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Thursday, August 7, 2014
Love deal makes Phil's job even harder

By Ian Begley

Kyrie Irving
Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving join forces to provide LeBron James an All-Star supporting cast.
Phil Jackson didn’t make any moves on Thursday. But the Knicks’ chances of winning a title during Jackson’s tenure may have taken a hit.

According to multiple reports, the Minnesota Timberwolves have reached an agreement in principle to trade Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for 2014 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick.

Making matters worse for the Knicks, Yahoo! Sports reported that Love has committed to re-sign with Cleveland next summer for five years and $120 million-plus after opting out of his contract. Such an agreement would be a violation of NBA rules.

But let’s assume it goes through.

Not only does Phil have to build a Knicks team that can get past a Cleveland squad that features LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. He now has to worry about a Love-LeBron-Kyrie triumvirate. (Irving is signed to a five-year deal and James can opt out of his contract after this season but is expected to remain with the Cavs long-term.)

All of this means that the next two offseasons in particular are critical for Jackson’s pursuit of a championship.

In order to compete with Cleveland, Jackson will have to spend the Knicks’ cap space wisely in free agency in 2015 and/or 2016. The challenge for Jackson will be to build a team centered around Carmelo Anthony that can compete with the LeBron-Love-Irving trio. And to do so while taking advantage of Anthony’s prime years.

(Of course, this assumes that all three stars remain healthy and that the Knicks eventually have to defeat the Cavs in the Eastern Conference playoffs to reach the Finals.)

So what does Jackson have to work with?

The Knicks could have $18 million to spend in free agency in the summer of 2015. That may be enough to land a max player, such as Marc Gasol.

But Jackson said last month that the Knicks may instead look to sign multiple players with their cap space.

Again, it’s imperative to spend wisely here. The Knicks need to build a roster around Anthony that can compete with Cleveland. There are a million ways to demonstrate just how difficult that will be now that Love is a Cav.

Here’s one:

In Love and James, the Cavs have two of the NBA’s top three players in win shares, which is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player. (Kevin Durant led the NBA with 19.3 win shares, James had 15.9 and Love had 14.3). Irving had a 6.7 win share in 2013-14.

The Knicks leader in win shares was Anthony, who posted a 10.7 mark (13th in the NBA).

Again, this is just one way to illustrate the obvious: Love’s move to Cleveland is one more road block for Phil Jackson in his quest to bring an NBA title to New York.

Question: What should Phil do to build a roster to compete with LeBron and Love in Cleveland?

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