By Brett Malamud
When Knicks Owner Jim Dolan brought in Phil Jackson to be the President of Basketball Operations, Dolan expected Jackson to do two things:
A) Take the pressure of being a New York team off of Owner Jim Dolan
B) Attract marquee free agents to New York
Last June, Jackson attempted to do both, and the Knicks acquired three-time NBA All Star and 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls for Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant, and Robin Lopez. The Knicks also received guard Justin Holiday and a 2017 2nd round pick in the deal. To take the words of former Knick Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks were back. At the time, the thought was that the deal would turn the Knicks into a new era, and all would be well in the Big Apple.
By trading for Derrick Rose, Jackson took a flier on a former MVP and a former number one overall pick. If it didn’t work out, that would be ok too, as Rose’s $21 million salary comes off of the books at the end of the 2016-17 season. At the time, the Knicks decided that if Rose isn’t worth the headaches, they can just let him walk at the end of the 2016-17 season, and go chase a marquee free agent player. That said, the Knicks set themselves up to have over $60 million in cap space for the summer of 2017, where player of the like of Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Rudy Gay, Andrew Bogut, Jrue Holiday, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, J.J. Redick, Taj Gibson and George Hill would all be available. Or so they thought.
After all, the move created an attractive place for summer 2016 free agents, and Kevin Durant would be sure to look at the Knicks a little harder than he would have the week before. Players like Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Joakim Noah, who were all linked to the Knicks after the trade was made, were being mentioned as plan-B options if they didn’t get Durant.
Fast-forward a week, and they didn’t. Instead, Durant joined the Warriors, and the Knicks came away with two-time NBA All Star and former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, on a four year, $72 million contract. Suddenly, a pipe dream was gone. The Knicks were giving $72 million to a player coming off major shoulder surgery, and whose numbers declined in almost every category each season since he was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.
Fast-forward eight months, and that’s a contract that the Knicks wish they never handed out. In fact, it was totally unnecessary, because the big-man that they wanted was already on the roster. That was 22-year-old rookie Willy Hernangomez, who has averaged 11.0 points and 9.4 rebounds in the month of February, all well Noah tweaked his hamstring just five games before the All-Star break.
The Knicks find themselves without that $70 million in cap space for this summer, but rather anywhere from $20-25 million. Yikes. Yes, the Knicks still have their first round pick for this season, but with Russell Westbrook off the market, and reports that Chris Paul will stay in Los Angeles for north of $200 million, the point guard market is slim pickings. Sure the Knicks could always re-up with Derrick Rose, but do they really want to spend most of their remaining cap space on Rose? Rose apparently is seeking a max contract this summer, and after multiple knee injuries, paying him a max deal wouldn’t be a wise investment. Instead, the Knicks should seek a trade, so at least they can get something for Rose. One proposed deal sees Rose being shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ricky Rubio. The move is intriguing from both sides. For Minnesota, the Tom Thibodeau-Derrick Rose reunion could work, as Rose attempts to rekindle his career in the hopes of landing that max-deal that he desires. If Rose leaves at the end of the year, Minnesota has rookie point guard Kris Dunn waiting in the wings. On the other side, the Knicks would get a solid player in Rubio, and wouldn’t lose Rose for nothing, The 26-year-old Rubio is also under contract for the next two and a half years, averaging a reasonable $14 million. Yes, the deal would take the Knicks out of the running for a marquee free agent in the summer of 2017, barring an extremely unlikely major cap dump. Normally the Knicks wouldn’t sign up for being out of the running (See Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and of course LeBron James) before the sweepstakes begins. But the timing is right and Rubio would be a good young piece to place with Hernangomez and Kristaps Porzingis.
But then we come to the bigger issue at hand:
The Melo Conundrum.
Yes, Carmelo Anthony has been shopped around by Phil Jackson. That much is confirmed. The Cavaliers, Clippers, Celtics, and Lakers are rumored destinations but it all hinges on Anthony waiving his no-trade clause, and at this rate, Melo has been stating his desire to stay in New York. But let’s explore the scenario for a bit, as Anthony is hungry for a championship, and clearly won’t get that scenario in the near future with the Knicks. The only realistic piece that would change the culture of the Knicks by trading Carmelo Anthony (if actually trading him at all) is Blake Griffin (sorry Austin Rivers fans). Of course, the Knicks would have to trade Rose first, because of the CBA rule stating that two players under a certain rookie contract extension can’t be paired on the same roster. That said, the Clippers are holding on to the hopes that Griffin stays with the team and does not view the Clippers as an aging team with a window closing fast. A fresh start with the new look Ricky Rubio Knicks on a max deal sign and trade wouldn’t be the worst thing for the soon to be 28-year-old Griffin, and as for Carmelo, he’d get a shot to go for a title with his good friend Chris Paul. The pipe dream reopens for Knicks fans, and the Knicks are back.
But it’s not looking as if Carmelo will be traded, and the idea remains—yes—a pipe dream. It’s still worth returning to the reason why all of this is happening: Phil Jackson. With a series of cryptic tweets bashing the team’s superstar, Anthony, the Knicks are quickly becoming a toxic wasteland, and as a result, the pressure is on owner Jim Dolan again. Jackson may have to make a few moves before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline to save the Knicks ship from sinking, or it could be his job on the line.
Brett Malamud is a graduate of Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
By: Sam Breiter
Welcome to “Who Dat”, a weekly guide to learning about fantasy basketball players who are seeing noticeable success. No household names here, but players who have shown huge fantasy value and should be considered being picked up if not already taken. Obviously you can’t expect the limited success will last all season, as these players have not yet proven themselves, but we’re not going to give you any reason as to why not. It doesn’t matter if you’re a category or a points league guy, these players have made a statement in both league formats. So without further a do, here’s Who Dat for week one.
Michael Carter Williams (PHI)– Two weeks ago if you were to walk around, and were to ask people if they ever heard of Michael Carter Williams most people wouldn’t have an answer. Today, people cant stop talking about the six foot six point guard from Syracuse. He was the 11th pick in the NBA draft, and has already outplayed and beaten Lebron James and Derrick Rose, two of the leagues best. He has proven to be quick, explosive, productive, and a great decision maker. In his debut he almost got a triple double, but don’t expect that to be the only time.
Week One Stats– 20.7PPG, 9.0APG, 4.4 Steals, 46.8FG%
Miles Plumlee (PHX)- After Marcin Gortat was traded from the Suns to the Wizards, the expectations for the Suns rebounding game diminished. Yet, maybe the Suns knew that Gortat would just get in the way of the leagues next rebounding machine. Plumlee wasn’t given a chance as part of the Pacers last year, not even averaging four minutes a game. Plumlee has shown that he is an animal inside the paint on defense and offense.
Week One Stats- 15.5PPG, 14.0RPG, 3.0BLK, 56FG%, 37.5 MIN
Vitor Faverani (BOS)- His name may get confused for a famous pasta dish at your local Italian restaurant, but this 25-year-old Brazilian center has given the Celtics something to look forward to. Clearly he is no Kevin Garnett, but he has been putting up similar numbers to the future hall of famer, in just his first few games.
Week One Stats- 12.5PPG, 10.5RPG, 4.5BLK, 53.3FG%, 32 MIN
Alec Burks (UTA)- Burks faced two years of being a role-playing prospect for Utah, but now with an improved role the shooting guard for the Jazz is receiving real minutes. In the early goings of the year his shot looks better then ever, and on the defensive end he looks very motivated. Utah doesn’t look very competitive this year, but Burks will have a huge role in scoring buckets, and running the offense.
Week One Stats- 18.0 PPG, 3.7RPG, 3.0APG, 48.8FG%, 31 MIN
Jodie Meeks (LAL)- With no Kobe for now, and Steve Nash dealing with injury and old age, where do the Lakers go? Well, the answer is Jodie Meeks. The Lakers have no one to go to, and Meeks has been nothing, but ideal for the Lakers. The 26-year-old shooting guard has never been a clear-cut NBA starter, and his job is definitely not safe for this year. Yet, even if pulled out of the starting lineup when Black Mamba returns, expect him to be the number one guy taken off the bench if he continues the hot run he currently is on.
Week One Stats- 13.7PPG, 4.0RPG, 52FG%, 41.7PT%,
Sam Breiter is a high school senior at Plainview- Old Bethpage JFK High School. Sam is looking to major in sports management, with a minor in communications next year. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite teams are the Mets, Giants, and Knicks. You can follow him on twitter at @baseballbreiter @baseballbreiter