Putting the Knicks in Their Place

The season's almost a wrap. Let's check in on where New York ranks against its 29 NBA peers moving forward.

News & Notes

  • Last night the Lakers took it to the Heat (and all the too-cute-by-half-folks who picked them to win the chip - myself included) with a dominating performance, proving not only that top end talent still kinda matters in the NBA, but also that they’re the most versatile team in the league. They won big and they won small.

    Miami exited the game with injury concerns to their three best players, the most serious of which is Goran Dragic, who we learned had a planter facia injury. His status for the rest of the series is uncertain.

    One last note: I found it a bit of an odd flex that some Knick fans were using Tyler Herro’s minus-30 first half as a reason to dance on the grave of a 20-year-old kid playing big minutes in the NBA Finals, mostly because he’s still a 20-year-old kid playing big minutes in the NBA f——- Finals. That said, as I pointed out a few weeks ago when I explained why I’d still take RJ over Herro (by a hair), his size became a big factor when LeBron James hunted him for switches. There’s only one LeBron, but this is always going to be an issue for him when he’s switched onto bigger wings.

    So yes, we should pump the breaks on the Hall of Fame talk, at least for a day.

  • Lots of draft prospect news yesterday, including that point guards Tyrese Halliburton and Theo Maledon both spoke to the Knicks, Hali before the lottery and Maledon after. Regarding Haliburton, Adam Zagoria reports that Detroit “really likes” him at 7. Should Obi Toppin go fifth and Isaac Okoro go sixth, it could create a choice for New York between Killian Hayes and Devin Vassell. I’d happily take either.

    LaMelo Ball also pulled out of the rest of the NBA combine, as first reported by Jeremy Woo.

  • According to Jason Dumas, the Sixers are preparing to offer Doc Rivers their head coaching job in the near future.

Listen Up!

ICYMI, a new KFS Pod dropped yesterday featuring Florida State University Assistant Coach Charlton Young. To say he dropped some knowledge on prospects Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams would be an understatement. Listen here, and as always, feel free to rate, review, and of course, subscribe.

Read This

  • Dallas Amico gave his take on the NBA Finals for the Strickland. Always read Dallas.

  • Ian Begley had a nice interview with Kira Lewis’ coach/trainer Cory Underwood. Lewis has apparently put on 15 pounds since the college season ended, and Begley notes he’s spoken to the Knicks.

    As I reported earlier this week, New York has been doing their homework on Lewis, although my gut feeling is that he won’t be in the mix at 8.


Putting the Knicks in Their Place

By this point, y’all know I love making lists.

I think this is a little bit of a millennial thing, a little bit of an OCD thing, and a little bit of a “there’s not a whole lot else going on at the moment” thing.

Whatever it is, I thought that as we near the end of another NBA season, it’s as good a time as any to see where the Knicks fit in the landscape of the league as a whole.

The rules are simple: considering everything about the franchise right now - the roster, the coach, the front office, their cap space, their asset chest, their market, and yes, the owner - where do the Knicks rank against every other team in terms of how good we should feel about their organization moving forward?

That’s obviously quite vague, and leaves open the question about immediate success versus long term sustainability. To that end, I’m using a sliding scale. How good are things in the near term? If you have a legit shot at a title in the near future, it’s easier to make up for the fact that long-term success may not be guaranteed. On the flip side, if you stink right now, there has to be a strong indicator that future goodies are on the way. Preference is given to teams that are at least fun/competitive/watchable in the interim.

Lastly, I think it’s only fair that our two Finals teams occupy the two top spots. The goal is to win the whole damn thing, and I know that personally, I’d trade a thousand years of misery to feel that sensation even once. So with that as the backdrop…

Still In It

1. Miami Heat

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Heat are tops here because they might win it all this year and they’re probably in the driver’s seat to get a big name - Giannis or whoever - in 2021.

Contenders Next Season or the One After

3. Golden State Warriors

Are they the favorites next season? Maybe not right now, but if they somehow rehabilitate Wiggins to the point where another team looks at him as something close to a neutral asset by midseason? Who knows what rabbit they can pull out of a hat, what with the Wolves’ lightly protected ‘21 pick - easily the best draft asset in the league right now - in their possession, not to mention whoever they draft at two (or get in a trade down).

4. Dallas Mavericks

They have this generation’s Larry Bird. My over/under on titles for Doncic is 1.5 (probably low, tbh) and Cuban knows how to cater to his stars. They also have another move/signing in them to properly slot KP where he belong: as a third banana.

5. Los Angeles Clippers

6. Boston Celtics

Toss up between these teams for me. Clips should still go into next season as co-favorites at the very least, but who knows what happens after that. Celtics, meanwhile, are still set up as well as anyone with the Tatum/Brown foundation, although the Kemba contract is a real concern. Still, I trust Ainge more than most.

7. Denver Nuggets

Fascinated to see if they try and flip MPJ and Gary Harris for an upgrade.

8. Toronto Raptors

9. Milwaukee Bucks

Who should be higher: the team with the exec that has the best chance to lure Giannis away, but whose team isn’t a real contender until he does, or the team Giannis currently plays for, but who is positively screwed if he leaves? I’ll take Ujiri by a nose.

10. Brooklyn Nets

I couldn’t put them much lower than this. And trust me: I really wanted to. Fuck the Nets.

Incredibly Well Positioned

11. Oklahoma City Thunder

12. Philadelphia 76ers

Another toss up between the original Process team and the one best positioned to take that mantle in the next few years. It feels wrong to put a team with Embiid and Simmons this low, but Sixers fans themselves are saying that Dolan vibes are emitting from Philly. I say one of the big two gets dealt for 65 cents on the dollar at some point. And OKC, well…the war chest speaks for itself, and Presti knows what he’s doing.

13. Memphis Grizzlies

14. New Orleans Pelicans

15. Phoenix Suns

You could probably put these three teams in any order. Each has a young star, each has a bona fide number two guy (I’m being kind to Ayton here and assuming continued progression from the former top overall pick), and each still has an upgrade in sight (Memphis will probably get a good pick next year, Phoenix has cap space and a historically desirable market, and New Orleans has Jrue to dangle in a trade). Suns get knocked because of Sarver, Pels because Zion must be weighed in metric tons.

Stuck in the Middle

16. Utah Jazz

17. Portland Trailblazers

I toyed with putting each of them in the 20’s because I’m not sure what the path to contention is for either franchise. I suspect the possibility of an out-of-left-field blockbuster trade exists for Portland involving McCollum, Simons, Collins and picks, but I can’t figure out for whom. For Utah, Mitchell is a star, and although I still question his long term viability there (and don’t envy the impending Gobert contract situation), putting them any lower would be disingenuous.

18. Houston Rockets

I’m not sure where their out is.

19. San Antonio Spurs

If they didn’t have their history, and all I was considering was the roster, the market, and the fact that they have the oldest coach in the NBA, they’d be lower. But old habits die hard.

Hopelessly Optomistic

20. New York Knicks

I had them as high as 15 at one point. And then I woke up.

If they played in literally any other market, they would be no higher than 26. Rose & Wes bring intrigue, but it’s Rose, Wes and the Garden that might make some magic happen.

Still, putting them even this high, with this roster, and with this owner, reeks of homerism. But hey, at least I admit it.

21. Chicago Bulls

New front office, new coach, and I’m betting they end up with LaMelo Ball on draft night.

22. Atlanta Hawks

23. Minnesota Timberwolves

Two historically undesirable markets, two imperfect young stars (but stars nonetheless), and two rosters loaded with interesting pieces. They’d be higher if I thought KAT or Young were sold on either organization long term (or if either one, you know…cared about defense).

24. Detroit Pistons

Smart new head of basketball in Troy Weaver, and they should have a few great bites at the draft apple in the next couple years.

We’ve Got Issues

25. Indiana Pacers

Something is rotten in Indianapolis.

26. Sacramento Kings

I feel icky putting them this low, mostly because I love Fox, but also because I think there’s a chance Bagley is still a player, and maybe their new head exec actually knows what he’s doing. But bad owner plus bad market equals the shaft here.

27. Washington Wizards

They’d actually rank a few spots higher for me if they traded Beal tomorrow for the best package available. Otherwise I’m not sure what the ceiling play is for them in the immediate or long term future.

28. Orlando Magic

Sorry Chip.

29. Charlotte Hornets

This feels horrible. I love Devonte Graham, like PJ Washington a lot, and they’re going to end up with Wiseman, who might very well be the player of the draft. Their cap also clears up in a big way very soon. I just don’t think anyone good will ever take their money, and none of their young talent has star upside, IMHO. They’ll also probably play themselves out of a great pick next year.

Cleveland

30. Cleveland Cavaliers

#SorryNotSorry

That’s it for today! See you tomorrow for the Mailbag Newsletter I’ve been promising all week. #BlackLivesMatter