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Suns vs Knicks: Phil Jackson, Ryan McDonough, and 190 Free Agents

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The average NBA contract for a player is right around three years long. I had heard this number before but never really thought anything of it, largely because it makes so much sense. The maximum contract length is five years; the minimum—with the exception of 10-day contracts—is one year. The number three is between the numbers one and five. The whole thing seemed more logical than it did meaningful. Then Phil Jackson rocked my world this week. Jackson talked about the potential for the Knicks to be major players in the free agency market this year—pause for audience laughter—and that approximately a third of the league would be free agents. A third of the league!

Of course, this once again makes sense if you think about it. If the average contract is three seasons long, then the average player is a free agent once every three years. The Phoenix Suns are fulfilling their duty under the law of averages, with Marcus Thornton, Gerald Green, Brandan Wright, and Brandon Knight set to become free agents in July. With a third of the league up for grabs nobody has any idea how Phoenix plans on filling those four roster spots. Clearly the Suns wouldn’t have traded the Lakers pick if they didn’t think Knight was a long term piece of the puzzle, and a draft pick will take one of those spots in late June unless the Suns decide to draft and stash either in Europe (unlikely) or the D-league (possible).

Even more confusing is where the Knicks will go during free agency. The free agency period’s top prizes this season—Lamarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, and Kawhi Leonard—are likely to stay in their respective homes. Even if they were to leave Portland, Memphis, and San Antonio the Knicks would be competing with half the league for their services.

The question for these two teams is simply this: What are the GMs going to say to their fan bases if they have a disappointing July? The Suns and Knicks are both stuck in an awkward limbo with fans that have reasonably high expectations in the short term. New York is a free agent destination with tons of cap space about to secure a top 4 pick and their GM has more rings than could fit on two hands. The Suns have more cap space than most teams with their talent level and a young nucleus. But despite the pure bulk of players becoming free agents it is hard to believe either of these teams makes huge splashes without the help of a trade partner.

Is Phil Jackson prepared to go to a podium in September and say “We’ve added Greg Monroe and Jahlil Okafor, we’re ready to compete”? Is Ryan McDonough going to act like adding a few solid veteran role players poises the Suns for anything more than a fringe playoff runoff?

There are, in the words of Phil Jackson, 190 free agents this July in the NBA. How many of them can really change a franchise? Who wants to hand the keys to their future to Reggie Jackson, Greg Monroe, or Draymond Green? There are only two guarantees in free agency: Money for the players, and regret for whoever signs John Salmons. The Knicks and Suns will be making a run, but what does that really mean when you’re stuck where these two teams are?

Suns vs Knicks tonight! 6 o’clock Phoenix time! What do people who aren’t convinced Steve Nash is an all time top-5 point guard think?

What Vegas Thinks: Start the Bus (Suns -13.5, O/U 196)

On Friday I mentioned a very straightforward rule that Vegas has when it is determining lines this late in the season. Teams with 34 wins are not favored over teams with 50 wins unless the latter is resting their entire roster and/or has lost a major superstar to injury. The same rule applies for teams with 34 wins over teams with 13 wins.

Normally this section of the preview is my favorite section to write. Vegas has so many different quirky rules and methods for determining lines and you can really quantify the impact Vegas thinks Brandon Knight and Alex Len have by looking at how Vegas reacts with their betting lines. That is not the case tonight. The Knicks are awful, have been favored by Vegas to win one game since November, and although New York beat the Lakers on Thursday, they were also seven point underdogs against the Los Angeles Lakers going into that game. 13.5 points is the most the Suns have been favored by this season with the exception of a game against Philadelphia in January. I guess it should be mentioned that the Knicks will be playing the second game of a back-to-back, but it should also be mentioned that the Knicks could take a week off bathing in merlot in preparation for tonight’s game and would still be double digit underdogs.

Vegas Predicts: Suns 105 Knicks 91

Bonus: Ever since tanking became all the rage, people have been coming up with catchy slogans such as Sorry for Jabari or Bleed for Embiid. How do you feel about the Knicks 2014-15 slogan being 0-for-Okafor? How about Clowns for Towns? No Handles for Emmanuel? Suckle for Russell? Okay I’ll stop.

What the National Media Thinks: What else is there to think?

The national media feels the same way about the New York Knicks as everyone else does. They have thirteen wins at a time where most college kids are celebrating Spring Break. One thing to note, however, is that legitimate sports journalist think there is a chance the New York Knicks trade their pick this season. Their top four pick. The Knicks are willing to trade Jahlil Okafor, Karl Anthony-Towns, Emmanuel Mulliday, or D’Angelo Russell before any of those players actually get on their roster.

This plan is reasonably seen as insane. Who in God’s name would you trade that pick for? Sam Presti basically spit in a reporter’s face for suggesting Kevin Durant. Demarcus Cousins is a possibility, but why would the Kings trade their superstar center in hopes of drafting a superstar center?

I don’t have any sources, national or otherwise, to back this up but I want to throw out a theory. The Cavs sign-and-trade Kevin Love for that pick and look to right the wrong of the Love-Wiggins trade. The Knicks sign Rajon Rondo, and Love-Anthony-Rondo is an absolute disaster with a point guard who can’t shoot, an aging forward who can’t stay healthy or play defense, Kevin Love doing Kevin Love things on defense, and nothing else. I’m so ready for this. The Cavs get the first or second overall pick and draft Towns. Towns becomes an absolute monster in the NBA. The Knicks regret that decision dearly.

What New York Knicks Fans Think: Blank space

I have no idea what Knicks fans think. I refuse to go to a New York Knicks blog and discover the answer to this depressing question. I’m guessing New York Knicks fans think this.

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