Being a Knicks fan is pretty tough. A "storied franchise" that plays in "The Mecca of Basketball" has not won a championship since 1973. With two finals appearances in the 90's and only one team with 50+ wins in the past two decades, The New York Knicks have been a laughing stock more frequently than a contender.
Despite an entertaining (and good!) 2013-2014 Knicks season, the franchise quickly returned to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. In comes Phil Jackson, arguably the best coach in NBA history, to become the team’s president of basketball operations. It seemed like an okay concept, but isn't that also like a hiring plumber to fix an electrical problem? His many questionable moves (every coach he has hired, J.R. Smith/Shumpert trade, attacking Carmelo through social media) sprinkled with some good draft picks (Porzingis, Hernangomez) have the Knicks positioned eighth in this year’s draft following an underwhelming 31-51 season.
Here is my wish list for the New York Knicks this offseason:
1. Draft A Point Guard
The Knicks have the eighth pick in the draft due to a valiant win against the 76ers in the last game of the year. Another way to look at that is the Knicks may have cost themselves five positions in the draft with that win. Luckily, there are five potential point guards to select; Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De'Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Nkitlinka. Though Fultz and Ball will certainly be off the board, the other three will land somewhere in the lottery, most likely the top 10. For the Knicks’ sake, they better hope one is still available at eight. I would hate for them to package a pick and move up unless it was for Fultz which seems very unlikely.
Here's a fun fact: The final four teams in the East all had 2017 All-Star point guards. In free agency, Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul will all hit the open market. Most importantly, they will not sign with The New York Knicks in their current state. Even if they did sign, as fun as that would be, it would not make them a contender in the East. Luckily for the Knicks, this point guard class is very strong at the top and they should be able to make a run at Fox, Smith Jr. or Nkitlinka. Fox currently seems like the safest pick with world class speed and distribution abilities. Smith Jr. is a bouncy athlete with a solid shot while putting up great numbers against good ACC competition. Nkitlinka is the wild card with limited international play but great size and court vision. He may have the most upside of the three listed. I also like the idea of drafting a player over signing a free agent as you can bring in a young player to grow with Kristaps and build toward something.
2. Trade Carmelo Anthony
The saga continues to get stranger with every Phil Jackson tweet (not to mention the falling out between Melo and his wife, LaLa, to start this postseason). Melo has his no trade clause but must be burnt out, not only from Phil, but from losing and his somewhat unfair reputation as a team killer. From a fan’s perspective, we appreciate what Melo gave us but he isn't getting younger and his value depreciates every year. I believe Melo can still return one or two good to very good younger players to help fill out the roster and move on to the next era of Knicks basketball. Washington, Houston, and the Los Angeles Clippers all seem like teams that would have a mutual interest with Melo. At this point, a young wing player and a future first (most likely a mid-to late first) would be a nice grab for the Knicks and a good price for a team that is trying to compete by grabbing a 22ppg 6rpg future HOF-er.
3. Get a Veteran Presence at PG
All the point guards that I listed above for the Knicks to draft are under the legal drinking age. Whoever is handed the keys to the car will need someone to take pressure off them and show them how to be a professional. The veteran FA point guards that jump out are:
Shaun Livingston - The lanky point guard has been through it all in the NBA: former fourth overall pick who was decimated by injuries, was viewed as a bust because of it, but lately has been a pivotal piece on the Golden State Warriors. He could be a great mentor to Nkitlinka, especially, as they both have great length at the point guard spot.
Darren Collison - Career 13ppg-5apg player who is well-respected in the league. Collison has not had the size or success to be valued as an above-average starter. That being said, he would be better for Kristaps' growth than Derrick Rose was this year. He’s more of a facilitator and shot better than 40% from three the past two seasons.
Shelvin Mack - Mack is a hard-nosed defender who has some offensive limitations. His one season in which he averaged 30mpg he did put up 13ppg-5apg. He’d be a long-term benefit for the rookie PG to have to practice against every day.
4. Get a Veteran Presence on the Wing
This is not as clean cut as the point guard situation and could become much less of a need pending what a Carmelo trade could (or could not) net you. I think the pool of restricted free agents will be an interesting one to watch with players such as Joe Ingles, Shabazz Muhammed and Tony Snell. With very different skill sets from all of those players, you wonder what their current teams would be willing to match. One of those younger guys or a Dante Cunningham/Gerald Green type who can eat up minutes and help the Baby Knicks (trademark?) grow.
5. Get Something Useful From The Two Second Round Picks
I understand that second round picks are lottery tickets for the most part. That being said, the Knicks have the 44th and 58th picks in the draft. The Knicks must be prepared to have a package to move up a few picks if a player viewed as round one talent begins to slip. Players of interest for the Knicks that seem late round 1/early round 2 include; Kurucs (Latvia), Bacon (FSU), Sumner (Xavier), Blossomgame (CLEM) and tournament sweetheart Thornwell (USC). If the Knicks stand pat with their picks, players to watch for are: J. Evans (OSU), Hart (Nova), Morris (ISU), Brooks (Oregon) and S. Brown (SMU). All of those players have at least one dynamic skill that should allow them to stick in the league and contribute. Five seniors are listed in that group, and although they have lower ceilings due to their age, a proven commodity would be useful on the Knicks’ bench.
Some teams’ wish lists include Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. Under my Knicks wish list I have second round picks and back up point guards. Getting big minutes from a rookie guard and a lot of young players most likely adds up to another lottery pick and that's fine! The best way to build is by using the draft and developing your talent. Hopefully, after next season, the wish list can include another pick and higher impact free agents to gear up for a 2018-2019 playoff run.