Berman tried to throw a bit of a grenade into our general “feeling good about the Knicks’ front office for the first time in decades” attitude:
The Knicks entered free agency with a league-high $40 million in cap space and with heady visions. They wanted to be a major playoff threat in coach Tom Thibodeau’s first season and bring glamour back to the Garden – even if it might be empty for the 36-game home schedule.
That is why they drafted a more ready-made forward in native New Yorker Obi Toppin, age 22, over Israeli project forward Deni Avdija, 19, when both surprisingly dropped to No. 8.
Avdija, a playmaking forward, could be the next…Gordon Hayward. The Israeli had his fans in the Knicks organization.
The Knicks acted like a title contender on Wednesday’s draft night when they wanted to keep open a roster spot for free agency and decided to hastily trade the 33rd pick in the draft – which most executives covet – for a 2023 second-round pick. They had little time to wheel as all their targets came off the board, including Duke center Vernon Carey Jr. at 32.
Those are not the actions of a rebuilding team, but one looking to turn around its miserable fortunes right away in a hurried, chaotic 2020-21 season. They wanted to give star-caliber coach Thibodeau, who usually doesn’t covet rookies, the best chance.
As it unfolded on Blue Saturday, the Knicks went from potentially being a legit playoff contender (10 teams qualify in each conference) to competing for the No. 1 lottery seed in the 2021 draft with a chance at 6-7 combo guard Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State, whose season begins Wednesday vs. UT Arlington at 4 p.m. on ESPN2. He’s the NBA’s Trevor Lawrence.
Now, yes, let it be said that the plans that Berman goes on to list, if true, were not smart plans (and whatever else we think about Marc Berman’s journalism, he tends to be spot on about stuff like this), however, I think it is important that Rose actually pivoted to something intelligent when his first plan didn’t work. That’s huge. When Mills and Perry had their initial plan for last offseason dashed by Kevin Durant’s injury, they pivoted to just absolute nonsense. Here, Rose pivoted to well-considered, intelligent moves, while keeping the Knicks cap space open for future moves. He added undervalued complimentary veterans who will help, but there is little chance of Elfrid Payton, Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks “carrying” the Knicks to a high 30s win team. If the Knicks win in the high 30s, it will be on the backs of their young players like RJ Barrett taking a leap, Obi Toppin being better than expected as a rookie and Mitch continuing to be Mitch (but maybe with a fabled outside shot now?).
That’s the correct way to manage these things. So yes, Rose’s initial plan was a bit ill-considered, but at the same time, his ill-considered plans were so ill-considered (Hayward taking barely a raise on a two-year deal? Huh?) that it struck me that he was fully prepared for these plans not happening and if/when they didn’t, he was prepared to go with a reasonable plan.
That’s a good thing.