As Phil Jackson said, this has been a “season gone awry” for the New York Knicks.
Heading into the season, it appeared that New York could at least compete for a playoff berth, and be competitive to the end. Instead, their season quickly became a train wreck. They now sit at 14-62, and are the front runners to land the #1 overall pick.
That has thrown a wrench into the Knicks plans. Instead of convincing free agents to come to a near playoff team, elevating them to contenders, they now will have a much tougher path to contention. Not many players will be interested in signing long term to the worst team in the NBA.
So, the Knicks will have two options to consider. Either laying low in free agency, developing their young players and whomever they pick with their lottery pick, and then hope they’ll have an established core to sell free agents on in 2016, or go all in for 2015, trading away their future for the present.
If they chose to go all in for 2015, it may be their best option. Carmelo Anthony is aging, as he will turn 31 in May. He doesn’t have a lot of time yet, so the Knicks rebuilding with him still around will be a waste of his prime.
Draft picks are also incredibly hard to project now. With so many players coming into the league at 19, it’s difficult to tell who will be the best NBA player a decade down the road. Not only that, but this year will be even harder. There is no Anthony Davis or Andrew Wiggins, a player who is a clear cut number one. This season, Karl Anthony-Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Emmanual Muiday, and D’Angello Russell are all candidates for the top pick. The last time a draft class was like that, Anthony Bennett was selected first.
The Knicks can’t risk that.
The Knicks are guaranteed a top four selection this season. Players like Andrea Bargnani, Greg Oden, Anthony Benett, Hasheem Thabeet, Michael Beasley, and Adam Morrison were players selected in the top four in recent memory, and all have been disappointments. They were all though as franchise changing players, but failed to do so. While players such as Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, John Wall, and Anthony Davis also went number one, it still is a massive risk.
The market for the pick is unknown, but the Knicks would receive an impact player in return. Last season for example, the Cavaliers traded a package centering around Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love. Love is a perennial All-Star, but this summer it appears that nobody of that caliber will be available for trade.
Maybe George Karl would be open to trade DeMarcus Cousins, as the new coach is reportedly interested in blowing up the roster. Acquiring one of the Thunders stars is unlikely, so there may be a small market for the Knicks. They shouldn’t simply trade the pick to trade it, but if they can get an impact player in return they’d be crazy not to jump on it. The pick for a player straight up would probably be impossible, but throwing in Tim Hardaway Jr., Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo could help make it possible.
Acquiring another big piece to the puzzle would also lure free agents to New York. With a solid core and cap room to spend, free agents would actually be interested in coming to New York. Players like Draymond Green, Goran Dragic, or Paul Millsap might consider leaving their current winning situations.
While the Knicks have been burned in the past by dumping away young talent, it may be the best decision this time.