What If… With the 4th Pick The Knicks Draft: Jahlil Okafor

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 D’Angelo Russell
3 PHI Emmanuel Mudiay
4 NYK Jahlil Okafor

What happened on Draft Day 2015
As suspected Towns went first overall to the Twolves. However the pivotal moment of the night occurred when the Lakers surprisingly went with D’Angelo Russell. Instead of going with Okafor to pair with a 53 year old Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles went with the best player available, with an eye towards post-Kobe life. During the pick, an audible moan was heard, but no one could find where in the room the noise came from. Days later, scientists revealed the sound came from 80 miles south of New York, which was the entire city of Philadelphia lamenting over the pick.

With the Sixers up, Philadelphia had no choice but to take Emmanuel Mudiay. GM Sam Hinke said that although he had Okafor rated higher, picking someone that went completely against his statistical model just “felt good”. Hinke appeared to be delirious when making the remark, as if he were seeing the world through a new set of eyes. None of the talking meatpuppets on the telecast asked him why he would go against his analytic thinking, because it was obvious to them that “the Sixers have to take a guard here — it’s the only move that makes sense.” Hinke spent the rest of the night feeling different materials with his fingers, taking a bite of every different edible object he could get his hands on, and generally doing odd things with his senses.

New York still took the entire time limit to make their pick, mostly because they were celebrating that Okafor was still on the board. When Phil Jackson was asked what he thought of Okafor falling to the 4th pick, he just smiled and replied “Karmic realignment.”

What will be written on draft day in 2018

Unfortunately for the Knicks, they don’t have much involvement in today’s draft. Their first round pick was traded away in the deal to receive J.J. Reddick and former-Knick David Lee. The Celtics just missed out of the first selection in the lottery, edged out by the Sixers who earned the pick as their young front court couldn’t stay healthy for the entire season. Although Boston’s pick comes courtesy of the 4 win Brooklyn Nets.

However for teams like New York, draft day has little value. The Knicks were a game away from upsetting the Lakers and taking their first championship in 45 years. Unfortunately for New York, LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell only needed 6 games to bring the trophy home to Los Angeles.

The Knicks got lots of production from their Big Three of Jimmy Butler, Jahlil Okafor, and Carmelo Anthony. Since the summer of 2015, when New York acquired Okafor in the draft and Butler via free agency, Carmelo Anthony has had a resurgence of sorts. Without the need to carry the entire team on his back, ‘Melo had his 3rd straight season with 70+ games played. In 2018 Anthony only averaged 30.1 minutes per game during the regular season and his scoring volume dropped, but he posted the highest TS% in career.

The Knicks have been in an uphill ascent since the 2015 draft. Phil Jackson recently admitted that Okafor falling to 4th was the first stone that helped put everything else in place. With the starting front court set, Jackson was able to concentrate on the rest of the roster. They offered Butler the max, which on one hand was overpaying for the swingman. However considering his contribution on both ends of the court, and that the money was not spent on the likes of Greg Monroe or Lamarcus Aldridge, it was a good deal in hindsight.

The next move that helped transform the Knicks was the hiring of Thibodeau. After New York bolstered its roster in the summer of 2015, much was expected of them to start the season. Although he was given the parts, Derek Fisher was unable to put together a functional team. After a 4-15 start, Jackson gave Fish the quick hook. Hiring Thibodeau was bit of a risk, given his demeanor and departure in Chicago. However the Zen Master worked his magic, helping the coach overcome some of his weaknesses. Phil taught Thibs it was more important to win the war instead of every battle, and Thibodeau stopped running his players into the ground during meaningless minutes.

Thibodeau “discovered” Cole Aldrich that first year, before the center left via free agency for a multi-year contract and a starting job in Portland. And perhaps Thibs helped Jackson as well, motivating the architect to find players that fit into their system. Phil scoured the world for defensive players to feed his coach. Dewayne Dedmon and Garrett Temple were relative unknowns before they reached New York & made the rotation. And success had its own reward. As New York showed itself to be a winner, it was easier to assemble the rest of the roster.

It’s unknown if Dirk Nowitkzi will stay for a second season with New York, but Chris Kaman and Deron Williams will likely stick around for a reasonable price with the hopes of winning a championship. The Knicks are still the cream of the crop of the East, although the Celtics and Pacers (led by Anthony Davis) will still challenge them next year. New York will likely see changes next summer, as Carmelo Anthony’s contract comes off the books. But today, on draft day, they’re not going to receive any help. And maybe for once, that’s a good thing.

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