Knicks president Phil Jackson is known for winning and working his magic, but he’ll really earn his reputation this summer should he figure out a way to retool his roster and get the team back into the postseason.
That all begins Thursday night with the draft, but the journey will be full of roadblocks considering the Knicks don’t even own a pick. The faithful can thank the Andrea Bargnani trade of three years ago for the loss of that valuable first-round pick.
That exchange, which included Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, this year’s first-round pick, and two future second-round picks, seems so long ago, but it’s finally coming back to roost.
Jackson is going to have to get creative and use his basketball savvy to recoup something on Thursday.
Help could be on the way for the pick-less Knicks, though, as the team invited the media to their facilities for a draft-viewing -- which may lend credence to the rumors that the team will at least try and buy a second round pick. Trying to recover their lost first rounder, though, will be too steep -- and the Knicks have very little tradeable assets anyway.
But if Jackson wants to continue to stack good drafts consecutively, he’ll need to pull off a draft night that was similar to last year’s when he snagged a young Latvian at No. 4 – much to the chagrin of the faithful at the time – and turned Tim Hardaway Jr. into promising point guard Jerian Grant. Jackson also traded for the draft rights of Kristaps Porzingis’s former Spanish League teammate, big man Willy Hernangomez, last year, but he’s yet to play in the league. Hernangomez, a 6-foot-10 power forward, may be ready this year, as there are sources who state the team may be ready to offer a four-year, $4.5 million deal – but nothing can be officially offered and signed until July 7.
However Jackson works Thursday night, it’s only a precursor to what he needs to do come July 1. That’s when the free-agent period begins, and that will be the true litmus test. And with the salary cap expected to explode with the new television deal in place, every team will have extra cash flow.
It’s no longer chic to only sell prospective free agents on the notion that you can only be a star in a big-market like New York. Stars are popping up all over the NBA landscape these days in places like San Antonio, Cleveland, Minnesota, and Sacramento, so Jackson is going to need a really solid pitch. Outside of Carmelo Anthony’s force-out in Denver in 2011, and Amar’e Stoudemire’s free-agent arrival the year before that, it’s been a long time since a true star free agent has openly pined to come here.
Thursday night could be the first step in changing that notion, and having stars wanting to gravitate here again. But it’s going to take some serious dealing for Jackson and the Knicks to work their magic on the draft board.
- It must’ve been so difficult for Knicks fans to see former players like J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov, and Channing Frye pick up rings with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sunday night. But with LeBron James noting that Smith was considered a “throw-in” asset in the three-way trade, Smith must be beaming knowing that he and his fellow Knicks castoffs have finally captured the championship.
- The Knicks have two former first-round selections in this year’s draft that are no longer – pick No. 7 to Denver (the Anthony deal) and the aforementioned No. 9 pick that’s heading to Toronto. The No. 37 pick that’s heading to Houston was also a former Knicks pick.
- Should Hernangomez sign a deal, the Knicks would either have to clear some space or offer the mid-level exception. But with big men Kevin Seraphin and Lou Amundson free agents on July 1 and Derrick Williams having a player option – of which he’ll likely opt-out of -- it shouldn’t be a problem.