On This Date: The Carmelo Anthony Era ends

September 25th 2017: The New York Knicks finally trade Carmelo Anthony

After many months of speculation, the New York Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony less than 48 hours before the start of training camp. This departure was a long time coming. Discussions marinated early in the 2016-17 season as Phil Jackson publicly sought to move Melo. After the Knicks fired Phil, there was a near agreement to send Melo to the Houston Rockets in a trade centered around Ryan Anderson. However, new GM Scott Perry urged the Knicks to back off on the trade. Continue reading →

On This Date: Knicks Re-Sign Melo to a 5 year Contract Extension

July 13th 2014: The New York Knicks re-sign Carmelo Anthony to a 5 year extension

The New York Knicks re-signed Carmelo Anthony to a 5 year extension worth $124 million contract that officially defined both Melo and Phil Jackson’s legacy with the organization. Melo came off a season where he averaged 27.4 points/game and a career high 8.1 rebounds/game in a career high 38.7 minutes/game. He also scored a Knick record 62 points against the Charlotte Bobcats.

When Phil Jackson joined the organization, one of the shared edicts between him and James Dolan was to bring a championship to New York. They both shared that it would be accomplished with Carmelo Anthony. While Melo temporarily pondered joining the Bulls and Lakers, he could not resist the 5 years and $124 million the Knicks offered him. Additionally, it was the addition of the no-trade clause that defined both Melo and Phil’s reputation with the organization.

Unfortunately, the contract proved to be a disaster for both the Knicks & Phil Jackson. Melo continued his scoring prowess with 24.2 points/game during the 2014-15 campaign, but knee soreness early on in the season eventually led to knee surgery shortly after the 2015 NBA All Star Game held in New York. To make things worse, Melo delayed the surgery beyond the All Star Game so that he could play in the game as a starter. That decision proved to be costly to Melo’s career.

Melo received another All Star starter berth during the 2015-16 season and averaged a career high 4.2 assists/game under the principles of the triangle offense. Unfortunately, the knee surgery limited a lot of Melo’s offensive touches to the perimeter. His ability to explode to the rim and get to the line were all but diminished.

Melo started the 2016-17 season with a 3rd head coach and another round of an overhauled roster. He came off 3 straight seasons where the Knicks missed the playoffs. With expectations to reach the playoffs high, the Knicks started the season at a near .500 record and within reach of the 8 seed. However, a public feud with Phil ultimately torpedoed the season and destroyed his relationship with the New York Knicks. This was the beginning of the end of Melo’s tenure in New York.

Months after Phil left the organization, the Knicks sought suitors for Melo. The no-trade clause severely limited their trading options as Melo desired to join a contender, particularly in Cleveland or Houston. The Knicks had the workings of a deal with the Rockets in early July, but called off the trade after Scott Perry joined the organization. Shortly before the beginning of training camp, Perry convinced Melo to accept a trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Knicks traded Melo 2 days before training camp to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the 2018 Chicago Bulls 2nd round pick. The Knicks dealt McDermott at the trade deadline in a 3 team deal that netted Emmanuel Mudiay. The 2018 Bulls 2nd round pick became Mitchell Robinson.

Perhaps the shining point of Melo’s tenure in NY was being able to net Mitchell Robinson.

On This Date: Knicks agree to sign Joakim Noah

July 1st 2016: The New York Knicks agree to sign Joakim Noah to a 4 year $72 million contract

The Knicks agreed to sign Joakim Noah to a 4 year $72 million contract in what now looks like one of the worst decisions in franchise history. Noah only played 25 games in the prior season after undergoing season-ending left shoulder surgery. However, Phil Jackson, alongside an endorsement from Derrick Rose, believed that Noah would return to his old self and that his defense and passing skills would be valuable in a Knicks offense that balanced principles of the triangle offense. Rose himself vouched for Noah to come home to reunite together after spending their entire careers together in Chicago.

Unfortunately, the reunion and overall tenure in New York turned out to be a disaster. Noah missed parts of the preseason with a nagging hamstring injury. Noah only played 46 games in his first season with the Knicks. He clearly lost a step or two on defense and lacked the fire and intensity he had while with the Bulls. Unfortunately, his season ended early with a knee surgery further compounded by a 20 game PED suspension and a subsequent rotator cuff surgery.

After beginning the 2017-18 season suspended, the Knicks tried to ease Noah into playing shape. However, the center position was occupied by Enes Kanter & Kyle O’Quinn. Willy Hernangomez already sat in the doghouse due to his poor defense. Noah only played 7 games before effectively ending his Knicks career after fighting with Jeff Hornacek in practice.

The Knicks stretched Noah’s contract before the beginning of the 2018-19 season officially ending his tenure with us. His impact still lasts as his contract has stretched through the 2021-22 season. Although the cap hit still remains on the books, the Knicks now become a team with cap space to sign 2 max free agents.

The main issue of the Noah signing was the contract. Many GMs failed to properly evaluate the free agent market and overestimated the potential of revenue sharing on the NBA salary cap. Many players received excessive contracts including Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, Noah, Ian Mahinmi, and Bismack Biyombo, amongst many others. The perspective was that the contract would represent a smaller % of the cap as the latter would eventually spike in the upcoming seasons. As of 2018-19, the cap % did not spike up to their initial expectations.

On This Date: Knicks trade Willy Hernangomez

February 7th 2018:  The New York Knicks trade Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets

The Knicks traded Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets for Johnny O’Bryant and two 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021. Willy requested a trade a few days earlier after being stuck on the bench behind both Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn. To add insult to injury, the trade occurred only a day before Kristaps Porzingis, Willy’s friend dating back to the Sevilla days, tore his ACL. The Knicks immediately cut O’Bryant, who’s now playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague.

After making the All-Rookie 1st team in the 2016-17 season, there was hope that Willy would become the starter for the Knicks. However, those plans derailed once the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the 2018 Bulls 2nd round pick that turned out to be Mitchell Robinson. Immediately after the trade, Willy had to compete with Enes Kanter & Kyle O’Quinn for minutes at the center position.

Unfortunately, Willy was not able to separate himself from Kanter to receive minutes. The Knicks valued Kyle O’Quinn’s defense to garner minutes regardless. Kanter, however, came into camp in the best shape of his life and showed to be a better offensive threat. Willy did not come into camp in tip-top shape.

Upon hearing of the trade, many fans had mixed reactions. Some thought that Hernangomez would have been an integral piece to our core and that we should have traded O’Quinn or Kanter instead. Others were more giddy about the 2nd round picks acquired and weren’t too high of Willy’s lack of defense and his trade request. (he was a backup after all)

In retrospect, this trade ended up as an overall win for the team. It’s far less likely that Willy will blossom the way Rod Strickland did when traded to the Spurs. Since he requested a trade, it gave the front office no choice but to trade him. For Steve Mills, it meant giving up on a player that he personally scouted when visiting Porzingis before the 2015 NBA Draft. The Knicks regained 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021 that they ironically had given up to acquire Hernangomez in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Seeing a need at the center position, the Knicks drafted Mitchell Robinson who will likely have a higher ceiling and potential than Hernangomez. Willy’s received sproadic minutes in the 2018-19 season including several DNPs. He’s been decent on the offensive end, but inconsistent on defense.

KFS Teacher’s Lounge: What Should the Knicks do with Enes Kanter?

A deal is not close, but the Knicks and Kings are discussing a trade that would send Enes Kanter out west in exchange for Zach Randolph’s expiring contract, with perhaps a third team getting involved, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski.

Some of our Knicks Film School professors (writers) give their thoughts on what the Knicks should do with Enes Kanter:

MACRI (@JCMacriNBA) – The Knicks Should NOT TREAT Enes Kanter LIKE KRAMER TREATS FREE COFFEE FOR LIFE.

For the non-Seinfeld fans: in the episode where Kramer sues a national coffee chain for making his coffee too hot, he has a meeting with his lawyer and the coffee company to negotiate a potential settlement. The coffee company – Java World – begins the negotiation by saying “We’re prepared to offer you free coffee from any of our stores and-” but before the lawyer can finish what he’s saying, Kramer jumps up, shakes his hand, and elatedly says “I’ll take it!”

This scene is a microcosm of essentially every Knicks trade negotiation in the history of the franchise. You can picture Phil Jackson on the phone with David Griffin and yelling “SOLD!” the moment Griffin agreed to take on JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. We haven’t exactly had a history of holding out for the best offer.

Perhaps the only team in recent NBA history to have a worse transaction record is the Kings. Why they’re interested in Enes Kanter is beyond me, but regardless, the Knicks have to avoid the temptation to jump at the first offer. Play this one out and try to milk negotiations with a potentially irrational actor as much as possible.

Does this run counter to a column I wrote just a few weeks ago, calling for the Knicks to waive Kanter, like, yesterday? You’re damn right it does! But I never accounted for the fact that the Kings would be so stupid value offensive rebounding so much. Let’s play this hand till the river. You got nothing to lose.

VIVEK (@vdadhania) – The Knicks should FIND A SMART REPLACEMENT FOR Enes Kanter.

While Kanter has been generally lambasted for his poor defensive effort, he provides three key traits that are mostly missing on the roster:

  1. Consistent Tank Commander
  2. High FG%
  3. Rebounding

Development is a tricky process. Simply playing young players doesn’t always work, especially if it leads to bad habits on the floor or stunts the development in other areas.  The Knicks are a putrid rebounding team without Kanter. Removing him from the lineup, teams will feast on the boards which will lead to fewer opportunities for the young players to shine with efficiency, whether in transition or with extra opportunities on offense.

Perry & Mills should look to garner a pick and an expiring contract for Kanter. If he’s bought out, the front office needs to find someone who can grab some rebounds and/or be a useful source of veteran leadership for Mitchell Robinson.

SU YORK (@SuYork_1023) – The Knicks should TRADE Enes Kanter (ONLY IF THE RETURN IS GREAT).

Let’s face it, we all knew this was coming and many of us hoped for this. Kanter went from a good vet presence this season to a team nuisance as quickly as the Knicks give up a lead in the third quarter.

Hearing rumors that multiple teams want him, it’s very important the Knicks make a wise decision. I do not like the recent proposal from the Sacramento Kings looking for a straight-up swap sending Zach Randolph to the Knicks (yes, Z-Bo is still in the league).

What I want to happen:

I want the Knicks to find the best possible trade for Kanter. He still has value on a winning team. He is a walking Double-Double. He still contributes, and despite being a bit disgruntled with his current role, overall, he is a good teammate. I know this is reaching, but if we can at least get a second round pick with an expiring contract that would be ideal. (I’m a dreamer) 🤷🏼‍♀️

If we do not get anything worthwhile for Kanter, I want him to face reality and accept his role on the bench. This season is not about winning. Is Kanter more delusional than your typical fan? I want him to stay quiet and keep producing with the minutes he’s given. We recently saw him more accepting of his bench role and playing well in the Lakers game. Although it was a loss for team tank, the Knicks got their 1st win of 2019. Kanter may be a beneficial influence to the rookies, especially Mitchell Robinson. If Kanter can only hold on a few more months, then walk away this summer, that would be great. That will be the end of the Enes Kanter era in NY!

ALEX (@MrAlexCollins) – The Knicks Should AMICABLY SEPARATE FROM Enes Kanter.

Enes is in his eighth year in the NBA and he is understandably unhappy with his bench role on a team that has only 10 wins at the halfway point of the season and still has the highest strength of schedule remaining in the Eastern Conference, per ESPN.

There is no valid argument for the Knicks keeping Kanter around for the rest of the season. Whether you think he is a net positive player or not, his inclusion on the team is not resulting in the Knicks being anywhere near a playoff contender.

The Knicks should be focused on getting the highest possible pick in the draft and developing their young players. This is best served by giving minutes to Mitchell Robinson, Luke Kornet, and bringing in a veteran big who is happier to sit and mentor the young guys than Kanter has proven to be. Even picking up young big men from free agency or the G-league on 10-day contracts would better benefit the team moving forward.

There have been enough positive instances that we can remember Enes with some fondness, and his last 3 games have been a nice run for him to bow out on. Why not do right by him and move him to a situation where he has a defined role on a team in playoff contention?

Whether the Knicks outright waive Enes, thus giving him the freedom to choose where he wants to play next without restriction, or saving him the embarrassment of being cut from one of the worst teams in the NBA and simply moving him to a contender for an expiring contract, it’s best for all parties to respectfully go their separate ways.

MIKE D (@debatebball) – The Knicks Should START Enes Kanter.

They should keep him.  And if they keep him, they have to play him.  And if they’re playing him, why not start him?

Reasons they should keep him:

  1. His $18M expiring is difficult to match. We do NOT want to take any non-expiring money back.

  2. Practicing against him will help both Mitch and Kornet. Post play, while less important these days, is not extinct. Kanter’s strength and skill down low can help our young centers learn how to hold their own against stronger bigs who still bang on the block and attack the glass.

  3. He’s playing well. He’s been arguably their best player over the last few games. If Fiz is going to preach, “Keep what you kill,” then Kanter deserves to play.

I’d only trade him if we’re getting something more than swapping expiring money, and I’d only buy him out if he asks for that.

DAVE (@DavidEarly) – The Knicks Should FRANTICALLY SHOP Enes Kanter.

The Knicks should FRANTICALLY shop Enes. If they were really smart they’d do all they can to get a couple of second round picks for him without taking back any long-term salary. Otherwise, I’d try to buy him out.

With the right coach, Enes is absolutely good enough to win you a few games down the stretch. You CANNOT risk the top (14%) pick odds with a player of Zion Williamson’s caliber on the board. Moving on from Enes helps you A) avoid PR headaches when you sit him to tank or B) avoid the devastating “spirited win” down the stretch that costs you 35% of your ping pong balls.

The sneaky benefit of sending him to the Kings is that if he actually helps them win, it hurts the Atlantic Division rival Celtics’ pick.

That could be key. If the Knicks wind up with KD and Zion and KP, they just might visit Boston in the conference finals next year. So we can root for Enes to ball out in Sacramento.

Why it’s time to move on from Enes Kanter, like right now

Y’all know me.

Y’all know me.

I am not one for hot takes. My takes are cold. My takes are a refreshing Snapple on a sunny July afternoon. There’s enough crazy out there as it is. The last thing I want to do is add to the fray.

So when I woke up the morning after the Knicks lost 131-109 to the Philadelphia 76ers and the urge came over me to write this piece, I had to check myself. Was I really sure I wanted to put this idea out into the ether? I dwelled and dwelled and dwelled some more and finally came to the conclusion that, no, I can’t let this idea just fester in my mind.

The Knicks need to part ways with Enes Kanter, like right now.

I don’t care if it’s on a buyout agreement1 or whether they simply waive him and absorb the full amount left on his 2018-19 salary, it is time to move on.

Before I get into the reasons why, let me first go through a couple of the reasons why not.

First and foremost, I’m not writing this because I blame Enes Kanter. Right now, the Knicks are 9 and 23. If Kanter hadn’t been around all year, they’d still be 9 and 23. Maybe they’d be 10 and 22, or 8 and 24. I don’t know, and I don’t care. The Knicks stink with Enes Kanter and they’d stink without Enes Kanter. He’s no more or less to blame than anyone else on the roster. That’s not what this is about.

This also isn’t personal. If you’ve followed or read me for a while, you know I’m incredibly hard on Kanter, perhaps unfairly so. In fact, definitely unfairly so. I often kill him for physical limitations that are out of his control and gloss over the incredible amount of effort he brings to many facets of the game, not to mention his penchant for playing hurt. He seems, by all accounts, to be a wonderful influence on the young guys, which I never give enough credit for.

I promise though, this doesn’t come from a place of negativity. It comes from a place of reason. That all starts with where the Knicks are, and where they’re trying to go.

De…fence?

This season is, in a word, about growth. Growing the young players, growing sustainable systems, and growing a culture. In one way or another, Kanter either has stood in the way of all of these things or will so before the season is over.

Let’s start with the most glaring issue. You’ve probably noticed that the Knicks have become a bit of a tire fire on defense. While Kanter is by no means solely to blame for this –  his on court rating is actually better than Timmy, Mudiay and Knox – there is a significant difference with the big man. His presence on the floor inextricably alters everything they do defensively. Allow me a moment to explain why.

If you’ve watched New York recently, you’ve seen stretches of defensive possessions where the Knicks’ players aren’t guarding any one man, but rather guard an area of the court. This is called a zone. If you only watch pro basketball and no college, you may not have ever seen this before. That’s because, save for short stretches of games where a coach will employ it to catch an opposing team off-guard for a few minutes, it has essentially been proven unsustainable in the NBA. Pro athletes are smart and athletic enough to penetrate it after they’ve become accustomed to it. As Mike Vorkunov notes in his recent piece on the topic, the Heat play the most zone in the NBA, and it is still under 5 percent of the time.

Starting last Friday, David Fizdale began employing it is a regular part of his defense. He says it’s because he’s meeting his young players where they are. I have a different theory, but instead of telling you myself, I’ll let the Suns’ Devin Booker do that for me:

Booker was referencing the worst kept secret in the NBA, which is that if Enes Kanter is on the court and you are not attempting to engage him in a pick and roll, you are committing basketball negligence. This has only gotten worse with the prevalence of big men in today’s game that also have extended range.

Billy Donovan famously said it best when Kanter was still in Oklahoma City and the Thunder played Houston in the playoffs. Even his former teammate and good friend Steven Adams joked about it earlier this year. Kanter, by himself, is a walking, talking, often goofing around bottom-five defensive rating.

It is not getting better, a fact which the stats more than back up. According to Cleaning the Glass, when Enes Kanter is on the floor this season, opponents effective field goal percentage increases by 2.9%, which is in the 10th percentile of the NBA. Over the previous six seasons, the increases in opponent shooting when Kanter is playing have ranked in the 11th, 35th, 11th, 3rd, 7th and 9th percentiles. How does the old saying go…once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend, seven times is Enes?

This isn’t even about the Knicks getting off to these horrendously bad starts, although eventually that will begin to wear on a team morale that has, thus far at least, remained high. It’s about the fact that as long as Kanter is in the rotation, the progress of instituting any semblance of a defense-first culture is stagnating. We have enough evidence to conclude that he is often unable to execute the types of basic defensive principles a team needs to play competent NBA defense.

To drive this point home, imagine, for a moment, that you had five widgets with which to construct a machine. The sturdiness of several of the widgets is suspect, but also potentially viable in a given configuration. One of the widgets, however, was apt to disintegrate into dust at any given moment. How does one go about constructing a working machine? You can’t. It’s impossible.

That’s where we’re at with Kanter. Yes, of course Tim Hardaway Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay and Kevin Knox are bad defensively. But they also have the physical ability to at least be passable on defense – ability that will be easier to employ the moment they no longer have to worry about the bomb in the middle of the floor that will self-destruct at any given moment. As long as Kanter is there, it’s impossible to properly evaluate those players because they’re guarding against an inevitability, while also trying not to stink up the joint in their own right.

Here are the defensive ratings for the five starters with and without Kanter on the court:

Emmanuel Mudiay – Kanter on: 116.7, Kanter off: 115.9

Tim Hardaway Jr. – Kanter on: 115.9, Kanter off: 114.3

Kevin Knox – Kanter on: 120.1, Kanter off: 115.7

Noah Vonleh – Kanter on: 114.1, Kanter off: 110.72

The Knicks deserve the last half of this season to see if they can at least climb out of the basement of the league in an area for which New York used to pride itself on. The evidence speaks for itself.

But wait…there’s more!

Your first instinct is probably to say “wait a minute…we’re painfully thin at center as it is. David Fizdale already told us that Mitchell Robinson shouldn’t start because he picks up fouls like they’re on sale at Costco. If Kanter gets bought out, who the hell starts?

This gets into the second primary reason a buyout makes sense. Right now, Noah Vonleh – not-so-arguably the Knicks best player this season – has to start if “keep what you kill” has any teeth left whatsoever. The problem is that, by modern NBA standards at least, he’s playing out of position at the four. At the five, in place of Kanter, not only will the Knicks defense stand a fighting chance, but it’ll open up spacing on the other end3.

If the goal is to put systems in place that will sustain long into the Knicks future, beginning to duplicate how the offense will look with KP on the floor might as well start now. If you don’t want to start Knox at the four because you feel he’s not ready, fine…give Lance Thomas the Keith Bogans treatment, slide Knox over from the three after a few minutes, and bring in Dotson so you can surround either Mudiay or Frank with three shooters on the pick and roll4.

Having those additional minutes available will also alleviate the minutes crunch that’s only going to get worse once Alonzo Trier is back. Mitch still gets the backup minutes when he’s back to full health, and Kornet is always ready and waiting in the garage.

Speaking of the offense, you might be wondering if it’ll suffer without Kanter on the floor. Putting aside the fact that the Knicks score at a lower rate with Kanter on the floor than when he’s off, he’s also someone that demands touches – 7.5 post ups a game, to be exact. Shockingly enough, it doesn’t always end well. He turns it over 8.9 percent of the time on such possessions, second highest among the 11 players who average at least six post ups per game. His assist percentage of 6.1 is also the second lowest among those same 11 guys. For an offense trying to find its footing, having a black hole down low isn’t exactly ideal.

Ok, fine…so he’s maybe not suited for the starting lineup…but cut him? For nothing? Why not just have him come off the bench? Or trade him for something? Anything?

I understand. It seems drastic. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

As I wrote about last month, Kanter is virtually untradeable if you’re only accepting expiring money in the deal. You could stick him on the bench, but as we saw earlier this season, that might not go over so well with the big man. The locker room survived that little tantrum, but his effort was also noticeably reduced during the minutes he played as a reserve. Now imagine how he’s going to feel playing out the string for a team with no hope of a playoff birth and who is mere months away from renouncing your cap hold.

Ultimately, that’s what this comes down to. For all the obvious reasons, barring him taking an almost unfathomable pay cut, Enes Kanter is not going to be a Knick after this season. Cutting him and letting him try to latch on with a contender, even to play a few minutes off the bench here and there, would be doing right by a player who done right by you.

It’s time. I feel badly saying so, but it’s true. Unless you’re captain of team tank5, you should be on board with this move. If the Knicks cut bait now, Kanter’s time here will be remembered fondly, as it should.

No need to sully those memories. Ride off into the sunset on your high horse, big fella. You always gave it everything you had.

At least if there was a stat to be padded, you did.