’s schedule is comprised of games against Brooklyn, Boston, Philly and Toronto. Even if Washington gets tossed in via some temporary realignment, that only helps so much.
Even if the Pacers deal Oladipo for peanuts - something I don’t think will happen - I can’t imagine a world where the Knicks are better than them (again, barring injury).
That leaves the Magic, the Wizards, the Hawks and the Bulls as teams that (I’m guessing) would still have a higher pre-season over/under than a Paul-led Knicks team with solid reinforcements.
So to answer your question, I think you’re looking at a scenario where Fournier leaves the Magic in free agency and Wall is a shell of himself. I could also see Atlanta being combustible based on the rumblings we heard last season.
That leaves Chicago. They got as large a coaching upgrade as New York did, maybe larger, in Donovan over Boylan. Their entire core should be better, and they have the fourth pick and Otto Porter’s massive expiring contract to play with. I guess it’s a coin flip, if we’re being generous.
And that’s all if the Knicks actually get Paul, who is the only player I could see them feasibly ending up with that puts them in the conversation.
I don’t know about an official list, but my rankings - based on how obscene the expectations were compared to the actual talent at hand - would be:
Frank (admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery)
Kevin Knox (could be No. 1 by the 15-game mark of next season)
Shump, and it’s not really close
I think Mitch would have seen time with either team, for sure. Probably not much, but some. Randle could have also subbed in for LeBron or Jimmy during the 47 seconds they each rested per game. Maybe Ellington gets in when Miami was down big to provide a shooting spark. That’s about it.
I don’t consider myself as having any notoriety so this is kind of an impossible question for me to answer, but in short, never in a million years did I think when I penned my first blog post nearly four years ago that it would turn into this.
Kind of answered this yesterday, but I’d go Paul, then VanVleet, then Oladipo, then Russ, then George. And you could give me 1000-1 odds on George being a Knick next season and I wouldn’t take them.
Regarding Russ, despite what I wrote yesterday, there are worse things than getting a draft asset to take on his contract (like giving up draft assets to take on his contract, for one). I kind of made this devil’s advocate argument on the pod if you’re interested, but in short, there are two giant glaring negatives in my mind: a) his contract and b) the fact that he’s shown no indication of figuring out how to be “a” piece instead of “the” piece.
If Thibs could just get him to, like…do literally anything when he didn’t have the ball other than the occasional cut, that would be super exciting. Can you imagine that dude running around like Reggie or Rip Hamilton on offense? If they could convince him to play closer to 25 minutes a night so he’d have this kind of manic energy on most possessions, that would open up an interesting world of offensive possibilities. If Chris Paul can learn to be a better teammate, maybe Russ can learn to be one in his own way as well. As for the money, that’s a tougher argument, but that’s where the draft asset comes in.
(This is officially the best I can do to try and talk myself into Westbrook if he ever happened. Now let’s please pray this does not happen)
This is one of those things that Knicks Twitter will instinctively kill for all the obvious reasons: he’s old, he can’t shoot (despite what he did in the postseason; remember, Playoff Rondo is real), his regular season defense is flat out bad, and most obviously, he’d inevitably take time away from whatever point guard we end up with in the draft.
And while I’ve been a contrarian more often than not lately, those folks would be right. We’ve seen Rondo not really give maximum shits before, so it’s not like he’d be coming here and helping turn around the mentality. Honestly, if the money were the same, I’d almost rather they brought back Payton, just for continuity’s sake.
Or, you know…neither.
I blame the friends I’ve made along the way - specifically in law school - for rubbing off on me. As for the second question, the only way I’ve come up with is to spend even more time with them.
I’m assuming you’re asking about who I would immediately fire Thibs for (because obviously they’d never can him before he’s coached a game) and the answer would be no one. Guys like Spo, Stevens, etc…they’re in great environments. Amazing coaches, but great environments. We’ll never be a great environment unless we stop chasing shiny objects, and I want to give this coach a chance. He’s the hand-picked guy, and he’s shown he can do it in the past.
As for Mitch, if I could get an unprotected 2021 pick from Cleveland, Detroit, Sacramento or Charlotte, I’d have to think long and hard. None of those teams would even consider such a deal though. There are also a ton of obvious young players around the league that I’d swap him for, but again, none that would realistically be on the table. So in short, I’m not trading Mitch.
I pitched Gordon and 15 for Randle and 8 a couple months ago. In retrospect, I don’t think I’d do it. I’d rather get a player on a rookie deal and/or a future draft asset in any trade-down scenario, or just stay put. I also wouldn’t swap Mitch and 15 for 2.
Hell, I’d do Wiggins and 2 for Randle and 8. No shot this happens though.
Okongwu and Kira. Love their respective ceilings, and DSJ and Wiseman both give me the willies.
As for the three-to-one, I know this is the place where I make a funny joke, but my wife is easily my best friend and the biggest help to me staying sane and productive. So my fear is of losing a two-on-two battle, not a three-on-one. Either way, it’s going to be a bloodbath.
And Jack. Jack all day long. Can’t smell it. Can’t drink it. Don’t want to be near it.
I think Thibs’ guys take their job seriously and do the little things needed to win, so yes, I 100% think Mitch is a Thibs guy. It’s why, for as much as I felt the need to explore the notion of trading him from a valuation perspective a few months back, if they ever moved on from Robinson, I’d be distraught. I believe this kid has what it takes to be special. I also think he needs to grow up a lot (and part of me worries about whether he has the proper support system around him to ensure that happens), but I think the Knicks know what they have and will continue to value him appropriately.
Yes, although I’m not positive Leon Rose would.
Point Guard: Someone they take after they trade down in this draft. Let’s say Kira Lewis.
Shooting Guard: Someone they take high next year. Jalen Green is a name.
Small Forward: RJ Barrett
Power Forward: Kevin Knox. I went heavy on the Kool Aid this morning.
Center: Mitchell Robinson
Bench guys: Iggy Brazdeikis, Andre Iguodala (Miami declines his option, he comes to NY for a one-year overpay)
Paul is the only one I’d consider, and it depends on what first rounder and which pieces I’m giving up.
And I’m fairly certain none of my students have ever read my newsletter. They’re more interested in the podcast, because I don’t think most of them get the concept of a daily newsletter that arrives in your inbox. In general though, I’ll usually start a new year off by talking about how I’m a big Knicks fan, at which point someone will say “but the Knicks suck,” at which point I will respond “yes, yes they do,” and that’s usually the end of it.
I think he should defend bigger wings, for sure. But I also think his best path to offensive success is being able to bully smaller players in the post. With some competent roster construction and a better jumper, this could be achieved by forcing switches, so it’s not like you have to play RJ at the point to take advantage. So I guess I’d say the three, with some four mixed in.
I just can’t for the life of me see any realistic deal on the table involving Barrett. And that’s not a bad thing.
I feel like I’ve been answering this question in a different form or fashion for seven months now. I don’t think there’s a great realistic move to be had, and the simple reason is every asset the Knicks have other than Mitchell Robinson is not currently valued as high as it theoretically could or should be.
Of course there’s a flip side to that coin: maybe some of these pieces simply aren’t very good, and flipping them now would represent getting the best value in return. Personally, after hearing what I’ve heard about the development program (or lack thereof) they had in place the last two years, I don’t believe that’s the case, which means it’s best to hold tight unless there’s a deal out there for Mitch that’s too good to be true, and as I said above, I don’t think such a trade is out there.
And I’m not sure what their ceiling is next year because I don’t know what moves they’ll make, but I cannot fathom a world where this team approaches 40 wins, and that’s only if they traded for Paul. Sans CP3, 35 is my absolute cap.
More. Not even a question. I’ve never been someone to drown my sorrows in alcohol, which is probably for the best. When I’m happy, on the other hand, I want to imbibe. The happier I am, the more imbibing I want to do.
So maybe it’s best for my liver’s sake that the Knicks continue to suck.
Mitchell Robinson: Guinness. I’m always in the mood for it. Moreover, it looks intimidating and will scare away those who are not bold, but it’s actually quite easygoing at it’s core.
Frank Ntilikina: Flemish Sour Ale from Monk’s Cafe. This delightful beer arrived in my Beer of the Month shipment a few weeks ago, and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s just sour enough to let you know where its bread is buttered, but not so much as to overpower you. It is not for everyone, and is the opposite of what I imagine most would define as a beer drinker’s beer. For a refined palette only.
Julius Randle: Any shitty, overly powerful IPA. Comes in handy at times.
Bobby Portis: Most pumpkin beers, which are wonderful in theory.
Taj Gibson: Budweiser.
RJ Barrett: Fresh Cut from Peak Organic Brewing Co. Another banger from the Beer of the Month Club. This was like a much better version of Miller High Life. I can’t put my finger on why, but it feels like it could become a reliable go-to in my arsenal, if not the thing I’m most excited to crack open.
Dennis Smith Jr: Bud Light Straw-Ber-Ita. There was a good idea in here somewhere, but it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Kevin Knox: Michelob Ultra.
Damyean Dotson: Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata. Just wish it was available year-round instead of for brief moments which leave me pining for more.
KP, for sure. I was all in. Two years from now? I’d just be happy if Thibs is still here, because that just means things have gone well enough for Dolan not to blow his stack and fire yet another coach.
Let’s play this out.
KP asks out, departs the infamous meeting, and right as Scott Perry and Steve Mills are on the phone with Cuban about to pull the trigger, they have their “he’s on the roof” realization moment from the Hangover, and avoid sending Porzingis packing.
Maybe they say “fuck him, we’re not letting this Euro dictate terms to us,” and determine that they’ll play out restricted free agency, knowing that they have more time to shed Timmy and Lee’s contracts if need be. Who knows. Either way, that time never comes.
After still finishing with the worst record in the league, they extend Porzingis an injury-protection laden, Embiid-esque contract offer to remain in New York, except even more favorable to the team. Dallas is determined to swipe him away, and at 6 pm on June 30, Cuban offers KP a 2 + 1 with a poison pill attached. Porzingis signs, and the Knicks match. He still doesn’t want to be there, and they don’t want him, but this is the bed they’ve made for the moment.
They enter free agency with just under $90 million in committed salary to Porzingis, Hardaway Jr, Courtney Lee, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Damyean Dotson, Allonzo Trier, Iggy Brazdeikis and a glaring hole at point guard. They sign Elfrid Payton to fill that void, then ink Reggie Bullock for shooting, but things go haywire with his contract. After Marcus Morris unexpectedly becomes available, they salary dump Dotson and Trier to open up enough space to sign Mook, and then nab Bullock on the room exception.
After another trip to Latvia, Fizdale at least gets KP willing to give things a shot, but agrees to liberally sitting him throughout the season. Following a tough opening loss to San Antonio, a thrilling last second win at Brooklyn and a closer-than-it-looked loss to Boston, the Knicks beat the Bulls at home but not before losing their starting point guard to injury.
Porzingis is thrilled though, as he stanned Frank from day one, and it makes him the most motivated he’s been in years. With a starting lineup of Ntilikina, Timmy, RJ, KP and Mitch, and a small-ball bench mob of Lee, Knox, Iggy, Mook and newly signed Jamal Crawford, New York navigates the next 17 games with a respectable 6-11 record under David Fizdale’s isolation-heavy scheme. Elf returns to a team that is in range of a playoff spot in the weak East.
Payton fortifies the bench and the Knicks stay in it until the trade deadline, when they package their top-four protected 2021 first round pick, Timmy and Lee for D’Angelo Russell and Alec Burks from Golden State. Shortly thereafter, the league shuts down thanks to a worldwide pandemic, but the Knicks eventually get invited to the bubble. They barely beat out Orlando for the eighth seed, and proceed to lose to Milwaukee in five games.
It is announced that Mills and Perry have both received contract extensions. Rumors begin to circulate that the Knicks will make Frank Ntilikina and this year’s first available for Victor Oladipo (they could pull this off after draft night). I report that it’s likely to happen.
Now be honest: which universe would you rather be living in?
That’s it for today! See everyone tomorrow with another edition. #BlackLivesMatter #VOTE