Phil Jackson’s trading for former league MVP Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls showed the faithful that there’s more than one way to improve a roster. The jettisoning of Jose Calderon’s hefty $7.7 million contract and the remaining three years of Robin Lopez’s deal that averages $13.5 million also showed that miracles can still happen at the Garden.
The aggressive pursuit of trying to upgrade the Knicks’ dreadful point guard situation caught the attention of many people around the league. About the only downside to this transaction is that the Knicks had to include promising second-year point guard Jerian Grant. Many within the organization felt the former Notre Dame star was primed for “the leap” in his second season – especially under new head coach Jeff Hornacek’s uptempo system. But in order to acquire a star like Rose, that was the real – and likely only -- price Jackson had to pay.
New York’s angle in all of this is highly intriguing, as it showed Jackson isn’t afraid to make a splash and gamble. Rose, who is due $21.3 million, is in the final year of his deal, so it’s really a make-or-break season for him during this one-year audition. This caveat is what makes this a low-risk and potentially high-reward move by Jackson.
Should Rose stay healthy – something he hasn’t done regularly since the 2010-11 season – and be anywhere near the level of the All-Star player he showed for three-straight seasons (2009-12), then the Knicks will have a pleasant problem on their hands, deciding whether to resign him. But if New York gets an old Derrick Rose instead of the old Derrick Rose, they can cut bait and open up a lot more cap space.
The Knicks currently have just $55.1 million contributing to its active cap space, so the trade also did wonders for them financially. Losing Lopez does leave a void in the middle, which means the rumor mill will be spinning from now until the start of free agency, July 1. And moving that needle will be the speculation of perhaps signing Dwight Howard, who opted out of his deal with Houston and has stated that New York is on his short list of destinations.
The Howard talk is for another time, though, as nothing can officially be signed until July 7. The real task is whether Hornacek and Jackson can figure out how to balance a team with two ball-dominant players (Rose and Carmelo Anthony) and a budding Kristaps Porzingis, who also needs to get enough nightly touches to ensure that he continues to develop into a star.
Rose’s addition could really pay dividends if he gets back to his old ways of slashing to the hoop. Upon returning from his catastrophic knee injury, Rose was understandably timid and hesitant to attack the rim. He settled for the mid-range jumper with uneven success. But the mid-range is where Anthony likes to live, so if the Knicks get an attacking Rose, it’ll open up everything else for Anthony and Porzingis.
Last season, when Rose averaged 16.4 points, he improved his percentage of attempts within three feet of the basket from 26 percent to 30. If he continues to ascend, the Knicks will finally have a point guard who can create for himself and others, and maybe even help the Knicks get back into postseason contention.
Of course, Rose must stay healthy and play more than the 66 games he saw, last season. But at the very least, Jackson and Rose have made the Knicks relevant again – something that hasn’t been the case since their 54-win season in 2012-13.
- The arrival of Rose also brought along the departure of guard Tony Wroten, as the Knicks announced he was waived.
- Guard Justin Holiday was also sent over to the Knicks, along with the aforementioned 2017 second-round pick.
- Howard won’t be the only big-name center to be attached to Knicks rumors, as pending free-agent Joakim Noah will spark interest, as well as his Bulls teammate Pau Gasol ($7.7 million in the final year of his contract), who the Bulls have reportedly given permission to seek employment elsewhere if the price is right. Both Chicago big men would be great fits, as a healthy and motivated Noah would thrive in the New York market, and Gasol is very familiar with Jackson from their time together on the Lakers.
- Anthony announced that he’s committed to playing for Team USA in the Olympics. He will be trying to earn his third gold medal.