Report: Knicks’ RJ Barrett ‘untouchable’, Cavs seek veteran for Collin Sexton

The Collin Sexton to the New York Knicks trade rumor is more complicated than it seems.

The Athletic reported on Wednesday that the Knicks are the most aggressive trade suitor for the extension-eligible Sexton. But Shams Charania, who broke the report, cleared the air that the Cavaliers are in no rush to trade Sexton.

Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com further reported on Wednesday that the Cavaliers and the Knicks have discussed Sexton but added that “they’ve put a hefty price tag on him, which could make a deal challenging.”

“If the Cavs can use Sexton as a trade chip to improve other areas of the roster and find a better-fitting piece that helps maximize (Darius) Garland’s skill set while also hedging against a difficult financial decision, they will consider it,” Fedor wrote.

A package of Kevin Knox, Obi Toppin, and one of the Knicks’ 2021 firs round picks floated around after the Sexton trade rumor made headlines. But it seems that package isn’t palatable to the Cavaliers as they reportedly seek a veteran help, putting the Knicks in a bind.

Ian Begley of SNY reported on Thursday Cleveland’s preferred haul in a potential Sexton trade.

“One team doing its homework on a possible Sexton trade believed Cleveland would like to get a veteran who can help the club win in return for the 22-year-old guard,” Begley wrote.

The Cleveland.com report added that the Cavaliers were smitten with RJ Barrett ahead of the 2019 draft that they tried to move up a few spots. Their attempt was obviously unsuccessful, and they settled with Garland with the fifth overall pick.

But Begley noted that Barrett is apparently untouchable.

“People in touch with the Knicks recently came away with the impression that New York had little interest in including Barrett in any trades,” Begley wrote.

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Report: Collin Sexton will cost Knicks Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox and 2021 1st rd pick

collin sexton, knicks

Another offseason day, another point guard has been linked to the New York Knicks.

According to The Athletic report on Tuesday, the Knicks have emerged as the most aggressive trade suitor for Cleveland Cavaliers scoring guard Collin Sexton.

SB Nation’s Fear of the Sword Editor Evan Dammarell poured more fuel to the fire when he floated that a package of Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox, and one of the Knicks’ 2021 first rounders appears to be an option.

If the reports are true, Brock Aller’s imprint should be all over it.

After all, Aller, the Knicks VP for Basketball and Strategic Planning, started his career in Cleveland. He served as Dan Gilbert’s personal assistant before transitioning to a front office role, where he raised his profile as one of the finest capologists around the league.

Aller was part of the Cavaliers’ front office that drafted Sexton in 2018 using the eighth pick, the key piece in the Kyrie Irving trade with the Boston Celtics.

On top of landing Sexton, the Knicks would also open up an additional $4.6 million in cap space.

Sexton has blossomed into one of the better scoring guards in the league, increasing his scoring, assists, and efficiency throughout his first three years with the Cavaliers. But there was a red flag raised by another The Athletic report on May that painted him a “ball hog.”

“Various Cavs players still grow frustrated by the way Sexton dominates the ball, and opponents taunt them by saying during games, ‘You know he’s not going to pass you the ball,” Cavaliers’ insider Joe Vardon wrote.

It may also be one of the reasons why the Cavaliers are reluctant to keep him with his rookie extension on the horizon. But Aller’s valuable direct intel on Sexton could be the key in the Knicks pushing for a deal.

But to Collins’ defense, he played with a bad Cavaliers’ roster devoid of an elite offensive threat.

If the reported package is true, it’s going to be a low-risk, high-reward move for the Knicks akin to the Derrick Rose mid-season trade.

The bet is for Sexton’s ball-dominant style of play to impact winning and create space for Julius Randle. Sexton’s 28.6 usage rate this season ranked 17th among guards in the league, per NBA.com. Meanwhile, Randle’s 28.5 usage rate this season ranked 15th among forwards, per NBA.com.

There’s no question Sexton’s shotmaking and toughness, despite being undersized, will be a huge upgrade over Elfrid Payton. But the question is can he thrive more as a facilitator next to Randle?

Sexton will be aiming to raise his stock to get the rookie max extension he wants, which is roughly $168 million over five years.

At the very least, he can shot up his value next season while running the Knicks offense, hopefully back to the playoffs. Sexton’s value would still be relatively higher than Knox, Toppin, and the 19th or 21st pick combined. Then the Knicks will have to decide whether to keep him long-term or flip him in a sign-and-trade deal. Sexton’s value would still be relatively higher than Knox, Toppin, and the 19th or 21st pick combined in any deal next summer. At best, he becomes the Knicks’ best point guard in a long while.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Damyean Dotson haunts Knicks in fifth straight loss

The Cleveland Cavaliers are starting to turn New York Knicks‘ trash into gold.

After getting waived by the Knicks, the Cavaliers saw something in Damyean Dotson that warranted a two-year deal.

On Friday night, Dotson got his opportunity to repay the Cavaliers and get back at the Knicks.

Dotson delivered the big blows as the Cavaliers extended the Knicks’ losing streak to five, 106-103, at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Revenge game

The Cavaliers snapped their three-game losing skid with Dotson stepping up to fill the hole left by the injured Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.

A former Knicks’ second-round pick, Dotson has found his niche with the Cavaliers. As a fill-in starter, he played 40 minutes against his former team, producing 13 points, four boards, and four dimes.

Dotson scored seven clutch points in the final quarter as a closer. He started to take over with a triple inside the final 2:46 that gave the Cavaliers a five-point cushion, 98-93.

Costly errors

RJ Barrett committed two costly errors down the stretch, which Dotson and the Cavaliers pounced to pull off the close win.

The Knicks pulled within one, 98-97, on a Barrett tough jumper to beat the shot clock.

Then the Knicks unraveled.

Barrett quickly turned from hero to zero. He lost the ball to Andre Drummond, which led to a clear-path foul by Julius Randle.

Dotson calmly sank the two free throws, then added another layup in the Cavaliers’ bonus possession. Drummond sealed the win with another steal on Barrett.

Barrett’s erratic play late in the game dampened his second straight efficient shooting. He finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 field goal shooting.

Monster game

Drummond had a monster game — 33 points, 23 rebounds, three assists, two steaks, and two blocks — to lead the Cavaliers.

The big man already had a double-double in the opening half with 20 points and 14 rebounds — a feat never done by a Cavalier in more than 20 years, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Drummond is also the first player in the NBA to log in a double-double in any half since reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did it last March.

Quickley rising

The Knicks’ eight loss flushed Immanuel Quickley’s career night down the drain. For the second straight game, Quickley was the Knicks’ best point guard. He kept them afloat with a career-high 23 points off the bench.

Quickley spearheaded a late third-quarter run with the help of Nerlens Noel, who had a season-high six blocks. The Knicks wiped out a second-half 12-point deficit.

Game of runs

A 16-0 run bridging the third and final quarter had the Knicks taking a four-point lead, 84-80. But Drummond could not be contained down low. He teamed up with Cedi Osman as the Cavaliers took the lead for good with a 9-0 counter-attack.

Osman fired 25 points, including 10 in the third, and added five assists.

What’s next?

Barrett and the Knicks need to forget quickly as they gear up for a back-to-back game against the Boston Celtics on Sunday and the Orlando Magic on Monday.

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Undermanned Knicks hope to start win streak against unbeaten Cavs

New York Knicks

Two weeks ago, the New York Knicks looked like the much better team beating the Cleveland Cavaliers twice — an epic come-from-behind win and a 36-point ass whooping — with rookie Immanuel Quickley starring at the backcourt.

But so much has changed since the preseason.

The Knicks lost Quickley and a lot more to the injury bug, while the Cavaliers are enjoying their finest start at 3-0 since LeBron James left them for the second time.

Despite riding high on a morale-boosting 20-point rout of the Milwaukee Bucks, the Knicks will have to make do with a thin backcourt against the Cavaliers, which boasts of the dynamic pair of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.

Sexton is averaging 27 points (tied for eighth in the league) and 3.7 assists, while Garland is norming 19 points and 8.3 dimes (seventh in the league).

Injury bug

The Knicks are still without Quickley (hip pointer), Obi Toppin (right calf strain), Omari Spellman (sore right knee), Austin Rivers (sore groin), and Dennis Smith Jr. (left quad contusion), who stayed behind in New York for rehab.

Kevin Knox is also dealing with a sore left knee, and his status for this game is probable, while Alec Burks is questionable after spraining his left ankle in their win against the Bucks.

On the other hand, the Cavaliers are also missing several key players, including Kevin Love (right calf strain) and rookie Isaac Okoro (left foot sprain). Kevin Porter Jr. is also out for personal reasons, while Matthew Dellavedova (concussion) and Dylan Windler (left-hand fracture) join Love and Okoro in the injury list.

Time to step up

Frenchman guard Frank Ntilikina, who drained all his four triples last Sunday night, will have the chance to prove himself after the Knicks declined to extend him.

Ntilikina is having a roller-coaster season after getting buried on the bench in favor of Quickley and Burks. But without Quickley and possibly Burks, Ntilikina is expected to play backup to Elfrid Payton.

Payton also hopes to pick up from where he left off. The 26-year old guard rebounded from a scoreless outing against the Philadelphia 76ers. He set the tone of the Bucks’ rout with a 27-point and 7-assist effort in what easily became his best game as a Knick.

Randle too much to handle

Without Kevin Love, Julius Randle will be too much to handle for the Cavaliers.

Randle is expected to impose his will against his former Lakers teammate Larry Nance Jr. who will replace Love in the starting unit.

Randle has benefited from Thibodeau’s ball movement philosophy. The 6-foot-8 power forward is off to the best start of his seven-year career.

He’s leading the Knicks in all three major categories — 23.7 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists — as he continues to thrive in a playmaking forward role.

RJ Barrett will also have a clearer path to attack the rim without Okoro, the Cavaliers’ best lockdown defender.

Barrett has also embraced being a playmaker, dishing out 4.3 assists per game on top of his 17.7-point and 7.3-rebound average.

Stats and matchups to watch

The Cavaliers average 122.3 points in their 3-0 start (118 vs. Philadelphia, 128 vs. Detroit, 121 vs. Charlotte) on the strength of their league-leading 31.3 assists per game.

Five Cavaliers are averaging in double figures, led by Sexton and double-double machine Andre Drummond (20.3 points, 11.0 rebounds). 

Payton and Ntilkina will have their hands full against Sexton and Garland. But so are Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel, who have to be smart with their fouls against Drummond.

Javale McGee is also proving to be a solid acquisition for the Cavaliers. The former Lakers’ center has been putting up 10.3 points and five rebounds in 16.7 minutes as Drummond’s backup.

Cleveland is currently no. 2 in the league in defensive rating at 100.3, next to Brooklyn’s 98.3.

With all the injuries they’re dealing with, the Knicks must click on all cylinders to have a chance. They are only averaging 108.7 points per game and can go into a scoring drought as they did in the Sixers loss where they only scored 89.

The Knicks’ 112.6 defensive rating ranks 21st in the league. If they can duplicate the defensive wall they put up against Giannis Antetokoumpo and the Bucks, the Knicks could give the Cavaliers their first loss of the season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Obi Toppin and his family of Knicks fans excited for his Garden debut

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

Obi Toppin grew up in a family of New York Knicks fans. His grandfather was a season-ticket holder.

“He went to every game,’’ Toppin said. “You go to dinner with him, and he’ll tell you a thousand stories of him going there.’’

Toppin’s father, Obadiah Sr. once graced the Madison Square Garden with his dunks in a one-on-one basketball tournament called The Last Man Standing.

On Wednesday night, it will be Toppin’s turn to create his own highlights at The Garden that will definitely become his grandfather’s favorite Knicks story.

“It’s going to be amazing,’’ Toppin told reporters on a Zoom call Tuesday about his much-awaited Garden debut. “I’m from here. I’ve been watching the Knicks all my life. My family’s been a fan of the Knicks since I wasn’t even born. Me having an opportunity to step on the court with these guys and compete against another team is going to be amazing. I can’t wait for that time to come.’’

Draft Day twist

Toppin and the Knicks will continue their preseason schedule against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that has been linked to him in most mock drafts at No. 5. Toppin played college ball near Cleveland in Dayton, Ohio.

Luckily for him and the Knicks, the Cavaliers went to select Auburn’s defensive ace Isaac Okoro, who has been a revelation in the preseason so far.

Toppin, who dropped to the Knicks’ lap at No. 8, said he wouldn’t trade the opportunity to play for his hometown team for anything else in the world.

Family of Knicks fans

His mother, Roni Toppin, even tweeted a photo of him wearing a Latrell Sprewell jersey when he was a kid after the Knicks picked him.

Toppin’s grandfather Richard Riccardi used to bring Roni to the games.

“I still have a cassette of Go NY Go NY Go and a ticket from the ’93 (I think) playoffs,” Roni told Empire Sports Media in a separate interview.

“[My father] is so proud of Obi. He tells everyone he meets, even the cashier at Costco,” Roni added.

Obi, by his estimate, has been to the Knicks games no more than five times. Roni’s last recollection of bringing Obi to The Garden was when Obadiah Sr., who goes by his streetball monicker Dunker’s Delight, competed as a finalist in The Last Man Standing.

Too bad they won’t be around when Toppin makes his Garden debut to the strict Covid-19 protocols that won’t allow fans to watch in the venue.

Roller coaster start

Toppin was spectacular in his Knicks debut, a 90-84 win against the Detroit Pistons last Friday night. The Brooklyn native had 11 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. But he followed that up with a dud two days later as the Pistons paid more attention to him.

“I just felt like I was rushing things a little bit more than I was in the first [game],” Toppin said. “I felt like I was a little settled and calm in the first game while in the second game, I was just trying to, basically, do too much. But I have to understand the pace of the game and just flow with that, do anything I can to help the team.

He’s eager to atone for his lackluster 1-of-9 shooting performance, including two clunkers from 30-feet deep.

“I feel comfortable shooting the three, not super far, not Steph Curry range, but I feel very, very comfortable shooting the three. My teammates found me in spots. I just have to make them. I’ve been working on them every single day, so when the time comes for me to make those shots, I may be able to make them. I just have to slow down and concentrate,” Toppin said.

Learning experience

Those first two games were a learning experience for him. He said he’s starting to get a feel of the NBA game.

Thibodeau saw Toppin’s eagerness to bounce back during their team practice following their 99-91 loss to the Pistons.

“Probably the biggest thing about being a pro is there’s gonna be ups and downs. It’s probably easier the first game. In the second game, he got attention on him,” Thibodeau said.

He added that Toppin could impact the game without shooting well.

“Again, he can score a number of different ways — he can score running the floor, he can score on the post, he can score off the drive, he can score with his jump shot. Mixing it up, scoring different ways, playing well defensively, try getting stops, getting on the open floor,” Thibodeau explained.

“He’s a terrific kid, a great worker. Study film. Each game, you may not win. And if you don’t win… I want you to learn. He took a hard look at himself. And what he could do better. He came in, study, work hard, and he had a great practice today [Tuesday]. And just be ready for tomorrow [Wednesday]. The games keep on coming. You have to keep on getting better.”

Toppin will put those lessons to test against the Cavaliers. Hopefully, he’ll ace it and come out with a win that will make his family of Knicks fans even prouder.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo