On March 8th, 2014, Phil Jackson was named as the New York Knicks head of basketball operations. Jackson is arguably the greatest coach in the history of the National Basketball Association. The North-Dakota native took the reigns of the organization in a troublesome time, there was a tremendous amount of talent but they failed to win on a consistent basis. Phil Jackson said that there would be change and that was no lie.
Phil Jackson still has a plan and it’s only now that it is rounding into shape. Jackson’s predecessors, apart from Steve Mills, have ruined and drained New York of a future.
In the Carmelo Anthony deal, the Knicks sent a 2012 and 2013 second round pick along with a 2014 first round pick to Denver. Glen Grunwald sent a 2014 and 2017 second round pick and a 2016 first round pick in exchange for Andrea Bargnani. (Side note: Grunwald was relived of his duties soon after). New York traded a 2014 and 2015 second round pick to Houston for Marcus Camby.
Jackson has only just begun to pick up the pieces. In the rebuilding process, what is Jackson aiming to do?
In his short tenure with New York, Jackson has already completed four trades. At the very least, Jackson was true to his word. He promised change and he delivered. Jackson added seven new faces, at the beginning of the season, that were not on the roster during the 2013-14 season. It seems that a glass has fallen and shattered into millions of pieces and the rebuilding has only just begun.
The Knicks bargaining tool with Carmelo Anthony was that Phil Jackson and company will have a ridiculous amount of money to spend ($32.1 million) on big names, and effective role players, during the 2015 free agency period. Ever since arriving in New York, Jackson has aimed to shed salary in every trade possible. He dumped the $3 million salary of Raymond Felton in the deal that sent the then thought to be savior, Jose Calderon, to New York.
The other superb factor in the deal with Dallas was the acquisition of the 34th (Cleanthony Early) and 51st picks (Thanasis Antetokounmpo) in the 2014 NBA draft.
Perhaps the best of his four trades was his most recent. Jackson sent the $7 million salary of J.R. Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers. New York acquired Lance Thomas and Lou Amundson who have been spark plugs in their short tenure with the Knicks. Their deals do not have any impact on lessening New York’s spending money this summer. Although it seems to be a minority, New York also obtained a 2019 second round pick.
In recent news, it was said that New York is attempting to offload Pablo Prigioni in exchange for a second round pick. Once again, although it seems pointless, every draft pick obtained provides a future for this team or a bargaining tool in a trade.
Those who went before Jackson deprived New York of a future, they were too busy worrying about winning now and not looking forward in the long term. Jackson has been quite the contrary, looking at nothing but the future. The next year that New York has their own, individual first and second round picks is in the year 2020.
It is quite clear what the 13-time champion is striving to achieve. Jackson is stockpiling assets. New York gave away their draft picks as if they were candy prior to his arrival. Assets are both draft picks and money. Slowly, but surely, the stockpile has begun to grow. Jackson has so far gained three draft picks (seeking a 4th & 5th) and shed a further $14 million in salary (New York has gained another $14 million to spend).
Jackson has been truthful from the beginning. He told the fans to be patient, that success will come in the future. The team may not be top-notch at this given moment, but he’s focusing on being first-class in the future. New York is not poised to win now, Jackson is building a championship-calibre roster over a duration of possibly 3-4 seasons. We have all seen what happens when a team goes all-out to win now (peep, the Knicks). For a team to be successful a balance of young & old is needed.
There were reports that Jackson is looking to deal Calderon elsewhere for practically nothing. That would add a further $7 million to his assets account.
Jackson has added three draft picks and $14 million to his stockpile. The trade deadline is under a month away and it’s possible that the best is yet to come. Unlike so many before him, Jackson does not have tunnel vision, he is looking out towards the horizon. Jackson was dealt a dreadful hand when he first arrived and he is slowly undoing all the wrongdoings of his predecessors.
Phil Jackson has a plan and he’s going to execute it.