The New York Knicks are in a difficult position right now as they approach the midpoint of this season. While they jockey for position in the race for the worst record in the NBA, the teams’ young players are improving a little too quickly.
Reclamation projects Noah Vonleh and Emmanuel Mudiay have staked claims on starting roles and are becoming contributors. Rookies Kevin Knox and Alonzo Trier are improving, and soon Mitchell Robinson will return to the rotation as well. It may be time to for the front office to take action to ensure the team is in pole position for the top pick in this years draft.
Where do the New York Knicks need to be?
The Knicks need to be all in on Zion Williamson, currently averaging just under 20ppg and 10rpg for the Duke Blue Devils. It’s not just about the stats, but the energy and excitement he brings to the table. It’s too easy to picture MSG losing its mind after a thunderous dunk by Williamson, and feeling the building shake with excitement for the first time since the late 90s thug ball title contending teams of Pat Riley.
A front court of Porzingis, Knox and Williamson would be embraced by the fanbase for years to come and would supply scoring, energy and athleticism that the team has been lacking for decades. Porzingis as center is the perfect shooter/shot blocker in the wide open era of offenses, Knox has the length, height and talent to be a 3 and D wing, and Zion would be there as the roll man and finisher inside. Along with a back-court of the ever improving Mudiay and the lock down defense of Frank Ntikilina the makings of a contender are starting to coalesce for the Knicks.
Making this vision a reality:
So how do they ensure the vision above becomes a reality? The first step is finishing with the leagues worst record to have the best chance at that top selection in the draft. Step one is buying out Enes Kanter ASAP, and he should be open to this option as well.
Kanter has been a great teammate, and has had some great games but is clearly frustrated to be coming off the bench for a team going nowhere. Trading him is not an option due to his $18 million dollar cap hit, and the need to take that much back in salary in any deal. If the Knicks want to keep their Durant dreams alive, they’ll need Kanter’s expiring contract off their books. Halfway through the season, all he’s owed is about 9 million so they should be able to work out a deal that’s agreeable to both sides.
The next step is tougher, and that’s finding a taker for Tim Hardaway Jr. and his contract. You may be surprised to hear that in the era of efficiency teams are not lining up for a shot at volume scorer who does not shoot well (under 40% fg, and 35% 3pfg), hasn’t played defense since he was at Michigan, and averaged less than 4 rebounds or assists per game.
Essentially he’s a poor man’s version of Carmelo Anthony in his prime. If Courtney Lee can show some ability to shoot and play defense again maybe there’s a playoff team that could use a bench scorer , and a defensive wing who could shoot (Dallas?) and a package could be worked out shipping them off together.
By cutting ties with Kanter and Hardaway the Knicks should be able to out-tank Atlanta and Cleveland for the bottom of the NBA barrel and move closer to a brighter future. What’s one more step back for a team that’s been in reverse for a decade if the ultimate step forward can change the franchise for the next 15 years?