Knicks Notes: Vonleh, Smith Jr., Tanking, Prospects

Noah Vonleh has achieved his goal of re-establishing himself with the Knicks, but their partnership may not last beyond the February 7 trade deadline, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Vonleh was looking for playing time when he chose New York last summer instead of the Spurs, Bucks or Cavaliers. He joined the Knicks on a one-year, partially guaranteed contract and has turned in his best NBA season, averaging 8.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting better than 40% from 3-point range.

“A lot of talented players in the NBA don’t get to showcase certain things because that’s not how the team views them — they already got guys that can do that,” Vonleh said. “So the opportunity and the role is here, so I’m able to showcase some of the things. Coach (David Fizdale) said he has confidence in me, and that’s a big part. If your coach has confidence in you, ain’t no telling where you can go in this league. Sky’s the limit.”

However, Vonleh’s contract status brings some uncertainty to his situation. The Knicks don’t have his Bird Rights, so there’s no advantage to keeping him for the rest of the season. They will have the cap space to bid on him in free agency, although they are hoping to use that money on a top-level talent. A few teams have expressed interest in dealing for Vonleh, sources tell Vorkunov, although the Knicks haven’t said if they’re open to a trade.

There’s more out of New York:

  • It doesn’t appear the Knicks are interested in a second chance at Dennis Smith Jr., according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. New York bypassed Smith in the 2017 draft to take Frank Ntilikina and hasn’t pursued him despite rumors that he might be available in the midst of a troubled second season in Dallas. A source tells Berman that the Knicks asked about the Mavericks about Smith before the season, but “not recently.”
  • Despite reforming the rules for the draft lottery, the NBA is still faced with a four-team tanking race for the rest of the season, Berman notes in a separate story. The teams with the three worst records will have an equal shot at landing the top pick, and the Knicks are in that competition with the Cavaliers, Suns and Bulls. New York has dropped 17 of its past 19 games to move into third place in our latest Reverse Standings, but all four teams are separated by just two games.
  • In another piece, Berman examines the top five prospects the Knicks will be looking at if they land a high lottery pick. He places the Duke trio of Zion WilliamsonCam Reddish and R.J. Barrett and as the top three, followed by Murray State guard Ja Morant and Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter.
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23 thoughts on “Knicks Notes: Vonleh, Smith Jr., Tanking, Prospects

  1. hiflew

    I still think the best way to stop tanking is to invert the reverse standings. Meaning the team with the best record that misses the playoffs would get the best chance at #1. It rewards every single victory. It would stop both tanking and the ridiculous buyout market.

    It is also better for the league because there is a better chance of the best rookies being in the playoffs the next year. The #1 rarely makes the worst team a playoff team immediately, but he could easily be the missing piece of a 9 seed.

    It’s also better for the rookies because the mid first rounders that may need a little more time to develop will end up on the worst teams. A #12 pick would have a chance to play and develop an on court rapport with a struggling team instead of sitting on the bench of middling team or worse being stuck in the G League.

    Some people will say that the worst teams will never get better that way, but I say it will be more incentive for them to get better via the FA and trade markets.

    Not to mention the fact that it would make for really interesting end of the season games. Imagine a game 82 between the Clippers and Lakers where the winner makes the playoffs and the loser gets the best chance at the lottery. The way it is now, the winner get the 8 seed and the loser almost certainly gets the last lotto pick.

    Sorry for the long post, but I feel very strongly about this.

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    • Rewane

      Then there would be tanking at the end of the playoff seeds.

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    • monymgr

      Agree with this idea .. Eliminates a number of issues !!

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    • padam

      Yes, top FA’s will be lining up to sign with the worst teams in the league. Eternal purgatory is what you’re suggesting for the poorest of teams.

      Want to stop the tanking, team that drafts in the top three one year can’t the next – default is fourth, fifth or sixth pick while the others move up a pick. Preventing teams from getting a cheap franchise player is pure insanity while rewarding mediocrity. That alone would open up more doors for draft manipulation.

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      • hiflew

        The easy way to fix that would be to enforce a hard cap and a hard salary floor for teams. Players will either go to those teams or be paid like the 3rd or 4th option on a good team. And poor teams would have to spend the money to try and become winners rather than sitting back for 5 years and doing nothing other than collecting young players.

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    • southbeachbully

      I think we have to get past this idea of what “tanking” means. If you were the worst team in 2018 but you have money to spend on the best FA available then why would the impact player’s sign with you? A stud FA’s market is set according to the NBA CBA/Salary caps. If the worst team can only offer as much as the best team then how would they ever hope to sign one?

      The NBA is unlike the other two major sports. In the MLB a team can have an influx of 50-60 players each year from the draft, international FA and undrafted amateurs. The NFL has 6 rounds. The NBA has 2 rounds and the G League.

      I say that to say, if you suck and are in a relatively undesirable FA destination then you really are forced to deal with what you have and hope that at some point you might have 2 or 3 top players and can some how piece together a supporting cast that can help you compete.

      Unfortunately, the talent pool in the NBA isn’t deep. Even the Lakers and Celtics had to cleanse their rosters of expensive vets and embrace the suck in-order to get to the point where you had enough young talent to warrant attempts to acquire veteran all-star talent. One man’s tank is another man’s necessity for survival and sporadic relevancy.

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    • Guest617

      dan gilbert would veto that immediately. w/o lebron he’s a tanking machine

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      • southbeachbully

        He’s not trying to tank. It’s the first year without LBJ and he had a bunch of vets on contract including the extension of Love. How is that tanking? What options do they have to be more competitive this season other than to try and let the talented young players play and make trades that might come your way? We have to stop using that term and look at where the teams are and what the options are at their disposal. Cleveland is not going to be a prime destination for FA until they have a good enough core.

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    • The Glider

      I’m cool with that. By why not also make it interesting. The 4 worst teams have a little tournament. The winner gets the No. 1 pick. There would be a consolation game to determine nos. 3 and 4.

      Ta dah!

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  2. I think they are interesting points, but it wouldn’t work as teams would tank to get out of the playoffs to get the top rookies. I mean what you rather be steam rolled by GSW or get a top 3 pick, apart of the top 4-6 teams in each conference no one would wanna be on the playoffs. Good idea but still is as flawed as the actual system.

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    • hiflew

      By your logic, the league should lower the number of teams in the playoffs altogether. If only the top 4 want in, then only the top 4 should get in. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind that, but it is never going to happen.

      Plus, I really think you are underestimating the competitive nature of professional athletes and coaches. It’s one thing to think about tanking when you are the worst 3-5 teams in the league. But no team in the 8th seed is going to tank. If they did, they should be thrown out of the league immediately. The whole point of the NBA is not to get the #1 pick in the draft. The whole point is to win the championship. Even though it is a long shot, the #8 seed still has a chance to win that championship. #8 seeds have beaten #1 seeds before and they will again.

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  3. Bryson

    One problem with the current system is how it continues to reinforce the West’s dominance – like Utah getting Donovan Mitchell or the Suns getting a shot at Zion – there at least 5 teams in the east worse than the Suns.

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    • padam

      You realize all those teams that passed on Mitchell had a chance to draft him. It’s not reinforcement, it’s poor drafting.

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      • hiflew

        It’s not necessarily poor drafting. This is not a vacuum situation. You can’t just assume because someone shined in one place, he would have been equally effective elsewhere. It’s having an opportunity for someone to shine. If Mitchell had been drafted somewhere else, he might not have gotten a chance to start and get rolling. He could still be bouncing back and forth from the G League.

        I always like the example of Michael Jordan. He shined in Chicago quickly because there was a clear opportunity for a star. If he had been drafted by Portland, who famously took Sam Bowie ahead of him, he would have been stuck behind Clyde Drexler, drafted the year before, on the depth chart. Or at the very least he would have had to share the spotlight with Drexler. He would not have gotten as man shots and almost definitely would not have been scoring as much. Of course he COULD have still become a superstar, but playing in Portland, he probably wouldn’t have been nearly as big as he became in Chicago.

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    • southbeachbully

      Nets didn’t have a top pick that year. Went to the Celtics. They along with the Knicks and 76ers all passed on Mitchell. Your point is emphatically incorrect.

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  4. Z-A

    Traded picks also throws a monkey wrench into it.

    I’ve thrown out the reverse standings idea too, over the years. It has fallacies.

    But honestly, let them tank. Look at the league. You need some of these teams to tank and get a ‘star’ player b/c all the stars are teaming up together and diluting the league anyway.

    What is the draw for Cleveland, NYK, Chicago, Orlando? Really no superstar talent outside of KP who is injured.

    Zion has star hype. RJ Barrett has elite talent. Put one on CLE, NYK, Chicago and you’re helping the league’s draw for those crappy games on the schedule. Who tunes in to watch any team vs Cleveland?

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    • Z-A

      Look at Philly. Tell me how Iggy and Jrue were going to make the Sixers relevant? Sixers started the tank 2013-14. Their highest attendance in the 5 years before the tank: 14th.

      Last year w/Embiid & Simmons: 3rd
      This year w/Embiid, Simmons & Butler: 2nd

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      • hiflew

        But they DID make Philly relevant. The year before they started tanking, the Sixers were in the Eastern Conference Finals as a #8 seed. That team was not given a chance to prove whether or not they could be a legit force because some people didn’t like the way they looked on paper.

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  5. bknowledge

    My idea is to base the lottery odds on the teams records after the all star break (teams that don’t make the playoffs in the lottery; teams in the playoffs draft position as it is now). You’d still get tanking, but the first two thirds of the season would be real.

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