RJ Barrett

Knicks Rumors: Cap Room, Oladipo, Barrett, Robinson

Ian Begley of SNY.tv reported last week that the Knicks are open to accommodating salary-dump deals with their cap room this fall, and in his preview of the NBA offseason, ESPN’s Zach Lowe confirms that the team has conveyed that it’s willing to be patient and gather assets using its cap space.

However, Lowe suggests it’s not clear what exactly the Knicks’ definition of “unwanted salaries” is, adding that they may want to take on players who can help the 2020/21 club without compromising future cap room. In other words, a deal that resembles the Clippers’ acquisition of Maurice Harkless last summer might be of interest to the Knicks — that was ostensibly a salary dump, with Los Angeles receiving a first-round pick for taking on Harkless, but the veteran forward also became a regular rotation player in L.A.

As for whether the Knicks are looking to spend big on any free agents, Lowe speculates that the Knicks may be willing to go that route only for a handful of players who are “under some age threshold and available at the right price.” It’s possible that young free agents like Fred VanVleet and Christian Wood – both of whom have been linked to New York – could fit that bill if bidding doesn’t go too high.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks have had interest in Victor Oladipo in the past, but may have shifted into “wait and watch” mode on the Pacers guard, according to Lowe. In other words, New York probably isn’t willing to give up significant assets for Oladipo without some on-court proof that he’s fully recovered from the quad tendon injury that sidelined him for a year.
  • New York has been reluctant to discuss RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson in any trade talks, sources tell Lowe. If the Knicks look to move up in the draft, I imagine teams would ask about one or both of those two players. However, they’re New York’s most obvious long-term cornerstones, so it’s no surprise that the team isn’t eager to make them available.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic profiles new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose in an in-depth story. A report earlier this week indicated that Rose is earning $8MM on his new deal with the Knicks.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Sixers, Barrett, Temple

The Raptors are among the teams trying to make the most of what has been an unusual and unprecedented pre-draft process, as assistant general manager Dan Tolzman explained to reporters on Wednesday. Tolzman estimated that there are about 50 players Toronto likes in this draft, adding that he believes the club can land a rotation-caliber player at No. 29 and potentially at No. 59 too.

“Usually there’s a lot of risers and fallers based on the draft combine, individual workouts, 3-on-3 workouts, all that kind of stuff, that isn’t happening,” Tolzman said, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic. “I’d say the best way to describe it is very balanced. There’s going to be a lot of rotation-level players that come out of this draft, kind of all across the board.”

Tolzman also suggested that the lack of pre-draft workouts and other activities for prospects this year may result in some rising players being overlooked until after the draft.

“I think probably more than usual, the undrafted market is going to be huge because normally, players that maybe early on were expected to go undrafted, they worked their way into the draft picture, and those workouts and those opportunities for them to do so just didn’t happen this year,” Tolzman said. “… You’re going to see guys come out of nowhere and be contributors next year.”

A strong undrafted free agent market may benefit the Raptors, who have done very well in that area in recent years, most notably with their signing of Fred VanVleet in 2016. Toronto’s top 2019 UDFA signing, Terence Davis, earned a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team this year.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • New Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is interested in adding former Bulls assistant Roy Rogers to his staff, a league source tells Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Rogers spent the 2019/20 season on Jim Boylen‘s staff in Chicago, but isn’t returning to the Bulls following the hiring of Billy Donovan.
  • Multiple people in touch with Knicks decision-makers tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that they expect New York to take a player’s fit with RJ Barrett into account when considering potential roster moves this offseason.
  • Reacting to a pair of recent tidbits from John Hollinger of The Athletic, Net Income of NetsDaily considers whether the emergence of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot might dissuade the Nets from picking up Garrett Temple‘s $5MM team option for the 2020/21 campaign. Temple was a regular part of Brooklyn’s rotation last season, but struggled with his shot (.378/.329/.805) and may be expendable for tax reasons.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Knicks, Raptors, Sixers

The Celtics‘ lack of depth was exposed during the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who contends that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge deserves some criticism for the club’s thin bench and a failure to make upgrades at the trade deadline.

In Washburn’s view, the Celtics’ squad was “cluttered” with too many non-contributors who couldn’t help the team this year. Ainge needs to focus this offseason on adding more players who can be counted on for minutes in big games, says Washburn.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

Mixed Reviews On R.J. Barrett’s Rookie Season

RJ Barrett had an up-and-down rookie season, but the 2019 No. 3 overall selection flashed the top-notch potential that made him a tantalizing pick. Some within the league believe Barrett’s strides are promising, as Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic hears.

“I think he’s a got a bright future if the Knicks handle him the right way and (give him) the resources to keep improving,” one Western Conference scout told Vorkunov.

Barrett’s 14.3 points per game were third among all rookies, though efficiency remains an issue. Barrett ranked in the 24th percentile as a scorer off the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports, and his turnover rate left much to be desired.

Another rival scout told Vorkunov that he doesn’t believe Barrett will become a “high-level” play-maker, but his ability to get the paint consistently provides hope for his future. Still, free throw shooting is an area of concern, as the rookie made just 61.9% of his attempts. Vorkunov notes that – within the last 10 years – only three rookies who shot at least 200 attempts during their respective rookie seasons were worse from the line (Nerlens Noel, Ben Simmons, Elfrid Payton).

Still, there’s optimism surrounding Barrett’s long-term viability in the league.

“Not sure (shooting guard is) his long-term role moving forward,” the aforementioned Western Conference scout added. “… I like his makeup. The way he plays. There’s definitely a competitive side to him that is not very common with a lot of these young players coming in … The pick for the Knicks was a good one … Once he finds his comfort zone he’ll be a really good player. He’s got to work on his shot.”

Some Knicks Were Frustrated By Randle’s Playing Style

Some Knicks players, including prized rookie RJ Barrett, were frustrated during the 2019/20 season by Julius Randle‘s approach on offense, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

As Berman explains, Barrett – who is accustomed to having the ball in his hands – was among the players put off by Randle’s tendency to hang onto the ball too long and overdribble. While Berman suggests that the chemistry between Barrett and Randle will be worth keeping an eye on going forward, he notes that 2019’s No. 3 overall pick wasn’t the only player who was irked by Randle’s playing style.

“A lot of players felt like that with the exception of Elfrid Payton,” one source told The Post.

Unlike every other free agent signed by the Knicks during the 2019 offseason, Randle received a guaranteed multiyear commitment. He’ll earn $18.9MM in 2020/21, so it’s safe to say he’ll be back with the team unless there’s an offseason trade.

Reports before February’s trade deadline indicated that the Knicks were willing to discuss Randle, with Ian Begley of SNY.tv writing this week that the club engaged with the Hornets on a potential swap that would have included Randle, Dennis Smith, Terry Rozier, and Malik Monk, among other assets.

Assuming Randle returns, one Eastern Conference personnel person who spoke to Berman thinks the Knicks would be wise to avoid tasking him with the lead scoring role, despite the fact that the big man put up a team-high 19.5 PPG in 2019/20 (Marcus Morris scored 19.6 PPG as a Knick, but was traded in February). Randle struggled when he found himself receiving the brunt of opposing defenses’ attention, turning the ball over frequently.

“He absolutely should not be your No. 1 or even No. 2 option, maybe not even No. 3 on a serious contender,” that personnel man told Berman. “He doesn’t have a good enough feel (and is) much too ball-dominant. I don’t trust his decisions with the ball. As sixth man, he would fit perfectly because I don’t think he gives you much defensively either. That’s more in line with a sixth-man role.”

Atlantic Notes: Van Gundy, Sixers, Smart, Barrett

Stan Van Gundy calls the Knicks organization “extremely dysfunctional” and has no interest in becoming their head coach, The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov tweets. However, he hinted that former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy might have some interest in a second stint. Speaking on ESPN radio, the former Miami, Orlando and Detroit head coach said, “I’m not really interested in the New York Knicks, no. If anyone would be interested in that — and I’m not sure he is either — it would be my brother.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The extended layoff will definitely help the Sixers, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines. Ben Simmons will have ample time to heal the lower back injury that sidelined him shortly after the All-Star break. Coach Brett Brown will have more time to solve the spacing issues created by playing Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Al Horford together. It also allows Josh Richardson time to rest his hamstring injuries and be further removed from the concussion he suffered, Pompey adds.
  • All of the other Celtics players and staff have tested negative for COVID-19, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. Guard Marcus Smart is one of 14 NBA players/personnel who have tested positive. Smart revealed his test result on Thursday.
  • Despite mediocre efficiency ratings, Knicks guard RJ Barrett flashed All-Star potential in his rookie season, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Barrett, who has posted averages of 14.3 PPG and 5.2 RPG, has a knack for getting to the basket, a consistently high motor and a strong work ethic. NBA talent evaluators are confident Barrett can significantly improve his perimeter and free throw shooting.

New York Notes: Coronavirus, Knicks’ Future, Chandler, Nets

The Knicks aren’t among the eight teams that have been ordered by the NBA to undergo coronavirus testing, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday. Madison Square Garden released a statement today explaining the status of the team and the NHL’s Rangers.

“We have been following the recommendations of local and national health officials and continue to monitor our players closely,” the statement reads. “As of now, with our players remaining asymptomatic, none of them have been tested for COVID-19. We will remain in close contact with health officials and the NBA and NHL.” (Twitter link).

It was revealed yesterday that four members of the cross-town Nets tested positive for the coronavirus, with Kevin Durant the only one who has been identified. As of this morning, 1,339 people in New York City have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.

There’s more from New York City:

  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic expects a lot of turnover on the Knicks‘ roster during the next three seasons, with RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson the only players likely to remain in New York the entire time. Vorkunov expects Dennis Smith Jr. to be traded during the offseason, possibly for a second-round pick, just to get rid of his contract. The draft lottery will be filled with point guards, so a prospect may be the long-term answer, rather than Frank Ntilikina. An extensive roster turnover could come by the summer of 2021 as the Knicks have four first-round picks over the next two drafts.
  • In the wake of the Nets’ positive tests, Wilson Chandler tweeted that the manager of the building where he lives has asked him to keep away from common areas. “Building manager called me saying ‘Oh, I seen Nets players had the virus. We would like to know your status. And if you could possibly stay out of the lobby etc. We can’t afford to lose our staff,’” Chandler wrote. He adds that she didn’t ask specifically if he had been tested.
  • In case you missed it earlier, the Nets are defending their decision to have the entire team tested for coronavirus, saying some players were showing symptoms and all the testing was done through a private facility.

New York Notes: Trier, Barrett, Irving, Atkinson

Allonzo Trier continues to be dangerous from 3-point range, but the second-year guard isn’t seeing enough playing time for it to make a difference, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Trier was a pleasant surprise for the Knicks last season, earning a two-way contract after going undrafted and later having it converted to a standard deal.

He averaged 22.8 minutes per night as a rookie, but that figure has dropped to 12.0 this season and Trier has only gotten into 21 games. Berman calls Trier’s reduced role one of the season’s great mysteries, but there are some explanations. Drafting RJ Barrett added to an already crowded backcourt, and a source tells Berman that management isn’t pleased with Trier’s effort on defense.

“I’ve flipped onto a new year and new role,’’ he said. “I just have to accept it and continue to do my job. And even if I don’t play, I continue to come in and support my teammates.’’

The Knicks made an effort to trade Trier at the deadline, Berman adds, but teams weren’t willing to part with a future asset. Trier insists he would have been fine either way.

“I wasn’t nervous,’’ he said. “If it happened, it happened. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Nothing to be worried about.”

There’s more from New York City:

  • Barrett told reporters today that he’s more “ambidextrous” than fully left-handed, Berman relays in a separate story. Barrett revealed that shooting is one of the few things he does with his left hand, adding that scouts were incorrect when they feared he wouldn’t be effective going to his right. Barrett has been given more ball-handling duties with Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina both injured, and interim coach Mike Miller believes he may ultimately become a combo guard. “He likes the ball in his hands,” Miller said. “The hardest guys to guard are guys like Devin Booker. The ball is in his hands then he’s playing off the ball. He’s really difficult to defend. How do you game plan on him? He’s not in one spot. He’s all over the place, coming off handoffs, screens and initiating.’’
  • A date still hasn’t been set for Kyrie Irving‘s season-ending shoulder surgery, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Irving and Kevin Durant are both expected to start accompanying the team on road trips soon.
  • In the same story, Atkinson talks about being the longest-tenured active coach in the New York market, even though he has only had his job since 2016. “(The Nets) obviously stuck with me when we went through a lot of struggles,” he said. “We’ve had struggles this year. I just think that’s the real advantage too, of being on the same page with ownership.”

Knicks Notes: Miller, Barrett, Rose, Dinwiddie

The Knicks should be focused on the future, but interim coach Mike Miller doesn’t appear ready to give more minutes to the team’s younger players, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman suggests Miller is more concerned with his own future in the organization. His 13-20 record is a marked improvement over David Fizdale’s 4-18 start, but there’s no guarantee Miller will be brought back next season, especially after comments this week from consultant Steve Stoute.

Miller’s philosophy is doing nothing to help 2018 lottery pick Kevin Knox or Dennis Smith Jr., who was among the keys to the Kristaps Porzingis deal. Knox played just 10 minutes Wednesday in the team’s final game before the break and hardly had any role in the offense. Smith played six minutes and committed four turnovers.

“As we approach this, this is all about development,’’ Miller said. “That will never change. It’s about how these guys get better just if they get 10 more minutes in a game. There are a lot of things that go into the development to make these guys better. Just having minutes isn’t the end-all. I think there are other ways and other factors.’’

There’s more from New York:

  • Before posting a game-high 27 points last night in the Rising Stars Challenge, RJ Barrett assessed the Rookie of the Year race and said he should be a contender, Berman adds in a separate story“A lot of people deserve [Rookie of the Year], a lot of people work hard for it,” Barrett said. “I don’t know. It’s kind of hard not to vote for myself.” The third pick in last year’s draft, Barrett is averaging 13.6 PPG in 44 games and shooting 38.8% from the field.
  • As he prepares to take over as head of basketball operations for the Knicks, Leon Rose is keeping a characteristically low profile at All-Star Weekend, observes Steve Popper of Newsday. Rose hasn’t officially taken on his new duties and is still completing the paperwork to end his time as an agent. A source tells Popper that Rose plans to replace general manager Scott Perry, whose contract expires at the end of the season.
  • Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie doesn’t expect his cross-town rivals to be a threat any time soon, relays Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “They’ll probably have a high draft pick,” Dinwiddie said of the Knicks. “Unless they do something via trade or via free agency, which I don’t know if this free agency class is that spectacular, they’re probably not going to be that good. We’ll see. I can’t tell the future. But more than likely, I mean Kevin Durant is coming back. And he’s Kevin Durant. He’s really good.”

Doncic, Young, Zion Headline Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA has officially announced the 20 rookies and sophomores who have been named to the league’s Rising Stars game for All-Star weekend. Those 20 players, selected by assistant coaches from around the league, will be divided into a U.S. Team and a World Team, as follows:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

Williamson’s inclusion is notable since he has appeared in just four games due to injuries. It’s not surprising that the NBA found a way to get him into the game, since he’s one of the most exciting prospects to enter the league in years, but it’s a tough break for youngsters who have been on the court since the fall for contenders, such as Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle. or Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.

Snubbed players like Thybulle, Porter, and others could eventually make their way into the Rising Stars game if players have to pull out due to injuries, or if All-Stars like Doncic and Young opt not to play in both events.

The Rising Stars game will take place in Chicago on Friday, February 14.