Right, I’m one day before the trade deadline of Season One of this series with the New York Knicks, so it’s time to update once again on how we’re getting on. The last time I spoke to you all (update 5), we were sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference at 14-23 having made a sharp decline in form following our good start at 5-4. Because American sports work very differently to European sports, and being bad – deliberately – can sometimes be very helpful, this actually is no concern to me, but it did leave me to make some important decisions. If you’re joining the series now, here are updates one, two, three and four. The major decision I made last update is that I made the decision to trade franchise player Kristaps Porzingis. I said at the beginning of this series that I wouldn’t trade Porzingis, but whilst his performances were good, I didn’t feel they quite warranted a max contract – which I would have had to give him at the end of the season – so decided to trade him whilst I could – along with Courtney Lee – picking up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA), Danilo Gallinari and a 2022 1st Round Pick.
Since then, our play has fallen off a cliff – for various reasons I’ll discuss soon – and we’ve fallen to 17-36, still good/bad enough for 11th in the East, and ridiculously only 6 wins off the 8th seed in the playoffs. The East is the land where mediocrity is rewarded. We’ve lost our last 4 games, and as you can see, from the last update we’ve only won 3 more games whilst losing 13. Logically then, I’ve made bad moves that actually have made our team worse? Well, not really. Whilst we may have been much worse since trading Porzingis, I believe we have a much better roster (especially with further moves I’ll discuss later), and when injuries to Gallinari and Knox (starting SF and PF) are taken into account, that explains why all of a sudden we’ve found wins slightly hard to come by. This has had the added benefit that we’ve joined what I like to call:
You don’t have to be able to play Wheel of Fortune to figure this one out. Zion Williamson is the undoubted Number 1 pick, and part of the reason I’ve been gaining assets (picks and players) is that I fully intend on going for Zion, whether managing to luck out and get the 1st pick in the draft, or by trading up for him – granted it would take some offer for any team to realistically trade the chance to get Zion. We’re currently slated to get the 6th pick, but the odds will give us a shot at Number 1. For this reason, I’m very much in ‘tank’ mode, and as long as our players keep developing, picking up more losses doesn’t concern me, as long as we stay in the hunt for Zion. So, how have our players been doing, considering we’re 3-13 since the last update?
Well, I firstly need to show you this list. This is the list of players who since the beginning of the season no longer play for the Knicks. Now you already knew about Ntilikina, Porzingis and Lee, but since the last update, I’ve been a busy GM – or rather, so have the other GM’s in the League. Firstly I’ll give you a rundown of the new trades:
Trade: The New York Knicks trade Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Johnathan Williams.
Trade: The New York Knicks trade Enes Kanter and Mario Hezonja to the Portland Trailblazers for Jusuf Nurkic and Evan Turner.
So, firstly the Lakers came to me with the trade for Hardaway. Hardaway is a talented enough SG, but wasn’t on a team friendly contract, and I’ve basically got a younger version of him from the Lakers in Clarkson, and a shorter contract. Clarkson came to us as a Point Guard, but he’s more of a Combo Guard anyway, so has been shuttled to the 2. Long term, I see him as possibly being an important Sixth Man, leading the bench alongside hopefully Trey Burke. The Lakers appear to have made this deal because they’re 2nd in the West behind the Warriors – duh – and are looking for players who can help them win now.
Secondly, the Blazers came to me with this deal believe it or not. Unlike the Lakers, they are not doing well at 25-27 and are out of the playoff hunt in the West. As a result they appear to be heading towards a late season tank to gain a higher draft pick. Whilst I had signed Kanter to a 2yr/$19m deal, Nurkic is simply a better player, and is younger. Analytically, Kanter has a higher PER, but Nurkic has a much higher upside than Kanter is is already rated higher in game. Evan Turner is also a solid player, has been a positive for the Blazers this season, and will be an important part of our bench rotation moving forward. Plus, I was happy to get rid of Hezonja, because he sucks. Anyway, let’s look at our roster:
Again, I’m not going to go through every player – though any analysis you have of players are more than welcome. I won’t discuss Gallinari, because since the trade he’s barely played following a broken ankle. Aron Baynes has also barely played for injury reasons. Nurkic, Turner and Clarkson has also barely played. My main takeaways here are that Trey Burke continues to be fantastic, and at times leads our team in scoring from the bench – which isn’t actually very good but is impressive for Burke. He’s our lesser version of Thunder James Harden. SGA has also proved himself well so far, becoming a legit positive in the starting lineup and helping us win games – infrequently. Vonleh has also improved, and despite his stats not looking impresive, Mitchell Robinson is quietly having quite a decent rookie season from the bench, with a PER of 12.3 and an Estimated Wins Added of 0.7. Both are slightly better than the more experienced – and slightly better in game – Vonleh. Emmanuel Mudiay proved my lack of faith him in to be correct, and has since the trade to acquire SGA had his minutes drastically reduced so he can stop shooting poorly (look at his poor TS% and eFG%) and costing us wins (EWA).
Two key takeaways here for me are that Kevin Knox is adding very little. Sure he’s playing in the starting lineup in his rookie season, but he’s below 10ppg, with poor TS% and eFG%, and isn’t helping us win games at all (EWA = 0). Small Forward is a vital position in the modern NBA, with many of the top players in that position, and Knox just isn’t adding much. He has been injured at times, but still this isn’t impressive. If he doesn’t improve, I may use him as part of some sort of deal I make during the draft – whether for Zion or not I don’t know. The other takewaway – a little confusing as well – is that Alonzo Trier isn’t helping us. His advanced shooting stats suggest an efficient scorer with high TS% and eFG%, but his EWA is below 0, and he’s only scoring 7ppg and is receiving a good amount of minutes. I may look at his tendencies and see whether he needs to be encouraged to take more shot, but for now I’ll reduce his minutes slightly, and likely give more to Mitchell Robinson.
I’m not sure when I’ll next update, but there’s the possibility it could be at the end of the season, as all there really is left to do now is monitor players, and make my own plans for the draft. Unless we have a sudden upturn in form – which we shouldn’t – we’ll continue to work our way into the Zion sweepstakes. So, that brings us to the end of the sixth update of this series. As always, if you have any questions about my approach to rebuilding the Knicks, NBA 2K or just basketball in general, please do feel free to comments below, or contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you once again, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.