I feel terrible for New York basketball. In a previous column, I wrote about two teams who have struggled and aren’t at their peak, but I truly believe that both teams (Celtics and Lakers), within the next five years, are very much title contenders.
Now, the Brooklyn Nets are too far gone to be constructed at this point.
First of all, the 2017 NBA Draft Class is the deepest in a decade and they’re the worst team in basketball, but they traded that pick, in addition to several other selections, to the Celtics in 2014 for two guys who are retired (Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett), a guy who will retire after this season (Paul Pierce), and a guy who is well passed his prime (Jason Terry), all of whom evacuated Brooklyn within two years.
That organization might as well move to Cleveland and start a football team, because they’re in Browns shape.
The New York Knicks, on the other hand, present a complex, but fascinating dilemma.
Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, and Joakim Noah all have multiple All-Star selections and are typically listed among the better players in the league, or at least in their prime.
It’s becoming inherently obvious that Rose, Melo, and Noah are passed the glory days of their career, but it’s kind of unfair to expect that level of play from guys that are 28 with multiple major knee injuries (Rose), 31 (Noah), and 32 (Melo).
While I understand the notion that if you have veterans who deserve playing time, if you’re not going to win a seven-game series against Cleveland, let alone a game against Cleveland in the playoffs, let alone a game against any real playoff contender (Boston, Toronto, even Atlanta), you should probably start building to do as such.
The way to get better in the NBA is not by getting older. The aforementioned Brooklyn Nets tried that experiment and it failed pretty much within hours of the trade.
Successful teams in today’s game are building from the draft, not through free agency. Look at the Golden State Warriors.
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are all superstars, who due to being members of the organization, become controllable stock for the Warriors.
Among Knicks starters, only one of the five were drafted by the organization.
We’ll start there.
1. Allow Kristaps Porzingis to be the face of the franchise
Porzingis is a generational talent who is becoming a second or third option on a Knicks team desperate for his abilities. Like really, the Knicks are looking for gold and haven’t realized it’s staring them right in the face.
The problem might start with team president, Phil Jackson, on this one. Phil Jackson is famous for having the league’s best veteran talent in tandem with his mystic leadership, as he had teams with Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordon who won 11 championships with Jackson at the helm.
Kristaps Porzingis averages 34.4 minutes (leads the team), 19.4 points (2nd), 7.4 rebounds (2nd), and 2.0 blocks (1st), per game, all of which are great numbers, considering he’s on a team with two of the league’s all-time great ball hogs (Melo and Rose).
It’s understandable that they want to use Melo as the go-to guy, because since the Denver Nuggets dished him to New York, he’s sort of become the team’s identity. Understandable, but it’s not the right thing for this team.
When a team has a 7’3″ guy who shoots the three ball at a 40.2% rate, is a physical threat inside, and has proven to cold blooded in the clutch, it’s time to let the guy fly. It’s time for Porzingis to go to Phil Jackson, and just as Mark Wahlberg did in The Other Guys, to let him know,”I’m a peacock, Captain! You’ve gotta let me fly!”
2. Wave goodbye to Derrick Rose, draft a nice point guard
Great point guards are a priceless value. Derrick Rose was once priceless, but unfortunately for all of us, Rose is not who he was back around that MVP season with the Chicago Bulls.
Instead, we get a cocky Rose who is desperate to prove that he is that guy, but is actually just having the world’s most televised identity crisis, which was highlighted in last week when Rose skipped a game, flying home to Chicago, without alerting anyone in the organization.
Rose is averaging, ironically a very average 17.5 points (3rd on the team), 4.5 assists (2nd, behind his backup), and on the darker side, 2.5 turnovers (1st) per game this season.
Those numbers make Rose nothing more than dead weight on a roster full of dead weight.
This is the last year on Rose’s contract, so you have two schools of thought:
- You can try to trade him for a second-round pick to a team trying to sneak into the playoffs as a contender, so you can try to excavate him for some taste of value. Let’s face it, Rose is irrelevant to a Knicks team desperate for a youth movement.
- Let him walk, but don’t even think about teasing him with a contract, because he just might take it, because his talent isn’t going to do much for a contender.
There is such a great talent pool of young point guards in this draft that the Knicks absolutely have to take advantage of this moment. It’s too crucial.
3. Invest money in the bench
It’s hard to get multiple superstars in this league, even though the teams who have them succeed more than others.
That being said, the better tams in the league all have pretty solid benches.
Now, once about every other year, ESPN goes nuts over some white dude who drops 30 three times in a week off of the Knicks bench, but then we never hear from that guy again.
What ends up happening is the Knicks will seemingly use that guy way too often and he, like so many other pieces on the team, finds ways to weigh them down, because he probably stinks on defense.
There are going to be some solid talents for the Knicks to dip into this offseason: Anthony Morrow (SG), Patrick Mills (PG), Jodie Meeks (SG), Adreian Payne (PF), Jonas Jerebko (PF), Thabo Sefolosha (SF), James McAdoo (SF), and JaVale McGee (C) are all unrestricted free agents and I suspect that many of them would be enticed by joining a Knicks team who appears to be ready to compete.
The Knicks currently rank 20th in the league in bench scoring, which is pretty telling considering their starters aren’t particularly resounding outside of Melo and Porzingis.
The Knicks bench is currently constructed of never-weres and won’t-ever-be’s, which is a bad sign. The Knicks need to get some solid bench pieces, because Carmelo isn’t getting any younger… and a good bench goes a long way.
4. Keep Carmelo Anthony, but not if it’s going to break the bank
Teams thrive from veteran leadership. The Spurs have Parker/Ginobili, Golden State with Iguodala, Atlanta with Dwight Howard, Memphis with Gasol/Conley, etc.
While I just bashed Derrick Rose for a whole section, I demand for the sake of the Knicks franchise that they keep Carmelo Anthony on their roster.
Listen, I know that a Carmelo Anthony trade is incredibly enticing for this draft, but the reason a team like the Clippers might want him is the exact same reason you have to keep him; you can’t lose a guy who will get you the big shot.
Carmelo Anthony is very important to this organization and they put a lot on the line to bring him back to his home state.
There was a time when people argued that Carmelo Anthony was a better player than LeBron James. Though those people were wrong and time has passed, when you have a guy who can be included in a rational conversation to be on that sort of level, you have to evaluate the talent at hand.
Melo’s numbers aren’t the best in the world, but he’s leading the team in scoring with 22.2 per game, which is good enough, considering the guy who’s supposed to be passing the ball doesn’t pass the ball.
5. Don’t Spend Money on Recycled Superstars
Hopefully, “Zen Master” Jackson learned his lesson this offseason about where money needs to be allocated, considering the team spent $21.3 million on Derrick Rose and $17 million on Joakim Noah, which made up 40.7% of the team’s cap this offseason.
Blake Griffin is going to be a free agent this year. Knowing that guy, he’s got some interest in what the Knicks have to offer.
Knowing the Knicks, I’m assuming they have some interest in what he has to offer… DON’T FALL FOR IT!!!
Noah and Rose hurt the Knicks this year.
The team really needs to get younger and infinitely more well rounded if they want to compete for an NBA Championship.
With all of that being said, I’m not an NBA GM, so I reserve my right to be completely and utterly wrong.