When Phil Jackson, 11 time NBA champion, signed on with the New York Knicks near the end of the 2013-14 season as President of Basketball Operations, it seemed as if there was suddenly hope for a mediocre team that had missed the playoffs after having the 2nd best record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference the previous season. Jackson planned on bringing in his famed triangle offense, and head/assistant coaches of his choice. So how would the Knicks fare under their new president?
Jackson had his sights on bringing in 5 time NBA champion Steve Kerr as coach of the Knicks, and it was initially reported that Kerr would coach the franchise during the 2014-15 season. Kerr had even verbally agreed to coach the Knicks. It was only a matter of time until the contract was signed. Kerr would ultimately change his mind as he spurned the Knicks to join the Golden State Warriors at the last second. The move forced Jackson to hire his second choice, Derek Fisher, fresh off his final season as a player with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 2014 NBA Draft arrived and the Knicks, who entered with zero draft picks, was able to accumulate two second round picks. The Knicks were able to parlay the picks into “the steal of the draft”, in Wichita State SF Cleanthony Early, and the Greek Freak’s brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo. In free agency, Carmelo Anthony, convinced by Jackson, (and the money) returned to the Knicks on a max contract. Then, before the season began, the Knicks traded their defensive star, Tyson Chandler and point guard Ray Felton to the Dallas Mavericks for Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, and Samuel Dalembert. While this trade was questionable at best, it didn’t stop Knick fans from believing in New York’s front office and their players.
The season opener saw the Knicks lose a close one to the Chicago Bulls. Even though they were 0-1, the Knicks showed that in the new triangle offense they could pass more fluidly, take better shots, and were more efficient scorers than in recent seasons. This carried over to their second game, against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, where the Knicks out played the best player in the world’s team and were now 1-1. After a win in Charlotte, the Knicks were looking good. Carmelo Anthony was scoring efficiently, and the supporting cast was able to back him up well enough. The Knicks looked to be an improved team under Jackson’s leadership, until they lost 22 of their next 27 games, and Melo suffered a knee injury which eventually led to him being shut down for the remainder of the year, virtually ending the Knicks’ season in February.
After Anthony’s knee injury, New York went into full-out tank mode, trading away Iman Shumpert and JR Smith, who played in the NBA Finals, and Pablo Prigioni, who played in the Western Conference Finals. The Knicks also released Dalembert, whom they traded their best defensive player for before the season. The Knicks would go on a 16 game losing streak, and finished the season 17-65 and won 2 of their last 3 games, giving them the second best odds to win the NBA’s Draft Lottery when before the wins, they had the best odds to select first overall. The lottery did nothing to lessen the misery of Knicks fans, as New York was given the 4th overall pick, when they had an 83% chance to go in the top 3. It was clear the Knicks front office was relying on a higher pick, as shown by GM Steve Mills when it was revealed the Knicks were selecting 4th:
Now, the discussion between Knick fans is whether or not the team should keep or trade the pick. If the Knicks choose to keep the pick, candidates to be selected are Justise Winslow, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Willie Cauley Stein, however, should they trade the pick, possible scenarios include the Knicks receiving Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings, or even DeMarcus Cousins in a 3-team trade.
After a rough season that included injuries, bad trades, awful play, and plain bad luck, the New York Knicks are prepared to take a young player, or trade for a proven player come draft day. With cap space, Phil Jackson should be able to pull in some free agents and (hopefully) bring the Knicks back to the postseason and in the future, to a championship.