In Defense of Phil Jackson

Well I never thought I’d do this. I’ve been pretty critical of the Zen Master and his weird ongoing feud with 3-pointers. I honestly thought last night was going to be nail in the coffin for this Knicks squad. They had the fourth pick in a draft that had three top-tier players. It was a tough spot to be in after a dreadful 17-win season. So what should the Knicks have done? Well that’s up for debate, but I think they did just fine last night and I’ll tell you why.

What did you expect, Knick fans? The team just won 17 games and has exactly four players under contract for next season (and only one of them can actually be considered “good”). Look at how teams with under 20 wins have fared the following season:

Unless the Knicks had three injured All-stars last year (hint: they didn’t) I don’t see how anyone could expect a quick turnaround. Now I know I said they could maybe reach 50 wins by following my plan, but let’s be honest, becoming a run-of-the-mill playoff team isn’t that great. They have laid the foundations for a long term strategy, even if it does conflict with signing Melo to a $125 million max extension last offseason.

What could they have done differently? I suggested the Knicks trade back, but who are we to know if anyone was even offering to trade for the fourth pick? There were a handful of guys who were expected to go between picks 4-10, and none were really clear-cut obvious choices. Kaminsky, Cauley-Stein, Lyles and Hezonja were probably reaches at number four. Winslow was most likely the safest pick, but I would have imagine he fell to ten for a reason. So that about narrows it down to Mudiay and Porzingis. They both have their question marks, and Mudiay is probably more NBA ready, but if you’re thinking long term might as well go with the guy who has more upside.

I can see why people are scared of Porzingis. Tall, slender, highly touted European white guy with a sweet shooting stroke. You’ve heard that one before. However, I have faith:

Did any of the angry fans even bother to read his draft report? I’m willing to bet against it. Will he be effective in his rookie season? Probably not. He has to put on a ton of weight, has to develop a post game, and learn to play with his back to the rim on defense. On the other hand, he’s huge. He’s 7’2 in shoes, has nearly a 7’7 wingspan and has fluid movement like a guard. He’s hard to compare to previous players because he might be the first of his kind. So everyone is going to complain because of his learning curve, but I ask you, “what’s the rush?” No top free agent is coming to New York, so why are we in such haste to win this season? If you answered “Carmelo Anthony” then you’re somewhat correct!

Many people feel the need to win now because the Knicks gave Melo a fat contract last year. Have they been paying attention? Unless one has Lebron James on their team, that team is not going anywhere unless they have multiple All-stars. Desperately throwing money at borderline all-stars is a panic move (like singing Greg Monroe) and it’s that mentality that has gotten the Knicks into trouble before. Trading Patrick Ewing instead of extending him so he could retire a Knick? Panic move. Giving Amar’e Stoudemire $100 million after missing out on Lebron James? Panic move. Selling the whole damn farm for Melo even though he was a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season? PANIC MOVE.

Building for the long term is exactly what Knicks did last night and it’s the smart albeit unpopular move. I also have to say, flipping Tim Hardaway Jr. for Jerian Grant (Horace Grant’s nephew) was a steal. THJ is a shooting guard with a poor shot selection, bad court vision, and he can’t defend or rebound. The fact that the Knicks received a first round pick for him when they couldn’t obtain one for Tyson Chandler, Jr Smith or Iman Shumpert is astounding. Also: Grant can run the pick & roll and has some serious ups. He should be able to contribute right away and take some of the burden off Calderon.

He could have kept going
Earlier today it became apparent Melo is upset with the direction the Knicks took last night. The Porzingis pick wasn’t ideal for helping the Knicks win now, but you know what else wasn’t great for the franchise?

Not a great look for Melo. I kind of do feel bad for him, but I didn’t hear him complain when $125 million was on the table.

There was no unequivocal option at the fourth pick last night. Drafting someone because they would get the team four or five more wins in the upcoming season doesn’t do much if that someone isn’t the final missing piece. The Knicks have a long way to go, but there is hope. The cap is expected to increase to $89 million next year after the new TV deal kicks in. The year after? $108 million. If the Knicks play their cards right, don’t overspend in free agency, and  stop surrendering draft picks for futile players, they could be in a great position to contend a couple of years down the line. Sit tight Knicks fans and learn to be patient. This guy might be your best hope.

Or he might be a huge bust, that’s very possible as well
Other notes:

David West coming to NY? The 34 year old forward opted out of $12.6 million with the Pacers so I’m not really sure what he expects from the Knicks (please don’t overpay). And for the record, I have been a big David West fan dating back to his Hornets days, I just think this move might be five years too late.

The Knicks should do whatever it takes to get Danny Green locked up long term. I covered this in my last post, but I’m all for this move barring a max contract offer.

I expect the Knicks to still try and flip Jose Calderon for another player/draft pick. Now with Grant and Galloway on the roster, Calderon could go to a team where he would be a useful backup PG for a playoff contender.

The Knicks have 0 picks in next year’s draft, and have only their first round pick in the 2017 draft. They also drafted 6’11 Guillermo Hernangomez (Porzingis’ teammate!) with the 35th pick (via Sixers) from Sevilla in the second round last night. I saw something that said the 21 year old will stay in Spain for next season, but that’s still intriguing.

Rim protection. I have no idea who or what or how, but the Knicks desperately need a big man who can protect the rim. I’m interested to see in how the Knicks approach this (and no it won’t be Marc Gasol). Perhaps a Kosta Koufos visit in the future?

And lastly, how can you not like Porzingis? 


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