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Monday Musings: Kanter Opts In, Knicks Sign Hezonja

Photo: Anthony J. Causi

Charlie Zegers and Bryan Gibberman react to the obsequious Kanter opt-in news and the Mario Hezonja signing from over the weekend.

Charlie: Well… now that THAT’s settled.

Enes Kanter became the first NBA player to opt into a contract via meme, vowing to “Make Knicks Great Again.” The Trump-ian gag appears to have gone over like the proverbial lead zeppelin with Knicks fans on Twitter.

Of course, most of that crowd wouldn’t have been happy with any message other than, “I’m out. Smell ya later.” But that wouldn’t have made much sense for Kanter, who stood little chance of signing a better deal this summer, with most of the league cap-strapped. And it wouldn’t have helped the Knicks all that much; even with Kanter off the books they wouldn’t have had the money to make a serious run at a elite free agent.

So what does this mean going forward? I’m looking at it this way:

  • Kanter is a good, if limited, player;
  • Coach Fizdale may be able to find ways to play to Kanter’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses;
  • He’s still slated to come off the cap when the Knicks really do need the space;
  • He should put up big numbers with Porzingis sidelined—numbers the Knicks will need badly (this may also help him earn his next contract, which is yet another reason he would have been crazy to opt out);
  • He probably tries too hard to “be a character”—as evidenced by his opt-in posts—but I like the guy.

I know you’re something less than enthused about the big guy’s return. …

Bryan

Unpopular opinion: I’d buy Kanter out. Let me explain.

Steve Mills has already made clear they’re not taking on future money that eats into their 2019 cap space so his contract as a trade tool isn’t necessary. The Knicks should not make the same mistakes they did last year when they regularly gave run to players with no possible long-term future on the roster over younger players or older guys (Noah) that could have improved their trade value.

Every minute given to Kanter this season is a waste. Play Luke Kornet. Play Mitchell Robinson, if he’s ready. Play Joakim Noah. Use one of your exceptions on a big that you might think about keeping around.

Kanter serves no purpose on this roster outside of making the defense worse and eating into developmental time.

Charlie

Wow. Bold. But not the way I’d go. Not now, anyway.

Even if he’s terrible and gets benched for Kornet or Robinson, he’s got a decent-sized expiring contract that may be of some use at the deadline. And if he’s good, maybe he can be part of a sign-and-trade this time next year. You don’t give up a resource for nothing.

Also: seems really optimistic to expect Robinson to be a major factor this season, and that goes double for Noah.

(I still think Noah is gone before the season starts.)

Bryan

From a realistic perspective, Kanter is now back in the fold whether I like it or not, and that domino led to the Knicks adding a new three-four hybrid, Hezonja. I’m happy the Knicks choose to add Mario Hezonja on a one-year contract rather that sticking with that status quo in Michael Beasley. However, I pretty strongly disagree with the idea that the Knicks need Beasley for his scoring. He’s the antithesis of everything they’re claiming to be about.

Fifty-six percent of Beas’ shots came with holding the ball for two to six seconds on the season. Only 33.1 percent KP’s shot came in that time frame.

Beas is definition of a ball stopper, and he doesn’t bring nearly enough value to an offense to be entrenched in that role. The Knicks had a 105.4 Offensive Rating and 114 Defensive Rating (-8.6 Net Rating) in games he started.

Before Porzingis’ injury, when Beasley was used in a smaller role (12.8 minutes per game), the Knicks averaged 322 passes per game. Post Porzingis’ injury—Beasley averaging 27.1 minutes each game—New York averaged 315.3 passes per game. The seven fewer passes came despite playing at a faster pace post injury, too (100.5 and 98.7, respectively).

I’d rather generate shots by putting the ball in someone else’s hands while creating more ball and player movement despite Beasley’ efficient individual statistics.

Finally, as I’ve pointed out many times, Kanter and Beasley were 103.4 ORtg and 116.6 DRtg (-13.1) in 597 minutes together last season. Why would you run that back? This is a pretty good litmus test to see if Mills and Perry are using their analytics in a correct fashion. Hezonja is by no means a lock to be good, but he’s an interesting player to take a look at. He’s taken high 30–40 percent of his threes in his three-year career as catch and shoots.  Hezonja needs to get back to rookie season number when he made 37 percent of them—the last two seasons he’s been at 30.8 percent and 33.6 percent.

Adding him into the mix of wings with Dotson, Troy Williams, Daymean Dotson as options at the 2, 3, and potential small-ball 4’s is an intriguing group for a young, rebuilding roster.

Charlie

And don’t forget Luke Kornet, who they’re also bringing back—and this time, he’ll be on a regular NBA contract, not a two-way deal that limits him to 45 games.

I never really understood why Beasley was on this team LAST season, but I think I do now. He sort of fits Perry’s model of “low cost flyers on talented players with issues,” much like Mudiay and Burke, and now Hezonja. (I’d include Robinson and Trier on that list too.) But when you’re throwing darts like that, you have to be prepared for some of them to miss…and you have to be willing to react appropriately when that happens. Burke appears to be a hit. Mudiay looks like a miss, but we’ll see.

Beas was a miss. He seems like a good guy, and I hope he lands with a good team, but I don’t need him taking minutes away from the kids.

One Comment

  • Go2themike

    July 2, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I would give Noah an opportunity to show in training camp and preseason games what he has left to trade him then or to use him and try to trade before the deadline. Knicks should limit Kanter to about 20 minutes a game. Kornet should be used at more 4& some 5 until KP returns. This season should determine who stays and who is moved for 2019. The only way Kanter should be able to stay would be for him to agree to a salary cut.

    Reply

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