New York Knicks: Will the Masai Ujiri speculation hurt the team?

NBA Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
NBA Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

James Dolan’s interest in hiring Masai Ujiri could propel Steve Mills to make win-now moves to retain his title as president of the New York Knicks

There is a growing sentiment around the league that New York Knicks owner James Dolan will be looking for a new president of basketball operations after the season. Frank Isola of the Athletic ( subscription required) wrote an article last month stating that Dolan was frustrated with the team’s slow start and Steve Mills‘ inability to make good on his promise to acquire a superstar.

Consequently, he was going to fire Steve Mills at the end of the season unless New York made a significant improvement to their win-loss record. Unfortunately for Mills, the team has only won four games since the article was published on November 11th, which increases the likelihood of him being dismissed.

If James Dolan fires Mills, he will once again try to poach Masai Ujiri from the Toronto Raptors after the season to be the team’s new president of basketball operations. James believes that Ujiri is well connected to some of today’s top stars, which increases the likelihood of them playing for the franchise.

More from Sir Charles In Charge

However, one can argue that the rumored interest in Massai will put the long term health of the franchise in jeopardy. This is because James Dolan has a history of allowing his president of basketball operations to make roster changes until the time they leave the franchise.

For instance, Donnie Walsh was allowed to draft Iman Shumpert with the 17th pick in the 2011 draft eight days before he resigned. Two years later, Glen Grunwald was allowed to sign Metta World Peace and Kenyon Martin in free agency three months before James Dolan decided to give him a different position in the organization.

According to the New York Daily News, James decided to reassign Glen because he was frustrated by the team’s second-round playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers in 2013. This trend continued five years later when Phil Jackson was allowed to draft Frank Ntilikina with the 8th overall pick in the 2017 draft a week before he was fired.

If this trend continues, Steve Mills will be allowed to make roster moves until a short period he is fired. Steve Mills being allowed to make roster moves is bad for the franchise because he is going to attempt to make win-now trades in order to keep his job.

For example, Steve Mills could get in the Kevin Love trade sweepstakes as it is the easiest way for him to improve the team’s record and bring a marquee name to New York. Kevin Love is an injury-prone player with a big contract.

In fact, he has missed 233 regular-season games in 11 seasons due to various injuries. One of those injuries happened in January of 2018 versus the Detroit Pistons when he sustained a non-displaced fracture in the fifth metacarpal bone on his left hand. The injury forced him to miss 20 regular-season games.

Despite his injury history, the Cleveland Cavaliers chose to give him a four-year $120 million extension before the start of the 2018-19 season. However, the extension is coming back to bite them as the Cavs are starting to realize that they may have given up an asset to unload the contract.

This is because other teams want Cleveland to attach a first-round pick in the Love trade as compensation for having to absorb his contract. Teams are asking for compensation because they don’t know if Love can remain healthy for long stretches of time due to his propensity to get injured. As a consequence, the only way they can get guaranteed value from the trade is by obtaining a future draft pick.

All of these factors should reduce the price Steve Mills would have to pay in a hypothetical Kevin Love trade. Steve Mills can trade Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, and Kadeem Allen to Cleveland for Love, Ante Zizic, and Dylan Windler.

Sadly, Kevin Love being easily attainable makes it less likely that Masai takes the New York Knicks’ Job as he is an executive that likes to compile assets. Upon arriving in Toronto, he traded Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks for salary filler, a 2014 2nd round draft pick (Xavier Thames was later selected), a 2016 1st round draft pick (Jakob Pöltl was later selected) and a 2017 2nd round draft pick (Jonah Bolden was later selected).

Five months later. Masai sent Quincy Acy, Rudy Gay and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings for Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons, and Greivis Vásquez. After the 2013-14 season, he shipped Vasquez to the Milwaukee Bucks for Norman Powell and a 2017 1st round draft pick (OG Anunoby was later selected).

These trades were made important to Toronto’s championship run last season as Jakob Pöltl was in the package used to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. Not only that, Norman and OG were rotation players for the team throughout last season.

The hypothetical presence of Love would mean Masai has to surrender assets to unload him on to another team. For example, he may have to give a team like the Atlanta Hawks multiple first-round picks to the hypothetical Love contract off his books after the season.

Consequently, it increases the likelihood that James Dolan retains Steve Mills beyond this season or has to an executive from another organization that willing to take on the win-now moves that Mills might make to keep his job.

Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler is making a legit NBA MVP case. dark. Next

In conclusion, James Dolan should fire Steve Mills immediately to increase his odds at successfully poaching Masai Ujiri from Toronto.