Why the Knicks shouldn’t trade down in the NBA Draft

Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer

On Sunday, the Knicks have a scheduled workout with Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein at the team’s training facility. And while the young man may be a top three center in this summer’s draft behind Karl Anthony-Towns and Jahlil Okafor, his overall game is seemingly lacking a bit more, compared to those of other top prospects who play different positions.

Alas, Cauley-Stein may not be considered a top five overall pick. In addition to having a 19.9 percent chance of landing the top spot, the Knicks are also guaranteed to select no later than fifth.

There’s nothing wrong with exploring any and all possible options. What’s more, there’s no denying not only that one of the Knicks’ most pressing needs is at center, but also that the type of defensive mentality Cauley-Stein brings is exactly what they need down low.

Still, there are set to be other players with more talent available. Perhaps New York is looking to cover all their bases, just in case they ultimately decide to trade down. This isn’t something they should consider too seriously, however.

This draft is pretty deep. There’s little doubt the Knicks can end up with an impact player when selecting anywhere in the top fifteen picks or so. Nevertheless, the team now has a clean slate. Phil Jackson is building from the ground up. When considering the future, one would think New York wants to nab the best possible talent and seemingly build around him, even after Carmelo Anthony’s contract expires. Drafting based upon need may fill an evident void at this point, but such voids will change as the years go on. It’s better to draft a more versatile player than can fit into any number of scenarios.

What’s more, the benefit to trading down would assumedly be to acquire another quality player or asset, as compensation for sacrificing their pick for a lower one. Such a move may prove to be short-sighted for the Knicks. The draft obviously comes before free agency, so committing to any player’s respective salary is eating into the cap room they team can use to build up in the weeks that follow.

It’d be one thing if such an acquisition is one of the league’s best players (an unlikely case), but for the most part, it’d be well worth it for the Knicks to see things through into July. There’s a certain risk involved when it comes to banking on the fact that Jackson will be successful in his recruiting efforts, but at least that would involve sticking to the plan. There are set to be some very talented players available in free agency.

Of course, the alternative to potentially committing to a player’s salary via trade would be acquiring future assets along with the lower pick, instead. That would also not be in the Knicks’ best interests per say. The team is in win-now mode, and can use all they help they can get as soon as possible.

There’s no need to trade down before really having an opportunity to see what this team is going to look like otherwise. There are too many holes to fill, which means the Knicks should aim for the best possible player and then continue building. Let the draft set the tone for what comes next.


Jackson ‘not happy’ about Thomas’ return to MSG

Current Knicks President Phil Jackson is reportedly unhappy with former Knicks executive and head coach Isiah Thomas returning to Madison Square Garden. (NYDN, May 15)

According to the New York Daily News, league executives believe Thomas, who was named president and partial owner of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, accepted the position “as an entry-level position to eventually return to the Knicks.”

With the NBA Draft looming, there are beliefs, according to the report, that Knicks Owner James Dolan may use Thomas as a consultant for Jackson’s ideas.

The lottery is May 19 and the draft itself is June 25. The Knicks, who finished with the second-worst record in the league, are guaranteed to have a pick no worse than fifth.

Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer

Thomas having any presence around Madison Square Garden, let alone the Knicks specifically, obviously comes as a sore spot for an abundance of fans. Dolan’s choice to hire him back to run the Liberty clearly wasn’t the most ethically sound decision. Even so, Thomas isn’t exactly the greatest basketball mind, either. Though he proved to be a great judge of talent when drafting prospects, his trade negotiations skills were lacking and he often overpaid for players in free agency. And to boot, the Knicks weren’t successful during his tenure. Donnie Walsh and others spent a lot of time fixing his mistakes in the seasons that followed.

Essentially, there doesn’t appear  to be much that Thomas can offer and/or add to the Knicks in the form of a positive contribution. Having said that, Jackson’s disdain for potentially having the Hall of Fame point guard involved likely goes past the individual’s reputation.

Jackson was promised autonomy. A big part of the reason that he eventually assumed office with New York was the fact that Dolan promised to let him do his thing. This obviously means that not only Dolan must stay out of the way, but also his other confidants, too.

In his first season as President, Jackson worked with a multitude of staffers already in place that Dolan and previous executives had hired. He’s shown patience and leinency with them to this point, but it remains to be seen how much longer the likes of Steve Mills, Allan Houston, and others last. Should Jackson eventually decide to cut them loose and bring in fresh blood, Thomas isn’t likely to be atop of his list for a new voice to lend a helping hand.


Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein to Work Out for Knicks on Sunday, ‘Sky’s the limit on how it could go’ with Knicks

6a94847b45ba068782e033fee5648f0aAdam Zagoria, SNY.TV

Willie Cauley-Stein will head from the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago to work out for the Knicks on Sunday in what promises to be one of many workouts for the projected top-5 pick.

“I haven’t met with the Knicks yet, they’re on the schedule, though,” the 6-foot-11 Cauley-Stein said Friday at the Combine, where he is not participating in 5-on-5 or doing drills.

The Knicks will receive no lower than the No. 5 pick in Tuesday’s Draft lottery, and Cauley-Stein is projected at No. 5 by Draft Express.com. The Knicks have a 19.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick, and could potentially take Cauley-Stein’s former Kentucky teammate, New Jersey native Karl-Anthony Towns.

“I love it, I respect Melo and the way they’re running things over there,” Cauley-Stein said of Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks. “It’s a matter of time before they begin to get back on the top.” To read more of this story, click here


D’Angelo Russell Meets With Phil Jackson, Proclaims Himself ‘Best Player in the Draft’

6a94847b45ba068782e033fee5648f0aAdam Zagoria, SNY.TV

The last time Knicks President Phil Jackson interacted with D’Angelo Russell, the Zenmaster ended up getting fined.

Feb 8, 2015; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Bishop Daniels (2) defends against Ohio State Buckeyes guard D'Angelo Russell (0) during second half at Louis Brown Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 8, 2015; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Bishop Daniels (2) defends against Ohio State Buckeyes guard D’Angelo Russell (0) during second half at Louis Brown Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports


That was back in February when Jackson attended an Ohio State game and told Cleveland.com that Russell was a “great looking kid” and a “great prospect.”

“I actually apologized to him when I met with him today,’’ the 6-foot-5 Russell said of the fine Friday at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, where he is not participating in 5-on-5 play or doing drills. “He kind of winked and smiled. I don’t know if it hurt his bank account at all. I apologized to him for that.”

In his mind, there is no need to play in front of the vast array of NBA GMs and scouts on hand here at Quest Sports Complex.

“I’m the best player in the draft,” he proclaimed without hesitation. To read more of this story, click here

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J.R. Smith disses the Knicks on Instagram following Cavs’ win

KeithKeith Schlosser, TheKnicksBlog.com

J.R. Smith took to Instagram to insult the Knicks after his Cavaliers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals with a win over the Bulls on Thursday (May 15).

Phil Jackson will continue to be criticized for shipping Smith and Iman Shumpert out of town and getting very little in return, that is, until (or if) he fills out the roster with better players this summer.

Trading both players was a strategic move. With the team struggling earlier this season and Smith not pulling his weight, it was clear his lucrative player option for next season would potentially stand in the way of the Knicks’ development. Smith had some exciting moments as a Knick, but his tenure with the team was shaky at best. An inconsistent performer, to say the least, Smith wasn’t able to find success in the triangle offense.

Shumpert was thrown in the deal as a way to further entice the Cavaliers to take on Smith’s contract. The young gun didn’t appear to be in the Knicks’ future plans at the time, either. His expiring contract suggested that his tenure was coming to a close, and the team didn’t have plans to re-sign him anyway. Even so, despite his evident potential, Shumpert, too, often fell short of the mark. The nagging injuries he continued to experience impacted his ability to make positive contributions on the court.

The message from Smith’s Instagram photo often bodes true: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. But for what it’s worth, neither player was pulling their weight towards the end of each one’s respective tenure with the Knicks, as it were.

There was clearly enough motive for trading Smith and Shumpert. It’s up to Jackson to prove that doing so was all worth it in the end, if and when he improves the roster by utilizing the newfound cap room that the trade created, and reels in better players.


With Draft lottery looming, Phil Jackson meets with Frank ‘The Tank’ Kaminsky

6a94847b45ba068782e033fee5648f0aAdam Zagoria, SNY.TV

With the NBA Draft Lottery looming on Tuesday, Knicks President Phil Jackson met here in Chicago on Thursday with Wisconsin 7-footer Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky.

“Being in the room with one of the greats in the NBA history from a coaching standpoint is awesome,” Kaminsky said, according to the New York Post. “Hearing his thoughts on me and having a conversation with him was pretty cool.

“You know, tell it to me straight. He’s been through it with a lot of different players and people. He’s going to be honest on what his concerns are, what I need to work on and what I do well.’’

Kaminsky, 22, is projected as the No. 10 pick by DraftExpress.com and the Knicks are guaranteed to have a top-5 pick, with a 19.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick when the ping pong balls fly.

“I could go anywhere from 5-12 but we’ll see once the lottery balls fall what the teams are and who’s picking where,” said Kaminsky, who was named the Naismith Player of the Year, the AP National Player of the Year and won the Oscar Robertson Trophy. “We’ll have a better sense after that.”

Knicks GM Steve Mills said the team will interview 18 players, so they will meet with all of the top players to cover their bases. To read more of this story, click here


Derek Fisher talks with ESPN about team’s mindset at NBA Draft Combine

Knicks head coach Derek Fisher played it coy during a television interview Thursday when asked how the Knicks might approach the 2015 NBA Draft.

“I think anytime that you get the type of talent up front that (Karl Anthony-Towns and Jahlil Okafor) have, it’s an advantage,” he told ESPN, speaking at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “It’s a benefit. I think there’s a lot of talent in this year’s draft. … Love for competition, that’s our biggest need. If it’s the NBA Draft, you’ll find talent. It’s [about finding] the right talent. That’s what we’re looking for now, which may be different than in years past.”

KeithKeith Schlosser, TKB: It’ll be interesting to see, not only who the Knicks select, but where they select. Whereas both Anthony-Towns and Okafor are big men, it’s possible New York could select as late as fifth in the draft. It doesn’t sound as though the team is necessarily committed to targeting any specific position or filling a solely evident void.

The good news is that the team’s respective canvas is nearly completely blank, excluding Carmelo Anthony and a couple of smaller, younger pieces. Via the draft itself and free agency, the Knicks will have plenty of opportunities to mold a team to their liking that’s worthy of competing each and every night, much like Fisher alluded to.

The lottery-bound players wouldn’t be included in the conversation if they weren’t talented. With that in mind, what’ll aid the Knicks in making a decision?

“The interview process — that’s where you get to talk to these guys one-on-one and see what they’re about, getting to talk to them about life and basketball,” Fisher said. “But obviously what you observe on the basketball floor, you can see whether these guys love to compete or not.”

When pressed for specifics, Fisher did point out, “A lot of the guys probably in our range aren’t here right now,” perhaps alluding to the two centers.

At this point, New York would appear to still be entering the draft with an open mind, and much less a specific target. It may come down to respective personalities — who carries themselves in a positive manner with enthusiasm? Who is grounded enough to handle playing under the bright lights of the Big Apple? Who will mesh with Fisher and Phil Jackson? Do they believe in the triangle offense?

These are all questions that the Knicks must weigh.