New York Giants: Kevin Zeitler says goodbye to New York following release

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

The New York Giants will have a different offensive line this season and one of the biggest changes will be that their top performer from last year is gone. That top performer, of course, is Kevin Zeitler. The Giants acquired him when they moved Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns, and Zeitler for the most part kept up his level of play that started with his previous team.

And he was one of the better members of the line during the time that he was with the Giants, starting almost every game since arriving in the trade. Now, however, the Giants have deemed his salary too much to keep on board amid their need to stay under the lowered salary cap. The Giants failed to renegotiate Zeitler’s contract and released the guard because of it, leaving them with a new need to address on the offensive line this season.

Zeitler has posted his goodbye to the Giants organization and the fans on Twitter already. The team that he’s saying goodbye to is one that he started 31 games for in two seasons, for two different head coaches.

The fans of course, will likely miss Zeitler’s presence on the line – after all, the Giants don’t have a clear replacement lined up just yet and it seems like the in-house option Will Hernandez has fallen off since his promising rookie season. The offensive line has been a problem for the Giants to figure out and now they have yet another spot on that line to reconsider.

However, at the end of the day, it just didn’t work out money wise. The Giants will save from cutting Zeitler, and he’ll head elsewhere and find the contract he’s looking for. That contract unfortunately won’t be with the Giants, and Zeitler apparently wasn’t willing to take less money to stay.

All-Star break hangover or harbinger? Knicks suffer season’s worst loss

new york knicks, julius randle

Fresh from his first NBA All-Star appearance, Julius Randle had a rude awakening.

Randle didn’t handle well his first game back as a bona fide All-Star and No.1 option. He rammed into a wall in Milwaukee as the Bucks shut him down, resulting in the New York Knicks’ worst loss of the season, 134-101, Thursday night at the Fiserv Forum.

It was a frustrating start for the Knicks, who entered the second half of the season with a winning record (19-18) for the first time in seven years. The loss should serve as an early wake-up call for the Knicks, who have the third-toughest schedule after the All-Star break.

The Bucks executed their game plan to perfection, limiting Randle to a season-low seven points on a brutal 3-for-12 shooting. The constant double and triple-team coverage threw off Randle, and the Knicks went down with their main man.

“I think it’s reading the game. The game’s gonna tell you what shots to take. You have to understand when you’re the first option, and somebody commits sending in a secondary defender, as a primary scorer, you have the responsibility to make the right play,” Tom Thibodeau lamented.

The stagnant offense typified by Randle’s struggles sapped the Knicks’ energy on defense.

On the flip side, the Bucks bullied them.

With Giannis Antetokounmpo picking up from where he left off in Atlanta, the Bucks followed his lead. Milwaukee shot 58 percent and hit 18-of-38 from deep in a dominant performance.

Antetokounmpo won the All-Star Game MVP with a perfect 16-for-16 shooting last Sunday. He followed that up with an 8-for-13 performance against the Knicks on his way to notching his fifth triple-double of the season.

Antetokounmpo, also the reigning back-to-back regular-season MVP, had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in under 30 minutes to lead the Bucks’ revenge win.

The Knicks, who blasted the Bucks, 130-110, in New York early in the season, was nowhere to be found in Milwaukee on Thursday night. They looked like the Knicks of last year who were running like headless chickens.

A 14-0 run in the first quarter was all the Bucks needed to take the lead, which they never relinquished. Though the Knicks’ second unit closed the gap to five at the end of the first quarter, the Bucks starters came back to restore order.

Milwaukee drew double figures from all its starters while RJ Barrett was the lone Stallion for the Knicks’ starting unit.

Barrett led the Knicks with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting, with Alec Burks adding 17 and eight assists off the bench.

The loss added to the Knicks’ woes against teams above .500 as they dropped to 5-11 in those games this season. They will try to lick the wounds of this stinging loss when they continue a tough four-game road trip in Oklahoma City this Saturday.

The Knicks are also hoping to avenge their 101-89 loss at the Thunder’s hands in The Garden back in January.

Randle is eager to bounce back as he insisted Thursday’s night’s loss was just an off night that usually comes after the All-Stat break.

“I’m not too worried, man. As far as I remember, the past couple of years, the first game after the break, I’m always sh*tty,” Randle said.

Randle was right.

Last year, he also had a similar seven-point game on 2-for-9 shooting against the Indiana Pacers after the All-Star break. He responded with 10 straight double-digit performances while leading the Knicks to a 4-6 record during that stretch before COVID-19 shut the league down.

The Knicks could only hope Randle can find his rhythm back as it’s clear that they could only go as far as he takes them.

Not unless a significant help comes before the trade deadline to ease his burden.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

The New York Rangers shutout in “frustrating” loss to Boston

New York Rangers, Mika Zibanejad

Normally, an article about the New York Rangers would start with a little summary of what happened in the game. Not tonight. This article is going to jump right into post-game comments after a very poor showing in a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.

In his post-game Zoom conference, Jacob Trouba explained that the Rangers were trying to give it their full effort on the ice. “I don’t think it spiraled out of control. Obviously, we had some breakdowns that led to goals, but I don’t think it totally fell off a cliff.”

“Frustrating.” head coach David Quinn said in his post-game Zoom conference. “I thought we had a good start, was playing well, and had some chances early. The short-handed goal was the backbreaker in a lot of ways. You could kind of sense it. They got goals on their chances and we didn’t.”

Quinn was also disappointed by the lack of production from the Ranger’s power-play. “Our power-play obviously has to be fixed. They get a power-play goal and special teams were really the difference tonight.”

Echoing Jacob Trouba’s comments, Quinn said that “We kept competing right up to the buzzer. We got down 4-0 and it could have got ugly but we kept playing. There are certainly some positives to take out of it and we have to dust ourselves off and get ready to play Saturday afternoon.”

Quinn also mentioned that a lot of the issues for the Rangers was that when they make mistakes, they are big mistakes. This helps explain why the Rangers have been outscored 13-3 in their last three losses.

Takeaways from the New York Rangers loss to Boston

For the second straight time that he has started, Alexandar Georgiev was pulled during the game with just under five minutes gone in the second period. The young Russian gave up four goals in fourteen shots. On the four goals, Boston scored shorthanded, even strength, and on the power play.

Keith Kinkaid finished the game for the Blueshirts by stopping all 13 shots he faced.

Up until tonight, the Rangers had been outstanding in killing penalties. They had not allowed a power-play goal in 15 of their last 17 games, including nine of the last 10 games and each of the last seven games. The Rangers had killed off 54 of their opponents’ 58 power-play opportunities over the last 18 games and have held their opponents to only 73 shots on goal during their opponents’ 58 power-play opportunities over the span.

The two teams will play again Saturday afternoon.

 

 

deGrom Lights Up Radar Gun, Alonso Homers Mets 1-0 Victory

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

The New York Mets played an untelevised game against the Houston Astros as Jacob deGrom faced Zack Greinke for the second straight outing. deGrom was as good as advertised and hit 102 mph on the radar gun as he continues to dazzle baseball.

deGrom faced nine batters and struck out seven of them in three innings pitched. He faced a lineup filled with backups and minor leaguers while the Mets put out a close to Opening Day lineup. Even with the lack of competition, deGrom did exactly what should be done when facing weaker competition. There may be a concern with deGrom throwing hard early on, but there is no reason not to trust the two-time Cy Young winner.

Pete Alonso provided the only run with his solo homer in the sixth inning. Despite also striking out twice, Alonso is hitting .313 this spring and has no issues hitting for power. Brandon Nimmo continued his hot spring with two more hits and pushed his average to .467.

Mets pitchers allowed just one hit and struck out 17 Astros. Mike Montgomery followed with two scoreless innings and four strikeouts. Jacob Barnes (1), Stephen Tarpley (2), and Daniel Zamora (1) combined for the final four innings.

The Mets are back on television for Friday’s matchup against the Miami Marlins. Marcus Stroman (1-0, 3.60 ERA) makes his third start of the spring against Pablo Lopez (0-0, 0.00). The first pitch from Clover Park is at 1:10 p.m ET.

New York Jets to open Athletic Care and Performance Department

New York Jets

The New York Jets are seeking new ways to conquer the rash of injuries, opening a new Athletic Care and Performance Department.

The New York Jets announced the ongoing development of an Athletic Care and Performance Department on Thursday. Proceedings will be overseen by Dr. Brad DeWeese.

“After a thorough review of our sports performance areas, it became clear that in order to maximize our player’s health, safety, and effectiveness on the field, we needed to establish a centralized group that would better position our team for success,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said in a team statement. “During our search for the right person to lead this group Dr. Brad DeWeese impressed us, not only with his proven track record, but also with his vision, insight, and strategic approach to maximize athletic care and performance.”

Dr. DeWeese, having earned his Doctorate degree at North Carolina State University, will end his tenure as the Assistant Athletic Director for Sport Performance at East Tennessee State’s athletic program. He has closely worked with the United States Winter Olympics preparation program in Lake Placid, having overseen athletes from three sports en route to 21 medals in the Games and World Championships.

Dr. DeWeese listed some lofty goals upon his arrival to One Jets Drive, declaring “I want us to be the model for other NFL teams to develop their system by”.

“We are sincerely going to take an objective approach to training and performance first,” Dr. DeWeese said of his goals in the same statement. “Our job is to make sure when Coach Saleh looks down the sideline, he has the maximum number of players available and that those players are going to be strong and they’re going to be fast. And we are going to look under every rock and make sure everything we do is sound. We’re going to maximize the training from the weight room with what I call a sprint-based model.”

Injuries have been a major concern for the Jets over the past few seasons. Data obtained by Kristian Dyer of Sports Illustrated, for example, revealed that the Jets lost a jaw-dropping 273 games man-games to injury during the 2019 seasons, the second-worst rate in the NFL.

Jets reporter Eric Allen also unveiled other names added to the Department’s staff, which include Mike Nicolini, (head strength & conditioning coach), Dr. Matt Sams (director of sports science), Dr. Robert Sausaman (assistant director of high performance), and Dr. Omar Ahmad (assistant strength & conditioning coach).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Yankees Recap: Small ball was the name of the game in Yankee win

New York Yankees, Jonathan Loaisiga

The New York Yankees traveled to Clearwater, Florida today to play the Philadelphia Phillies at BayCare Park. Starting for the Yankees was Gerrit Cole in his second start of spring camp. Cole was roughed up a bit in his one inning with Gary Sanchez catching; he went only one inning giving up one run with 27 pitches. Today he faced Aaron Nola for the Phillies. It was a beautiful day for baseball under mostly sunny skies and a game-time temperature of 78 degrees and a light breeze. The Yankees won the game 6-1.

The Yankees led off with their “B” lineup. Leading off was Aaron Hicks who was very patient with Nola and ended up hitting a left-field homer off him to start the game. Luke Voit lined out. Jay Bruce ground out. Clint Frazier ground out to third, ending the half but with a Yankee one-run lead. Gerrit Cole came out in the bottom of the frame, this time with Kyle Higashioka catching. Ex-Yankee McCutchen singled to right, Hoskins struck out, and Bryce Harper flew out. Bohm closed out the inning by striking out. Yankees 1 Phillies 0.

Mike Ford fighting for a spot on Opening Day, led off the second inning by having a line-drive single to right field. Higashioka had a swinging strikeout; Tyler Wade also swung his way to a strikeout, followed by Thairo Estrada ground out, leaving Ford stranded. Cole out for the second stuck out Didi Gregorius, who is off to a languid start this spring training. Segura ground out, and Herrera flew out to give Cole a quick one-two-three inning.

Andrew Velazquez led off for the New York Yankees in the third. He singled sharply. Back at the top of the lineup Aaron Hicks who homered in the first, Velazquez stole second and advance to third on the Hicks ground out. Voit singled, scoring Velazquez for the two-run Yankee lead. Jay Bruce walked, moving Voit to second. Frazier flew into a double play ending the inning, but the Yankees picked up another run. Cole is being stretched out and was out on the mound for the third inning. Knapp struck out, Kingery doubled off Cole, and McCutchen singled, scoring Kingery from second. Hoskins flew out for the second out. Harper struck out to end the inning. Yankees 2 Phillies 1.

Nola out for his fourth-inning ground out Ford. Higashioka ground out, and Tyler Wade struck out for the quick half. Jonathan Loaisiga replaced Cole at the bottom of the frame. Bohm flew out sharply to Hicks, Gregorius struck out, and Segura grounded out to Ford for the game’s quickest inning. Yankees 2 Phillies 1.

In the fifth, Coonrad replaced Nola. Estrada struck out. Velazquez got his second single of the game. Velazquez advanced to second on a pickoff error. Hicks doubled in Velazquez as the Yankees picked up another run. Voit ground out, and Jay Bruce ground out for the third out. Loaisiga out for a second inning popped out Herrera. Knapp ground out, as did Kingery. Loaisiga looked sharp in both of his innings. Yankees 3 Phillies 1.

With Romero pitching, Clint Frazier singled, Ford hit into a double play leaving the bases empty. Higashioka struck out, ending the half. Loaisiga was on the mount for a third inning. He caught a comebacker from Vierling; Hoskins ground out as did Harper, completing three excellent innings for Loaisiga.  Yankees 3 Phillies 1.

David Hale faced Tyler Wade in the seventh. Wade singled, Estrada was hit by a pitch advancing the speedy Wade to second. Park pinch-ran for Estrada. Velazquez flew out to left. Greg Allen hit into a double play stranding the runners. Jhoulys Chacin took the mound at the bottom of the frame. Maton singled, Chatham was forced out, Stot flew out. Chacin threw Jankowski three straight balls but got him out on the 9th pitch. Yankees 3 Phillies 1.

Michael Ynoa on the mound for the Phillies in the eighth, Anthony Seigler walked on nine pitches. Seigler stole second. Ryan LaMarre struck out. Brito flew out, Gittens singled, driving in Seigler, and McDowell singled, allowing Gittens to advance to third base. The Phillies changed pitchers Ynoa out, Hammer in. Oswald Peraza singled driving in Gittens for another Yankee run. Hoy Park, while batting, Hammer had a wild pitch advancing McDowell to third and Peraza to second. Park walked, loading the bases for the Yankees. Velazquez hit McDowell in for another run. Bases remain loaded. Greg Allen ground out, leaving the bases loaded, but the Yankees picked up three runs in the half. Yankees 6 Phillies 1.

Chacin had a one-two-third inning at the bottom of the eighth. At the top of the ninth inning, the Yankees’ Siegler led off against Ramon Russo. Seigler struck out, LaMarre struck out, Brito singled, Gittens singled, McDowell walked, loading the bases, Peraza flew out, leaving the bases loaded. With last licks on the line for the Phillies, the New York Yankees sent Lucas Luetge to close it for the Yankees. Hall popped out,  O’Hoppe struck out, and Maton made the final out of the Yankee 6-1 win over the Phillies.

Jonathan Loaisiga was the winning pitcher. The New York Yankees played a great game of small ball that accounted for five of the six runs. The long home run was from Aaron Hicks. The Yankees played errorless baseballs and stole to bases in the assault against the Phillies. On a down note, the Yankees did leave 10 men on base.

Report: ‘optimism’ that New York Giants will bring back Nate Solder for 2021 season

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants recently cut starting right guard Kevin Zeitler, saving $12 million against the cap. As they try to fit Leonard Williams under the cap after hitting him with the franchise tag, it only makes sense to begin shedding dead weight.

However, the Giants still have a few pieces they can release to clear more money, and one of them is OL Nate Solder. Solder opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, as his son has been dealing with cancer for multiple years. Being the bigger man, he chose his family over football, a commendable choice but one that put the Giants in a tough position this off-season.

Dan Duggan of The Athletic reports that there’s optimism Solder will return to the team in 2021, with the expectation that he will make the transition to right tackle, a position he hasn’t played in over a decade.

The New York Giants are facing more problems:

Unfortunately, the Giants have created more problems in the trenches, and while their defensive line seems to be fine for the time being, quarterback Daniel Jones may be running for his life once again next season. With a ton of cap space in 2022, restructuring a few deals and pushing the money to next season might be in their best interest, but it doesn’t seem as if general manager Dave Gettleman is a fan of restructuring. As he stated in his most recent press conference, he desires to keep contracts flat, with an average salary allocation per season, instead of spreading it out and back-loading contracts, which can hurt down the line.

Theoretically, Gettleman’s argument makes sense, but with the cap dropping and methodology changing in the modern-day NFL, it’s either adapt or die. The Giants are not showing to be very modernized in their approach, which could end up biting them in the butt.

New York Jets: New deals elsewhere make the case to draft

As a decision at quarterback looms, the New York Jets can take a lesson from Dak Prescott’s new contract and Tom Brady’s restructures.

Tom Brady has taught, or has at least attempted to teach, the New York Jets countless lessons over the past two decades. As Brady plans to extend his career even further, the Jets can probably stand to take one more as light begins to flicker at the end of their tunnel of rebuilding.

Just over a month after he helped bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Tampa Bay…and a seventh ring to his finger…Brady is already laying down the blueprints for another. According to a report from Josina Anderson, the thrower whose “GOAT” label is becoming less debatable with each passing day and the Buccaneers are restructuring the two-year, $50 million deal bestowed to him last spring.

The plan is to open up enough cap space to keep the other key contributors from the recently wrapped Super Bowl run. Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, and Leonard Fournette are among the champions set to hit the market, while receiver Charles Godwin was franchise tagged.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Brady, 44, would adjust his contract to prolong a potential dynasty. In 2014, negotiations with the New England Patriots netted $24 million in cap space that played a role in three additional Super Bowl visits (two wins).

As things currently stand, Brady is the 16th-highest-paid quarterback in football. It’s probably the one quarterback list where he doesn’t appear in the top ten.

“When he restructures his deal, he’s getting a big bundle of cash up-front. But it is helping us create cap room,” Patriots owner Bob Kraft said of a prior restructure in 2012, per Mike Reiss of ESPN. “We are in the business of quality depth management,” Kraft said. “It’s a physical game and you have injuries, and you need depth on your team.”

The Brady situation is a direct contrast to the ongoing passing situation in Dallas. Dak Prescott is now the second-highest paid quarterback in football at the end of a two-year game of chicken between him and Cowboys management. He’ll make $40 million in each of the next four seasons, a price tag bested only by Patrick Mahomes’ seemingly eternal deal in Kansas City.

It’s great to see a high-character, high-ceiling athlete like Prescott get a good deal, but it’s not the transaction that’s going to bring an elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy to the metroplex. With the signing of Prescott, the Cowboys bare sit above the cap, now working with less than $1 million of space. It could necessitate some painful cuts in the coming future…some say talented blocker Tyron Smith could be a part of that, for example.

Prescott’s deal should not be seen as greed on his part, but rather getting what’s necessary for the Cowboys to merely remain relevant. Some have grilled Prescott for a lack of postseason success, but it’s clear he has the skills to be a game-changing NFL quarterback. Dallas had a taste of life without Prescott when he was lost for the season with an ankle injury after five games. A cursed quarterback hydra of Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, and Garrett Gilbert mustered a 4-7 mark in Prescott’s absence. Through four seasons as a full-time starter, Prescott has yet to post a losing record with a star on his helmet.

What do these situations have to do with the Jets? They should avoid a similar predicament in all circumstances.

Unlike the Buccaneers and Cowboys, the Jets’ quarterback future is anything but settled. The only thing anyone knows about the situation is the unspoken guarantee that it will all be over no later than the evening of April 29, the first round of the NFL Draft. Just over a month of relative chaos, however, awaits on the horizon.

The Jets have enough stress with an NFL equivalent of a first-world problem: deciding what to do with the second overall pick. But it seems like every elite, disgruntled, veteran quarterback wants in on what Robert Saleh has to offer, as rumors have linked Deshaun Watson ($39 million in 2021) and Russell Wilson ($35 million) to a green future. Watson and Wilson respectively rank third and fourth in terms of the best-paid quarterbacks, but the Jets, blessed with a cap space number in the area of $70 million that’s been talked about endlessly in the NYC area, are one of the few teams that can perhaps afford to take on such a financial burden.

Tantalizing as such a union would be, however, the cases of Brady and Prescott dictate that the Jets would be best off starting fresh with a rookie contract.

New York Jets
(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

There’s a sense of “when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose” with the Jets, which can allow them to play with a sense of reckless abandon under a first-time head coach seeking an identity. With so many holes to fill and so many established contenders in the AFC, ending their postseason drought still seems like a tall task. But progress must be made in this perpetual rebuild, particularly in the franchise quarterback role that’s felt vacant since Joe Namath left Shea Stadium for the final time.

For the Jets to do that, they need to fill as many holes as possible and settle as many of their affairs as they can…similar to what Brady’s doing in Tampa Bay. Save for the front four and one of the tackle slots…which appear set to be anchored by the talents of Quinnen Williams and Mekhi Becton respectively…the Jets face uncertainty at almost every spot on the depth chart. Thus, the Jets are not in a position to dedicate most of their offseason funds, no matter how expansive their surplus becomes, to a Prescott-like situation.

It’s better, at this point, to follow the Brady method and restructure around a quarterback that’s not among the highest-paid names in football. Even if they wanted to even extend Sam Darnold’s fifth-year option (currently valued at circa $18 million, per Over the Cap), that would be a better, more affordable trek on which to embark.

When you accumulate a 30-8 record against the Jets in your NFL career, you tend to teach the metropolitan area a lesson or two. With Brady taking on less to ensure his reign lasts even longer, finally heeding and emulating his example…even in mere roster management…can help finally end the perpetual rebuild.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Examining PFL’s women’s lightweight opening matchups

MMA, PFL

Earlier this week, PFL announced their first round of matchups for the heavyweight division as well as women’s lightweight. The matchups will kick off on May 6th with the headliner featuring former UFC heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum.

While a lot of the focus is on the heavyweights, PFL‘s women’s lightweight division is definitely one to watch in 2021. Of course a lot of the talk is centered around former Olympic Gold Medalist and two-time defending champion, Kayla Harrison (8-0).

Harrison is the massive betting favorite heading into the 2021 PFL season for the lightweights. The former Olympian has won the previous two seasons and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. While she didn’t get to fight for PFL in 2020, she was still able to fight.

Harrison was able to do a one-off fight with Invicta. She took on Courtney King and absolutely battered her over the course of two rounds. Now, Harrison will return to the promotion that is building her up to be the next superstar in women’s MMA.

In Harrison’s opening matchup, she’ll be taking on Brazilian, Mariana Morais (16-10). Morais is very good on the ground having won half of her fights by submission. She will enter the matchup against Harrison on a three-fight win streak. This will be her PFL debut.

Other PFL lightweight matchups to watch

One of the lightweights I have my eyes on heading into PFL’s 2021 season is Larissa Pacheo (13-4). Pacheo has been very solid every time I’ve had the chance to watch her. Her she was the runner-up in 2019 after losing to Kayla Harrison.

Pacheo’s four losses have come to Harrison (twice) and former UFC champions, Germaine De Randamie and Jessica Andrade. Needless to say that she’s only lost to top competition. In her opening fight, she will be taking on Julija Pajic (2-0).

Another PFL lightweight that I have my eyes on for this upcoming season is Cindy Dandois (16-5). Dandois is riding a four-fight win streak and she’s taking on Kaitlin Young (11-10-1) in her first matchup. The PFL lightweight season should be a good one in 2021 as a bunch of quality contenders try to dethrone Harrison.

Why the New York Knicks should trade for Lonzo Ball

New York Knicks, Lonzo Ball

When you think of Lonzo Ball, you think of his father and his antics. Comparing Lonzo to Steph Curry, saying he could beat MJ in a 1-on-1. This has turned off a lot of NBA fans from Lonzo Ball as a player, but in 2021, he’s become an amazing point guard. He’s shooting great from deep on 7.8 attempts and is overall a passive guard who plays defense and would be perfect for the New York Knicks. Tom Thibodeau wants a defensively sound guard at the PG spot, and Lonzo is quite the defender. At 6’6, he’s able to outmatch a lot of PGs length-wise while providing 38.7% shooting from 3. His efficiency across the board has gone up, and in Thibodeau’s defensive system, Lonzo Ball could elevate into an elite defender. If the Knicks want to make a move this deadline, Lonzo Ball is the right move to make.

Improved Efficiency

Lonzo Ball from 2017-2018 was one of the worst offensive point guards in basketball. His nauseating shooting splits and an inability to elevate as a shooter drew the label of “bust” to Ball. His stat line in those 2 years in his percentage was as bad as it gets:

38% FG%
31.5% 3P%
43.7% FT%
46.3% TS%

In 2019 this terrible stretch continued, with his first 21 games producing a 33.1% 3P% and 56% FT%, yikes. After that, though, something clicked in his shot, and he was suddenly a deep threat for the Pelicans. While his FT% was still putrid at 56.9%, he was able to shoot 39.5% from 3 on 6.5 attempts a game, and this shooting prowess only got better this year. So far, statistically, he’s been pretty solid across the board in his percentages

42.8% FG%
38.7% 3P%
77.5% FT%
56.3% TS%

Lonzo Ball is now…an efficient PG who’s an amazing shooter from deep and can be the perfect offensive piece for this offense, who desperately needs that consistent deep threat who can playmaker to pair with Randle and Barrett.

Massive Improvement Over Elfird Payton

Let’s first compare their statistics, and when you look at the numbers, Ball is very clearly better than Payton:

Lonzo Ball:
56.3% TS%
1.3 Offensive Win Shares
0.6 Defensive Win Shares
.083 Win Shares per 48
2.5 RAPTOR WAR
0.91 LEBRON

Elfrid Payton:
49.1% TS%
-0.2 Offensive Win Shares
1.0 Defensive Win Shares
.041 Win Shares per 48
0.3 RAPTOR WAR
-2.47 LEBRON

Yes, a lot of these numbers are advanced metrics, but they help with total value as Payton is a defensive-oriented guard, and yet despite that, he’s still vastly inferior to Lonzo Ball, who’s nearly as good of a defender and a far superior offensive player.

For their playstyles, Lonzo Ball is a no-brainer for the Knicks. Payton oftentimes slows down the pace of the offense. They both shoot a similar amount of times per game, but Lonzo’s attempts are mostly from deep, specializing in straightaway and corner threes. This means most of his scoring comes naturally in the flow of the offense, rather than him attacking the basket. Payton has started to excel at attacking the basket in recent weeks, however, this playstyle hinders an offense that has a slasher in RJ Barrett and someone who’s aggressive in Julius Randle. They also don’t have a stretch big, meaning Reggie Bullock often times is their only perimeter player in the starting lineup. With Lonzo Ball, he becomes the primary ball-handler and someone who’s going to make passes to aggressive scorers while his off-the-ball movement limits traffic in the paint when RJ makes a dash towards the basket.

Could Lonzo Ball Be Part Of the Future For the Knicks?

Lonzo Ball is currently 23 years old. He’s only half a year older than Obi Toppin and less thane 2 years older than Immanuel Quickley. He’s someone you can have at the point guard spot for a very long time, and while he isn’t a superstar, he is the perfect fit for this current roster. The spacing, passing, and even his ability to rebound at a proficient rate make him the total offensive package at PG for a team that centers around Randle and Barrett. His defensive abilities are also very sound, being someone who has the size to guard the 1 or 2 at a high level. He’d excel in Thib’s defensive scheme, and I think he’d simply allow this offense to run much smoother. The lineup and rotation with Lonzo Ball would look like this:

Lonzo Ball PG
RJ Barrett SG
Reggie Bullock SF
Julius Randle PF
Mitchell Robinson C

Immanuel Quickley PG
Derrick Rose SG
Alec Burks SF
Obi Toppin PF
Nerlens Noel C

That is one damn fine roster, a team that can probably win a playoff series and maybe attract some bigger stars to want to play for the Knicks.

Making a Deal for Lonzo Ball

The Knicks can take on some salary, but ideally, you try to match salaries, and in this case, the Knicks and Pelicans do:

Knicks receive: Lonzo Ball PG
Pelicans receive: Frank Ntilkina PG, Kevin Knox SF, and a 2021 2nd Round Pick

This would give the Pelicans a younger PG than Ball in Ntilkina (especially since he’s played well lately), a decent shooter in Knox who’s only 21, and a 2nd round pick as well. For Lonzo Ball, I feel like that’s pretty fair. The Pelicans get two young project players, and the Knicks get their answer at PG, but what about Elfird Payton’s playing time? Simple: you trade him. Lonzo Ball is a much better player for this team.