Could New York’s last season have been any more Knicks-y? Their fans booed loudly when the team selected Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4, but within two months they were convinced he was a top-10 player. Fast forward to the end of a dreadful season and new coach Jeff Hornacek is saying things like this:
You have to respect Hornacek’s enthusiasm. Porzingis does have a near-perfect skillset for the modern NBA, but New York fans need to be careful- their intense spotlight has stalled the career of many a player.
Make no mistake, this offseason will be incredibly important for the future of the Knicks. They have make very difficult choices and be very careful to avoid mistakes.
Their biggest problem is their timeline. Mercurial owner Jim Dolan may tire of the recent losing at any second and demand that the team begin to compete again. That will be very hard and it could seriously harm an already precarious cap sheet. If both Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams opt out, the Knicks will have more than $30 million in space this summer- just enough to overpay players who won’t do enough to move the needle.
The Carmelo Anthony situation is also beginning to reach a critical mass. Anthony’s best years are probably behind him at this point. His veteran presence certainly has the potential to help Porzingis develop, but paying him $24 million to be an aging mentor is a bad idea. His no-trade clause may make moving him impossible, but the Knicks should think long and hard about it. The much-talked about Anthony for Blake Griffin swap would be great for NY and Kevin Love is another intriguing name.
The Knicks don’t have a first round pick this summer, but do own all of their future picks. Will they be wise for the first time in forever and hang on to them? Or will they move them now in an attempt to win quickly?
Talent-wise, the Knicks’ biggest hole is at point guard. Tony Wroten is at least young and will provide some much-needed speed, but he’s never proven capable of running an NBA offense. Outside of Mike Conley there are virtually no great point guards in this summer’s free agent class- unless the Knicks wan to throw the biggest curveball ever and go after Jeremy Lin.
Bottom line? The Knicks need to be patient. It’s hard to trust a 70-year-old GM, no matter how much zen wisdom he has, but it will be necessary now more than ever. Phil Jackson’s gamble on Porzingis looks like it will pay off in a huge way. He is the perfect big man for the modern NBA and will only get better as he develops physically. Jackson got the Knicks their next cornerstone. Now he has to show he can build around it.