The arrival of Kristaps Porzingis has brought back a buzz to Madison Square Garden that has been nonexistent since undrafted Harvard star Jeremy Lin was knocking down game winning jumpers during a few weeks of the 2012-13 season. After this stretch of games better known as Linsanity, Jeremy Lin came to represent the face of the future to Knicks fans all over the globe. Shortly after Carmelo Anthony rejoined the team from injury, Jeremy Lin injured himself and was forced to miss the remainder of that season. The Knicks were expecting to re-sign Lin to a long-term contract that offseason, cementing his status as a centerpiece of the franchise’s future. Surprisingly the Houston Rockets offered Lin, a restricted free agent, a 4 year/ $28.8M deal. The Knicks were unwilling to match such a large offer for a mostly unproven player, effectively ending his Knicks tenure and making him a Rocket. Lin never achieved the same level of success in Houston that he experienced in New York, and has bounced around from Houston to Los Angeles, and now to Charlotte.The departure of Jeremy Lin represented a prolonging of the Knicks future, which has been in doubt ever since the Knicks lost to the Spurs in the 1999 NBA finals after a surprise appearance as the East’s eighth seed. The owner of the Knicks, James Dolan, has a painful history of dealing away future draft picks for big name players that are well past their primes. This is a terrible strategy of building a team that ignores the key to building a dynasty. The biggest aspect to building a perennial winner in the NBA is boasting young talent on team-friendly contracts, which are acquired mostly through the draft. There are very few instances in sports where giving up future financial flexibility has actually paid off with immediate success. The 2008 Celtics and 2009 Yankees are examples of anomalies in where acquiring multiple players with large contracts in exchange for future draft picks has actually resulted in a championship banner. James Dolan has to realize that this win-now and sacrifice future assets strategy has not and will not pay off for the Knicks.Kristaps Porzingis, the youngest, most talented Knick since Patrick Ewing was acquired via the draft. The draft is how great teams are built. Look at the Oklahoma City Thunder. Just recently they had three straight draft picks that panned out tremendously. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Three superstars that the Thunder DRAFTED. The draft is the only way to grow a middle of the road NBA team into a playoff contending NBA team.
The biggest roadblock in Phil Jackson’s master plan to rebuild the franchise that James Dolan has tried so hard to destroy over the past decade and a half is the lack of a first round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. In the 2013 offseason the Knicks made a bonehead deal for Andrea Bargnani, giving up expiring contracts along with two second round picks and their 2016 first round pick. The decision to give up three draft picks for a soft European seven-footer with no defensive skills whatsoever was done solely with the short-term in mind. Bargnani’s contract has already expired and the ‘Bockers did not attempt to resign him. Bargnani underperformed in Manhattan and the trade is widely viewed as a complete bust. Bargnani has moved onto Brooklyn on a two-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, a better financial representation of his value to a team. The Knicks are still being punished for their Bargnani mistake; they do not have the ability to pick another piece of their future in the upcoming draft. The next piece of young talent will have to be selected in 2017, pushing back Phil Jackson’s timetable for rebuild another year. This season the Knicks have been surprisingly competitive. There is no incentive to tank this season because no matter how bad their record is they will not be receiving a lottery pick, or any first round pick for that matter. At 14-15, they currently stand just outside of the playoff picture but have even played the Cavs closely and have been in a position to win most of the games they’ve played. What will the Knicks do in the short term to remain competitive? Arron Afflalo has proven to be a valuable addition and has complemented Carmelo Anthony as a go-to scorer quite nicely. Robin Lopez has not entirely lived up to the hype that surrounded his signing this past offseason but has shown strong leadership skills as well as playing solid defense. Derrick Williams has been an occasional offensive spark off the bench but his defensive deficiencies and laziness are glaring weaknesses in his game which limit his minutes. Kyle O’Quinn and Kevin Seraphin have provided valuable front-court depth, and one of them should be unloaded in a package for guard help. I have put together a potential trade between the Knicks and the Clippers that the ESPN trade machine has approved. The deal has the Knicks unloading Seraphin’s one-year deal along with Derrick Williams’ two-year deal in exchange for the one-year deals of Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith. Josh Smith has underperformed in Los Angeles, and the rumor is that the Clippers would love to get rid of his cancerous personality from their locker room. A change of scenery for Smith may reignite his offensive effectiveness just as it did last year when he was moved from Detroit to Houston. Jamal Crawford has been one of the best 1 on 1 scorers of the past decade. His ability to shoot the long ball as well as his premier ball handling ability allows him to beat his defender off the dribble and finish around the rim. The Knicks are in desperate need for guard scoring off the bench. According to John Hollinger, if the Knicks were to make this trade they would improve their win total by three full wins. This is the difference between missing and making the playoffs. It would be viewed as a huge success by the Knicks front office and their fans if Madison Square Garden were to host even two playoff games a year removed from a seventeen win season.
Although Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith are not long-term answers for the Knicks, they would go a long way to make this current Knicks team more well-rounded. Hollinger’s projection that the Knicks would gain three more wins to their current projected win total is plenty of reason to add Crawford and Smith even if they are only to serve as rentals for the rest of the season. Fixing the Knicks is no easy task, Phil Jackson is being paid $12M/ year to climb the Knicks out of the hole that James Dolan has excavated them into over the past fifteen years. The Knicks will have to build via the draft if they wish to create a dynasty similar to the Spurs. The Knicks have no reason to lose games this season because they do not have a draft pick in the upcoming draft. Rewarding Melo for his improved hustle and desire to help the team win with two proven veterans may cause the Knicks to end up in the playoffs. Stay tuned for all things Knicks, Giants, and Yankees. Thank you for reading!