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Knicks Free Agency Guide: Who Will the Knicks Sign?

Free Agency Starts at the stroke of Midnight on Wednesday, July 1st. Who are some potential targets for the Knicks? Here’s a breakdown:

Knicks’ current situation:

The Knicks have roughly $27 Million in cap space. Their roster includes Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, Langston Galloway, and Cleanthony Early. They will almost certainly renounce all of their Restricted Free Agents— Alexely Shved would cost them $6M if they gave him a qualifying offer. They could trade Calderon’s $7.5 Salary, or, if the don’t find a taker, waive him using the “stretch provision” and only pay him $3M, which would put them are about $31.5 in cap space. It appears unlikely that they will do this, however. They could also add Thanasis Antetokounmpo for somewhere around $500 K.

So, who will Phil Jackson chase? I broke the FAs down into tiers. I am updating this post, moving guys to the bottom of the article as they sign with other teams.

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1. Elite Targets: These are guys you can build your team around.

– Marc Gasol: Gasol is the dream acquisition for most teams, especially the Knicks. He would be a perfect fit in the Triangle offense (thanks in large part to his unselfish passing) and can anchor a team on defense. He might be the best center in the league. He will ask for the max and he will deservedly get it. The main issue? He’s almost certainly staying in Memphis. UPDATE: Gasol has signed with Memphis.

– LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge is another superstar who will ask for and get the max. He’s a bit worse than Gasol overall, but he is a better scorer, and would be another great fit in the Triangle. Unlike Gasol, Aldridge is likely to leave his current team. The Knicks will meet with Aldridge in Los Angeles— they will be the last team to meet with the soon-to-be-30-year-old and his entourage, after the Lakers, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Mavericks, and Raptors. The Knicks will almost certainly hit Aldridge with the full-on-press reserved for superstars, but they appear to be a long shot, with the Spurs and Lakers apparently the favorites to land him. If the Knicks can sway Aldridge, it will be a massive success for Phil Jackson and his crew. Update: Aldridge has cancelled his meeting with the Knicks and signed with the Spurs.

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2. Top-Tier Targets: These guys probably won’t be the best player on a championship team, but they’re still among the best players in the NBA

– DeAndre Jordan: The Knicks reportedly like Jordan, and it appears that they will get a meeting with him, although they aren’t on the top of his list. Jordan is an elite rebounder and a terrific rim-protector. On offense, he is a threat to finish on a lob play and is serviceable in the pick-and-roll, but mostly fits the mold of a young Tyson Chandler. The biggest negative? He can’t shoot free throws to save his life. Jordan should get a very nice deal, possibly hitting the max. He’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Knicks, but he’s not nearly as likely an acquisition as Monroe. Update: Jordan has signed with the Clippers.

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3. Starter-Caliber Targets: These guys would start on nearly any team in the NBA

– Rajon Rondo: Rondo’s value has plummeted recently, but if he’s on his game, he’s one of the best distributors in the league and he’s a plus on defense as well. He can’t shoot the ball, so he’s not an ideal Triangle fit, but if he’s willing to sign for somewhere between $8 and $11 million, he might be an option. Update: Rondo has signed with the Kings.

– Wes Matthews: Matthews made a ton of sense for the Knicks before he tore his achilles. Matthews is an elite shooter and a great defender at the SG position, and he reportedly has a chance to be ready for training camp. If he’s willing to settle for somewhere around $8-12 M after his injury, the Knicks will likely pursue him hard. He reportedly wants $15M, which is a bit of an overpay. But not one the Knicks shouldn’t at least consider. Update: Matthews has signed with the Mavericks.

– Arron Afflalo: The Knicks are reportedly the favorites to sign Afflalo. Afflalo is another “3 and D” guy, but he’s been deteriorating lately, and isn’t as impactful on defense as he used to be. According to reports, he might be looking at $12M a year, which seems like a pretty bad overpay. He’d be a nice get for the Knicks at around $7-9M, but no more than that. UPDATE: THE KNICKS HAVE SIGNED AFFLALO. 2 YEARS, $16M TOTAL, PLAYER OPTION FOR YEAR 2.

– Tobias Harris: Harris is a solid shooting guard who reportedly had interest in joining the Knicks. But he’s a restricted free agent, and it could take an overpay— maybe as high as $14M, to secure his services. Update: Harris has signed with the Magic.

– Robin Lopez: Lopez can anchor a team defensively, but like his twin Brook, the Portland center has had injury woes in the past. He could be a solid get for around $8-12M, but he’s not too reliable. UPDATE: THE KNICKS HAVE SIGNED LOPEZ.

– Reggie Jackson: The Knicks like Jackson and have tried to trade for him in the past. But as a restricted free agent, he’ll probably cost somewhere around or over $10M. Update: Jackson has signed with the Pistons.

Mar 10, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers power forward David West (21) during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 105-91.Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

4. Role-Player Targets: These guys might start, but if not, they’d be terrific pieces to have leading the way on your second unit.

– David West: Recent reports have stated that West is “very likely” to sign with the Knicks, but others have stated that he wants to join a contender. He’s in the twilight of his career, but he’s still a very serviceable player and would be a good mentor for the younger players like Kristaps Porzingis. However, he’ll probably get overpaid, and Phil Jackson should be wary of entering into what could become a regrettable contract. Update: West has stated he does not intend to sign with the Knicks and has signed with the Spurs.

– Gerald Green: Green is uber-athletic and has worked on becoming a more complete player. He would bolster the Knicks on the wings, and might be gettable for around $4-6 M. Update: Green has signed with Miami.

– Patrick Beverley: Beverley is restricted, but Houston is trying to clear cap room, so they might let him go. He’s not one of the better offensive point guards in the league, but his defense is very strong. He could cost around $7-8 M though, and that seems like an overpay. The Knicks are interested, but how much? Update: Beverley has signed with Houston.

– Lou Williams: The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is on the market, but the Knicks need to focus on their starting lineup first, and they’ll probably spend their money elsewhere. There have been reports that they are interested in Williams, however, so it wouldn’t be unthinkable to see him join on a deal that pays him somewhere around $7 M. Update: Williams has signed with the Lakers.

– Kosta Koufos: Koufos is one of the best backup centers in the league, and could help protect the rim, which is something the Knicks will need. There will be a lot of teams chasing him though, and he might end up getting an excessive payday. Update: Koufos has signed witht he King s

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5. Key Bench Targets: These guys would come off the bench, but could still play a valuable part in a team’s success.

– Jeremy Lin: Linsanity obviously will take a paycut this summer. The Knicks reportedly have some interest, and he might make sense for between $2-5 M. Update: Lin has signed with Charlotte.

– Bismack Biyombo: Biyombo is a great rim protector and rebounder with great athleticism, but is absolutely invisible on offense. If the Knicks could get him cheap, he could really help their interior defense, but he’s too one-dimensional to be worth a big contract. Update: Biyombo has signed with Toronto.

– Amar’e Stoudemire: He left on good terms, and reportedly has interest in a return. He can help on offense, but that’s all. Makes sense for $3M. Update: Stoudemire has signed with Miami.

– Andrea Bargnani: Say what you want about this guy, but he certainly makes sense if the Knicks can lock up his solid mid-range game for the veteran’s minimum. Update: Bargnani has signed with the Nets.

– Marco Belinelli: Same as Dunleavy, but will likely cost a bit more. Update: Belinelli has signed with the Kings.

– Andre Miller: The Knicks probably need more mobile PGs, but Miller wouldn’t be bad as a third or fourth option.

– Jason Smith: The Knicks could bring back Smith, if he signed for the minimum. Update: Smith has signed with Orlando. 

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6. End-of-the-roster GuysThese are guys you would take a “flyer” on, but they all have clear value— or upside

– Andrew Bynum: Bynum has panned out for one guy: Phil Jackson. He might be worth a flier.

– Reggie Evans: One of the toughest guys in the league.

– Cole Aldrich: Provides size, rebounding, occasionally solid defense, and a rare offensive outburst. Worth the minimum, maybe. Update: Aldrich has signed with the Clippers.

– Quincy Acy: A much younger version of Reggie Evans. Beard included. Update: Acy has signed with the Kings.

– Alexey Shved: Worth the minimum, probably nothing more unless the Knicks strike out with their other targets. Update: Shved has signed in Europe, where he is the highest-paid player.

– Chris Copeland: If he’s ready to go when the season starts, he could provide shooting off the bench.

– Carlos Boozer: Probably not a good fit, but worth the minimum.

– Jimmer Fredette: He can shoot. That appears to be it. But it’s something. Update: Fredette has signed with the Spurs. 

– Marcus Thornton: A much less fun version of Jimmer.

– Lance Thomas: Knicks could bring him back for the minimum. UPDATE: THE KNICKS HAVE SIGNED THOMAS.

– Lou Amundson: Brings hustle, veteran leadership, defense and intangibles. Not much skill, though. UPDATE: THE KNICKS HAVE SIGNED AMUNDSON.

Targets off the market— The Knicks missed out on these guys

– Jimmy Butler: Butler is one of the best young players in the league, but he is a restricted free agent. The Knicks might go out there and hand him an offer sheet for a max contract, but Chicago will likely match any offer. Update: Butler has signed with the Bulls.

– Kawhi Leonard: Leonard is in the same spot as Butler. San Antonio won’t let him walk. Update: Leonard has signed with the Spurs

– Dwyane Wade: Wade is one of the best players of his generation. But that generation is on its way out. He’s old, and he’s breaking down. When he’s on the court, he’ll produce, but he won’t be on the court every night, and certainly not for 35 minutes. Wade opted out of his contract with Miami and is daring the Heat to pay him, which indicates that it’s all about the money for D-Wade this time around. Wade’s demands in both salary and years will likely be too high for him to make sense for the Knicks. Update: Wade has signed with the Heat.

– Draymond Green: Draymond is also a restricted free agent, but he might switch teams anyway. He’s very good, but it’s debatable whether or not he is a max player, and if a team offers him a huge deal, Golden State might let him walk. Green is a terrific defender with a great motor, and he can shoot the three, but he isn’t very skilled offensively. Only 25 years old, he’d be a solid signing, but he probably stays put. Update: Green has signed with the Warriors.

– Greg Monroe: When all is said and done, there is a good chance that Monroe will be the headliner of Phil Jackson’s offseason. The Knicks are reportedly the favorites to sign the 25 year-old big man, with some even saying that it’s close to a “done deal.” Monroe is a skilled post player who will fit well in the Triangle, and is also a solid rebounder. His defense has improved to the point of respectability, but he still is no more than decent on that end of the floor. Considering Carmelo Anthony’s defensive indifference, Monroe isn’t the perfect acquisition. But he would still be a solid get for Phil, and he appears to be a very realistic target. Update: Monroe has signed with the Bucks.

– Paul Millsap: Millsap is a very solid player but he isn’t the kind of guy who can take over a game. He’s better served joining a team that’s missing a piece, not a team that needs to start over like the Knicks do. He’ll get a nice payday, certainly over $12M a year. Update: Millsap has signed with the Hawks.

– Goran Dragic: Dragic will likely get a max offer from Miami, who can give him a better deal than anybody else. If he leaves, he will want a max offer from whoever he ends up with, so signing him would eat up most of the Knicks’ cap space. Would he be worth it? Maybe. It’s not a question the Knicks will likely have to answer— it’s unlikely Pat Riley lets him walk. Update: Dragic has signed with the Heat.

– Brandon Knight: Knight is a restricted free agent, so whoever gets him will have to overpay him. But he’s young and he’s become a very solid player, so he might be worth the money— for a team that doesn’t need to add several pieces. The Knicks, however, are basically starting from scratch, so, like Millsap, Knight might not make sense. But if Knight is willing to sign for somewhere around $10M, the Knicks could make him their point guard of the future. Update: Knight has signed with the Suns.

– Danny Green: Green is a great shooter and defender who the Knicks reportedly have interest in, but it’s unclear whether the interest is mutual. He’ll probably get a pretty nice payday (Possibly as high as $14 M, although a team would probably try to get him for around $11M) and he’ll probably be seeking it from a contender if he chooses to leave the one he’s spent the past few years playing for in San Antonio. But Green is from Long Island, which could work to the Knicks’ advantage. He might be a terrific fit for what this team needs. Keep an eye on him. Update: Green has signed with the Spurs

– DeMarre Carroll: Carroll is another “3 and D” guy looking at a nice payday. He could be a good fit for the Knicks if they miss out on some of their other targets. Look for him to get $10-12 million. Update: Carroll has signed with the Raptors.

– Monta Ellis: Ellis probably isn’t the kind of guy the Knicks need right now. He isn’t too young, he’s not a great shooter, he’s not a plus defender, and he can get selfish at times. He’ll also probably get $10M a year. Update: Ellis has signed with the Pacers.

– Tyson Chandler: Chandler might be a good fit, but his departure from NY a year ago didn’t seem too smooth. This won’t happen. Update: Chandler has signed with the Suns.

– Omer Asik: Asik got overpaid on his last deal and might have to settle for around $6M this time around. He can protect the rim, but he appears to have regressed recently. Update: Asik has signed with the Pelicans.

– Jae Crowder: Crowder is a great defender, and if the Knicks could get him for $5M, it might pay off down the road. He’s restricted, though. Update: Crowder has signed with the Celtics.

– Al Farouq Aminu: The Knicks will reportedly meet with Aminu, whose value lies nearly entirely in his defense. Update: Aminu has signed with the Trail Blazers.

– Mike Dunleavy: This guy can shoot the lights out, and if the Knicks can get him cheap, they won’t have to watch him kill them every time he faces them. Update: Dunleavy has signed with the Bulls.

– Shane Larkin: Lightning quick, but not very polished. The Knicks can pay him a maximum of $1.6 Million. Update: Larkin has signed with the Nets.

– Thomas Robinson: Robinson hasn’t fulfilled his potential, but his motor is elite. He could be worth a roster spot. Update: Robinson has signed with the Nets.

The Knicks will end up with 15 players. Who will they be? It’s anyone’s guess.

-Tommy Rothman

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Who will the Knicks draft? A look at NYK’s Options

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The Knicks have the 4th pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. That is, if they don’t trade down. Who will the Knicks be introducing as their newest addition? Here’s a breakdown of the candidates to be the newest New York Knick:

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Jahlil Okafor

The Breakdown: 6-11 275 lb Center, Freshman out of Duke, 7-5 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Potential to be a dominant low-post scorer. Has the size, strength, and the moves. Very skilled. Decent out to mid-range but not beyond. Smart, unselfish.

Weaknesses: Motor can be a concern. Doesn’t project as a top defender although he could be if he were committed. Not very quick. Should be a better rebounder.

Why the Knicks would draft him: This is one of the guys Phil Jackson really wants. After the Knicks slipped in the lottery, he lamented the fact that they would probably end up having to take a guard or a wing, when they had planned on taking a big. Okafor and Karl Towns were those bigs. Okafor could provide the Knicks the franchise center they haven’t had since Patrick Ewing, and would add an entirely new dimension to the Melo-Centric offense. This is a guy the Knicks could build around.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Simple… he probably won’t be on the board. The Timberwolves will almost certainly take Karl Towns at #1. After that, it’s probably Okafor to the Lakers. If the Lakers decide to pass, they could trade down to a team that wants Okafor, or they could let the Sixers have a crack at him. If the Sixers pass as well, and don’t trade the pick to a team that wants Okafor, the Knicks would have a shot at the Duke center. That’s a lot of “ifs.”

Chances he’s a Knick: 5% (99% if he’s on the board)

DeAngelo Russell

The Breakdown: 6-5 193 lb Point Guard, Freshman out of Ohio State, 6-10 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Terrific scorer. Quick, coordinated, can get to the rim. Great shooter. Lefty. Good distributor.

Weaknesses: Defense is fine but not great. Not a terrific finisher once he gets to the basket, could improve. Skinny.

Why the Knicks would draft him: Russell is another guy who has a chance to be a true franchise player. This is a point guard’s league, and the Knicks will need a star at that position if they want to contend. Russell could be that guy. If he’s on the board, he’ll almost certainly be the most talented guy there. This would be a terrific pick for the Knicks.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Like Okafor, Russell probably won’t be on the board— the Duke and OSU stars are the two main casualties of the Knicks’ lottery disaster. The Sixers are likely to take Russell, and the Lakers are even giving him a look at #2. If the two bigs go 1 and 2, and the Sixers take Kristaps Porzingis or trade the pick to a team that wants him, the Knicks would have the chance to take Russell. If he is on the board, Phil will likely select him, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the role of the point guard is de-emphasized in Jackson’s precious “Triangle.”

Chances he’s a Knick: 15% (80% if he’s on the board).

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Emmanuel Mudiay

The Breakdown: 6-5, 196 lb Point Guard, spent 2014-15 in China, 6-9 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Phenomenal athlete. Big for a point guard. Can sneak or muscle his way to the basket. Good finisher. Good defender. Good rebounder. Good in transition.

Weaknesses: Turnover prone in China. Mediocre shooter from the perimeter.

Why the Knicks would draft him: Mudiay is likely to be the best player available when the Knicks make their pick, with Towns, Okafor, and Russell likely to go 1-2-3. Mudiay has star upside at the crucial PG position, and would provide the Knicks a guy who could penetrate on offense and stay in front of the other team’s star guards on defense. If Phil Jackson stays at #4 and makes the right call, without overthinking himself, this is the likely pick.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Again, the Triangle doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on the point guard, and there might not be room in the system for a PG who isn’t a good shooter (although shooting can be coached). Phil’s comments in the media make it sound like he’s not enamored with Mudiay, although that could be a smoke screen.

Chances he’s a Knick: 30% (45% if he’s on the board)

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Kristaps Porzingis

The Breakdown: 7-2, 230 lb Power Forward from Europe (Latvia). 7-4 wingspan, 19 years old.

Strengths: Big and versatile. Good ball-handler, good shooter who can shoot over defenders and can hit the three. Athletic, very quick for his size. Can guard multiple positions. Good shot-blocker. Massive upside.

Weaknesses: A bit of an unknown. Needs to add a lot of muscle. Low floor. Not skilled in the post. Unlikely to make a big impact right away.

Why the Knicks would draft him: Porzingis might have the biggest upside in the draft. He has the skills of a small forward and the height of a center. He might have the most upside in the draft. And he’ll probably be on the board. Porzingis might be a good Triangle fit— the system calls for versatility.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Porzingis might also be the riskiest player in this draft. That star potential comes with a caveat: he’s expected to need a couple years before he’s ready to be a major contributor to an NBA team. Porzingis isn’t very strong, and would fit better in the Triangle if he were a post threat (which can be taught, but how long would that take?) Carmelo Anthony is 31, so the Knicks might not want to draft a guy who will make them wait. Of course, the Knicks might not have the option to take Porzingis, and they’re probably even hoping they don’t. The Sixers and Lakers have taken a look at him, as have teams who might trade up in front of New York (such as Orlando). Phil Jackson is probably hoping that a team ahead of him takes Porzingis and causes Okafor or Russell to drop… or overpays the Knicks to move up to #4 for the Latvian.

Chances he’s a Knick: 15% at #4 (20% if he’s on the board), 5% if the Knicks trade down,

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Justise Winslow

The Breakdown: 6-6, 222 lb Small Forward, Freshman from Duke. 6-10 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Terrific athlete. Terrific motor. Might be the best defender in the draft. Good rebounder, good footwork. Composed. Has 3-point range (but not consistency). Can get to the rim and finish.

Weaknesses: Not one of the draft’s top scorers. Inconsistent with his jumper. Doesn’t shoot well off the dribble— mostly a catch-and-shoot threat. Short for a small forward.

Why the Knicks would draft him: If their top targets are off the board, Winslow could be a good pick for the Knicks and will almost certainly be on the board. Carmelo Anthony isn’t going to be locking down the other team’s star forward— Winslow could be that guy. If he can improve his jumper and become a true offensive threat, he could be one of the best all-around players in the league some day.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Phil might want somebody who is a safer bet on offense, especially if he’s not going to be anchoring a defense in the post. Winslow is 6-6 in shoes, which is a bit small for a small forward, and even smaller for one who, offensively, would be looking to do most of his damage around the hoop. Again, there isn’t much room in the Triangle for guys who don’t shoot the ball well. Other teams appear to like this guy more than the Knicks do— a team might trade up for our pick to get him

Chances he’s a Knick: 15% at #4, 5% if the Knicks trade down.

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Willie Cauley-Stein

The Breakdown: 7-1, 242 lb Center. Junior out of Kentucky. 7-3 wingspan, 21 years old.

Strengths: Best defensive big man in the draft. Can guard multiple positions. Athletic, tough. Great shot-blocker. Quick for his size. Three years of college experience.

Weaknesses: Very small offensive-skill set— mostly just dunks and layups, in the Tyson Chandler mold. Motor isn’t an issue but isn’t as high as those of guys like Winslow. Should be a better rebounder. Could be stronger.

Why the Knicks would draft him: Phil seems to like this guy, who could be the Knicks’ new Tyson Chandler (before Chandler quit on the team). This is a guy who can anchor a defense, and any offensive skills he develops would just be icing on the cake. “Trill” Willie will definitely be on the board when the Knicks pick. He’s probably a reach at #4, but the Knicks could trade down a few spots and still get him— another plus.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Again, he’s raw on offense, and the Knicks might be looking for scorers. He’s a reach at four, so assuming the Knicks don’t want to take him there, they might not trade down for him, and if they do trade down, they might trade down too far and lose him to another team— unless they find a team offering a deal they like with a pick high enough that Phil is confident he could still draft WCS.

Chances he’s a Knick: 5% at #4, 45% if the Knicks trade down.

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Trey Lyles

The Breakdown: 6-10, 242 lb Power Forward, Freshman out of Kentucky, 7-2 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Good offensive big man. Can score inside (but not a great post player) can shoot from mid-range and even from 3, can handle the ball, good passer, smart, coordinated.

Weaknesses: Not a good defender. Not very strong, or fast.

Why the Knicks would draft him: The Knicks have taken a look at Lyles at #4, but it seems unthinkable that they’d take him that high. Lyles is a more likely candidate if the team trades down, as he has great versatility on offense.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Do the Knicks want another big man who doesn’t play good defense and isn’t strong enough to bang around in the post? They certainly shouldn’t at #4. If they can trade down, add more assets in a deal, and still land Lyles somewhere around #10, he might make sense. But he seems like a bit of a reach from a logical standpoint, although he is talented.

Chances he’s a Knick: 0% at #4, 15% if the Knicks trade down.

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Frank Kaminsky

The Breakdown: 7-1, 231 lb Center. Senior out of Wisconsin. 6-11 wingspan, 22 years old

Strengths: Tall, skilled, can score from anywhere— has good moves in the post, great range. Can handle the ball. Dominant in college. Smart, composed.

Weaknesses: Not very athletic. Not very strong. Tiny wingspan (less than his height), question mark defensively.

Why the Knicks would draft him: The Knicks would only draft Kaminsky if they trade down, he is not a viable pick at #4 unless Phil wants to embarrass himself. Kaminsky should help the offense— if he’s a bust, he’ll at least be able to shoot over defenders, and he could be a big-time scorer if he pans out. Frank The Tank could also be a good triangle fit, and Phil will find his 4 years of college experience appealing. Worth noting: Kaminsky isn’t projected to go in the top 10, so the Knicks could trade down pretty far if they want him, which would net them a bigger return.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Every year there’s an elite college scorer who hasn’t fooled anybody into thinking he’ll be an NBA star— Jimmer Fredette, Tyler Hansbrough, Doug McDermott… Kaminsky is that guy this year. The Knicks should be looking to get a future face-of-the-franchise in this draft, and Kaminsky wouldn’t be consistent with that goal.

Chances he’s a Knick: 0% at #4, 15% if the Knicks trade down.

Other: The Knicks almost certainly won’t take somebody other than the guys I have listed at #4, but if they trade down, there’s certainly some room for Phil to get creative.

The NBA is a crazy place, so the Knicks could go in a number of unforeseen directions. But these are the most likely candidates to be selected by New York in Thursday’s draft. Tickets to the Draft can be purchased here

-Tommy Rothman

If the Knicks are willing to be bold, Tom Thibodeau is the best move

Bulls Cavaliers Basketball

Is Tom Thibodeau to the Knicks a legitimate possibility?

The Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau today after years of tension between the star coach and the team’s ownership group. As I wrote last year, “Thibs” considers the Knicks’ head coaching position a “dream job.” The Connecticut native served for seven years as an assistant coach with the Knicks from 1996 to 2003, and has a terrific track record as a phenomenal defensive coach. As a head coach, Thibodeau won the Coach of the Year award in 2011, and in 2012 became the fastest coach ever to reach 100 wins. Thibs had a .647 winning percentage in Chicago, but never seemed to get along with his bosses.

The Knicks finished at 17-65 last season after bringing Phil Jackson aboard as president and, under Phil’s direction, hiring Derek Fisher as head coach. Fisher signed a 5-year, $25 million deal and has 4 seasons remaining on the contract.

Thibodeau would reportedly welcome the opportunity to coach the Knicks, and any sensible NBA team would love the opportunity to hire him. Carmelo Anthony has said he is a big admirer of Thibodeau. Thibs’ track record speaks for itself. The Knicks need to make major changes after last season’s debacle. Fisher wasn’t particularly impressive. It sounds like a perfect fit— Thibodeau to the Knicks.

But there are major obstacles. The Knicks’ job currently isn’t open. Firing Derek Fisher appears unlikely for a few reasons. For one, the Knicks are on the hook for $20 million, which is a lot of money to pay a guy you don’t employ. Firing Fisher and hiring Thibodeau (who won’t come cheap) would be a costly move. Second of all, Fisher was Phil’s first hire. He played for Phil, he mastered Phil’s Triangle system, he won five championships with Phil. Phil hired him so that he could mentor him and coach the Knicks without actually having to BE the coach of the Knicks. Fisher is Phil’s “guy.” It’s a bad look to fire that “guy” after one season, especially when the team the coach was given rarely looked like it had a fighting chance.

But that doesn’t make the move impossible. James Dolan has shown a willingness to spend in the past. The salary cap prevents the Knicks from having a huge edge in terms of talent, but teams can spend as much as they want on their staff. In addition, Fisher isn’t necessarily Phil’s “guy.” Fisher wasn’t his first choice. Phil wanted to hire Steve Kerr and thought they had a deal, possibly because Dolan didn’t like Kerr’s salary demands (if that is the case, that throws some serious doubt on whether he’d be willing to pay two coaches at once), or maybe because Kerr realized how much better the job in Golden State was.

The biggest obstacles? The egos of Thibodeau, Phil and Dolan. Thibodeau is an independent coach, he won’t throw out his principles to run Phil’s system. Phil won’t be eager to admit that his first coaching move, like nearly all of his early moves, might have been a mistake, and he won’t be willing to give up his dreams of riding the Triangle to a 14th ring in New York. Dolan won’t want a coach who isn’t a company man— and while Thibodeau put up with Dolan as an assistant over ten years ago, he’s clearly more stubborn as a head coach, which is why he’s now on the market to begin with. And to those saying Thibodeau would be a good fit as a defensive-minded assistant coach, it’s extremely unlikely that one of the league’s top coaches would accept an assistant job. And even if Thibs did, he would still command a Head Coach-level salary. If anything, the Knicks might be better off seeing if Fisher would accept a demotion, taking the role of an offensive-minded, Triangle-preaching assistant under Thibodeau.

By hiring Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks could bring in an established coach, a big name, a defensive savior, and a guy who could help them lure the top-notch players they’ll need to sign in free agency (if they aren’t scared off by Thibodeau’s tendency to put heavy workloads on his best players). It would make the Knicks a better team. If winning is the first priority— if Phil and Dolan want to win at all costs (literally and figuratively), Thibodeau is the right hire. He’s the best hire. He’s likely a guy who wants to be hired. But unless the Knicks deviate from the status quo (which happens to be exactly what needs to start occurring for this team to win a championship), Thibodeau likely won’t be coaching in New York any time soon.

-Tommy Rothman

Langston Galloway named to NBA All-Rookie Team

New York Knicks' Langston Galloway reacts after scoring during the first half of the NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015 in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Knicks Guard Langston Galloway went from an undrafted nobody, to a player on a 10-day contract, to a member of the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Galloway, who played with the Knicks in the Summer League and the preseason before being sent to the D-League to begin the year, was called up from Westchester midway through the season, and quickly established himself as a serviceable player at the NBA level. The St. Joe’s grad played 45 games and started 41 of them, averaging 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal in 32 minutes. Galloway signed a partially-guaranteed contract with the Knicks for next season after his second 10-day contract expired, so New York has the option to hold onto the 23 year-old for around $850,000. The Knicks entered last year’s draft with no picks, but put together a rookie crop that, between Galloway, Cleanthony Early, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, and Travis Wear, could pay dividends going forward.

The Knicks will look to land one of the league’s top first-year players on Draft Night in June, and will soon find out where they will pick in the first round with the Draft Lottery set for tomorrow night.

-Tommy Rothman

Karl-Anthony Towns “would love to” be a Knick

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The Knicks like Karl-Anthony Towns. Karl-Anthony Towns likes the Knicks. But neither party can control what happens in the Draft on June 25.

Towns, who grew up in New Jersey, is a big Knicks fan, and figures to be a top-two pick on Draft night.

In an interview with Marc Berman of the New York Post, Towns raved about Phil Jackson, and said that he would love to play for his favorite team:

“It’s his presence,” Towns said of Jackson. “What he means to me, his presence is just amazing. What was so awesome as a coach, he made every player better and put them in the best position to succeed. He’s just so smart and intelligent and has so much experience. He knows how to win. At the end of the day, what every player wants to do is win.”

“If I have the opportunity to ever play for the Knicks, that’s what I would love to do.’’

The 19 year-old could get that opportunity very soon. The Knicks had the second-worst record in the NBA this season.

But due to the lottery, getting a shot at Kentucky’s center is no sure thing.

The Knicks have a 19.9 % chance at the top pick, an 18.8 % chance at the second pick (38.7 % of being top-two), a 17.1 % chance at the third pick (55.8 % top-three), a 31.9 % chance at the fourth pick (87.7 % top-four), and a 12.3 % chance at the fifth pick (100% top-five).

The Draft order will be determined in the Draft Lottery on May 19. -Tommy Rothman

(Here’s a picture of Towns with Knicks star Carmelo Anthony)

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Rock Bottom: Knicks suffer record-setting Loss

worst

It’s official.

In the 1985-86 and 2007-08 seasons, the Knicks went 23-59, which, until now, had been the worst record in franchise history. But with Saturday’s blowout loss in Chicago (where current Knicks president Phil Jackson won 6 titles as a coach), the Knicks broke the franchise record for losses in a season, falling to 14-60. With 8 games left on the schedule, the Knicks figure to set their new “record” by a wide margin, and could approach the record for most losses by ANY team (although they will not “catch” the 9-73 Sixers team from 1973).

Now, while the Knicks have set all kinds of “worst in team history” records this season, that doesn’t mean things can’t turn around. They lost 58, 59, and 58 games over a three-year stretch in the mid-80s, and the last two of those seasons came WITH Patrick Ewing on the roster (the first helped them GET Patrick Ewing on the roster). This miserable stretch was followed by a decade and a half of great Knicks teams. The Knicks have cap space, and will have a good pick (obviously), so with some luck and good planning, they have a chance to flip the script and get to the top of the league.

But there’s no question that THIS is rock bottom.

    -Tommy Rothman

Interview with Metta World Peace: Knicks Memes Exclusive

Metta World Peace

On Tuesday morning, I got a chance to interview Metta World Peace over the phone. Metta, an NBA All-Star, Champion, and Defensive Player of the Year, had some great (and funny!) things to say. We talked about Pandas, name changes, Melo, the Knicks, teeth, China, shoes, Kobe, acting, wrestling bears, and more! Sit back, go ahead and give it a read, and enjoy!

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