Toppin for Turner? What a Knicks-Pacers deal could look like

myles turner, knicks

With one month to go before the February 10 trade deadline, the New York Knicks have been linked to Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner and Detroit Pistons’ Jerami Grant, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Between the two, Turner is the more intriguing option.

In theory, Turner is the prototypical modern big man that the Knicks need to open up the defense for Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.

The ugly loss in Boston over the weekend exposed the Knicks’ weakness of not having a floor-spacing big man next to Randle. While Mitchell Robinson had a perfect night at the field, shooting 5 of 5 for 11 points and eight rebounds, he doesn’t possess a deep offensive bag which Turner has at this point of their careers.

The Knicks fell apart starting in the latter part of the second quarter. The Celtics’ swarming defense with the shot-blocking monster Robert Williams as their last line took away the Knicks’ driving lanes to generate shots at the rim and kick-out passes.

“They’re long and athletic,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said of the Celtics. “In the first half, we drove the ball and made the right rim reads. It was better, and we got easy shots. But if you hold on to [the ball] and you try to shoot over the sides, and you’re putting up tough shots, you’re not going to win that way.”

The Celtics employed four players with at least 6’11 wingspan to disrupt the Knicks’ offense — Robert Williams – 7’6, Al Horford – 7’1, Jaylen Brown – 7’0, and Jayson Tatum – 6’11.

A center like Turner, a 36-percent three-point shooter and has the third-most three-pointers (61) among centers this season, could have helped pull Williams away from the paint. On defense, Turner is on pace to lead the league in shot blocks (2.9 per game this season) for the third time in his career.

Theoretically, Turner would fit seamlessly next to Randle, forming a formidable inside-outside tandem in the Knicks’ frontline. On top of this, they already have an existing bond working out together under trainer Tyler Relph as the trio are all from Dallas.

So, it’s not surprising the Knicks are interested in Turner. But what’s the price of prying Turner away from Indiana?

In December, ESPN’s Zach Lowe discussed the best recent comparison for a potential Turner trade on his podcast with NBA front office insider Bobby Marks.

“The comp I’m trying to make is Nikola Vucevic,” Lowe said referencing last season’s Orlando-Chicago trade deadline deal. “The Magic got Wendell Carter Jr., who has been maybe better than Vucevic this season, two first-round picks, one of which you were sure would be a decent lottery pick (Franz Wagner) and no long-term money. That’s the comp.”

Based on Lowe’s parameters, Nat Newell of Indy Starproposed a Turner trade to the Knicks in exchange for Obi Toppin, Nerlens Noel, and a future first-round pick.

“Toppin has had a solid second season — 8.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 53% in 15.9 minutes per game — but this trade likely comes down to the protections on the pick. The Knicks have struggled this season (12-15) so an unprotected pick could easily put you in the lottery but will the Knicks offer that? Toppin hasn’t shown 3-point range (26.7% in his career), making him less of a fit next to Sabonis. The Knicks have extra picks from Charlotte (lottery protected) and Dallas (top 10 protected) that could be included or the Pacers could demand Immanuel Quickley (9.6 ppg, 2.5 apg, 32.8% on 3s),” Newell wrote.

Of the four teams, only the Knicks have the deepest chest of draft assets to entice the Pacers to break up their core and rebuild.

While Turner is not a clear-cut superstar, he is only 25 years old and represents an immediate upgrade at the center position. A Turner trade will not instantly catapult the Knicks to the upper echelon in the East. But it would help Randle and Barrett unlock their offense and boost the Knicks’ chances of becoming a perennial playoff contender, which is the new front office’s plan to entice superstars to come to New York.

If it doesn’t pan out, Turner, at the very least, could serve as another trade piece in a package for a coveted star.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Could the Knicks start the bench against Indiana if they remain short-handed?

knicks, obi toppin

The New York Knicks are coming off two disappointing defeats against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors. Against OKC, the team felt the brunt of Julius Randle’s absence due to the NBA’s Covid protocols.

Without point guards Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker, the Knicks failed to spread the ball efficiently and pick up assists. In fact, Randle currently leads the team with 5.0 assists per game, so losing that important statistical factor resulted in poor ball movement and inefficient shooting.

Randle suffered plenty of heat due to inconsistent shooting and porous defense on social media, but after being subject to health protocols, the team is wishing they had their star power forward. Fans even went as far as to call for his benching, pointing to statistics that suggested the Knicks were more efficient when he was off the floor. However, they didn’t account for the minutes he was commanding attention and allowing his teammates to capitalize.

“That’s the day and age of social media. That’s why you don’t pay attention to it. It doesn’t matter. …It’s like the backup quarterback. Everybody thinks he should start until he starts,” Thibs said regarding the negative attention Julius has received via Stefan Bondy of the Daily News.

The Knicks have turned to the bench to replace Randle’s minutes:

In his absence, the Knicks have supplemented his minutes with Obi Toppin, who played a career-high 45 minutes against the Raptors in Sunday’s defeat. In fact, Toppin has played in 20 minutes or more over his last three games.

Against the Raptors, Toppin tied his career-high of 19 points, contributing two blocks, six assists, and six rebounds. He had some good moments as a rebounder using his physicality, but his positioning still needs work, especially in the five role.

The primary factor Toppin brings is his proficiency in transition, pushing the floor with energy and pace. He is an electrifying catalyst for the offense at times, but the Knicks lack the point guard play to help him maximize his attributes productively.

Toppin‘s development has been apparent on both sides of the ball this season, but he still has his fair share of issues. One statistical category that he desperately needs to improve upon is three-point shooting. Toppin is averaging just 21.4% from three-point range this season, an abysmal number that has limited his contributions.

Until Toppin can knock down his shots at 35% or better, he’s going to face added pressure to compensate with elite interior scoring abilities. His isolation game was on full display against Toronto, who utilized a small-ball strategy against New York.

With Randle expected to miss several more games as a result of a positive Covid test, Toppin will have plenty of more opportunities to showcase his growth this season. Considering the Indiana Pacers have lost five of their last six games, Toppin has another excellent opportunity to string together another productive performance.

Severely shorthanded Knicks face tall task vs Raptors with Robinson, Walker out

mitchell robinson, knicks

The New York Knicks will begin the new year severely shorthanded after Mitchell Robinson entered the health and safety protocols.

On Saturday, the Knicks announced that Robinson is the latest to test positive for COVID-19. Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel, Jericho Sims, and Wayne Selden are still in the protocols.

Robinson had nine points and 12 rebounds in their 95-80 loss to Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night. Oklahoma City’s rising star Shai-Gilgeous Alexander is the only other player from that game to enter the protocols.

Newsday’s Steve Popper added that assistant coaches Johnnie Bryant, Kenny Payne, and Dice Yoshimoto are also out.

Kemba Walker will also miss his second straight game due to a sore left knee, while Evan Fournier, who had a rough 1 of 8 shooting night in Oklahoma City, is questionable with a sore right ankle.

Walker’s injury bears watching as soreness is on his arthritic knee.

“I don’t know [how serious the injury is], because he started his warm-up, and then he stopped. And then [trainer] Anthony [Goenaga] was looking at him and just felt it, you know, let’s get [knee] examined, and then we’ll go from there,” Thibodeau said after the New Year eve’s loss.

The Knicks’ injury tally has already reached nine players. Danuel House, Jr. (dislocated finger), Derrick Rose (ankle surgery), and Luca Samanic (foot) round up the list.

Damyean Dotson and Matt Mooney got a second 10-day contract on Friday. But neither player is a center.

That leaves Taj Gibson as the only remaining center for the Knicks. New York coach Tom Thibodeau might have no choice but use Obi Toppin as small-ball five with either Kevin Knox or RJ Barrett as a power forward during the non-Gibson minutes.

The severely undermanned Knicks will be hard-pressed against the Toronto Raptors, who are nearing full strength with rookie stud Scottie Barnes listed as probable.

The Raptors are coming off a 116-108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night, drawing double figures from Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred Van Vleet, and Gary Trent, Jr.

The Knicks will be looking to sign a temporary big man via the 10-day hardship rule to fill the hole.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks turn cold for second straight New Year’s eve

The New York Knicks struggled to make shots sans their top three playmakers.

Without Julius Randle (health and safety protocols), Kemba Walker (sore left knee), and Derrick Rose (ankle surgery), RJ Barrett led the Knicks attack. Still, he didn’t muster enough support as they fell to the hot-shooting Oklahoma City Thunder, 90-85, Friday night at Paycom Center.

For the second straight New Year’s eve, the Knicks turned cold from the outside.

Last year in Tampa, the Knicks shot 3 for 36 from downtown and missed 20 three-pointers in a row at one ugly stretch. They lost that game, 100-83, to the Toronto Raptors, who notched their first win at their expense. The Knicks’ starters bricked all their 23 three-point attempts becoming the first starting five with the most misses without a make all-time, per ESPN Stats & Info.

There was an uncanny resemblance of that cold shooting night in Oklahoma City. Against the Thunder, they were 8 for 41 from deep, with the starters going 3 for 20.

As cold as the Knicks were, the Thunder were the exact opposite.

The home team hit a season-high-tying 18 3s on a sizzling 41.9 percent clip.

Barrett barrelled his way to 26 points on 10 of 20 shooting in a showdown with fellow Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who had 23. But the difference is Gilgeous-Alexander got plenty of support.

Aaron Wiggins, who worked out with the Knicks last summer, continued his solid run with 13 points on 5 of 8 shots. It was his fourth straight double-digit scoring game.

The Knicks’ second unit, a position of strength all season, got outscored 43-30. Aleksej Pokusevski’s 11 points led Oklahoma City’s bench mob.

Obi Toppin, who started for Randle, produced only five points — all in the first half — and added seven rebounds and one assist against one turnover in 27 minutes.

Rookie Miles McBride started for Walker, a last-minute scratch because of a sore left knee.

“I don’t know [how serious the injury is], because he started his warm-up, and then he stopped. And then Anthony [Goenaga] was looking at him and just felt it, you know, let’s get [knee] examined, and then we’ll go from there,” Thibodeau said after the New Year eve’s loss.

McBride was one of the many Knicks players who struggled offensively.

The Knicks had great looks, but the shots didn’t fall. They reportedly didn’t have a shootaround as a precaution due to the ravaging COVID-19.

McBride missed five of six three-point tries. Barrett went 1 of 8 from downtown. Evan Fournier couldn’t shake off the sore ankle that held him against Washington. The French gunner struggled in his return, sinking only one of his five three-point attempts.

The Knicks cut the Thunder’s lead to three, 74-71, early in the fourth quarter. But Pokusevski hit a three-pointer that triggered a 10-0 Thunder run to pull away.

The loss snapped the Knicks’ three-game win streak and fell to 17-19. They will cap their three-game road trip in Toronto on Sunday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks: Obi Toppin ready to step up as Julius Randle enters COVID-19 protocols

Barely 12 hours after Tom Thibodeau revealed that Julius Randle is nicked up, the New York Knicks announced that the All-Star forward had entered the health and safety protocols.

The news came on the heels of Randle’s worst game as a Knick — a season-low five points on 2 for 11 shooting. Randle had more turnovers (3) than field goals (2).

“He’s nicked up,” Tom Thibodeau said after the Knicks escaped the lowly Detroit Pistons Wednesday night. “I think he’s giving us everything he has. That’s what I love about him. He’s not making any excuses. He just gets out there. He keeps going.”

Randle’s lackadaisical play, along with the starters, forced Thibodeau to finish the game with his bench in the final 15 minutes. The Pistons outscored the Knicks by 27 points during Randle’s 26 minutes on the floor. It was a microcosm of a larger problem for the Knicks.

Randle’s net rating of minus-6.3 is currently one of the worst in the league (387th in the league and 90th among 98 players who average more than 30 minutes per game). That’s the second-worst net rating among Knicks starters next to Kemba Walker’s minus-8.0, although it has improved since he returned from nine DNPs.

While Alec Burks supplied the points with a career-high-tying 34 points, 19 in the fourth quarter, Randle’s backup, Obi Toppin, provided the energy on both ends.

Toppin was plus-36 in 22 minutes. The sophomore forward finished with modest numbers — nine points on 3 of 5 shooting, four rebounds, one assist, and a steal — but his energy, constant movement, and defense helped the Knicks erase a 14-point deficit.

“Obi — the energy he plays with and guarding (Saddiq) Bey who had it going pretty good,” Thibodeau said. “So we had a number of guys who stepped up.”

Toppin held Saddiq Bey to 1 of 5 shooting in the fourth quarter after the Pistons’ forward torched the Knicks with 24 points on 8 of 14 shooting in the first three quarters.

Toppin hasn’t played more than 28 minutes in his NBA career except for the Summer League. But that is bound to change with Randle on the sidelines.

Randle can use the time in protocols to rest and recover from whatever is ailing him besides COVID-19. But most importantly, use the time to zoom out and see what Kemba Walker saw during his banishment from the rotation.

Walker admitted the banishment as a blessing in disguise and came back with a different mindset. Perhaps Randle could take a cue from Walker.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Quentin Grimes rejoins Knicks; Bradley Beal enters health and safety protocols

quentin grimes, knicks

Rookie wing Quentin Grimes is the latest Knick to clear the health and safety protocols after RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin, the team announced Thursday.

It’s welcome news for the New York Knicks that will seek a second straight win against the Bradley Beal-less Washington Wizards at the Garden.

Beal is the latest NBA player to enter the health and safety protocols shortly after the Knicks announced that Grimes rejoined the team. Beal averages 22.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists against the Knicks. He joined Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the health and safety protocols. But despite their absence, the Wizards are still formidable with Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford, and Montrezl Harrell.

Both teams are coming off victories but have lost seven of their last 10 games.

Last Tuesday, New York opened their three-game homestand with a 105-91 rout of the lowly Detroit Pistons. On the other hand, the Wizards beat the Utah Jazz, 109-103, last Saturday to snap a three-game skid.

Meanwhile, it is unclear how much playing time Tom Thibodeau would give Grimes, Barrett, and Toppin as the Knicks are currently stacked even after losing Derrick Rose for eight weeks due to ankle surgery.

The Knicks recently signed Danuel House, Jr. to a 10-day contract via the hardship exception rule. House appeared 16 games for the Houston Rockets before he was waived. He fielded calls from the Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, and the Los Angeles Lakers before signing with the Knicks, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

A 3-and-D specialist, House averaged 8.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists over five seasons with the Rockets, Phoenix Suns, and the Wizards.

Currently, the Knicks have 15 available players on their roster: Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Alec Burks, Grimes, Toppin, Taj Gibson, two-way player Jericho Sims and 10-day contract signings House, Tyler Hall, Matt Mooney, and Damyean Dotson.

Immanuel Quickley, Kevin Knox, Miles McBride, and Nerlens Noel remain in health and safety protocols.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks hopeful to gain back key piece before taking on league-worst Detroit

obi toppin, knicks

The New York Knicks are gearing up to take on the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night, but they are still without several key players due to COVID-19 protocols.

With Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, and RJ Barrett all still on the Covid list, one player that is capable of returning is Obi Toppin. Suppose Toppin is not experiencing any symptoms from the virus after the 10-day required quarantine. In that case, he will be able to play against Detroit, a good opportunity for him to gain some momentum moving forward.

Toppin was just picking up steam before catching the virus against Toronto, posting 19 points and 10 rebounds in the loss on December 10. In fact, he had strung together two consecutive games of double-digit points, earning 12 combined rebounds.

While the second-year forward has struggled with his three-point shooting this year, hitting just 19.6% of his shots, he’s finally been activated as an electrifying transition player — needed energy off the bench. The effort he displays on both sides of the ball makes him a valuable asset, increasing the pace and forcing teams to make premature decisions, leading to mistakes.

Considering Detroit has won just five games this year, a league-worst record, the 23-year-old forward, could return with a bang, which is exactly what he needs as New York prepares to take on Washington on Thursday and the Atlanta Hawks on Christmas day.

Aside from Toppin, the Knicks are also anticipating the return of RJ Barrett, clearing the 10-day quarantine on Wednesday. They could have him for Thursday and Saturday’s game, giving them an important starter back. Barrett had suffered from a stomach bug before contracting the virus, so getting back into form is a necessity if the Knicks want to push for a playoff spot the season.

Currently, the Knicks are on a seven-game road skid, featuring a 13-17 record. In the Eastern Conference, they are 1.5 games back from a play-in spot for the postseason. The Toronto Raptors currently hold the last play-in seed, but the Knicks have plenty of time left to fight their way back into contention. New York’s schedule lightens just a bit in the coming days, with Detroit, Washington, who is about a .500 team, and the, Hawks who will likely be without Trae Young, having been placed on the Covid list as well.

Damyean Dotson returns to Knicks via hardship exception rule

New York Knicks, Damyean Dotson

The New York Knicks have signed Damyean Dotson as their second replacement player after Tyler Hall.

Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported the signing.

Dotson was the Knicks’ second-round pick in 2017 and played for the team and its G League affiliate in Westchester until 2020.

Dotson played for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season after getting waived by the Knicks. He has career averages of 7.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 211 games. He enjoyed his best year in the league with the Knicks in the 2018-19 season, averaging 10.7 points per game.

Dotson will be available to play for the Knicks when they host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

Based on the new memo agreed upon by the NBA and NBPA, the Knicks are allowed to sign a replacement player for each COVID-19 case. Currently, the Knicks have six players in the health and safety protocols.

Obi Toppin, the first Knicks player to test positive, is scheduled to finish his 10-day quarantine Monday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Obi Toppin could rejoin Knicks soon; new memo allows more replacements

obi toppin, knicks

The New York Knicks were barely above the minimum requirement of eight active players in their 114-107 loss to the Boston Celtics last Saturday.

Tyler Hall, who joined them in Boston from their G League affiliate, was the ninth active player on the roster though Tom Thibodeau opted to stick with an eight-man rotation.

The Knicks can now add more players without their salaries counting against their salary cap based on the new agreement between the NBA and NBA and National Basketball Players Association, according to an ESPN report.

The Knicks have six players in the health and safety protocols: Obi Toppin, RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, Kevin Knox, Immanuel Quickley, and Miles McBride.

Toppin, their first player who tested positive, should clear the 10-day quarantine period Monday. The Knicks will host the Detroit Pistons Tuesday.

Toppin could be cleared to rejoin the team immediately if he showed little to no symptoms. He must pass a cardiac screening before getting clearance to resume activity. It would take longer if he had moderate symptoms (minimum of two days after clearing isolation) and severe symptoms (minimum of three days after clearing isolation).

If Toppin rejoins the team and Derrick Rose returns from an ankle injury, that will push the Knicks’ active roster to 11. But the new memo would still require them to sign at least two more additional players.

Teams will have to sign at least one replacement player if they have two positive COVID-19 cases; at least two if they have three positive COVID-19 cases; and at least three if they have four or more COVID-19 cases, per the ESPN report.

Furthermore, the NBA and NBPA have scrapped the 50-game limit for two-way players, meaning Jericho Sims and Luka Samanic could join all the Knicks’ games until the end of the regular season.

But with their trio of veteran big men — Nerlens Noel, Mitchell Robinson, and Taj Gibson — all healthy, the Knicks would likely let Sims get more reps in the ongoing G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Samanic is still out with a foot injury.

Barrett should clear his 10-day quarantine period on Wednesday, increasing his chances to return for the Christmas game against Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks will also host the Washington Wizards on Thursday after Barrett could clear the 10-day quarantine.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Proposed new hardship exception may force Knicks to add player

obi toppin, knicks

The New York Knicks are down to nine healthy bodies in the rotation after Immanuel Quickley tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose (sore ankle) is still questionable to play in Saturday’s game in Boston.

The Knicks have yet to add additional players via the hardship exception. But they may be forced to if the NBA Board of Governors’ new proposed plan gets approved.

The NBA Board of Governors convened Friday and they proposed a new plan that would curb the postponement of games, according to an ESPN report. Two Chicago Bulls’ games have already been postponed in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 surge around the league.

Under the new proposed plan, teams would be required to add a 10-day player via the hardship exception after a second, third and fourth COVID-19 case.

In the proposed plan, after the first case of COVID, a team would be permitted to add a 10-day player, league sources said, but after a second, third and fourth case, teams would be required to add a 10-day player. Teams would be limited to three replacement players, but the new plan would, overall, require teams to maintain enough depth so that the league wouldn’t be forced to cancel or postpone games because some teams didn’t have the league-required eight healthy players.

Under the plan, the additional replacement players also wouldn’t count against that respective team’s salary cap or luxury tax, league sources said.

Previously, the hardship exemption was solely under the discretion of the teams. Some teams have already availed. But some, like the Knicks, have yet to use the exception rule. The hardship exemption under the CBA rules allows teams to exceed the 15-man roster limit in times of need (when multiple players are out because of injury or illness).

The league and the National Basketball Players Association still have to agree to the new proposed plan before it takes effect.

If the new plan gets approval, the Knicks would have to add players even if Rose and the first few Knicks under protocols return to the lineup.

Obi Toppin, their first player to test positive, could clear health and safety protocols two days from now. Under the current health and safety protocols guideline, players who test positive should be sidelined for at least 10 days or record two negative COVID-19 tests in a 24-hour period before they can resume basketball activities.

Toppin entered the health and safety protocols last Dec. 10 after their game in Toronto. The infection quickly spread around the team. RJ Barrett, rookie Quentin Grimes, Kevin Knox are the other three Knicks players in the health and safety protocols. At the same time, MSG analyst Clyde Frazier and sideline reporter Rebecca Haarlow also tested positive.

The NBA and NBPA have also agreed to stricter measures amid the spike of COVID-19 cases. On Thursday, the league issued a memorandum that requires players and Tier 1 personnel to wear masks at all times with only two exceptions: during on-court basketball activities for players and head coaches during games.

The league will also ramp up testing during the holidays. From Dec. 26 to Jan. 8, players and staff will be tested on game days except for those who received their booster shot 14-plus days earlier or recently recovered from the virus.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo