The New York Knicks are entering the most crucial point in the franchise’s 73-year-old history. And you know it’s not an understatement! With two max slots and possibly the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft in hand, the Knicks are set to go all in on their ambitious plan of completely turning their future around in just one whole summer.
They are shooting for the moon alright! Still, thankfully for the Knicks, this magnitude of a turnaround had happened before in recent times. The 2007 Boston Celtics, 2011 Miami Heat and 2014 Cleveland Cavaliers are all testaments that any team can go from cellar-dwellers to contenders in a blink of an eye.
The Celtics, after winning just 24 games during the 2006-07 season, revamped their roster in a big way by adding All-NBA forward Kevin Garnett and shooting guard Ray Allen to play with hot-shot wingman Paul Pierce. That team went on to win a championship by beating the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
In the summer of 2010, the Miami Heat paved the way for the era of superteams as they pulled off one of the greatest free-agency coup in history. With LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in town, Miami cruised to their first of four straight final appearances.
And finally, who would forget King James’ return to Northeast Ohio in 2014? After ending up in the lottery, during LeBron’s absence, the Cavs turned into a dynasty in the East and won Cleveland’s first championship in any professional sports leagues in decades.
This is the kind of a ‘make-believe’ stories that are keeping Knicks fans excited for the future. Let’s be honest, New Yorkers have endured far enough during this atrocious James Dolan reign. It’s downright frustrating that one of the league’s glamour franchises has been in this long miserable funk. Then again, no matter how nasty Dolan’s image to the public is. His romance with the New York media and die-hard fans is, believe it or not, still rescuable.
Yes, with all the trials and tribulations the Knicks have gone through, since he seized control in 1999, Dolan could go rollin’ again with his ukulele especially if the dominoes fall perfectly this summer. In fact, the Knicks’ shot at becoming a contender next year will all depend on the talent they can get from these four areas: NBA draft, free agency, trade and Euro pool.
NBA Draft: Get JJ Barret over Zion Williamson
The Knicks are basically locked to get at least 14 percent of landing the No.1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Right now, the biggest name in college basketball is Duke’s freshman forward Zion Williamson, an 18-year-old freak of nature whose high-flying game is an absolute box-office.
There’s no arguing that Williamson’s star power alone would easily fill the seats at Madison Square Garden. And why not?! After all his incredible plays at Duke, New York fans just couldn’t wait any longer to see Zion put somebody on a poster. In an entertainment standpoint, Zion should be No.1. However, if we are talking about winning, then his college teammate, RJ Barrett, is the answer.
Sure, Barrett doesn’t have the body and freakish athleticism of Williamson, but he possesses the right tools to thrive in today’s NBA. Barrett is a spitting image of James Harden – without the beard. He is left-handed, shoots 3s extremely well and breaks down defenses almost at will. Moreover, scouts are also raving about his defensive upside because of length and ability to cover at least four positions. He’s a two-way star in the making and that makes him hard to pass on even in the presence of Zion in the draft.
NBA Free-Agency: Two stars and plenty of good role players
By trading Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, the Knicks created enough cap space for two max-level free agents this summer. As early as now, analysts believe Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are the two prime candidates to go to the Knicks.
For the Knicks front-office, getting the Kevin-Kyrie package should be the priority above everything else. These two stars are that good to be the backbone of any title-contending team. They have the talent, persona and winning pedigree to lead a franchise to the promised land. Having said that, they need an equally talented supporting cast around them. Role players who are ready to do the little things for the sake of winning.
So, you can place your bets on the fact that, this summer, the free agency market will be riddled with those types of players. Guys like Taj Gibson, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Jeff Green, Trevor Ariza and Bobby Portis could be available in a much cheaper price, so the front office should pay close attention on these players as well.
NBA Trade: switch Frank Ntilikina for a top-15 pick
This is an unpopular opinion, but Ntilikina really needs to go for real. I know D’Angelo Russell is now haunting the Los Angeles Lakers for giving up on him, after just two full years, but the Brooklyn Nets All-Star is a far different talent than Ntilikina. Since being taken No.8 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Belgian point guard could only produce 5.9 points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game. He’s still a very raw player at this point, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
The good news is Ntilikina’s tremendous defensive upside remains there. Thus, the Knicks could still flip him for a top-15 pick (hopefully, Rui Hachimura) or even a serviceable veteran. Let’s be honest, Ntilikina is one of many Phil Jackson’s gambit that didn’t pan out well. The Knicks already got rid of Porzingis, it’s probably the right time to move on from another of his pet project once and for all.
Euro Pool: Get Nando De Colo for backcourt stability
Have you heard of the name Nando de Colo? If not, then you better watch Euro League games right now. De Colo, who played for the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors in the NBA, has been the most consistent player in the Euro League the last few years. He has been named in the All-Euro League first team for three straight years and awarded the Euro League MVP in 2016. In four seasons with CSKA Moscow, De Colo averages at least 20 points and 3 assists per game. He’s one of those of Euro players who ventured in the NBA before they became ripe enough.
Convincing De Colo to play stateside this coming season would be huge for the Knicks since he will greatly add depth to their backcourt rotation. His ability to play the point and off-guard position makes his transition in the modern NBA a lot more seamlessly than five years ago.