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…
A stopped clock…
2015 Draft Order
1 MIN Jahlil Okafor
2 LAL Karl-Anthony Towns (traded to the Knicks)
3 PHI D’Angelo Russell
4 NYK Emmanuel Mudiay (traded to the Lakers)
What happened leading up to and on Draft Day 2015
The story that inspired Bill Simmons to break his post-ESPN near-silence was that of Karl-Anthony Towns’ comments preceding the draft:
Towns is pulling a Kobe Bryant… Okay, that’s fine. But why the hell do you do that to go to New York?
— @BillSimmons 3:24 PM – 18 Jun 2015
But I have to say I’m enjoying this saga. Great satire of the sad state of big media outlets complete humorlessness #NPSE #PigLatinAcronyms
— @BillSimmons 3:37 PM – 18 Jun 2015
The quotes Simmons refers to come from both Towns and his agent, Leon Rose:
On where he hopes he’ll be drafted, Towns said, “I’ll go anywhere but isn’t it always really late on the West Coast? I’d probably be tired for all the games.”
On Philadelphia: “On the one hand, I love cheesesteaks, but on the other hand, so did Embiid, and you know, Philadelphia’s front office wasn’t too happy about the consequences of that. I mean I can just feel myself turning into Mike Sweetney when I think about Pat’s and Geno’s and – there’s other good cheesesteak place’s too – Jim’s on South Street, John’s down by IKEA and Home Depot and all that…”
On Towns’ comments, Rose explained that “Those are just statements of fact. It is later in Los Angeles than in, for example, New York. They do have good cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, and yeah, you can get a Cheesesteak in New York, but it’s not the same. Do you deny that? I feel like these are things that most Americans know to be true, and you asked the kid, and he just stated the obvious. You guys are making a story out of nothing.”
Simmons was not wrong: No major media outlet had the balls to point out the absurdity of Rose and Towns’ comments.
With Minnesota committed to Okafor, the Knicks were able to convince the Lakers to swap picks with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early heading to the place where it’s always late.
In an interview shortly after the draft, Phil Jackson finally addressed Towns’ comments: “I think he would have played anywhere, but this is his home, and that’s something the value of which you really can’t overstate. His roots are here, and those roots will help him grow and have a long and what we expect will be a hall of fame career. I think also, and he’s told me this, or at least I expect him to tell me this when I talk to him later: He’s a great fit for the triangle offense, so it wasn’t just about the city of New York. It was about me and my offense.”
What will be written on draft day in 2018
Now 22 years old and a three-year veteran entering a contract year, Towns has received most of the attention and blame for the Knicks’ mediocrity. The major media outlets have focused in on all the once-rumored trade offers the Knicks received for Towns over the years.
The unspoken truth though behind all these articles is that Melo is now in decline. He’s missed 30% of his games since the Towns draft and is set to have another surgery on his ever-balky left knee. His numbers for the 17-18 season showed steeper drops than the previous season, and for the first time since 2009, he missed the All-Star game.
It’s not that Towns has been bad. In fact, he’s been the second best performer from his class after Okafor and has largely lived up to expectations – a stronger Serge Ibaka. He just “hasn’t made the leap”, and because Melo is quickly transforming into the new albatross contract for the Knicks. All these articles about Towns are secretly early post-mortems for the Carmelo Anthony era. Could trading Towns for veteran talent have gotten Melo the title he deserved?
For their parts, Jackson and ever-beleaguered coach Derek Fisher have stood firmly behind Towns, but as Jackson admitted in his press conference wherein he announced that he would be leaving following the 2018 free agency period, he didn’t take enough risks. “We had good luck and bad luck during my time here, and when free agency proved to not be as fruitful as I hoped, I knew that we had a big challenge ahead of us. Rather than breaking everything up and starting over, I decided to hope that some best cases played out. They didn’t. Melo’s been hurt. Karl-Anthony isn’t at a point in his career where he can be the lead guy on a great team. We think he can get there, but he’s not there yet.”
That story was too boring to report on though. Most coverage of Jackson’s press conference instead involved base speculation about the state of Jackson’s health with Frank Isola going so far as to insinuate that Jackson may have been suffering from mild dementia throughout his tenure with the Knicks.
As the draft approached, rumors swirled about Towns’ future in New York, and the day before the draft, Towns, the Knicks’ 2018 and 2020 pick in addition to the contracts of Greg Monroe, Aron Afflalo and Reggie Jackson were sent out in a three team trade that brought back 32 year old Dwight Howard and 33 year old Chris Paul.
Jackson retired citing health reasons a few days later with Allan Houston taking over for Fisher as head coach. “James Dolan is a fine man and didn’t interfere in any way. He’s also a transcendent musician,” Jackson explained before lifting a boom box from behind the podium and blasting Little White Lies, from JD & the Straight Shot’s fourth album.
Bill Simmons presciently tweeted the following twelve minutes after the trade was announced: “Bet anyone 0.10 Bitcoin that Towns is better than any player on the Knicks’ roster by 2019/20 season.”