Tag Archives: Tommy Rothman

Knicks Memes Game Recap: Knicks 122, Bucks 97

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Photo via Getty Images

The Knicks beat the Bucks 122-97 in Milwaukee in the season opener on Wednesday night. Here’s how it all went down:

The Knicks started a bit sluggishly, but went on a 15-0 run spanning the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, and they never looked back, outscoring Milwaukee in every quarter.

New York got solid production from its newcomers. Derrick Williams had 24 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes. Kyle O’Quinn had eight points and 11 boards. Sasha Vujacic had 11 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Kristaps Porzingis struggled from the field, but had an excellent night at the line en route to a 16 point performance in his NBA debut. Also making his NBA debut was Jerian Grant, who scored 10 points, dished out five dimes and had three steals. Robin Lopez had two blocks on an otherwise quiet night. Arron Afflalo and Kevin Seraphin missed the game.

Of the returning players, Langston Galloway led the way with 16 points and Lance Thomas surprisingly had 13. José Calderón struggled and Cleanthony Early was a non-factor.

Carmelo Anthony had a rough night with just 11 points on 4-16 shooting, but had six rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block. Melo’s teammates picked him up, showing off the team’s newfound depth in the offensive onslaught.

The Bucks were led by 22 points and 14 rebounds from offseason Knicks target Greg Monroe. Michael Carter-Williams also had 20, but the Bucks turned it over 18 times and clearly missed the suspended Giannis Antetokounmpo and injured Jabari Parker.

The Knicks’ next game is Thursday night, when they will face the Hawks at 8 PM in New York’s home opener. You can buy tickets here.

-Tommy Rothman.

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NBA 2015-2016 Season Preview & Predictions

Another NBA Season is upon us! Here is my preview for all 30 NBA teams, the postseason, the award winners, and everything else! Best of luck to your team, unless you don’t root for the team I like. As always, leave your feedback in the comments. -Tommy Rothman

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers, 57-25 (Last year: 53-29, 2nd in East)

Roster: Jared Cunningham, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Harris, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Richard Jefferson, James Jones, Sasha Kaun, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Mo Williams. Coach David Blatt. 

Notable injuries: Irving, Shumpert out until at least December.

For the 100th year in a row, LeBron James’ crew has to be the favorite in the East. James is the best player alive and his teammates aren’t bad either. Kevin Love is a star, as is Kyrie Irving, although the latter will miss at least a couple months. So will Iman Shumpert, a very good perimeter defender. JR Smith is a solid scorer off the bench but cannot be trusted in any way. Tristan Thompson is a very solid role player who got paid like a star, and Timofey Mozgov finally learned how to translate his huge frame into actual NBA production. Matthew Dellavedova is a great guy to bring in off the bench, even if his 15 minutes of superstardom will never return, and Anderson Varejao is the ultimate hustler who just needs to find a way to stay healthy. All in all, the Cavs have a lot of good players and three great ones. In a weak Eastern Conference, they’re the obvious top dogs, and it’s hard to see LeBron falling short of a sixth straight Finals appearance. Playoff Odds: 95%

wade heat

#2: Miami Heat, 51-31 (Last year: 37-45, 10th in East)

Roster: Chris Andersen, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Luol Deng, Goran Dragic, James Ennis, Gerald Green, Udonis Haslem, Tyler Johnson, Josh McRoberts, Josh Richardson, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow. Coach Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat suffered the shocking blow of losing LeBron James last summer, and lost Chris Bosh to a serious medical scare during the season, missing the playoffs after four straight trips to the Finals. James is gone for good, but Bosh is back, as is Heat legend Dwyane Wade. Goran Dragic was brought aboard at the deadline and given an extension this summer, and Hassan Whiteside came out of nowhere to become a very solid NBA center in South Beach. Luol Deng isn’t the same player he once was, but he’s still a good role player, as is Amar’e Stoudemire, who is finally being paid in a manner consistent with his remaining potential. Gerald Green was a great get at the minimum, and Justise Winslow might prove to be the steal of the draft if he can develop offensively and overcome his lack of size to remain a great defender through his transition to the NBA. Mario Chalmers is nothing more than a decent player, but he’s a very good option as a backup point guard. Udonis Haslem will never not be on the Heat, so he’s obviously back. And then you have the Birdman, as Chris Andersen returns for another campaign. This Heat team is deep, talented, and dangerous. And the pain is out of their system. Miami is ready to bounce back from the desertion of LeBron and challenge King James (not Ennis) in the East. Playoff Odds: 90%

butler bulls

#3: Chicago Bulls, 50-32 (Last year: 50-32, 3rd in East)

Roster: Cameron Bairstow, Aaron Brooks, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Cristiano Felicio, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore, Joakim Noah, Bobby Portis, Derrick Rose, Tony Snell. Coach Fred Hoiberg.

Notable injuries: Dunleavy out until at least late November.

The Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau, a bold move considering that Thibodeau is one of the best coaches around. But Thibs constantly clashed with the front office, and his departure was inevitable. Also inevitable is the eventual absence of Derrick Rose, who will at least play in the opener despite breaking his eye over the summer (He broke his eye! How do you break an eye? Seriously, Derrick…). But Rose’s fall from the ranks of the NBA’s elite does not spell doom in Chicago. Jimmy Butler is ready to emerge as a true star on both ends of the ball after signing an extension this summer, and Pau Gasol, while he can’t possibly be as good as he was last year, showed that he’s not done just yet. Joakim Noah has regressed sharply, but is still a good player who is strong on defense and unique, if not prolific, on offense. Taj Gibson is a seriously underrated big. Nikola Mirotic could win Most Improved Player, and fellow sophomore Doug McDermott can give the Bulls a major boost by showing off some of the scoring chops he displayed in college two years ago. Bobby Portis was a good pick where the Bulls got him. Overall, this is a stacked frontcourt, and Aaron Brooks can give solid minutes at the point alongside Butler, even in the event of Rose’s demise. But don’t completely count out Rose. He won’t be able to go full-throttle, but when he’s on the court, he’s still a dynamic point guard who can spearhead the offense and close out games when needed. Speaking of the offense, look for that side of the ball to become the main focus with Fred Hoiberg joining the NBA ranks and filling in for the defensive-minded Thibodeau. This Bulls team isn’t elite, but they should be very good and continue to be a serious factor in the East. Playoff Odds: 85%

horford hawks

#4: Atlanta Hawks, 48-34 (Last year: 60-22, 1st in East)

Roster: Kent Bazemore, Tim Hardaway Jr., Justin Holiday, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, Shelvin Mack, Paul Millsap, Mike Muscala, Lamar Patterson, Dennis Schroder, Mike Scott, Thabo Sefolosha, Tiago Splitter, Walter Tavares, Jeff Teague. Coach Mike Budenholzer.

The Hawks outdid themselves last year, so we should definitely expect some of that good ol’ “regression to the mean” business down South. When you add in the loss of DeMarre Carroll, the impossibility of a second straight year with no major injuries to key players (although bench player Thabo Sefolosha had his leg broken by an NYPD cop), the improved Eastern Conference and the strengthening of many of last year’s “doormat” teams, a win total in the 40s is far more likely than one in the 60s. Expect the Hawks to go back to being what they usually are, a very solid but not elite team. Jeff Teague has become a very good point guard and Al Horford is quietly a star-caliber center. It looked like Paul Millsap might chase the money elsewhere, but the Hawks brought him back too, keeping the core of last year’s Eastern #1 seed intact. Playoff Odds: 85%

lowry raptors

#5: Toronto Raptors, 46-36 (Last year: 49-33, 4th in East)

Roster: Anthony Bennett, Bismack Biyombo, Bruno Caboclo, DeMarre Carroll, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Cory Joseph, Kyle Lowry, Lucas Nogueira, Patrick Patterson, Normal Powell, Terrence Ross, Luis Scola, Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright. Coach Dwane Casey.

The Raptors are the main casualty of the new rule in which winning the Division means absolutely nothing. No longer does Toronto have an easy road to a top-four seed. But with the dynamic backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the newly-added DeMarre Carroll on the wing, and the towering Jonas Valanciunas down low, the Raptors have plenty of balance and no shortage of very skilled players. Bismack Biyombo might prove to be a steal, as he can protect the rim with the best of them. Don’t expect anything from Anthony Bennett, as the former #1 overall pick is merely a guy you take a flyer on at this point, but don’t expect much of a challenge from a weak Atlantic Division, against whom the Raptors will play 16 times over the course of the East’s easiest schedule. Playoff Odds: 75%

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 #6: Milwaukee Bucks, 45-37 (Last year: 41-41, 6th in East)

Roster: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jerryd Bayless, Michael Carter-Williams, Chris Copeland, Tyler Ennis, John Henson, Damien Inglis, OJ Mayo, Khris Middleton, Greg Monroe, Johnny O’Bryant III, Jabari Parker, Miles Plumlee, Greivis Vasquez, Rashad Vaughn. Coach Jason Kidd.

Notable injuries: Parker out indefinitely. Ennis out until at least early November.

The Bucks went from 15 wins to 41 despite not having the guy they landed with their draft pick for much of the season. Jabari Parker will miss the beginning of this season as he continues to rehab that torn ACL, but he should work his way back and into the starting lineup before long. Giannis Antetokounmpo has gotten better every year and, although he is currently overrated because of his potential, his odds of reaching that much-talked about ceiling seem pretty good. Greg Monroe was the big offseason splash for Milwaukee this summer, and while he isn’t a franchise big man, he’s certainly a very good player on the offensive end and will fill the Bucks’ low-post scoring void right away. Khris Middleton gives the Bucks a solid scoring guard and Michael-Carter Williams can do a bit of pretty much everything— aside from shooting, as his jumper is a glaring weakness that must be addressed if he is to become anything more than “pretty good.” The Bucks lost Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley, and they probably outplayed themselves a bit last year with the roster that was on the floor, so I’m not projecting them for a big jump to the 55+ win mark. But they have 50-win upside, and their 40+ win campaign will be much less shocking than the previous one. Oh, and I would remiss if I did not take this opportunity to endorse Chris Copeland’s MVP campaign. Playoff Odds: 75%

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#7: Washington Wizards, 43-39 (Last year: 46-36, 5th in East)

Roster: Alan Anderson, Bradley Beal, DeJuan Blair, Jared Dudley, Drew Gooden, Marcin Gortat, Kris Humphries, Gary Neal, Nene, Kelly Oubre Jr., Otto Porter Jr., Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, John Wall, Martell Webster. Coach Randy Wittman.

Notable injuries: Anderson out until at least early November.

John Wall has become a superstar in Washington, and Bradley Beal looks like he’ll become a very good player, if not an elite one. Marcin Gortat is an underrated weapon at center, and Otto Porter Jr. finally started to make good on some of his potential late last season. But this team isn’t all that deep, and an(other) injury to Wall could send this team spiraling out of the playoff picture, if a letdown from his supporting cast doesn’t do that already. This is the first truly risky team in the East, at least until Kevin Durant returns home as the prophecy has foretold. Playoff Odds: 60%

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#8: New York Knicks, 38-44 (Last year: 17-65, 15th in East)

(Complete Knicks-centered preview coming later)

Roster: Arron Afflalo, Lou Amundson, Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway, Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn, Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Seraphin, Lance Thomas, Sasha Vujacic, Derrick Williams. Coach Derek Fisher.

Notable Injuries: Afflalo day-to-day with hamstring.

The Knicks had the worst season in franchise history last year and were the second-worst team in the league, which, as we saw on Lottery Night, is the only thing worse than being the worst team in the league. After winning 54 games three years ago and 37 the next, the Knicks plummeted to an unthinkable 17 wins last year as Murphy’s Law (not the one bringing joy to the hearts of Mets fans) took hold. Injuries plagued many of the team’s good players and the rest were shipped off to better places, leaving a team of nobodies playing out the string. This year’s Knicks should be much better, even if that’s not saying much. Reason number one? Carmelo Anthony. Melo played hurt from the second week of the season to his merciful shutdown after the All-Star Break, leaving the Knicks with no stars and hardly any role players as JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire and others were sent packing. But Melo is back and looked healthy during the preseason. As long as he stays healthy (not a given), the Knicks have one of the league’s premier scorers, giving instant credibility to what was a punchless offense last season. Carmelo might not be enough to take a team to the championship on his own, but he can certainly carry a team to the playoffs in the East. The defense should also be much better thanks in large part to the addition of Robin Lopez. Langston Galloway, one of the lone bright spots in last season’s debacle, is a very strong defender and rebounder with a solid, if not consistent, jumper. Arron Afflalo came cheap after a down year in Portland, but if he can defend half as well as he used to and knock down his threes, he’ll be very valuable to this team. José Calderón was a disappointment last year as he battled injuries throughout the season, and his defense is a major negative at this point, but he is still a steadying hand on the offense with a terrific jumper. Kristaps Porzingis is a mystery, but his elite length and athleticism, combined with his sweet stroke, will manifest in the form of highlight blocks and a barrage of pick-and-pop jumpers. Porzingis will also be able to blow by slower bigs and help create mismatches all over the floor. He’s probably a couple years away from reaching his potential, but he can contribute in year one. Another rookie who should make an impact is former Notre Dame star Jerian Grant, a skilled, smart guard who sees the floor well, plays great defense, and can get to the rim. Grant could, and should, push Calderón for minutes out of the gate. Another guy with upside is 2011 #2 overall pick Derrick Williams, a great finisher and an incredible athlete who needs to start playing harder on the defensive end to become a starting-caliber player. Phil Jackson also made a couple of sneaky frontcourt adds in high-energy bruiser Kyle O’Quinn and skilled scorer Kevin Seraphin, who needs to learn to move the ball to have any success in the Triangle Offense. This Knicks team has the firepower to be pretty good, in large part owing to the fact that they now have more than two or three decent players. Everything hinges on the health of Carmelo Anthony. If he stays on the court, and the new guys play like they should, the Knicks could very well return to glorious mediocrity and put last season behind them. Again, Melo’s health is a big if. That’s why I’m giving the Knicks a 40% chance at making it. I think they’re more likely to pull it off than the two or three teams closest to them, though. A not-so-fun factor: They have nothing to lose and no reason not to chase the 8 seed, as they’ve traded their upcoming draft pick for Andrea Bargnani. Playoff Odds: 40%

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#9: Boston Celtics, 37-45 (Last year: 40-42, 7th in East)

Roster: Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, RJ Hunter, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson, David Lee, Jordan Mickey, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jared Sullinger, Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner, James Young, Tyler Zeller. Coach Brad Stevens.

The Celtics unloaded Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green midway through last season, but still fought their way to a playoff spot. Most of the team returns this year, with Amir Johnson and David Lee making for a solid pair of frontcourt additions. After years as a complimentary option in Golden State, however, it remains to be seen how Lee can perform when relied upon to play a major role in an offense. It’s unlikely that he’ll play as well as he did in New York during the Isiah Thomas era, however. The other Isaiah Thomas (he spells it differently, helping to reduce the confusion) could contend for Sixth Man of the Year if he comes off the bench behind Marcus Smart. Between those two, Avery Bradley, and Evan Turner, Boston has a few solid weapons in the backcourt. James Young and Terry Rozier have upside, but are unlikely to make real impacts this season. Jae Crowder could develop into a star, as he already has the tools to be an elite defender alongside Bradley on the perimeter. Jared Sullinger is skilled offensively, but the rest of his game needs serious work, as does his conditioning. Kelly Olynyk’s sophomore year will be remembered for his potentially-intentional destruction of Kevin Love’s shoulder, but he quietly had a pretty solid season while he was healthy, helping further dispel the popular notion that he would be a draft bust. This Boston team is nothing more than a mix of pretty good players, but they don’t have too many weaknesses (although they could use a few more shooters). The upside might not be too high (aside from that of Marcus Smart), but the floor isn’t low, and Brad Stevens’ crew should finish somewhere between 35 and 45 wins in the Atlantic, making them a very strong contender for one of the final playoff spots in the East. And while what Boston lacks is an offensive star, it’s worth noting that they have plenty of assets that could be used in a midseason trade if they decide to be buyers rather than sellers this time around. Playoff Odds: 35%

george pacers

#10: Indiana Pacers, 36-46 (Last year: 38-44, 9th in East)

Roster: Lavoy Allen, Chase Budinger, Rakeem Christmas, Monta Ellis, Paul George, George Hill, Jordan Hill, Solomon Hill, Ian Mahinmi, CJ Miles, Glenn Robinson III, Rodney Stuckey, Myles Turner, Shayne Whittington, Joseph Young. Coach Frank Vogel.

The Pacers are the third team in what should be a very exciting (in a sad way) race for the final playoff spot in the East. If the Wizards slip, or another team takes a shocking tumble, it’s possible that more than one of the Knicks, Celtics, and Pacers could sneak in. Indiana will have a full season of Paul George after the two-way stud missed most of last season with a broken leg. They’ve also added Monta Ellis, a gifted scorer with a knack for late-game heroics. Gone, however, are Roy Hibbert and David West. Hibbert has many flaws, but his role as a defensive anchor on the interior was an important one and he will be hard for the Pacers to replace. West was certainly past his prime, but was still an important scoring option on an offense that will almost certainly struggle to put the ball in the net. With a lack of depth, shooting, defenders, interior scorers, or a go-to offensive star (if Ellis tries to take over, it will only get worse), the Pacers might not improve much even with the return of George. With other teams in the East and around the league due for big jumps, the Pacers will likely end up with around the same win total, as there are fewer easy wins to be had. But if things break right, Indy could crack 40 wins and return to the playoffs. Playoff Odds: 35%

#11: Orlando Magic, 34-48 (Last year: 25-57, 13th in East)

Roster: Dewayne Dedmon, Evan Fournier, Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon, Tobias Harris, Mario Hezonja, Roy Devin Marble, Shabazz Napier, Andrew Nicholson, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Jason Smith, Nikola Vucevic, CJ Watson. Coach Scott Skiles.

The Magic have quietly built an okay team that has some upside, making them a decent contender for a playoff spot in the East. Tobias Harris is a talented scorer and Victor Oladipo is turning into a solid player who can become a two-way star if he improves his jumper. Nikola Vucevic is a terrific center who rarely seems to get the attention he deserves, and Elfrid Payton’s career got off to a promising start as he earned a spot on the All-Rookie First Team last year. Aaron Gordon’s rookie year was derailed by injury, but don’t count out last year’s #4 overall pick. And keep an eye out for Mario Hezonja, a knockdown shooter with explosive athleticism, great size and absurd swagger. Add in veteran stretch-fours Channing Frye and Jason Smith, and the Magic have several guys who could contribute. If this team gels and the young guys stay healthy and develop, they could surprise a lot of people as early as this season. Playoff Odds: 30%

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#12: Charlotte Hornets, 31-51 (Last year: 33-49, 11th in East)

Roster: Nicolas Batum, Troy Daniels, PJ Hairston, Tyler Hansbrough, Aaron Harrison, Spencer Hawes, Al Jefferson, Frank Kaminsky, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin, Brian Roberts, Kemba Walker, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller. Coach Steve Clifford.

Notable injuries: Kidd-Gilchrist out until April.

Charlotte has basically every college star ever, but the likes of Tyler Hansbrough won’t do them much good in the NBA. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson give Michael Jordan’s team a strong guard-big core, but an injury-prone one. Even putting potential injuries aside, the loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a shoulder injury will open up a huge hole on this team, which relies on MKG’s defensive skill-set. Bismack Biyombo is gone as well, opening up the paint a bit more for opposing scorers. Kemba is fun and flashy, but a bit overrated as an offensive option— he shot 38% from the field last year. Nicolas Batum had a down year last season, but swapping Gerald Henderson for him was still a good move. Frank Kaminsky will struggle to be an impact player at the NBA level, but he knows how to make shots from all over the court facing all types of defensive pressure, which is something that can’t be taken away from him. Jeremy Lin has probably become a bit under-rated, at least offensively. This team might score a decent amount of points. But they don’t have many steady options and lack an elite player on that end, and the defense might be downright horrible. Look for the Hornets to tread water in the middle of the East’s bottom tier, which is the worst place to be for a team that needs to rebuild through the draft— not that recent picks have yielded them much success. Playoff Odds: 30%

Andre Drummond

#13: Detroit Pistons, 28-54 (Last year: 32-50, 12th in East)

Roster: Joel Anthony, Aron Baynes, Steve Blake, Reggie Bullock, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Spencer Dinwiddie, Andre Drummond, Darrun Hilliard, Ersan Ilyasova, Reggie Jackson, Brandon Jennings, Stanley Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Marcus Morris, Anthony Tolliver. Coach Stan Van Gundy.

Notable injuries: Jennings out until at least mid-November.

Detroit lost Greg Monroe, which everybody saw coming, but they still have Andre Drummond down low and Reggie Jackson at the point, so they’re not completely devoid of talent. They also have intriguing rookie Stanley Johnson, who probably should have stayed in college for another year or two, and Brandon Jennings, who should return within the first couple months from his Achilles tear. Jodie Meeks is nothing more than a role player and Marcus Morris isn’t nearly as good as his twin, but they are worthy rotation players. Ersan Ilyasova and his contract were acquired from the Bucks over the summer, and he could serve as a useful stretch four next to Drummond. But with Drummond’s offensive skill-set quite limited, the Pistons will have a lot of trouble scoring inside, and they don’t have that many sharpshooters on the squad to stretch the floor. Defensively, Drummond can’t do it all himself inside, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will need help shutting down the perimeter. The Pistons won’t be dreadful, and they could contend for the 8th seed if Jackson can translate his strong finish last year into 82 games of excellence, but they likely need help from outside if they are to build a seriously competitive team. Playoff odds: 25%

lopez

#14: Brooklyn Nets, 27-55 (Last year: 38-44, 8th in East)

Roster: Andrea Bargnani, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown, Wayne Ellington, Justin Harper, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jarrett Jack, Joe Johnson, Sergey Karasev, Shane Larkin, Brook Lopez, Chris McCullough, Willie Reed, Thomas Robinson, Donald Sloan, Thaddeus Young. Coach Lionel Hollins.

Notable injuries: Reed, McCullough out until December. Bargnani day-to-day.

Brooklyn’s “Five Year Champion Plan” completely fell apart, leaving the team without much talent, flexibility, draft pick ammunition, youth, or star power. They salvaged some hope by somehow flipping a washed-up Kevin Garnett to the sentimental Timberwolves for Thaddeus Young, but after Young, the aging Joe Johnson and the injury-prone Brook Lopez, the team is very weak. Most of these guys are reclamation projects. Jarret Jack is pretty good, but is a far cry from Deron Williams, whose decline and unhappiness in Brooklyn led to a buyout this summer. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson might turn out to be pretty good, but the move to trade one of the team’s lone bright spots in Mason Plumlee was absolutely baffling. Andrea Bargnani may have been a solid get for the minimum salary, but he’ll need to shore up his defense and rebounding if he wants to be a viable option for this team rather than a net-negative scoring “specialist.” If Lopez stays healthy and has a career year, and Johnson can be selective while remaining productive with his shot, this Nets team might compete for a playoff spot in the East, but even their spot in the weak Atlantic Division isn’t enough for me to see this team posting more than 30 wins. There’s no depth and very little promise. Playoff Odds: 25%

 

noel

#15: Philadelphia 76ers, 18-64 (Last year: 18-64, 14th in East)

Roster: Isaiah Canaan, Robert Covington, Joel Embiid (out), Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes, Carl Landry, Kendall Marshall, TJ McConnell, Jordan McRae, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, JaKarr Sampson, Nik Stauskas, JP Tokoto, Christian Wood, Tony Wroten. Coach Brett Brown.

Notable injuries: Embiid out for season. Wroten out until at least December. Covington out until at least mid-November.

The 76ers are the worst team in the league, once again by design. Joel Embiid looks like the second coming of Greg Oden. They traded reigning ROY Michael Carter-Williams at the deadline last year. They have made no effort to improve in the short term. They do have Nerlens Noel and rookie Jahlil Okafor, so the team will be worth watching once in awhile. But injuries to Embiid, Robert Covington, and Tony Wroten take most of what little punch this team may have had away from them. The Sixers will serve to pad the records of the other teams in the East, especially the Atlantic teams. If the Timberwolves want to continue their streak of having the #1 overall pick on their roster, Philly looks like it might be the team to trade with. Playoff Odds: 15%

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

curry ws

#1 Golden State Warriors, 59-23 (Last year: 67-15, 1st in West)

Roster: Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Ian Clark, Stephen Curry, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Kevon Looney (Out), James Michael McAdoo, Brandon Rush, Marreese Speights, Jason Thompson, Klay Thompson. Coach Steve Kerr. Notable Injuries: Looney out for season.

The Warriors essentially return the entire squad which cruised to the best record in the league and the NBA championship in Steve Kerr’s first year as coach. Stephen Curry blossomed into an MVP-caliber player (and took home the trophy), while Klay Thompson and Draymond Green took huge strides as well. This team can kill you with the three, they can kill you with small-ball, and when they want to play more traditional ball, they have one of the best defensive anchors in the league in Andrew Bogut. This team is so good that they practically gave away David Lee to help him get minutes on a team that actually needed him. With a terrific starting five and a great bench headlined by Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, look for this team to lead the way out West again this season. Playoff Odds: 95%

#2 Houston Rockets, 55-27 (Last year: 56-26, 2nd in West)

Roster: Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer, Clint Capela, Sam Dekker, James Harden, Montrezl Harrell, Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Ty Lawson, KJ McDaniels, Donatas Motiejunas, Jason Terry, Marcus Thornton. Coach Kevin McHale. Notable Injuries: Motiejunas out indefinitely.

The Rockets rode a career year from James Harden all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where they dropped two nail-biters to begin the series with the Warriors and eventually bowed out to the eventual champs in five. Houston led the league in threes attempted by a wide margin, which helped them lead the league in threes made despite having only the 14th best percentage in the league from beyond the arc. The Rockets were near the top in free throws attempted, but near the bottom in accuracy from the line, much of which can be attributed to Dwight Howard. Speaking of Howard, he’s happy in Houston. If he’s healthy, the Rockets have the game’s most dominant physical big man anchoring the paint. As if Harden and Howard weren’t enough, Houston added star point guard Ty Lawson for practically nothing, as the Nuggets were desperate to get rid of the troubled speedster. If he keeps focused on the game (a big if), Lawson can turn the Rockets into a true title contender. Playoff Odds: 85%

#3 San Antonio Spurs, 54-28 (Last year: 55-27, 6th in West)

Roster: LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyle Anderson, Matt Bonner, Rasaul Butler, Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Boban Marjanovic, Ray McCallum, Patty Mills, Tony Parker, Jonathon Simmons, David West. Coach Greg Popovich.

The Spurs practice hypnosis. It’s the only way. It’s the only explanation for how they routinely get star players, both young and old, to bend to the financial whims of Greg Popovich and his salary-cap-managing minions. After keeping the old stars together, getting Danny Green to sign quickly and (relatively cheaply), getting Kawhi Leonard to wait for the rest of the roster to fall into place before getting his big payday, the Spurs brought in star forward LaMarcus Aldridge before getting veteran big man David West to sign for the minimum. Other than Tiago Splitter, San Antonio suffered hardly any casualties in this daring raid of the free agent market. Their team is loaded, and Aldridge, Leonard and Green are ready to take the mantle from Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili. All three of whom are still around, by the way. While their inevitable breakdown (soon, soon, I promise) could come this year and knock the Spurs down a couple notches in the West, the suddenly young core gives this team what is likely a 50-win floor and a ceiling in the 60s, if their coach (well into his 60s, mind you) pushes his players harder in the regular season after a low seed and a tough matchup led to a first-round exit last season. Playoff Odds: 90%

durant thunder

#4 Oklahoma City Thunder, 53-29 (Last year: 45-37, 9th in West)

Roster: Steven Adams, DJ Augustin, Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, Josh Huestis, Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter, Mitch McGary, Anthony Morrow, Steve Novak, Cameron Payne, Andre Roberson, Kyle Singler, Dion Waiters, Russell Westbrook. Coach Billy Donovan.

If the Thunder are healthy, they could be the best team in the league. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are absolute superstars, and OKC also boasts a terrific pair of big men in Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter, with Steven Adams in the mix as well. Dion Waiters can create a shot from anywhere (for better or worse), and Anthony Morrow and Steve Novak are two of the game’s top sharpshooters. Cameron Payne was a steal in the draft, and Billy Donovan may have been the biggest coaching hire of the summer as he finally opted to leave his post at Florida after 19 seasons. But can this team stay healthy? Durant and Westbrook have each had their health issues. And although they tend to put up otherworldly numbers in each other’s absence, one must not forget that, when both are on the court, they won’t both be putting up 40 points a night. Still, this team should be able to grab a playoff spot if one of the stars misses time, and could push 60+ wins if both enjoy a full campaign. The upside his high, and so are the stakes: Durant’s contract expires next summer. Playoff Odds: 80%

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#5 Los Angeles Clippers, 52-30 (Last year: 56-26, 3rd in West)

Roster: Cole Aldrich, Jamal Crawford, Branden Dawson, Blake Griffin, Wesley Johnson, DeAndre Jordan, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Pablo Prigioni, JJ Redick, Austin Rivers, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, CJ Wilcox. Coach Doc Rivers.

The Clippers-Mavericks-DeAndre saga is the craziest thing that has happened in the NBA since either the Clippers-Lakers-CP3 saga or the Clippers-Sterling-America saga. While the CP3 chaos was horribly mishandled by the NBA and the Sterling ordeal was a complete disgrace, the kidnapping of DeAndre Jordan will go down as one of the finest moments in league history, as it gave us Blake Griffin’s legendary tweet and exposed the absurdity of the “moratorium” period. More importantly, it kept the Clippers together, and they now have a Big 3 of the game’s best pure point guard, one of the best offensive big men, and one of the top rim protectors. The Clippers also have a great mix of veterans, playmakers, cold-blooded late-game killers, versatile swingmen, sparkplugs, the horrible hands, horrible hook shot, great energy and great size of Cole Aldrich, and, of course, Pablo Prigioni. They also have one of the game’s best coaches running the show in Doc Rivers. The Clippers are the team that matters in LA— look for them to make some noise in the West once again, as the fifth and likely final team in the West with real championship upside. Playoff Odds: 85%

#6 Memphis Grizzlies, 50-32 (Last year: 55-27, 5th in West)

Roster: Jordan Adams, Tony Allen, Matt Barnes, Vince Carter, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, JaMychal Green, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Jarell Martin, Zach Randolph, Russ Smith, Jarnell Stokes, Beno Udrih, Brandan Wright. Coach David Joerger.

Notable injuries: Martin out indefinitely.

Memphis continued its eternal run as a staple of the Western Conference’s upper-middle-tier last year, and they should be back this year after managing to keep star center Marc Gasol. Gasol and Randolph give the Grizzlies a fantastic tandem down low, and Mike Conley (as long as he sticks around) has proven to be a very, very solid point guard. Jeff Green is a great complementary option, and Tony Allen remains one of the elite defenders in this league. The Grizzlies could use a better bench, and they’ll probably drop some wins this year as the league is much deeper, but they remain a factor in the West, a team nobody wants to run into when the season is on the line. Playoff Odds: 75%

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#7 New Orleans Pelicans, 45-37 (Last year: 45-37, 8th in West)

Roster: Alexis Ajinca, Ryan Anderson, Omer Asik, Luke Babbitt, Norris Cole, Dante Cunningham, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Alonzo Gee, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Kendrick Perkins, Quincy Pondexter, Nate Robinson. Coach Alvin Gentry.

Notable injuries: Evans, Ajinca out until at least early November, Pondexter out until at least mid-November, Cole out until at least late November, Babbit, Asik battling injuries and in flux.

The Pelicans took a good team on paper and finally translated it into a strong record and a playoff appearance. Anthony Davis is an absolute superstar and will be a fixture in the MVP race for years to come. Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Omer Asik, and Eric Gordon make up the rest of what could be a great starting five, but injuries always seem to be the issue here, and New Orleans has already had some health issues in the preseason. Ryan Anderson gives the Pelicans a very solid stretch four off the bench. Summer coaching hire Alvin Gentry, fresh off an assistant role with the champion Warriors, has spent over 25 years in the league and served as the head coach for four teams, so he is only new to New Orleans. All in all, the Pelicans have a good amount of upside tied in large part to health, and a reasonably stable floor thanks to Davis (assuming he can stay on the floor). They’ll probably end up right around where they did last season, but they could be dangerous. Playoff Odds: 50%

#8 Dallas Mavericks, 43-39 (Last year: 50-32, 7th in West)

Roster: Justin Anderson, JJ Barea, Jeremy Evans, Raymond Felton, Devin Harris, John Jenkins, Wesley Matthews, JaVale McGee, Salah Mejri, Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia, Chandler Parsons, Dwight Powell, Charlie Villanueva, Deron Williams. Coach Rick Carlisle.

The Mavericks were on the short end of the DeAndre Jordan battle, and also lost Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler. Wesley Matthews salvaged the offseason for the Mavericks, but he is something of a question mark coming off an Achilles tear. Deron Williams was practically free after the Nets bought him out, but he can no longer be counted on as a top-flight point guard. Dirk Nowitzki is definitely in decline, but he is still very solid. Chandler Parsons has emerged as a very, very good player, albeit not a star, and the Mavericks need to keep him healthy on what is certainly a brittle team. This team has enough to finish over 500, and could push 50 wins with some health and some luck, but things look a lot bleaker in Dallas than they did a year ago. This is a good team, but not a real contender. Playoff Odds: 50%

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#9 Phoenix Suns, 40-42 (Last year: 39-43, 10th in West)

Roster: Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Tyson Chandler, Archie Goodwin, Cory Jefferson, Brandon Knight, Alex Len, Jon Leuer, Markieff Morris, Ronnie Price, Mirza Teletovic, PJ Tucker, TJ Warren, Sonny Weems. Coach Jeff Hornacek.

The Suns brought in Brandon Knight and shipped out Goran Dragic at the deadline last year, guaranteeing them several more years of having a good young point guard manning the backcourt with Eric Bledsoe. Tyson Chandler was brought aboard this summer to anchor the defense, and the sharpshooting Devin Booker was added in the NBA draft. Markieff Morris is unhappy that the Suns traded away his inferior twin Marcus, but he is a solid forward who will contribute if he can suck it up and play. Alex Len took some strides last season and could push Chandler at center. This is not a team with top-four upside in the West, but they could certainly contend for a playoff spot with their (mostly) youthful depth and balanced team. Playoff Odds: 40%

Los Angeles Clippers v Sacramento Kings

#10 Sacramento Kings, 39-43 (Last year: 29-53, 13th in West)

Roster: Quincy Acy, James Anderson, Marco Belinelli, Caron Butler, Omri Casspi, Willie Cauley-Stein, Darren Collison, DeMarcus Cousins, Seth Curry, Duje Dukan, Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufos, Ben McLemore, Eric Moreland, Rajon Rondo. Coach George Karl.

The Kings have a talented roster. DeMarcus Cousins is an elite center, Rajon Rondo is still a great playmaker even if he has declined, Rudy Gay is a very good scorer, Willie Cauley-Stein should be a defensive terror, and the Kings added solid role players in Kosta Koufos and Marco Belinelli during free agency. Ben McLemore started to make good on his draft-day upside last season, and Quincy Acy has, if nothing else, one of the highest motors in the league. This team could very well push 40 or 45 wins and finally become relevant once again in the West under renowned coach George Karl. But the implosion factor is high. Very, very high. Rondo and Cousins are mercurial to say the least, and if they clash with Karl (and/or each other), things should get ugly (and funny) in Sacramento. Playoff Odds: 40%

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#11 Utah Jazz, 38-44 (Last year: 38-44, 11th in West)

Roster: Trevor Booker, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Dante Exum (Out for season), Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Chris Johnson, Trey Lyles, Elijah Millsap, Raul Neto, Tibor Pleiss, Jeff Withey. Coach Quin Snyder.

Notable injuries: Exum out for season.

The Jazz are all about young upside, which is why it’s a shame that Dante Exum tore his ACL this summer. But Trey Lyles, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, and Rudy Gobert will make this a very fun team to watch, regardless of how they do in the standings. And they should fare pretty well, even if they won’t be contenders in the vicious west. The floor is probably around 30 wins, but they could crack 40 if some of the young guys make major strides. Playoff Odds: 20%

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#12 Los Angeles Lakers, 33-49 (Last year: 21-61, 14th in West)

Roster: Brandon Bass, Tarik Black, Anthony Brown, Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson, Roy Hibbert, Marcelo Huertas, Ryan Kelly, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Robert Sacre, Lou Williams, Metta World Peace, Nick Young. Coach Byron Scott.

How many years do the Lakers have to keep struggling before it stops feeling weird to see them all the way down here? Kobe Bryant is on his last legs, the Lakers mostly struck out in free agency, the Clippers are running the city, and the fans are getting tired of hearing about all the superstars allegedly banging down the door to don the purple and gold. If Kobe is healthy, he gives the Lakers a palatable floor— it’s hard to imagine them being as bad as last season. Lou Williams is a dynamic player, although one who should not start, and Roy Hibbert can, if nothing else, anchor a defense. Nick Young is the wild card to end all wild cards, but he can put the ball in the hoop, and the Lakers should get solid contributions in year one from Julius Randle (who broke his leg nine minutes into the 2014-15 season) and D’Angelo Russell. This won’t be a good team, but they won’t be a laughingstock, and Kobe will still have his nights. Oh, and Metta World Peace made the roster, so check out this interview I did with him last year. Playoff Odds: 30%

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#13 Minnesota Timberwolves, 28-54 (Last year: 16-66, 15th in West)

Roster: Nemanja Bjelica, Gorgui Dieng, Kevin Garnett, Tyus Jones, Zach LaVine, Kevin Martin, Andre Miller, Shabazz Muhammad, Adreian Payne, Nikola Pekovic, Tayshaun Prince, Ricky Rubio, Damjan Rudez, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins. Coach Sam Mitchell.

Notable injuries: Pekovic out until at least early December.

The Wolves cut Anthony Bennett and still have enough high draft picks to populate a small nation, including the last two #1 overall picks in Karl-Anthony Towns and reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins. Ricky Rubio is a magician with the ball, and Zach LaVine is a wizard in the air. Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng are also incredibly fun to watch, and veteran Kevin Martin will pack a solid scoring punch to compliment the youngsters. Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller, and Tayshaun Prince bring their infinite wisdom to the table, and Nikola Pekovic should arrive mid-season to give Minnesota a bruiser down low. The Wolves may have been the worst team in the NBA this season, but should claw their way back to relative respectability this time around, and it won’t be long before they’re one of the scariest teams in the NBA.

Sam Mitchell could prove to be an able coach, but the entire NBA family would rather he had never been pressed into duty— The Timberwolves will play this season with heavy hearts after head coach Flip Saunders lost his battle with cancer in October. Playoff Odds: 25%

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#14 Denver Nuggets, 27-55 (Last year: 30-52, 12th in West)

Roster: Darrell Arthur, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Randy Foye, Danilo Gallinari, Erick Green, Gary Harris, JJ Hickson, Nikola Jokic, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jameer Nelson, Jusuf Nurkic. Coach Michael Malone.

Notable injuries: Nurkic out until at least mid-November. Chandler (Hamstring) Day-to-Day.

The Nuggets were forced to unload their best player this summer, as Ty Lawson simply couldn’t get his act together in Denver. Emmanuel Mudiay will step in as the franchise point guard, but it might be rough sailing for Denver for a year or two. Kenneth Faried possesses unbelievable energy and a very solid skill-set to boot, and Danilo Gallinari could be a star if only he could stay on the court— if nothing else, he’ll be a strong supporting player if the Nuggets can find their main guy. Jusuf Nurkic should return fairly early from his knee injury, giving the Nuggets one of the most promising, interesting centers in the NBA. Wilson Chandler can score effectively in a complimentary role, and there must be some reason LeBron James always wanted Mike Miller around. This Nuggets team might have some big nights. But the stability isn’t there and the medical question marks are too many to count. It’s hard to see the 2015-16 Nuggets being more than a footnote in the West. Playoff Odds: 20%

#15 Portland Trail Blazers, 25-57 (Last year: 51-31, 4th in West)

Roster: Cliff Alexander, Al-Farouq Aminu, Pat Connaughton, Allen Crabbe, Ed Davis, Tim Frazier, Maurice Harkless, Gerald Henderson, Chris Kaman, Meyers Leonard, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Luis Montero, Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh. Coach Terry Stotts.

Notable injuries: Henderson out until at least mid-November. Aminu Day-to-Day.

The Trail Blazers got absolutely ransacked this summer. Pillaged. Plundered. LaMarcus Aldridge is gone. Robin Lopez is gone. Arron Afflalo is gone. Wes Matthews is gone. Nicholas Batum is gone (traded for Gerald Henderson, who promptly finds himself on the injury report). Damian Lillard is a stud, and he’ll do enough to keep the team from being an absolute embarrassment, but there isn’t anything remotely resembling a supporting cast around him. Mason Plumlee was a great get from Brooklyn, but he can’t be a team’s second-best player unless their leading guy is LeBron’s Older Brother from Outer Space. Al-Farouq Aminu is decent, but he’ll mostly be remembered for signing a $30 Million deal that signaled the era of the New Salary Cap, in which the governing philosophy is to “Pay guys because we can.” Portland was, without a doubt, the biggest loser this summer, and it’s going to be a long, long six months in Rip City. Playoff Odds: 15%

PLAYOFFS

Eastern Conference Quarter Finals

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #8 New York Knicks

The Knicks usually play well against LeBron’s teams. That might matter in a one-game playoff, but the Knicks aren’t ready to beat an elite team in a best-of-seven series. Cavaliers in 5

#2 Miami Heat vs #7 Washington Wizards

The Wizards have a star, but no depths. The Heat have stars, and depth. And home-field advantage. And more veterans who have been there before. And are better on both sides of the ball. Yeah. Heat in 5

#3 Chicago Bulls vs #6 Milwaukee Bucks

This rivalry is getting good. It’s going to be getting better. And the Bucks will be better by the end of the year than at the start, whereas the Bulls might be wearing down. Not just yet, though. Bulls in 7

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs #5 Toronto Raptors

The 4/5 matchup is usually something of a push. This should be no exception. The Hawks have more playoff experience and are less reliant on any given player or pair of players. That gives them the edge in a short series, but it’ll be close. Hawks in 7.

Western Conference Quarterfinals

#1 Golden State Warriors vs #8 Dallas Mavericks.

Hard to see the Mavericks posing much of a threat, if they can even take a game against the machine that is Golden State. It’s hard to sweep a series, though. Warriors in 5

#2 Houston Rockets vs #7 New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis will be the best player on the floor. But he’s not a dangerous enough scorer to do it all by himself, and Harden has a much better supporting cast. An upset is unlikely here. Rockets in 5

#3 San Antonio Spurs vs #6 Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are no pushover, but they’re a much easier matchup than the Spurs had to face in the first round last year. Expect another tough series between the two teams, but with the Spurs’ new young core, I’m not as worried about their potentially being worn down. Spurs in 6

#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #5 Los Angeles Clippers

This will be the best series of the first round. If the Thunder are healthy, their big 2 puts LA’s to shame. The Clippers are deeper, but not by too much. Expect a ton of points in this series from both sides, but give OKC the edge, especially with Home-Field Advantage and one of the best crowds in the NBA. Thunder in 7

Eastern Conference Semifinals

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #4 Atlanta Hawks

Unless the Cavaliers are severely shorthanded for the second year in a row, it’s hard to see the Hawks taking them down, especially when the Hawks didn’t stand in their way during Atlanta’s 60-win campaign. Cavaliers in 5.

#2 Miami Heat vs #3 Chicago Bulls

This one should be good. But I think it takes a team with more (healthy) star power than Chicago to take down Miami’s depth. The Heat won’t run into a team like that, at least not for one more round. Heat in 7.

Western Conference Semifinals

#1 Golden State Warriors vs #4 Oklahoma City Thunder

I’m really high on the Thunder. But the Warriors have better defense, a better bench, and a better system that won’t see their stars needing to chuck up shots down the stretch. Not many teams can beat OKC. This is one of them. Warriors in 6

#2 Houston Rockets vs #3 San Antonio Spurs

If any team has the perimeter defenders to slow down James Harden, it’s the Spurs. Defensively, San Antonio will expose Harden and pile on the points, pulling off what is only an upset in terms of seeding. Spurs in 6

Eastern Conference Finals

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #2 Miami Heat

LeBron vs Miami with a trip to the Finals on the line. Can you imagine? Expect LeBron, Wade and Bosh to all bring their best. But if that happens, it’s advantage, LeBron, especially if he’s flanked by Irving and Love. The forecast calls for yet another trip to the Finals for the best player alive. Cavaliers in 6 

Western Conference Finals

#1 Golden State Warriors vs #3 San Antonio Spurs

The two most recent champions will face off here with a spot in the Finals hanging in the balance. The Splash Brothers will leave their mark, but if the Spurs can guard the perimeter, Golden State won’t have the inside scoring to keep up with the Old Big Three and the new combo of Leonard, Aldridge and Green. Tim Duncan will earn himself a shot at one last ring. Spurs in 7

NBA Finals

#1E Cleveland Cavaliers vs #3W San Antonio Spurs

Cleveland got to the Finals in the first year of the LeBron-Irving-Love era, but the latter two were absent for the big show. Not this time. The King won’t have to do it all himself here, but he’ll do an awful lot of it en route to his third ring and the first championship in Cavaliers history. Cavaliers in 6

NBA Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers

AWARDS & ACCOLADES

LEADERS:

Scoring: Carmelo Anthony, NYK— Homer pick, but show me a better combination of scoring ability and market share in his team’s offense. You can’t. Melo might be putting up 25+ shots a night, unless the Knicks really embrace the Triangle. Durant or Westbrook could end up here, but each likely holds the other back a bit in terms of per-game totals.

Assists: Chris Paul, LAC— Don’t really need to justify this one too much. The game’s best pure point guard has to be the favorite here.

Rebounds: Andre Drummond, DET— Not much of a reach to start, and with Greg Monroe gone, Andre, alone at the table, should eat on the glass.

Steals: Russell Westbrook, OKC— always a bit of a hard start to predict, but Westbrook showed his chops last season and can focus more on defense with Durant back to shoulder the scoring load. CP3 could end up here as well.

Threes Made: Stephen Curry, GSW— Well, because, yeah.

Three Point Percentage: Kyle Korver, ATL— If he was going to start missing, he would have done it years ago.

AWARDS

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, CLE— the best player in the world (Still, Mr. Davis) has to be the favorite here, especially given a chance to shoulder more of the load in the absences of Irving.

Rookie of the Year: Emmanuel Mudiay, DEN— He’ll be given the keys to the offense right off the bat, and he has professional experience after a year in China. If he stays on the court, he has a great shot to win it, although his team won’t win many games.

Sixth Man of the Year: Corey Brewer, HOU— Remember when the Knicks got this guy in the Melo trade but then cut him right away? Not their best move. The Rockets have a stacked starting lineup, but Brewer’s elite 3-and-D skill-set will lead their efforts when the subs come in.

Coach of the Year: Alvin Gentry, NOLA— This is the worst award in sports. The best coach doesn’t really change from year to year. And look at how many COTYs get fired soon afterwards. But Gentry has a solid reputation as a coach, and the Pelicans COULD take a leap this year, so, as I always say with this award… why the heck not?

Most Improved Plyaer: Jonas Valanciunas, TOR— Another “why not” award, but Valanciunas was supposed to take three or four years to really arrive, and it’s his fourth year, and he’s already been pretty darn good. He could make “the leap” this season, which would be huge for Toronto.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jimmy Butler, CHI— Perimeter players have been getting some love in Defensive Worship Circles, and it’s Butler’s turn, as he establishes himself as an elite defender and player, and the true star of the Chicago Bulls (sorry, Derrick).

All-NBA First Team:

  1. Stephen Curry: Hard to leave the reigning MVP off the list.
  2. Chris Paul: He’s not slowing down, and the guys around him are just getting better.
  3. LeBron James: Best. Player. Alive.
  4. Anthony Davis: Best. Player. Alive. (In my 2018-19 preview)
  5. Marc Gasol: Not getting a shot at guy was a tragedy for the Knicks. He’ll show why now that he’s been paid. The versatile anchor of a tough Memphis team on both ends.

All-NBA Second Team:

  1. Russell Westbrook: Having Durant back should hurt his per-game totals, but will help him be more effective. Has emerged as a true superstar.
  2. Jimmy Butler: Makes the leap this year to true superstardom. Could make the 1st team over Paul.
  3. Kevin Durant: Again, he and Westbrook limit each other statistically, but having both makes the Thunder an elite team. If he stays on the floor, no reason he won’t turn in another spectacular campaign.
  4. Carmelo Anthony: Like Durant, all he needs is health to be one of the elite players in the league. And unlike Durant, his team will completely rely on him (but for that reason, the defenses can key in).
  5. DeMarcus Cousins: No reason he can’t be here based on ability. He’ll make an All-NBA team unless his brain gets in the way.

All-NBA Third Team:

  1. Damian Lillard: Will put up gaudier stats now that he’s 99% of the Portland offense.
  2. James Harden: Overrated in my book, but will put up very high scoring totals and a misleadingly high number of steals.
  3. Chris Bosh: Back from a major health scare, he’ll now get to be “the guy” in his first full year post-LeBron. This team is deep, but Bosh should still stand out.
  4. LaMarcus Aldridge: He’s good enough to be here or better, so he’ll get this honor if the Spurs’ maniacally team-oriented style of play doesn’t limit his stats too much.
  5. Dwight Howard: When he’s happy and healthy, he’s elite.

All-Defensive First Team:

  1. Chris Paul: A fixture on the Defensive team.
  2. Jimmy Butler: DPOY pick has no reason not to be here as well.
  3. Draymond Green: Versatile defender got his money, now he’ll try to stop opposing scorers from getting theirs.
  4. Kawhi Leonard: Reigning DPOY only getting better.
  5. DeAndre Jordan: The paint is the other house DAJ puts on lockdown.

All-Defensive Second Team:

  1. John Wall: Elite speed and improving instincts could be enough to earn him a spot on the list for the second straight year. If not, I’ll take Westbrook.
  2. Tony Allen: The most skilled perimeter defender alive.
  3. LeBron James: Can guard all 8 positions. 3 of which he practically invented.
  4. Anthony Davis: Freak of nature is disruptive all over the court.
  5. Marc Gasol: Not uber-athletic like Jordan, but has the skills to hold down the interior.

All-Rookie First Team:

  1. Emmanuel Mudiay: Not leaving the ROY off the first team.
  2. DeAngelo Russell: Kobe will take a lot of the shots, but Russell will still get a huge opportunity right off the bat. Defense needs work, but should be an immediate impact player offensively.
  3. Justise Winslow: Top-notch defender and athlete (albeit a bit undersized) who will emerge as a star if he can establish a consistent jumper.
  4. Kristaps Porzingis: The Knicks will thrust him into the fire, if for no other reason than trying to validate last year’s disastrous campaign. Porzingis is incredibly unique and has all the makings of a future star. He won’t get there this year, but he should be one of the top two in a draft class that is weak at forward.
  5. Jahlil Okafor: He will be the go-to guy on offense from the start in Philly.

All-Rookie Second Team:

  1. Mario Hezonja: Beautiful shot, exciting style of play will make him a quick riser in this league. Might have to fight for major minutes, though.
  2. Jerian Grant: The Knicks have a knack for getting guys on these teams, if nothing else. Elite court awareness and great athleticism should win him the starting job before long.
  3. Stanley Johnson: Johnson can do nearly everything, so don’t expect him to fly completely under the radar in Year One, even if he left the NCAA a year or two early.
  4. Myles Turner: Had a late growth spurt, much like Anthony Davis. Has a bit of each of the five positions in his game, and could unseat Porzingis or Winslow on the first team.
  5. Karl-Anthony Towns: Might finish in the top three in ROY voting. Especially if he gets a chance to show off his pretty solid jumper.

Well, that’s it for this year’s NBA preview! Let the games begin! -Tommy Rothman

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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

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

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

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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One year later, the Angry Knicks Fan is still angry

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The roof didn’t come off for Billy “Eugene” Faison during one of his four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, or at any other point during his 17 years (and counting) in the army. No, Billy’s lid popped on a cold December day in Indiana, as he watched the Knicks get absolutely decimated by a shorthanded Celtics team.

That 41-point beatdown came on December 8, 2013, one year ago today. The game was a rout from the start, arguably the worst showing in a season full of lackluster efforts for the Knicks. Nearly all Knicks fans were upset… but very few got as angry as Billy, whose tirade (which you can watch below, although be advised of the NSFW language) quickly went viral.

“I was just ranting like I always do,” Billy The Angry Knicks Fan told me when I reached out to him on the anniversary of his rant, “My homie who was behind me is actually a Boston fan. And truth be told, I had no idea I was being filmed til a few moments into the video.”

“They know I’m like this all the time, so Chanci always said he was gonna sneak one on me, so he did.”

Chanci, Billy’s friend and the man who filmed the video, provides a priceless, calm, running commentary which serves as the backup vocals to Billy’s rage.

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As for the Knicks gear he buried in the snow (GIF above), Billy has yet to have a change of heart:

“Haven’t worn the shirt, hat or shoes since…I don’t know where the shirt and hat are, shoes are in the closet. Haven’t worn Knicks apparel since.”

The Knicks started turning things around about a month after Billy’s outburst, and salvaged a scrap of dignity with a strong second half, although they fell just short of the playoffs. But the Knicks are off to their worst start in franchise history this season, and Billy is as angry as ever:

“As a fan it looks like we are going through the motions, and this team on a nightly basis doesn’t believe they can win any game.”

“Basically it looks like the Knicks just go out there collecting a check,” said Billy, who cited JR Smith, Tim Hardaway Junior, and General Manager Steve Mills as the most frequent inducers of his wrath, while sparing the universally-admired Pablo Prigioni.

So here we are on December 8, 2014. Billy wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He still posts his angry thoughts on his Youtube channel, Facebook page, and Twitter. While many view his work as pure comedy, he raises many fair points, and as we celebrate the one year anniversary of his explosion, it’s frustrating to see that the Knicks, at least in the standings, are in an even worse place than they were a year ago.

-Tommy Rothman