New York Knicks: Future Isn’t As Bleak As You’d Think

Feb 28, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) shoots between Miami Heat power forward Amar
Feb 28, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) shoots between Miami Heat power forward Amar /

With draft picks and cap space galore on the precipice, the future of the New York Knicks could be bright – so long as the front-office can get out of its own way

It’s March. I’m Spurs’d-out. I’m Clippers’d-out. I’m sick of talking about the dismal Sixers. I can’t stand to look at another 6-24 Kobe Bryant box score.

I’m even growing a little tired of the Warriors hysteria–seriously, how many pieces with titles like “The Miracle of Steph Curry” or “Steph Curry Is On Pace To Hit 102 Home Runs” can one person read? Fine, the answer is an absurd amount, but I truly am starting to get bored with them.

We’re four months into the NBA season, and by this point sports media has beaten nearly every storyline imaginable into the ground, much of it being done with the same subtlety and ferocity Blake Griffin exerted on his team’s equipment manager.

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Just like the league itself, basketball media gets sort of rundown in the month of March. There just aren’t many new storylines to talk about.

So rather than giving you yet another timely, relevant piece about the under appreciated Spurs, or whether the Thunder can really challenge the Warriors in the playoffs, or if the Raptors can usurp the Cavs in the East or if it even matters (these were all potential topics, if that’s what you were looking for, I apologize now, and urge you to head over to, I’m going to take a look at one of the league’s most middling franchises, who possess about zero percent ability to impact any aspect of the league for the remainder of the NBA season.

Ladies and Gentleman, let’s talk some New York Knicks basketball.

(Before you rush to the comment section to bash me for that “ability to impact” statement, let me clarify. The Knicks aren’t involved in the playoff race, and they are on the losing end of a complex pick swap with Denver and Toronto that would give Neil deGrasse Tyson fits. They’re still solid enough to spoil a playoff team’s seeding, or maybe even knock someone out in the season’s final week or so, but as far the playoffs and the draft go, the Knicks are irrelevant)

The New York Knicks essentially threw this season away the second they fired Derek Fisher, and left the team in the hands of Kurt Rambis. That’s not to say that Fisher wasn’t doing that himself; in that sense he was doing a great job. His mismanaged rotations, and the fact that he definitely stole an ex-teammates wife, and might have stolen one of his own player’s girlfriends filled the dysfunction quota necessary to run this team into the ground.

But someone in New York’s front office must’ve missed the fact that Rambis gave Ryan Gomes more minutes than Kevin Love on a 15-win Timberwolves team in 2010 before they offered him the interim job. That’s the type of thing that should get you blackballed for a little while.

By all accounts, Rambis is one of the nicest guys around the league, I’m just not sure he’s meant to be an NBA head coach. If Derek Fisher was a man playing checkers among others playing chess, then Rambis is playing Tic Tac Toe.

In the eight games since he’s has taken over the team, the reeling Knicks have won just two games, and have lost by double digits to the Brooklyn Nets. Even Carmelo Anthony, who has pledged his undying loyalty to the organization through everything short of a sharknado, reportedly will be taking some time after the season to think about his future.

This season has essentially become a lost one for the New York Knicks, and worse yet, they have no control over their first-round pick (tied up in the aforementioned crazy pick swap with Toronto and Denver). Not having that first-rounder takes any comfort there might have been out of the Knicks’ struggles, and only makes the losing more torturous than it ordinarily would be.  

The blame for this particular lost Knicks season doesn’t fall on Rambis, or even Fisher, or any Knicks player for that matter. This poorly constructed roster, and the fact that the organization is once again without a potential top-10 lottery pick is on the front office.

Knicks’ Biggest Mistake

The organization has attempted to pair Carmelo Anthony with passable surrounding talent by taking on risky big-money contracts, and has completely sabotaged their own ability to build from within by dealing away nearly every pick in their possession over the past seven years. The last 15 years of the Knicks front office belongs on the first page of the handbook Mikhail Prokhorov is going to give new Nets GM Sean Marks on how not to run an NBA organization.

Between the feckless Isiah Thomas era, and the general dysfunction that’s been displayed since then, there may not be an organization that has been run worse than New York’s. But for as poorly as the Knicks have performed since the turn of the century, from the court to all the way up to the front office, the future isn’t as bleak as you might think. Over the next five to eight years, the New York Knicks will have the opportunity to turn things around, and to turn themselves into a strong NBA team.

What is the one thing Knicks fans are constantly complaining about not having? Among many others, what is the reason New Yorkers detest James Dolan so much? How did Kristaps Porzingis end up in New York this year? The answer to all three questions? Draft Picks!

More sir charles in charge: Celtics Tried To Trade For Melo At The NBA Trade Deadline?

I seriously believe that Daryl Morey convinced James Dolan over a few drinks in Vegas during the summer league in 2008 that having first-round draft picks was a bad thing. Tell me that doesn’t sound like both of them? I say this because after drafting Jordan Hill in 2009, the Knicks have drafted just three players with their own first-round pick, and Porzingis is one of them.

Since then, Dolan and the Knicks have dealt away nearly every draft pick that they could. After this upcoming draft in June, the Knicks will have been without a first-round selection in five of the last eight NBA drafts. Unless you’re consistently bringing in big-time free agents, and making particularly shrewd trades, neither of which the Knicks are known for, you can’t build a winning team this way.

Moving Forward

The good news? After this year, the Knicks possess all of their first-round draft picks through 2023 and beyond. Assuming they hold onto all of these picks, the Knicks will be able to stock their roster first-round draft choices on rookie-level deals for a while – a stark contrast from what we’ve seen in the past. And while I don’t have faith in almost any other facet of the New York Knicks organization, I actually think that their scouting department drafts well.

When they have had their first-round picks over the last seven years, the team has taken Iman Shumpert (2011), Tim Hardaway Jr. (2013), and of course Kristaps Porzingis this past summer – all three of whom have turned into solid NBA talents at the very least. That’s what makes the Knicks not having their picks even more frustrating. When they have the picks, they draft well. They just never have them. Smart draft choices are the first step to rebuilding a team, and with their picks, the Knicks will certainly have the opportunity to do so.

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The other factor that has contributed to the peril of the New York Knicks organization in recent years has been bad contracts. While they traded away a majority of their picks, the Knicks also focused their efforts on taking on big-contracts, many of which just didn’t work out. Honestly, I can’t think of any that did. Take a second to think about the last time New York traded for a 28+ year old player, making over nine figures who they were happy with in the end – I’ll wait.

*Twiddling my thumbs*

*Humming Born in the USA*

You couldn’t think of anyone right? That’s because it’s never happened. The team made these risky moves in an attempt to surround Carmelo Anthony with talent, but instead gutted the team, and hamstrung the front office when they tried to reshuffle the roster. But for as rough as watching Jose Calderon or Andrea Bargnani has been, I promise you, the light at the end of this hellish bad contract tunnel will soon be within the Knicks’ view.

The only contracts the Knicks have on the books past next season are Carmelo Anthony’s, Robin Lopez’s, and the rookie deals of Kristaps Porzingis, and Jerian Grant. That means the front office will be free from Jose Calderon’s ball and chain contract, and will also have the freed up cap space provided by the expiring contracts of Arron Afflalo (player option) and Derrick Williams (player option). This leaves the team with loads of flexibility in free agency and in trades.

The Carmelo Problem

We’re also assuming in this scenario that Carmelo Anthony will still be on the team past next season. Melo is on the wrong side of 30, and now finds himself in a situation with no real prospect of contending within the next few seasons. How long can he continue to say that New York is where he wants to win, when he knows it’s just not going to happen here?

Carmelo may make a push for the team to send him elsewhere sometime in the near future, and if that did happen, it be wouldn’t such a bad thing for the Knicks either. Like I said, this team isn’t contending in the next year or two. There’s no logical way for them to propel themselves into contention without either giving away their picks and taking on big contracts (for some reason I feel like that won’t work out for them), and/or hopping Kristaps Porzingis up on PEDs…wait, I think they may already be doing that second part.

If the Knicks aren’t going to be seriously contending for a championship, there’s no reason for them to be holding onto an aging star making big bucks. The best move for both parties would be to find a new home for Carmelo Anthony.

The Knicks have tried extensively and have failed miserably, employing the big-name free agent strategy. It’s obvious that it’s not one that they can succeed with going forward

With or without Melo’s gargantuan contract on the books, the Knicks are still going to have a ton of cap space to work with in the near future. They could take their usual route with this new financial freedom, and try to go after big names and big money deals. But that’s never really worked out for them, and for all of the fanfare about stars wanting to come play in a big city like New York, the results really don’t back that notion up.

New Plan

Outside of Carmelo, who arrived via trade, name me the last big star who came to New York? Stephon Marbury? Yikes. The Knicks have tried extensively and have failed miserably, employing the big-name free agent strategy. It’s obvious that it’s not one that they can succeed with going forward. The better route for the Knicks to take is to build from within through the draft, and instead use their cap space to add strong team guys who can complement the core they build through the draft.

Instead of throwing everything they have at big names like Kevin Love or Russell Westbrook, focus on bringing in a Paul Millsap type. The big name strategy hasn’t worked for the Knicks for years now.

It’s time to try something new.

Alright, so I’ve laid out the reasons why the Knicks future may actually have some promise to it. Picks and cap space are the building blocks for putting together a strong team, and the Knicks are going to have both in bulk. But that doesn’t mean New York is guaranteed a parade down the Canyon of Heros within the next 5-7 years.

We’ve seen organizations who appeared to be set for the future with picks and cap space, and still manage to blow it. The Knicks themselves were in a pretty similar position around 2010 after they had sorted out the mess that Isaiah Thomas left them in. Evidently, they were unable to leverage their situation into success. Having the pieces to turn a team around does not guarantee success.

At this point, it’s hard to wholeheartedly trust that New York’s front office will handle this opportunity correctly. They’ve done nothing this millennium to make anyone think that they’ll use their draft picks and cap space responsibly. But just like the dog that craps on the rug one too many times – and in the case of the Knicks about 78 times too many – the only way to prove itself is to not repeat the same mistakes.

The Knicks will be in a unique situation (for them), and the only way to prove they can handle it is by being smart. The first few years of Phil Jackson’s time in New York would indicate that they can do that. Despite hiring Derek Fisher, and nearly trading the pick that turned into Kristaps Porzingis, Jackson has made some intelligent moves, and is beginning to show the rest of the league that the there’s a chance that the Knicks organization is not completely inept.

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Not exactly a momentous achievement, but relative to past iterations of the Knicks, it’s an improvement.

For the first time in a while, the future of the New York Knicks is actually in the hands of the organization. Finally with picks, cap space, and potential star in Kristaps Porzingis, the slate is nearly clean, and the Knicks can move forward into the future with a real plan to turn the team into a contender.

The only question now is whether or not James Dolan and the front office will be able to get out of it’s own way. And that’s one that no one has the answer to.