Dysfunction and chaos are words that New York Knicks are associated with as franchise in the NBA and has been so for about two decades.
For a team that plays in the world’s biggest city and the most pristine arena in the world, one would have thought the Knicks have all the right assets to make the franchise a staple for the big stage.
In contrast, the team has barely had much to cheer about after the days of Patrick Ewing and Pat Riley.
Consistently missing out on the grand picture by drafting the wrong player-selecting Jordan Hill with the eight pick ahead of DeMar DeRozan who went to Toronto Raptors as the ninth overall pick in 2009-or handing out bad contracts-signing Joakim Noah for four years worth $72 million- has hurt New York Knicks chances of ever becoming an NBA title contender.
There is a reason teams like Sacramento Kings aren’t celebrated much in light of the bad, uninformed decisions they take. Despite having a winning season (26 wins and 25 losses) for the first time since 2006, most folks aren’t giddy about the team’s bright future because Kings Management for instance drafted three frontcourt players in the first round of the 2016 Draft to a roster that had DeMarcus Cousins and Kosta Koufos on it.
De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are making a strong push for the last playoff spot but the encouraging steps are likely to be derailed with a head scratching move many suspect in the coming months.
A lot of people felt the same way about the Knicks latest rebuilding phase that had Kristaps Porzingis as the foundation piece, a host of good young players on inexpensive contracts and an excellent coach. Someway, somehow many suspected a badly placed cornerstone was going to happen to collapse the whole unit.
That is what has exactly happened as Knicks have agreed to trade Porzingis to Dallas Mavericks for a package headlined by Dennis Smith Jnr. New York shipped out Tim Hardaway Jnr. Courtney Lee, Trey Burke and two first round draft picks alongside Porzingis to Dallas. In return, Smith Jnr., DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Mathews are heading to New York. Mathews and Jordan’s timelines, skills and competitiveness are not what the Knicks need right now in its efforts to dish extensive minutes to young players and quite honestly lose enough games to have a chance at landing a high pick in this year’s draft.
Expect a buyout for the duo while Smith Jnr. battles for starting time with Emmanuel Mudiay at Point Guard. On the surface, Knicks Management led by Scott Perry and Scott Perry did good by trading Porzingis since the Latvian wasn’t committed to sign an contract extension. Porzingis is still yet to play a game after recovering from an ACL injury but had seen enough in three seasons to be dissuaded from the idea of a long term stay in the Big Apple.
Trading a disgruntled player for a young athletic Guard and draft picks is a sure way to avoid a major problem in the future. New Orleans Pelicans are reluctant to deal Anthony Davis after the latter requested for a trade recently but the team is eventually bound to trade him for what is expected to be a large package.
However, by giving up so early on Porzingis, the Knicks just showed they have little faith in their ability to build a solid roster to convince Kristaps to stay longer. Holding out on a trade till the offseason and making a major swing for soon to be free agents-Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson-would have spelt out New York’s intention to compete as a stable, forward looking organization.
Trading Porzingis so fast meant Perry and Scott don’t trust themselves enough to lure free agents this offseason. It also means, the Knicks don’t have the balls to make a big trade as a Plan B should they miss out on Plan A-getting free agents. The Los Angeles Lakers missed out on its prime free agent-Paul George who signed a long term contract with Oklahoma City Thunder- but are in line to trade for Anthony Davis. That is the sort of confidence the Lakers possess but the Knicks don’t and letting Porzingis go so quickly for an underwhelming return does little in terms of making progress on that end.
For a player described as a unicorn, New York Knicks could have traded for a really better future package than a package headlined by Dennis Smith Jnr. It is hard to believe top tier free agents will pick the Knicks as their next destination and all that cap space created would be filled with mid tier players on expensive contracts.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter