What if…the Knicks trade down for additional picks, stockpile young talent, and embrace a competent rebuilding strategy…for a while anyway.

With the order of the draft being settled, the writers of KnickerBlogger thought we’d go over the possible outcomes. But since we were whipping out the ol’ Crystal Ball, we decided to go a little past June & see what fate possibly has to offer…

 

2015 Draft Order

1 MIN Karl-Anthony Towns

2 LAL Jahlil Okafor

3 PHI D’Angelo Russell

4 NYK Emmanuel Mudiay (Traded to Atlanta)

What Happened on Draft Day 2015

About 45 minutes after the Knicks selected Mudiay, Stephen A. Smith broke the news on Twitter:

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And Twitter had fun with it.

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Once it was clear that neither of the two best big men in the draft would fall to 4, that the fantasy of Towns forcing his way to NYC was just a lovely fantasy, and that the Lakers brass still despised Jackson too much to accept any offer to swap picks, the Knicks traded down.  The new ownership group in Atlanta proved to be a willing partner as they wanted to maintain the momentum of the previous season and show the fans they were committed to improving the team with the East’s best record last season.

Bobby Portis provides the Knicks a stretch four prospect who plays great perimeter defense but doesn’t do much around the rim.   In the second round, Jackson nabbed power forward Cliff Alexander of UTEP at 50 and NCAA scoring leader Tyler Harvey at 59.

Jackson explained the moves thusly: “Clearly this team needs to add players.  Help is needed at every position. Bringing in several young players instead of just one is what we need to do here.  We brought in three players that we think can make this roster and since they are on rookie deals they won’t harm what we want to do in free agency.  Right now the plan is to get them ready for the summer and find the right free agents to fit in around them.”

What will be written on draft day 2018

Just as they did on draft day 2015, the Knicks will add the 15th overall pick to their roster. No chance of sliding down in the lottery again with the team making the playoffs for the first time since 2013. It was a short but fun trip with the Knicks losing 4-1 to the eventual NBA champion Washington Wizards.

With the 15th Pick, the Knicks will be on the hunt for a defensive center or power forward to do the work Monroe is unable to do.  And as it happened in 2015, the best two players will go in the top 3 picks.  After three seasons of analysis, Monroe has done nothing to show he was worth a max deal (as most of us knew).  He hasn’t protected the rim (0.5 blocks per 36 minutes) and he hasn’t rebounded (6.7 defensive rebounds per 36).  In fact, the best defense we saw from him was what he said about keeping Coach Fisher just two games before he was fired last season.  When Monroe was signed, Jackson called him “A real force inside.”  Well unless Jackson was talking about unforced turnovers (16.5 TOV%) and forcing bad shots (.489 TS%), there is little force in his game at all.  Sigh. Just two seasons more to go.

In his first year as head coach, Jeff Hornacek did a wonderful job playing to New York’s offensive strengths.  All but abandoning the triangle, Hornacek sought to spread the floor and take advantage of Tyler Harvey’s continued improvement as a scorer.  Portis completed his best season as a pro.  He has grown into a very good perimeter defender and gave Beal fits for the series.  He is now a legit threat beyond the three point line and when paired with Melo, the floor spacing is really opens things up for Harvey to get to the rim.   Unfortunately Melo’s minute restrictions don’t keep him on the floor for long stretches, and Melo does little more than catch and shoot these days.  The good news is that Caris LaVert looks ready to step in once Melo’s contract expires next season.

With the exception of a few veteran pickups, Jackson has bought into the youth movement rebuilding process.  Perhaps the disappointing play of Monroe taught Jackson a lesson about how to improve a team.  Even when the Knicks did move young players, they did so to get younger. Hardaway and Alexander for a 2017 first round pick was good example (Thank you Milwaukee.)

The Knicks will use their two second round picks (39 and 47) to look for players who can develop over time as they have done in the past.  It is harder to find good talent in the second round but at least betting wrong on a later draft pick leaves you with the flexibility to correct your mistake cheaply like we did with Hardaway.  Sometimes 2nd rounders work out (Harvey is an undeniable steal). And I know most of you didn’t like the pick, but when Furkan Korkmaz does come to the U.S. (his reps say he is leaning heavily toward the NBA next season) he could be a contributor.  And by then we should be all out of Furkan jokes. Even though they are really Furkan funny.

The Knicks have spent three years building a roster of young exciting talent to distract us from Monroe and Melo. If the team can keep developing, and get one more prospect to work out, they could be the right free agent away from being a dangerous team.  Melo’s contract expires in 2019 and there is a good crop of free agents to be had.  If Jackson could unload Monroe’s contract without bringing back a longer deal, the Knicks could afford two of the top free agents as New York Times columnist Robert Silverman suggests.

Jackson has hinted at retirement at the close of his five year deal.  No word from MSG on who might serve as his successor.  But if the Liberty win a second straight title this summer, Isiah Thomas will get strong consideration.

Yeah, Isiah FURKAN Thomas.

Knicks @ Nuggets or Up in Smoke

Knicks visit Colorado a state of majestic beauty,  wonderful history, and let’s just say a legislature recommitted to agriculture.

Few teams have disappointed fans more than the Nuggets. A team that looked like they were set for solid playoff runs seemed to just have the runs this season.  Coach Shaw was dismissed two weeks ago.  One can only wonder how much more time fellow former Laker turned coach Derek Fisher has.

Let’s find out.

Knicks v. Pacers or….Indypendence Day!!

New York remains one game ahead of the T-Wolves and the Sixers in the race for worst record in the NBA.  After a very concerning 2 wins in a row, the Knicks returned to form with a wonderful showing against the Kings.  Star point guard Langston Galloway led the team with a -40 in that game.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a number that high…or low I guess.

One, two, three…6 weeks to go-new york go new york go!

Anthony Mason

One of the most endearing players to ever put on a Knicks uniform died of heart failure today.

Anthony George Douglas Mason was born on December 14, 1966 and enjoyed a 13 year NBA career with seven teams but he will be best remembered for his run with the Knicks.  Mason was the classic bootstrap success story. Toiling away in Turkey and the CBA before getting a chance with Denver and the Nets.

Mason joined the Knicks during the 91-92 season, at the start of Pat Riley’s run as coach.  I was 16 when I first watched him as a Knick.  I remember my dad commenting how ugly his shooting was.  And Dad was right, it wasn’t pretty.  Not at all. But when I started to notice how well he rebounded and how he locked down everyone thrown at him, I stopped carrying on about that stroke.  I mean if I could stand Bill Cartwright’s shooting, I could deal with this right?

Mason clearly cared about getting the most out of his talent.  I’d never seen a person that chiseled play basketball.  I was blown away to see how well he could handle the ball.  Mason won me over. In time, he won my dad.  And before anyone really knew it had happened, Mason had won all of New York.

There was Mason breaking ankles on the courts of NYC in Diamond D’s video for best kept secret.

Remember how having works of art cut into your hair was a thing back in the 90s? That was Mason too.

At about this time, he stopped being Mason and he became simply “Mase”.  He really was the guy who best captured what the mid 90s Knicks were all about: nothing pretty just a ton of hard work.  He was the anchor of those famous 4th quarter defensive lock downs.  He was the smiling, sweat drenched face after the big wins.  He became 6th man of the year. He lead the NBA in minutes played. He was the dream come true for every person who was ever told they couldn’t make it, but they kept working anyway.  He was our Mase.

And then he wasn’t.

Before the start of the 96-97 season, Mase was moved to the Hornets for Larry Johnson. Johnson being the only person imaginable having the talent, likability, and results to replace Mase.

And while I am sure he left New York kicking and screaming, he did what Mase does. He went to his new team, had the best season of his career, and eventually made his only All-Star team.  I was happy for his selection but I always wished he could have had that moment as a Knick. I wish he had the ball during game five of 1993 playoffs.  He would have made that basket if he had to carry Pippen on his back to do it.

You’ll never convince me otherwise because Mason just found a way.  Mason had heart.  And it is exactly that heart that makes this such a sad day for me. It is sad that he has passed.  It is sad that he passed so young.  But what is so tragic, is that it was his heart that failed him.  There is an irony to that which is sad beyond comprehension.

Thank you, Mase for giving us everything your heart had to give.  I hope you were able to watch that game last night.  I hope the last game you saw was a Knick win.

Rest in Peace Mase.