Vassell, Williams on the Knicks radar; NBA Draft pushed back

New York Knicks, Devin Vassell

The New York Knicks are not exclusively looking at point guards for their lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

The Knicks, who are slated to pick at No.8 barring any trade, have recently looked at two intriguing prospects that will be available at the second half of the lottery.

Empire Sports Media has learned yesterday that the Knicks have made their due diligence on Florida State University’s 3-and-D prospect Devin Vassell along with his one-and-done teammate Patrick Williams, the youngest college player in the Draft.

According to a highly placed source, the Knicks made a thorough background check on both players which wasn’t only confined to the coaching staff.

When reached for comment, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton neither confirmed nor denied the Knicks’ growing interest in his two-star players.

“[I’ve talked to] Just about everybody in the league who has the opportunity [to pick them]. I am saying, we’ve three kids who we think we’re going to be drafted, so about just every NBA team.  To be honest with you, it’s hard to even remember who all they were.  We’ve talked to so many teams about Trent Forrest, Patrick and Devin,” Hamilton told Empire Sports Media. “I’m not going to give particular names out there.”

A two-way player and a lights out shooter, the 6’6 Vassell could be the safest pick for the Knicks outside a motley of playmakers that will be available to them at No.8.

Vassell has blossomed from a role player as a freshman to a lottery talent in his sophomore year. The small forward made the All-ACC Second Team Selection after averaging a team-high 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds with second-best 1.9 steals and 0.9 shot blocks.  He also shot an outstanding 41.5 percent from deep, a valuable skill in the modern NBA, while leading the Seminoles to their first ACC regular-season title in 2020.

Several Mock Drafts have pegged him to be picked from as high as 8th to as low as 16th.

“Devin is going to play well regardless of where he goes and the coach he’ll play for.  He’s well prepared. I don’t think it matters [which team picks him].  He’s capable of learning whatever style of play he’ll be asked to do,” Hamilton said. 

Williams, on the other hand, is just the third one-and-done player from FSU after Malik Beasley (2016) and Jonathan Isaac 2017). He was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team and won the ACC Sixth Man of the Year after averaging a fourth team-best 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds, a team-best 1.1 blocked shots, and 1.0 steal.

“He’s young, one of the youngest in the Draft. But I think he’ll fit in very well because he’s so versatile and he has an NBA-ready body,” Hamilton said of Williams.

While Williams is seen more as a project, he has a high upside as a 6’8 power forward who can defend basically all positions in the NBA.

Both players have also made it to the ACC Academic Honor Roll with Vassell making it for the second year in a row.

Hamilton, a three-time ACC Coach of the Year, has pride himself of having a holistic approach to his basketball program.

“We hold academics with a high esteem and our athletes have responded very well,” Hamilton said.

Whether the Knicks would pick Vassell or Williams or somebody else, Hamilton has faith in Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff that they can turn things around in New York.

“I know Kenny (Payne), I know (Mike) Woodson.  I know a lot of positive things about Thibodeau. I have a tremendous respect for him. I think he’ll (Johnnie Bryant) be a great addition to the staff,” Hamilton said.

“I have a lot of confidence that the new administration at the Knicks will be determined and they are more than qualified.  I think they will do everything to bring back the Knicks’ glory days of the past,” he added.

Meanwhile, the league has pushed back the NBA Draft to Nov. 18 which remains subject to change as circumstances warrant it.

The delay will allow more time for the Knicks and the rest of the league to evaluate the Draft pool which is viewed as the most unpredictable since 2013.

New York Knicks: Trading Julius Randle ‘number one priority,’ Utah Jazz interested (Report)

According to Knicks Fan TV, the New York Knicks‘ number one offseason priority is trading Julius Randle, and the Utah Jazz are a potential buyer.

“Number one priority this offseason for the Knicks will be trading Julius Randle. They are going to look to trade Julius. And the first trade rumor that I’m hearing is Julius Randle to the Utah Jazz for Mike Conley and draft considerations.”

Randle, 25, is one season through a three-year, $62 million contract with the Knicks. Randle averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game while shooting 46.0 percent from the field this season.

The 2019-20 NBA season was Mike Conley’s first run with the Jazz. He averaged 14.4 points, 4.4 assists and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. Conley is entering the final season of a five-year, $153 million deal.

The Knicks could have upwards of $40 million in cap space this offseason depending on what they do with the handful of team options they hold on veteran players (Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock). A Randle-for-Conley trade would add roughly $13 million in payroll for the Knicks next season.

Conley, 32, would presumably become new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s starting point guard. They could subsequently select a wing/forward such as Florida State’s Devin Vassell or Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, who each reportedly interest the Knicks, with the eighth pick in this year’s NBA Draft. New York also owns the 27th and 38th selections in the upcoming draft.

From Utah’s perspective, Randle could start in-between a healthy Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert or serve as the team’s sixth man. They could then pursue a lead guard in the offseason to start next to Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz lost to the Denver Nuggets in seven games in the first round of the NBA playoffs this season.

Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau was ‘enamored’ with Dennis Smith Jr. in 2017 draft process (Report)

Point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is one of many individuals on the New York Knicks playing on a rookie deal. The Knicks acquired Smith as part of their return on Kristaps Porzingis from the Mavericks in January 2019.

According to SNY’s Ian Begley, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, the president and head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves in June 2017, was “enamored” with Smith coming out of college.

“Something worth noting on the workouts: Thibodeau and others with the Timberwolves at the time were enamored with Dennis Smith Jr. coming out of college, sources say. Thibodeau and others from the organization attended Smith Jr.’s private pre-draft workout.”

Smith played one season at NC State. The Timberwolves made a draft night trade with the Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler. Minnesota swapped first-round picks with Chicago in the trade, going from seven to 16; Smith wasn’t on the board when the T-Wolves were on the clock. Meanwhile, the Knicks selected French point guard Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick.

Smith held his own in the second half of 2019 with the Knicks, averaging 14.7 points, 5.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 41.3 percent from the field.

Last season was a setback for the point guard. He was a primary reserve and logged a career-low 15.8 minutes per contest across 34 games, three of which he started. Smith averaged 5.5 points, 2.9 assists and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 34.1 percent from the field.

Knicks president Leon Rose called Smith “a special talent” in a June interview with MSG Networks. Their point guard depth chart includes Smith, Ntilikina and Jared Harper; veteran Elfrid Payton has an $8 million team option for the 2020-21 NBA season.

New York has been linked to a handful of potential lottery guards in the upcoming NBA Draft including RJ Hampton, Killian Hayes and UNC’s Cole Anthony. The Knicks have three draft picks: their own first and second-round pick (8, 37) and the Los Angeles Clippers’ first rounder (27).

Thibodeau assembles well-rounded coaching staff; Knicks director of performance resigns

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The New York Knicks have reshaped their coaching staff in the hopes of bringing back their glory years.

The Knicks officially announced on Friday the return of Mike Woodson along with the additions of associate head coach Johnnie Bryant and Tom Thibodeau’s trusted guys Andy Greer and Dice Yashimoto.

“With these hires, we have added a wealth of basketball experience and knowledge that will be of great service to our players and our organization,” Thibodeau said in a statement. “All of our coaches have had a high level of success in college, the NBA or internationally. We are assembling a hard-working and well-rounded coaching staff that will embody everything we want to be about: accountability, development, teaching and a winning culture.”

Woodson brings accountability and winning culture to the table being the most accomplished coach in the Knicks franchise history in the last two decades.  He is returning to Madison Square Garden after spending three seasons with the franchise from 2012-2014 before getting unceremouniously fired by Phil Jackson.

Woodson took over from Mike D’Antoni as interim coach late in the 2011-12 where the Knicks went 18-6 to finish the season strong that led to his promotion as head coach.  He went on to guide the Knicks to their first Atlantic Divition title since the 1993-94 season with a 54-28 record in 2013. The 54 wins were the most by any Knicks team since the 1996-97 season. They beat the Boston Celtics, 4-2, in the first round of the playoffs to make it to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2000.  Their phenomenal run ended in the next round with a 4-2 series loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Beset by injuries the following season, the Knicks fell short of the playoffs, finishing 37-45, that led to his ouster.  He ended up with the third-best winning percentage in franchise history (.580) and the seventh-most victories (109-79) by a head coach.

Greer and Yashimoto, meanwhile, were with Thibodeau in his last two stops in Chicago and Minnesota helping him reach post-season success.

Greer has previously served as scout for the Knicks and worked with Thibodeau in Jeff Van Gundy and later on Don Chaney’s coaching staff from 2001-03. He has also spent some time with the USA Basketball, first serving as one of Gregg Popovich’s scout in the 2019 USA World Cup team. He was also an assistant coach under Mike Fratello in the 2020 AmeriCup Qualifying team.

Marc Berman of New York The Post reported that Andy Greer’s younger brother, Larry, has a good chance of reuniting with the group. Larry Greer was also with Thibodeau in Minnesota and most recently served as one of Monty Williams’ assistant coach in Phoenix.

Yashimoto, meanwhile, will reprise his role as Thibodeau’s right hand man. He will serve as assistant to the head coach. Previously, he served Thibodeau as Special Assistant to the President of Basketball Operations in Minnesota.  Yashimoto most recently held the position of Director of Basketball Strategy and Video at University of Georgia, bringing with him an intel on Anthony Edwards, one of the top rookie prospects in this year’s Draft.  Empire Sports Media has learned from a source inside University of Georgia that Yashimoto’s contract with the Bulldogs expires today.

Bryant along with Kenny Payne have built a strong reputation as solid skills and player developmental coaches and players’ whisperers.

In the midst of reshaping the Knicks organization, the team’s long-time Director of Performance Mubarak Malik has stepped down from his post.

Malik has recently announced his emotional yet intriguing resignation on a lengthy Instagram post.


View this post on Instagram

 

Today marks the end of a chapter for me.. I resigned from my dream job. Truthfully, the only job I ever wanted since high school.. I could write a dissertation about how much the last 7 seasons meant to me and how much I’ve grown by working with one of the most prestigious sports teams in the world.. but you know what?? NO ONE can question my tireless work ethic, my daily pursuit of excellence to be the best I could be, so that I could best serve the team or take away the impact I’ve made in the NBA in such a short period time.. and that’s why I’m at peace with my decision. Forever grateful to the Knicks for believing in me and allowing me the freedom to reach a life goal… and to the amazing players I worked with and got to know personally(all of you) THANK YOU. ❤️💪🏽💯 #OnceAKnickAlwaysAKnick #NYC #NewYorkorNoWhere

A post shared by BAR (@mubarakmalik) on Aug 31, 2020 at 12:15pm PDT

 

Malik joins Craig Robinson, the former Vice President of Player Development and Minor League Operations, as the latest members of the Knicks organization who held critical roles in player development to leave.

Robinson, the brother of former First Lady Michelle Obama, left the team in July and has since accepted a post to become the chief of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Malik, meanwhile, has been with the Knicks since 2012-13 season starting out as strength and conditioning coordinator before getting promoted in 2014. He was heavily involved with on-court player development and sports science. Prior to joining the Knicks, he worked with MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates for six years as strength and conditioning coach for both the major league club and throughout its minor league system.  He holds Master’s degree in Movement Sciences from Arizona University.

New York Knicks add Tom Thibodeau’s trusted assistants and Mike Woodson (report)

New york Knicks, Mike Woodson

The New York Knicks are on the verge of adding Tom Thibodeau’s most trusted guys Andy Greer and Dice Yoshimoto, along with former Knicks coach Mike Woodson according to multiple reports.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

Greer and Yoshimoto are no strangers to Thibodeau.  They have been with him since his first head coaching gig in Chicago.

Greer, who recently served as Mike Fratello’s assistant on the USA Olympic Qualifying Team, has been Thibodeau’s defensive coordinator in both Chicago and Minnesota.

Greer and Thibodeau have gone a long way since working together under Jeff Van Gundy’s staff and later on under Don Chaney in New York in the early 2000s.

Greer served as Thibodeau’s defensive coordinator in his last two stops while Yoshimoto has been a “swiss knife” starting out as video coordinator in Chicago and later on becoming a special assistant to the president of basketball operations in Minnesota.  Yoshimoto has also been involved with the University of Georgia as director of basketball strategy and video.

Woodson, meanwhile, has interviewed for the head coaching post, which eventually went to Thibodeau. He’s built a reputation in New York as a modern offensive coach who demanded accountability.  He’s been the last successful Knicks coach in almost two decades.

During the Knicks’ run to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2012-13 season, he guided the team to the third-best offensive rating at 111.1. He was also ahead of the curve as he relied on 3-point shooting to surround Carmelo Anthony. They led the league in both attempts and made 3-pointers per game while ranking fifth in percentage.

After being fired by Phil Jackson the following year, he went on to serve as an assistant coach in the Los Angeles Clippers from 2014-2018.  Prior to coaching the Knicks, he was the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks from 2004-2010, guiding the team to three consecutive playoff appearances.

The three new assistants will join Kenny Payne and associate head coach Jonnie Bryant under Thibodeau in New York.

New York Knicks expected to pursue Davis Bertans (Report)

New York Knicks, Davis Bertans

According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, the New York Knicks are expected to pursue Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans in NBA free agency. Hughes says the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns are also expected to make a push, with the Hawks being “particularly aggressive.”

Bertans, 27, played a career-high 29.3 minutes per contest in his debut season with the Wizards this season. Coming off the bench for all but four of his 54 games, he averaged 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the arc.

The Wizards acquired Bertans last summer in a three-team trade with the San Antonio Spurs and Brooklyn Nets; Washington received Bertans; San Antonio received DeMarre Carroll; Brooklyn received the draft rights to Aaron White.

The Spurs traded Bertans to clear cap space to sign free-agent forward Marcus Morris, who was reportedly signing a two-year deal. Morris then changed his mind, signing a one-year deal with the Knicks. He was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers at the 2020 NBA trade deadline.

An NBA source tells Hughes that Washington has made re-signing Bertans, who he says could receive a contract between $15-20 million per season, “a top offseason priority.”

The Knicks could have upwards of $40 million in cap space this offseason depending on what they do with the team options they hold on a handful of veterans for the 2020-21 NBA season. They also have their own first-round draft pick (8), the Clippers’ first-rounder (27), which was part of their return on Morris, and the Charlotte Hornets’ second-rounder (38).

Bertans could theoretically be the Knicks’ starting power forward. A career 41.1 percent shooter from beyond the arc, he could stretch the floor for new head coach Tom Thibodeau’s offense. Bertans could also come off the bench, subbing in for the incumbent Julius Randle, who’s one season through a three-year, $62 million deal.

Devin Vassell ‘has some fans’ in the New York Knicks organization

New York Knicks, Devin Vassell

The New York Knicks will select eighth in the 2020 NBA Draft after falling two spots in Thursday night’s draft lottery.

According to Ian Begley of SNY, Florida State wing Devin Vassell “has some fans” in the Knicks organization.

Vassell, a two-year player at Florida State, saw his minutes spike last season, going from 10.7 minutes in his freshman season to 28.8 minutes per contest in his sophomore season. Last season he started all 30 games he appeared in.

Vassell averaged 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and one block per game while shooting 49.0 percent from the field, 41.5 percent from beyond the arc and 73.8 percent from the free throw line in his sophomore season.

The Knicks will select in the top 10 of the NBA Draft for the fourth consecutive year. Last year they selected Duke wing RJ Barrett with the third pick; the year prior they selected Kentucky forward Kevin Knox with the ninth pick; in 2017 they selected French point guard Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick.

The Knicks have three selections in this year’s draft: their own first-round pick, the Los Angeles Clippers’ first rounder (27) and the Charlotte Hornets’ second rounder (38).

Wings who could be available at eight include Vassell, Deni Avdija, Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, Villanova’s Saddiq Bey and Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith.

Another option for the Knicks is selecting a lead guard at eight. Guards who could be available at eight include Killian Hayes, UNC’s Cole Anthony, Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey and Alabama’s Kira Lewis.

New team president Leon Rose stated that Barrett and center Mitchell Robinson are “two young core pieces.” Rose and the Knicks hired former Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau to patrol the team’s sideline. They’ve added former Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne and former Utah Jazz assistant Johnnie Bryant to Thibodeau’s staff.

The NBA Draft is scheduled to take place on Oct. 16.

New York Knicks: Kevin Knox, Julius Randle react to Kenny Payne hire

New York Knicks, Kevin Knox

The New York Knicks are assembling a coaching staff for their new head coach, Tom Thibodeau. Tuesday morning the team announced it hired Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne to join Thibodeau’s staff. Payne is the first official hire for Thibodeau’s coaching staff.

Payne was an assistant for the Oregon Ducks under head coach Ernie Kent from 2004-09. He joined John Calipari’s coaching staff at Kentucky in 2010, where he spent 10 seasons. Payne coached a plethora of lottery selections at Kentucky who panned out to be reliable NBA starters and/or All-Stars.

Some players who worked with Payne include but aren’t limited to: Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, De’Aaron Fox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Tyler Herro. Meanwhile, the Knicks have two players who played at Kentucky under Payne: Kevin Knox and Julius Randle.

Knox and Randle tweeted positively about Payne in the wake of him joining the organization on Tuesday.

Knox played for the Wildcats in the 2017-18 college basketball season. He averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, which helped him get selected ninth by the Knicks in the 2018 NBA Draft.

The forward is two years into his NBA career. Last season he averaged 6.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

Randle played for the Wildcats in the 2013-14 college basketball season. He averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, which helped him get selected seventh by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2014 NBA Draft.

The big man is entering the second season of a three-year, $62 million deal with the Knicks. Last season he averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

Former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson and 2020 interim head coach Mike Miller are reported candidates to join Thibodeau’s coaching staff.

The Knicks own two first-round draft picks and their own second rounder in the upcoming NBA Draft and could carry as much as $60 million in cap space into free agency.

New York Knicks: Leon Rose mum on team’s future plans

New York Knicks, Leon Rose

The New York Knicks held an introductory press conference for new head coach Tom Thibodeau on Thursday. Thibodeau, president Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry took questions from the media.

Rose, the Knicks new president, says the organization has “not set a timeline” while noting that Thibodeau can help make them “a perennial winner” (quotes per Marc Berman of the New York Post).

“We have not set a timeline. We are taking it one day at a time. We felt Tom was that coach who can take us with development to becoming a perennial winner. That happens one step at a time,” Rose said. “At the moment we don’t know what the roster will be moving forward. We have decisions we have to make. The important thing is to instill the culture, focus on the development and take it from there.”

With Thibodeau in the fold, the onus for the Knicks now shifts to rounding out a coaching staff (Mike Woodson is reportedly expected to join Thibodeau’s coaching staff) and the NBA offseason.

The Knicks have three selections in the 2020 NBA Draft: their own first and second-round pick and the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round pick. They acquired the Clippers first rounder as part of a midseason trade that sent Marcus Morris to the West Coast.

New York is sixth in the NBA lottery, which takes place on Aug. 20, and owns the eighth selection in the second round (38). They have reportedly interviewed and/or shown interest in guards RJ Hampton, Cole Anthony and Killian Hayes and wings Deni Avdija and Jay Scrubb.

New York has team options on Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock for the 2020-21 NBA season. In the scenario those options are declined, the Knicks could have roughly $60 million in cap space in the offseason.

New York Knicks: Tom Thibodeau praises team’s young core

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

The New York Knicks announced on Thursday morning that they hired Tom Thibodeau to be their new head coach.

In his introductory press conference, Thibodeau expressed optimism about youngsters RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson (quotes per Marc Berman of the New York Post).

“I want to get around the players to work with them and get to know them better,” Thibodeau said. “Based on film, I really think RJ has a very bright future as does Mitchell Robinson. Those are two who stand out. But we have a lot of young talent. I don’t like to make qualifications on people until I get around them.”

The Knicks selected Barrett with the third pick in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke University. Across 56 games, 55 of which were starts in his rookie season the wing averaged 14.3 points, five rebounds, 2.6 assists, and one steal per game. Robinson, who the Knicks selected with the 36th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, averaged 9.7 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game while shooting an NBA-record 74.2 percent from the field last season.

Thibodeau feels that Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox, who are each former first-round draft picks of the organization, are “young guys that have talent.”

“With Frank and Kevin, they’re both young guys that have talent,” Thibodeau said. “That being said, I’m not making any real observations until I get to be around them. Like most young players, there are growing pains you go through and there’s steps players have to take. Sometimes we measure guys against guys already established and you forget the steps those guys have to take to get to where they are. It’s an important part of it. Understand how you get there is work, sacrifice and commitment. One’s determination and perseverance is critical to their development.”

Ntilikina and Knox have been in and out of the Knicks starting lineup over their respective NBA careers. For his career, Ntilikina is averaging six points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game, whereas Knox is averaging 9.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

Thibodeau is the 31st head coach in franchise history. He takes over after the team fired David Fizdale in December 2019 and finished the season with interim Mike Miller. President Steve Mills was fired in February and replaced by former agent Leon Rose.

Under Rose, the Knicks have made a slew of front-office maneuvers which include hiring William Wesley (executive vice president/senior basketball advisor) and Walt Perrin (assistant general manager) and retaining Scott Perry as general manager.