How can the Knicks, Jazz and Lakers make a difference?

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As the playoffs approach, there are also forks in the road and potential breaking points for multiple teams up and down the standings. To break down some of the biggest questions in the NBA this week, I tapped into some of the brightest minds from The Step Back and FanSided’s NBA Network.

1. Can Julius Randle and Tom Thibodeau coexist with the Knicks beyond this season? If they can only keep one, who should they keep?

Bradley Dressler, Daily curtsy: Looking inside, from the outside, I can understand why some believe there is tension between Thibs and Julius. But as a Knicks fan, I have to wholeheartedly disagree. I think most of the tension comes from the two being formidable competitors and not being able to do what they love to do best. Victory. If there were real issues between the two, why does Thibs refuse to play Obi Toppin in place of Julius for more than a few minutes at a time? How come at the close of trade the Knicks appeared to have had an opportunity to walk away from Julius and didn’t? Before Leon Rose, William Wesley and Tom Thibodeau came on board… they had dinner with a Knicks player – Julius Randle. I know there are many fans who don’t want Julius in the team after this season, but I think both he and Thibodeau will be here in the same capacity next season. That said, if next season has results similar to this year… one, if not both, will be gone shortly after and my money would go towards Thibs being booted first.

James Piercy, The J Notes: Honestly, I’m not a big fan of either as a basic piece. My friend, FanSided site pundit and podcast co-host Nevin Brown always says that the Most Improved Player award is often given to a player who has had a breakaway season in hindsight. He’s right. I think Randle is a miscast as a first option. He would look very different next to a Dame Lillard, for example. In the meantime, I give Thibodeau credit for modernizing his shot profile, but I wonder if his old-school mentality is hurting today’s players. I think the Knicks should consider moving on from both, but the roster build always trumps the coaching staff. I would trade Randle unless they can complete a trade for a real primary weapon.

Jason Reed, Lake Show Life: It’s far from ideal, but they may just have to do it out of necessity. Thibs is one of the most respected coaches in the league and after years of mediocrity it’s hard to imagine the Knicks sacking him after this season. However, Thibs’ “magic” always seems to rub off after the first year or two with a new team and I wouldn’t be at all shocked if he gets fired mid-season next year. The Knicks should keep Randle just to have him as an asset to potentially hunt down the next disgruntled star looking to exit their franchise (look at you, Zion).

2. It’s almost impossible to imagine the Lakers going into next season with Russell Westbrook on the roster. But it’s almost impossible to imagine how they could actually get rid of him. How is it all going?

Bradley Dressler, Daily Knicks: The last time I heard a contract was “non-tradable,” it belonged to Russell Westbrook. Before that, it was owned by Chris Paul… and Russell Westbrook. The time before those two times was also none other than, you guessed it, Russell Westbrook. Will it be difficult to get Russ off the team? Yes. Will it still happen? Yes, too … if LeGM really wants it. Things have a fun way of doing things when it comes to making the teams that field some of the best players in the league better… especially when your team fields LeBron James. I think the Lakers could get a player or players who don’t have the same level of notoriety as Russ but are a better fit for LeBron and Anthony Davis. Either that or LeBron will force his way out of LaLa Land. I mean, they might as well see if they can persuade him to go to the team of his choice, because regardless of what happens in the net season, LeBron is out with everyone moving their kid in a few years anyway.

James Piercey, The J Notes: I think the Lakers and Rockets should revisit the talks they allegedly had at deadline. I really think Wall and Christian Wood for Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker is a fair trade for both sides. In theory, a healthy AD should be able to compensate for Wood’s deficiencies. Wood is also probably a better perimeter defender than rim guard: he could be better at the 4. Meanwhile, Wall is (slightly) a better match for the Lakers than Westbrook: He shoots a little better from deep and he’s a more fundamentally healthy defender. It’s a gamble considering how little we’ve seen of Wall lately, but anything should be better than this.

On the Rockets side, THT is exactly the type of flyer this team should take. He’s having a disastrous season, but what 21-year-old wouldn’t in the midst of this dumpster fire? He’s still got head. I’m not even sure the Rockets would need a first-round pick. You’ve clearly outgrown Wood: you’d effectively flip him for THT. Given Wood’s perception in the league, that seems like a decent value.

If this deal isn’t on the table, I’m at a loss. You can buy it with THT and a selection, but I don’t see them getting much more than John Wall and Christian Wood.

Jason Reed, Lake Show Life: There are three possible scenarios. The most likely scenario, the unlikely scenario, and the absolute dream scenario. The most likely scenario is that Russell Westbrook is back next season and all of the same issues that have plagued the Lakers this season will unfold next season as well, ending the two-year title window that left the team with LeBron and AD , is effectively closed. The unlikely scenario is that the Lakers pawn Westbrook to a team with Cap Space. Oklahoma City and Orlando are two potential targets for salary dumping. Maybe the Lakers can work something out to trade Westbrook and Picks just to get him off the books. We’ve seen OKC hit such a deal before. The dream scenario is Frank Vogel finally committing to benching Westbrook (think John Wall) and letting Westbrook’s ego get in the way of a smart business decision and retiring from the 2022-23 season. He has 47 million reasons not to, but we’ve seen players bet on themselves in the past when they really shouldn’t have.

3. If Jazz doesn’t make the playoffs this season, is it finally time to trade Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell?

Bradley Dressler, Daily Knicks: I think you’re asking the wrong question. It’s not that Jazz should explore the possibility, rather Donovan Mitchell will give the team more time to “figure things out”. It feels like almost every two years we hear about every few months from Donovan Mitchell, who is upset with Utah, and rumor has it he’ll be asking out soon. Recent speculation suggests he wants to end up with either the Knicks or Miami, so that’s it. The problem with Utah is they signed Rudy Gobert to a massive contract, who plays a position teams no longer covet unless you’re a killer scoring presence, can put the ball on the floor a little, pass well and of course shoot if you have to. Gobert has more value to the Utah Jazz than any other team in the league. So if they traded it, they wouldn’t get anywhere near the same value in return. So, shoot yourself in the foot because even if Spida gave them another season and promised to fire Rudy, there’s no way they would be a better team than they are today. If I had to invest money, I’d bet Mitchell will stay with Utah no matter what happens in the playoffs this season. But I could also see him forcing his way out of town to come home and play for the Knicks…

James Piercey, The J Notes: Yes. The old cliche “definition of insanity” comes to mind here. The only caveat I would add would be that if you’re trading with Mitchell, you should definitely look into trading with both. Losing their offensive engine would inevitably trigger a major rebuild. Keeping the best rim guard in the league seems misguided unless the Jazz finds a deal that allows it to spin. I think it’s more likely they would find a rebuild pack: Tyler Herro + Contracts and Picks or a similar pack centered around RJ Barrett.

On the other hand, if Mitchell is happy to stay, they can turn. In that case I imagine they would try to move Gobert towards a more viable second offensive option and replace Gobert’s production at cost. You might even choose to just stick with Hassan Whiteside. I’m having a hard time making suggestions: Jerami Grant in a 3-team deal? Brandon Ingram? I’m not sure, but Gobert will inevitably have value.

Jason Reed, Lake Show Life: The Jazz should probably buy Rudy Gobert if he falls short again in the NBA Finals. Donovan Mitchell is the Utah guy, and while Gobert is an elite defenseman and his regular-season stats are off the charts, he’s simply creating a mismatch in a seven-game playoff series that has been exploited time and time again. I doubt Utah can get enough for Gobert, which puts the team over the edge with Mitchell anyway, but keeping him happy and keeping him in Utah is the most important thing. Trading in Gobert after he falls short again in the playoffs is probably the best way to keep him happy.

Other NBA Stories:

We won’t know the full impact of Chris Paul’s injury for a while, but with a deep cast of veteran players, the Suns can have enough to thrive despite his absence.

Carmelo Anthony’s career resume has everything but an NBA championship. Why can’t we just love him? what he has done?

Yes Morant officially has them Most Viewed NBA Instagram Highlight of All Time. Can you guess which one it is?

All is looking good for the Philadelphia 76ers and they will be an absolute must matchup nightmare in the playoffs.

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https://fansided.com/2022/03/04/knicks-jazz-lakers-breaking-points/ How can the Knicks, Jazz and Lakers make a difference?

John Verrall

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