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Jalen Brunson’s connection with Knicks, moving up in NBA Draft and more

The Knicks are a month away from beginning renovations.

The NBA Draft is June 23. Free agency follows a week later. Until then, all we are left with is questions. Can move into the top 10? What might happen when Mitchell Robinson’s contract expires? Which centers or point guards could be good targets come the offseason?

Let’s answer some of those with a two-part mailbag.

Readers and tweeters sent in questions. I’m here to answer them.

What would the cost be to move up from No. 11 to the No. 6-9 range? – Ayush M.

There are two draft picks inside the top 10 that seem more available than the others.

The Trail Blazers have No. 7. Anyone you talk to around the league believes they will make a concerted effort to trade it. Their falloff in 2021-22 was a half-season tank; they want to get back to competing come the fall, when Damian Lillard, 31 years old and approaching a possible extension, should be healthy again.

The preference, though, would not be to give away that pick for future first-rounders. Portland will want present-day help.

The other top-10 selection I could see moving, though it’s not nearly as likely, is No. 4, which belongs to the Kings. There has been reporting that league executives believe Sacramento could take a similar approach to Portland, moving the fourth pick for a consequential player in a deal that would be reminiscent of when they traded 22-year-old Tyrese Haliburton, who is already a top-notch point guard, for prime-aged Domantas Sabonis a few months ago.

Like with No. 7, acquiring No. 4 would take players — not just the Mavericks’ 2023 first-rounder.

The Mavs running to the Western Conference finals doesn’t help the Knicks. New York owns all of its future draft picks along with eight additional second-rounders and Dallas’ 2023 first, which will almost certainly convey next season, considering it’s only top-10 protected and the Mavericks appear on the way up. Most likely, it will land in the 20s.

According to a draft pick point system analytics guru Kevin Pelton devised years ago, the Knicks would need to include only a middling second-rounder to compensate Portland properly for a move from No. 11 to No. 7, but as Pelton notes, teams pay a premium to move up. That’s not how it would work in the real world.

Even if the Trail Blazers were looking to stockpile picks, they could get better than a Mavs first-rounder to compensate them for moving down to No. 11. The Knicks would have to include more.

Adding an extra team could grease the wheels. The Knicks’ future picks go to the third team, which sends a player to Portland or Sacramento, and then Portland or Sacramento sends the pick to New York. Of course, three-way trades are difficult to negotiate on draft night, if only because they require major logistics during a short amount of time.

I’ll come up with hypothetical packages.

For No. 7, I will guess the Knicks give up No. 11, the Dallas pick and at least one of their good second-rounders: the Pistons’ 2023 and/or 2024 ones would work. Second-round picks aren’t just good for choosing players; they’re also currency. If you’re the Knicks, this is why you’ve been hoarding them. The other six second-rounders they have are all from teams that were over .500 this season.

If the Dallas pick isn’t enough, then they might have to throw one of their future first-rounders into the mix instead — something like No. 11 and a future top-10 protected Knicks selection for No. 7.

It would take more to slide to No. 4, of course. No, I don’t at all predict the Knicks will trade RJ Barrett for the pick, but I bet Sacramento would ask for him if the Knicks called, considering the Kings could use a scoring wing and Barrett is about to get expensive. New York could try No. 11 and a top-three protected pick for No. 4, giving the Kings an outside chance at another pick that could technically be as good, but again, that would satisfy tomorrow’s Kings, not today’s. If the Kings love any of the Knicks’ young players, one or two of those could make a difference.

The Knicks have the pieces to trade up if they want it badly enough. It’s the motivations of the teams ahead of them that would make a move more complicated.

As always with the Knicks, I feel like there are a million different rumors with Donovan (Mitchell), (Damian) Lillard, (Rudy) Gobert, draft picks, (Jalen) Brunson. Which ones have you heard that you can say, “yeah, this has merit to it”? – Robert M.

Jalen Brunson.

The emotional connections are all there. Brunson’s father, Rick, was Knicks president Leon Rose’s first client back when Rose was an NBA agent. Rick also played for Tom Thibodeau and was an assistant coach under him with the Bulls.

There are basketball connections, too. The Knicks are on the prowl for a point guard. Other than Kyrie Irving, Brunson is the top unrestricted one this summer.

Oh, and there’s the fact that the elder Brunson has gone on the record, speaking publicly last month about the deep ties with both Rose and Thibodeau and how his son will consider the Knicks.

The Mavericks’ postseason run, which has come with Brunson taking his game to another level, could convince them to bring him back. Of course, re-signing him for market value, which could end up more than $18 million a year, would drive them far into the luxury tax. Six Mavs (Tim Hardaway Jr., Spencer Dinwiddie, Dāvis Bertāns, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Reggie Bullock) are already on the books for between $10 million and $20 million in 2022-23, when Luka Dončić’s max extension kicks in, as well.

Some league insiders believe Mitchell could want New York if he asks out, but that storyline has always seemed speculative. He hasn’t asked out, and there is no tangible sign he will. Meanwhile, Lillard has done nothing other than insist he wants to stay in Portland.

The answer is Brunson.

My question is how do you see the Mitchell Robinson situation playing out? If he’s gone, are there any stretch 5s with decent rim protection that are available or that we could trade for? I think Frank Kaminsky is a free agent, but he’s a backup center and not a starter. – Freddy A.

The market this summer is, dare we say, light.

The biggest-name centers are Jusuf Nurkic and Deandre Ayton. Nurkic is unrestricted; Ayton is restricted. Let’s cross off the latter, since I imagine he will be too expensive for the Knicks. Ayton is in search of a max contract; New York would have to move tons of salary to make room for him.

Nurkic isn’t the stretch center you’re seeking, but when he’s able to play, he’s a big body and a super screener with solid touch around the rim. I always thought he was an underrated defender. A few years ago, he even rose up as one of the league’s top rim protectors. Portland’s defense was never close to elite, but it would become far more stifling when Nurkic was playing. But he had one of his worst defensive performances this season.

The Blazers messed around using him in different types of pick-and-roll coverages, sending him farther from the basket, which never looked comfortable. He never recovered from it. Is that a product of a slog of a 27-win season or has Nurkic fallen off? He’s only 27 years old, but he has an injury history.

So, let’s talk about the rest of the market.

Thomas Bryant is only 24 years old and is an underrated offensive center. I don’t put much stock in the downtick to his counting numbers or his efficiency this season, considering he was coming off an ACL tear and got thrust into a clogged-up, three-center rotation upon his return. If Bryant gets back to where he was previously, he’s one of the league’s most efficient scoring centers from all spots on the floor, including from range. The defense, though, is a problem.

There are a few other players who step out to the arc and who will be available. Serge Ibaka has been doing it for years. Dewayne Dedmon has gone in and out of shooting 3s over the past half-decade.

Other more conventional centers can set screens, rim dive and play some defense: JaVale McGee, Robin Lopez, Dwight Howard and Hassan Whiteside are all free agents. Isaiah Hartenstein was sneaky-good for the Clippers this past season (the advanced numbers paint him as one of the league’s best rim protectors).

None of the players mentioned in the previous two paragraphs are viable starters. All of them, of course, would come for less money than Robinson would.

Mo Bamba would be a natural answer here. He shot 38 percent from deep and played the best defense of his career this past season, but he’s restricted. Teams reserve the inflexibility of offer sheets for more expensive targets than Bamba. The Knicks would probably have to turn any potential signing of him into a sign-and-trade, meaning the Magic would have to go along with it. I don’t see why Orlando wouldn’t want to keep Bamba for a reasonable price.

The Knicks could search for a trade. They could go into next season with Jericho Sims and Nerlens Noel as their two centers. Leaving 15 minutes a night for Obi Toppin to play at center is probably the easiest way to up his playing time, assuming Julius Randle remains on the roster. Or they could just bring back Robinson.

Why is there a belief that the Knicks don’t have rotation minutes for new players such as Cam Reddish and this year’s draft pick? They won 37 games, so how are those minutes not up for grabs? – Thomas M.

It’s not as passive as you put it.

There is not a belief that they don’t have rotation minutes for new players, such as Cam Reddish; it’s that they traded for a new player (Reddish) and then didn’t play him. People believe it’s true because they saw it come true.

The Knicks have seven players currently 24-and-under on their 2022-23 roster. If they re-sign Robinson, it will be eight. If and when the No. 11 pick arrives at training camp, it’ll be nine. Veterans — such as Randle, Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose — are still around. A team can play only so many guys.

I never thought the issue was that Thibodeau wouldn’t play Reddish. That’s too narrow of a way to look at the situation. A reasonable person can watch the way Reddish played in Atlanta and come away unimpressed with his high-risk, up-and-down defense or skeptical of his ability to implement his smooth athleticism. Through three pro seasons, for example, he has more turnovers than assists. When there are so many other players around Reddish’s age, a coach can justify keeping the new guy behind them.

The Reddish situation, in that sense, was not just about Reddish. It was more macro than that. Reddish was a symbol of a front office and coaching staff not on the same page. The Knicks swapped a protected first-round pick for him and then played him far less than the Hawks did in Atlanta, the place he demanded a trade from because he didn’t believe his role was big enough.

The best organizations have a straight line from management to coaches to players. That doesn’t mean they all agree on every tiny decision, but it does mean following the same blueprint. With Reddish, the Knicks diverged from that.

If you met someone named Fred Dawgz, do you think you would get along with him? – @JonniWaffle

My father, in moments of supreme in-characterness, has joked about 578 times that he should have named me It’sRainingDogsAnd. So, Dad, I say this with love: delete this JonniWaffle burner Twitter account. No good can come from this.

And, please.

Mortal enemies.

Is there a way they can trade for Tobias Harris? He’s a scapegoat in Philly and would score 25 a game at MSG. – @johnquinn83

I’m not sure I buy that Harris would top his career-high in scoring by five points just because he left Philadelphia, but let’s discuss the rest of this.

I think most teams that want Harris could get Harris — or, at least, could get the 76ers to pick up the phone. I don’t, however, see the Knicks being his next destination.

If the Sixers find another max guy to join Joel Embiid and James Harden this summer, they will need to clear cap space. That’s where Harris comes in. He has two years and about $77 million remaining on his contract after this season ends. The Knicks could add up salaries in a deal for him. They have lots of expiring contracts, as well as Evan Fournier’s $18 million for 2022-23. But the Sixers wouldn’t want the Alec Burkses and Kemba Walkers of the world. They wouldn’t trade Harris to get worse. They’d be doing it to free up money.

In that case, the Knicks would need to find a third team to send players to so they could take in Harris and maybe a draft pick. The third team (and there are only a few candidates; only the Magic, Pistons, Pacers and Spurs enter the summer with consequential cap space as of now) might want draft compensation, too, for taking on all of these Knicks contracts for the good of the Sixers.

In that sense, it might just be easier for Philly to work directly with a cap-space team. (It could make a Harris trade on draft night with the Thunder, too, since Oklahoma City will still have significant room then. OKC gets more expensive when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s max extension kicks in come the start of free agency.)

The Harris fit in New York is funky, anyway. He is redundant with both Randle and Toppin, and he would eat into 2023 flexibility.

(Photo of Brunson: Elsa / Getty Images)

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news world

Jalen Brunson’s connection with Knicks, moving up in NBA Draft and more

The Knicks are a month away from beginning renovations.

The NBA Draft is June 23. Free agency follows a week later. Until then, all we are left with is questions. Can move into the top 10? What might happen when Mitchell Robinson’s contract expires? Which centers or point guards could be good targets come the offseason?

Let’s answer some of those with a two-part mailbag.

Readers and tweeters sent in questions. I’m here to answer them.

What would the cost be to move up from No. 11 to the No. 6-9 range? – Ayush M.

There are two draft picks inside the top 10 that seem more available than the others.

The Trail Blazers have No. 7. Anyone you talk to around the league believes they will make a concerted effort to trade it. Their falloff in 2021-22 was a half-season tank; they want to get back to competing come the fall, when Damian Lillard, 31 years old and approaching a possible extension, should be healthy again.

The preference, though, would not be to give away that pick for future first-rounders. Portland will want present-day help.

The other top-10 selection I could see moving, though it’s not nearly as likely, is No. 4, which belongs to the Kings. There has been reporting that league executives believe Sacramento could take a similar approach to Portland, moving the fourth pick for a consequential player in a deal that would be reminiscent of when they traded 22-year-old Tyrese Haliburton, who is already a top-notch point guard, for prime-aged Domantas Sabonis a few months ago.

Like with No. 7, acquiring No. 4 would take players — not just the Mavericks’ 2023 first-rounder.

The Mavs running to the Western Conference finals doesn’t help the Knicks. New York owns all of its future draft picks along with eight additional second-rounders and Dallas’ 2023 first, which will almost certainly convey next season, considering it’s only top-10 protected and the Mavericks appear on the way up. Most likely, it will land in the 20s.

According to a draft pick point system analytics guru Kevin Pelton devised years ago, the Knicks would need to include only a middling second-rounder to compensate Portland properly for a move from No. 11 to No. 7, but as Pelton notes, teams pay a premium to move up. That’s not how it would work in the real world.

Even if the Trail Blazers were looking to stockpile picks, they could get better than a Mavs first-rounder to compensate them for moving down to No. 11. The Knicks would have to include more.

Adding an extra team could grease the wheels. The Knicks’ future picks go to the third team, which sends a player to Portland or Sacramento, and then Portland or Sacramento sends the pick to New York. Of course, three-way trades are difficult to negotiate on draft night, if only because they require major logistics during a short amount of time.

I’ll come up with hypothetical packages.

For No. 7, I will guess the Knicks give up No. 11, the Dallas pick and at least one of their good second-rounders: the Pistons’ 2023 and/or 2024 ones would work. Second-round picks aren’t just good for choosing players; they’re also currency. If you’re the Knicks, this is why you’ve been hoarding them. The other six second-rounders they have are all from teams that were over .500 this season.

If the Dallas pick isn’t enough, then they might have to throw one of their future first-rounders into the mix instead — something like No. 11 and a future top-10 protected Knicks selection for No. 7.

It would take more to slide to No. 4, of course. No, I don’t at all predict the Knicks will trade RJ Barrett for the pick, but I bet Sacramento would ask for him if the Knicks called, considering the Kings could use a scoring wing and Barrett is about to get expensive. New York could try No. 11 and a top-three protected pick for No. 4, giving the Kings an outside chance at another pick that could technically be as good, but again, that would satisfy tomorrow’s Kings, not today’s. If the Kings love any of the Knicks’ young players, one or two of those could make a difference.

The Knicks have the pieces to trade up if they want it badly enough. It’s the motivations of the teams ahead of them that would make a move more complicated.

As always with the Knicks, I feel like there are a million different rumors with Donovan (Mitchell), (Damian) Lillard, (Rudy) Gobert, draft picks, (Jalen) Brunson. Which ones have you heard that you can say, “yeah, this has merit to it”? – Robert M.

Jalen Brunson.

The emotional connections are all there. Brunson’s father, Rick, was Knicks president Leon Rose’s first client back when Rose was an NBA agent. Rick also played for Tom Thibodeau and was an assistant coach under him with the Bulls.

There are basketball connections, too. The Knicks are on the prowl for a point guard. Other than Kyrie Irving, Brunson is the top unrestricted one this summer.

Oh, and there’s the fact that the elder Brunson has gone on the record, speaking publicly last month about the deep ties with both Rose and Thibodeau and how his son will consider the Knicks.

The Mavericks’ postseason run, which has come with Brunson taking his game to another level, could convince them to bring him back. Of course, re-signing him for market value, which could end up more than $18 million a year, would drive them far into the luxury tax. Six Mavs (Tim Hardaway Jr., Spencer Dinwiddie, Dāvis Bertāns, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Reggie Bullock) are already on the books for between $10 million and $20 million in 2022-23, when Luka Dončić’s max extension kicks in, as well.

Some league insiders believe Mitchell could want New York if he asks out, but that storyline has always seemed speculative. He hasn’t asked out, and there is no tangible sign he will. Meanwhile, Lillard has done nothing other than insist he wants to stay in Portland.

The answer is Brunson.

My question is how do you see the Mitchell Robinson situation playing out? If he’s gone, are there any stretch 5s with decent rim protection that are available or that we could trade for? I think Frank Kaminsky is a free agent, but he’s a backup center and not a starter. – Freddy A.

The market this summer is, dare we say, light.

The biggest-name centers are Jusuf Nurkic and Deandre Ayton. Nurkic is unrestricted; Ayton is restricted. Let’s cross off the latter, since I imagine he will be too expensive for the Knicks. Ayton is in search of a max contract; New York would have to move tons of salary to make room for him.

Nurkic isn’t the stretch center you’re seeking, but when he’s able to play, he’s a big body and a super screener with solid touch around the rim. I always thought he was an underrated defender. A few years ago, he even rose up as one of the league’s top rim protectors. Portland’s defense was never close to elite, but it would become far more stifling when Nurkic was playing. But he had one of his worst defensive performances this season.

The Blazers messed around using him in different types of pick-and-roll coverages, sending him farther from the basket, which never looked comfortable. He never recovered from it. Is that a product of a slog of a 27-win season or has Nurkic fallen off? He’s only 27 years old, but he has an injury history.

So, let’s talk about the rest of the market.

Thomas Bryant is only 24 years old and is an underrated offensive center. I don’t put much stock in the downtick to his counting numbers or his efficiency this season, considering he was coming off an ACL tear and got thrust into a clogged-up, three-center rotation upon his return. If Bryant gets back to where he was previously, he’s one of the league’s most efficient scoring centers from all spots on the floor, including from range. The defense, though, is a problem.

There are a few other players who step out to the arc and who will be available. Serge Ibaka has been doing it for years. Dewayne Dedmon has gone in and out of shooting 3s over the past half-decade.

Other more conventional centers can set screens, rim dive and play some defense: JaVale McGee, Robin Lopez, Dwight Howard and Hassan Whiteside are all free agents. Isaiah Hartenstein was sneaky-good for the Clippers this past season (the advanced numbers paint him as one of the league’s best rim protectors).

None of the players mentioned in the previous two paragraphs are viable starters. All of them, of course, would come for less money than Robinson would.

Mo Bamba would be a natural answer here. He shot 38 percent from deep and played the best defense of his career this past season, but he’s restricted. Teams reserve the inflexibility of offer sheets for more expensive targets than Bamba. The Knicks would probably have to turn any potential signing of him into a sign-and-trade, meaning the Magic would have to go along with it. I don’t see why Orlando wouldn’t want to keep Bamba for a reasonable price.

The Knicks could search for a trade. They could go into next season with Jericho Sims and Nerlens Noel as their two centers. Leaving 15 minutes a night for Obi Toppin to play at center is probably the easiest way to up his playing time, assuming Julius Randle remains on the roster. Or they could just bring back Robinson.

Why is there a belief that the Knicks don’t have rotation minutes for new players such as Cam Reddish and this year’s draft pick? They won 37 games, so how are those minutes not up for grabs? – Thomas M.

It’s not as passive as you put it.

There is not a belief that they don’t have rotation minutes for new players, such as Cam Reddish; it’s that they traded for a new player (Reddish) and then didn’t play him. People believe it’s true because they saw it come true.

The Knicks have seven players currently 24-and-under on their 2022-23 roster. If they re-sign Robinson, it will be eight. If and when the No. 11 pick arrives at training camp, it’ll be nine. Veterans — such as Randle, Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose — are still around. A team can play only so many guys.

I never thought the issue was that Thibodeau wouldn’t play Reddish. That’s too narrow of a way to look at the situation. A reasonable person can watch the way Reddish played in Atlanta and come away unimpressed with his high-risk, up-and-down defense or skeptical of his ability to implement his smooth athleticism. Through three pro seasons, for example, he has more turnovers than assists. When there are so many other players around Reddish’s age, a coach can justify keeping the new guy behind them.

The Reddish situation, in that sense, was not just about Reddish. It was more macro than that. Reddish was a symbol of a front office and coaching staff not on the same page. The Knicks swapped a protected first-round pick for him and then played him far less than the Hawks did in Atlanta, the place he demanded a trade from because he didn’t believe his role was big enough.

The best organizations have a straight line from management to coaches to players. That doesn’t mean they all agree on every tiny decision, but it does mean following the same blueprint. With Reddish, the Knicks diverged from that.

If you met someone named Fred Dawgz, do you think you would get along with him? – @JonniWaffle

My father, in moments of supreme in-characterness, has joked about 578 times that he should have named me It’sRainingDogsAnd. So, Dad, I say this with love: delete this JonniWaffle burner Twitter account. No good can come from this.

And, please.

Mortal enemies.

Is there a way they can trade for Tobias Harris? He’s a scapegoat in Philly and would score 25 a game at MSG. – @johnquinn83

I’m not sure I buy that Harris would top his career-high in scoring by five points just because he left Philadelphia, but let’s discuss the rest of this.

I think most teams that want Harris could get Harris — or, at least, could get the 76ers to pick up the phone. I don’t, however, see the Knicks being his next destination.

If the Sixers find another max guy to join Joel Embiid and James Harden this summer, they will need to clear cap space. That’s where Harris comes in. He has two years and about $77 million remaining on his contract after this season ends. The Knicks could add up salaries in a deal for him. They have lots of expiring contracts, as well as Evan Fournier’s $18 million for 2022-23. But the Sixers wouldn’t want the Alec Burkses and Kemba Walkers of the world. They wouldn’t trade Harris to get worse. They’d be doing it to free up money.

In that case, the Knicks would need to find a third team to send players to so they could take in Harris and maybe a draft pick. The third team (and there are only a few candidates; only the Magic, Pistons, Pacers and Spurs enter the summer with consequential cap space as of now) might want draft compensation, too, for taking on all of these Knicks contracts for the good of the Sixers.

In that sense, it might just be easier for Philly to work directly with a cap-space team. (It could make a Harris trade on draft night with the Thunder, too, since Oklahoma City will still have significant room then. OKC gets more expensive when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s max extension kicks in come the start of free agency.)

The Harris fit in New York is funky, anyway. He is redundant with both Randle and Toppin, and he would eat into 2023 flexibility.

(Photo of Brunson: Elsa / Getty Images)

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