Terry Rozier? And How to Win a Title in the NBA

What does it take to win a title in the NBA? Traditionally, it takes:

  1. One of the greatest players of all time on your team (Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael JordanHakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Tim DuncanLeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant have won 33 of the last 40 NBA titles),
  2. A superstar by his side (think James Worthy, Kevin McHale, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant (to Shaq), Pau Gasol (to Kobe), Dwyane Wade, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard (to Duncan), Kyrie Irving, etc),
  3. Ideally a 3rd star (an aging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the 80s Lakers) Robert Parish, Horace Grant, Chris Bosh, etc)
  4. A Great coach with good assistant coaches (Pat Riley, Chuck Daley, Doc Rivers (with Tom Thibodeau), Greg Popovich, etc,
  5. A team around them of good role players.
  6. Helps to have a former star on the bench to come off it in big moments when one of your stars is in foul trouble, to make some big ‘out of nowhere’ plays (from Spencer Haywood and Bob McAdoo on the early 80’s Lakers to Andre Iguodala more recently).

The Good Role Players

Part of that good team of ‘role’ players around your stars (#5 above) — you need guards who can:

  • handle the basketball in pressure situations with grit and determination,
  • penetrate to the basket in big spots,
  • hit a big 2 or 3 under pressure, and
  • play tough defense.

This is true for your point guard and your off guard. And it’s been true with almost every NBA championship; see Toronto last year with Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Fleet.

It seems that Scott Perry and Knicks management have zeroed in on Terry Rozier as one of these types of players — a key future ingredient to a Knicks team that does well in the playoffs (dare I write title run?). NY Post’s Marc Berman reports that at the 2018 trade deadline, the Knicks “were shopping” for what they called their “own young Terry Rozier.’’ The Knicks landed Emmanuel Mudiay.

Here are Terry Rozier‘s 2018-19 season highlights:

Terry Rozier is 6’1 and 24 years old going to be 25 for next season. He averaged 9.0 ppg last year in 22.7 min per game, after averaging 11.3 the year before in 25.9 ppg. He shot .387 overall, and .353 from 3, and .785 from the free throw line, with 2.9 assists/game.

Rozier played a big role under pressure to help the Celtics to the 2018 Eastern Conference finals.

Will Rozier Even Be Available?

Twitter is abuze this week that if the Celtics sign Kemba Walker, they will renounce the rights to Rozier. As Berman of the NY Post reports in the above mentioned article, “if the Knicks whiff on Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, they will use their cap space for 1- and 2-year deals, pending the player, according to sources. That is partly to keep cap flexibility for 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent.”

Thinking through the Knicks Strategy

This makes sense at first thought, but on second thought:

  • If Rozier is a piece to a championship-contending team, he would be a player the Knicks would want playing alongside Durant. So I would think they would want to sign him (to a lesser contract) if they landed Durant (or Leonard), not if they didn’t land one of them.
  • Reports coming in from Ramona Shelborne say that Durant and Leonard are looking to sign with the same team, and NY is a possible team since they have two max contract slots. Could it be the Knicks are thinking they can also slide Rozier in somehow, if they trade existing players to open up more space?
  • If they whiff on Durant and Leonard, and go after Greek Freak, wouldn’t they want Rozier playing alongside Greek Freak? If they would need to dump Rozier to get Greek Freak — then you’re talking about them signing Rozier for 2 years in which they wouldn’t have Durant, Leonard, or Greek Freak — aka a team that was not in the hunt for a long playoff run. So what is the point of signing Rozier?

The answer seems to be:

  • the Knicks sign Rozier IF they DO sign Durant, or
  • the Knicks sign Rozier IF they DO sign Durant AND Kawhi, and trade existing players to make cap space room to sign Rozier,
  • the Knicks are signing Rozier to be a point guard who can help the Knicks young core of Mitchell Robinson and RJ Barrett reach their full potential, irregardless of if they sign Durant and/or Leonard.

What About Frank Ntilikina?

Getting Rozier doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll replace the 6’6 Frank Ntilikina, or that the Knicks are moving away from Dennis Smith Jr as their point guard. But it might.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

June 30, 2019: Terry Rozier did not sign with the Knicks. He signed with Charlotte.

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