As we enter the final quarter of the NBA season, there’s one fan base that has been more than ready for this season to end: the New York Knicks. At 12-49, the Knicks are on pace to set the franchise mark for lowest win totals in an NBA season.
However, there’s a silver lining.
March 7 proved to be a fortunate day for the Knicks. With the Philadelphia 76ers notching a win over the East-leading Atlanta Hawks (who were resting starters) and the Minnesota Timberwolves defeating the Portland Trail Blazers, the Knicks fell two games behind PHI/MIN in the win column.
If the standings hold up and the Knicks finish with the league’s worst record, New York will have a 25 percent chance of landing the first pick and will be guaranteed a top four pick.
So what realistic options do the Knicks have? According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the Knicks are considering a trade of their first-round pick.
Cue the collective groans from Knicks fans everywhere.
Why trade away a pick that’s nearly guaranteed to bring in an elite-level talent, especially if they land the first pick?
Let’s be real, New York has lost its luster when it comes to the ability to attract top-tier free agents. Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops has reported that Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies has already ruled out signing with NY in the offseason. Understandably so, as going from one of the best teams in the West to one of the biggest question marks in the entire league isn’t really the best career move.
There’s also the matter of money. Memphis can offer Gasol a fifth year on a contract extension, while every other team can only offer him a four-year deal. The same goes for other elite free agents such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Jimmy Butler.
By trading away their pick, the Knicks could potentially receive a great-to-excellent player. Combine that with a ton of cap space, the Knicks could quickly surround Carmelo Anthony with two top players.
But the Knicks should learn from past mistakes and tread very carefully when it comes to potentially trading that pick.
Trading away draft picks is the exact thing that has gotten New York in trouble in recent history. Any of these names ring a bell? Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Andrea Bargnani?
New York traded away a first-round pick to acquire all of these players, moves that haven’t equated to any sustained success. If you’re interested in finding out what those draft picks turned into, take a look here at this list compiled by Joe Flynn at Bleacher Report. Carmelo Anthony is on the fringe of joining this infamous list as a guy who was acquired in a big trade but didn’t win anything of substance in New York.
There has to be a point in time where New York realizes that building through trades hasn’t been working. Enough is enough.
With a high pick, the Knicks could add a potential franchise-changing talent like Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns or D’Angelo Russell. If some type of trade does unfold, NY should be hesitant to trade out of the top 10. By staying in the top 10, it would at least gives them an opportunity to (potentially) draft Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow or Willie Cauley-Stein.
Cauley-Stein would be an excellent addition, giving New York a defensive presence in the middle that they desperately need. This path would open up options in free agency as well, paving the way for pushes towards Butler and Draymond Green.
Johnson would allow Anthony to move to the 4, a position where he has shown to dominate bigger, slower forwards. Winslow is an athletic guard who has drawn comparisons to up-and-coming defensive stud, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Sense a theme here?
Playing at a slow pace in the Triangle offense, the Knicks are still managing to give up 101.2 points per game, eighth-worst in the league. They’re also near the bottom in OPP FG%, and at the bottom in OPP 3-PT%, evidence of poor perimeter defense. Opponents are also hitting 42.4 percent of their shots from 15-19 feet, fourth-worst in the league. Adding Green or Butler would help alleviate those issues, although it wouldn’t necessarily be the cure-all. Their offensive production would be just another plus.
There’s still plenty of time for The Zen Master to ponder his next move, and he should think long and hard when it comes to possibly trading away his high draft pick. Just reading about this possibility has Knicks fans worried that the team is in danger of messing up once again … but hey, what else is new?
All stats from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.