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New York Knicks

Zagoria | By going young Knicks could score big in 2018 NBA Draft

New York Knicks general manager Scott Perry, left, shakes hands with head coach Jeff Hornacek, right, while posing for a picture along with new president Steve Mills, during a news conference in in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, July 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — The Knicks are looking to rebuild and rely on their young players, which could set them up for another high pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

New GM Scott Perry said Monday the goal is for the Knicks to be “become an elite franchise one day.”

In other words, that day isn’t coming anytime soon.

We want to “take advantage of the fact that we have draft picks moving forward,” Knicks President Steve Mills said.

If the Knicks deal Carmelo Anthony, as they are still considering doing, it could be a full-scale tank job in 2017-18, setting them up to potentially land 6-foot-10 Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr., the  projected No. 1 pick in 2018.

Arizona freshman big man DeAndre Ayton, Texas power forward Mohamed Bamba and shooting guard Luka Doncic of Real Madrid may also be in the mix for No. 1. If 6-11 Marvin Bagley (who begins his visit to Duke this week) reclasses and ends up in college for 2017-18, he could be in the mix, too.

“It looks like a rebuild,” one league source said of the Knicks. “I do not think that they need to tank because they are not going to be very good anyway.”

NO MEETING YET WITH PORZINGIS

Among the other topics covered Monday, Mills hedged on whether he plans to fly to Europe this summer to meet with disgruntled unicorn Kristaps Porzingis, who skipped his exit meeting with former President Phil Jackson and then left the country for his native Latvia without meeting with Knicks’ brass.

“Kristaps and I have a hectic texting relationship,” Mills said. “I continued to text him over the summer and he and I have spoken I think two or three times over the summer.”

The Knicks said they plan to rebuild around youngsters Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Willy Hernangomez and rookie Frank Ntilikina.

Porzginis was upset with the perceived dysfunction around the Knicks, and with the treatment of Anthony by Jackson. If the Knicks end up dealing Anthony, the team will belong to Porzingis and there will be an even brighter spotlight on his behavior.

HARDAWAY WAS TOP TARGET

Mills dropped $71 million on Hardaway Jr, even though the Atlanta Hawks were reportedly only ready to offer him $45 million.

Still, Mills defended the choice and said the former Knick was his No. 1 choice because of his youth. Hardaway Jr. averaged a career-best 14.5 points last season in Atlanta.

KNICKS CONFIDENT NTILIKINA WAS RIGHT MOVE

Even though Jackson targeted French point guard Frank Ntilikina for his beloved triangle offense, Mills and Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said they believed he was the right pick even though the triangle has been scrapped. The Knicks skipped N.C. State point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk, among others, to take the Frenchman at No. 8. Ntilikina then missed summer league with the Knicks because of knee soreness.

“I’m very comfortable with that drat pick,” Mills said. “I would’ve selected Frank at that point in the draft myself. He’s a smart basketball player, he focuses defensively and his approach to the game, his work ethic, fit exactly in the direction that we want to take this team.”

Still, Perry said the team would like to add a veteran point guard to mentor Ntilikina. Derrick Rose remains a free agent, while another Knicks target, Rajon Rondo, signed with New Orleans.

“I’m excited about young Frank but we’ll need some veteran guidance,” Perry said. “You definitely want to bolster that position. It’s important to have a veteran alongside of him. Whoever that will be, we’ll find out in the coming weeks.”

AFRICAN-AMERICAN DECISION-MAKING DUO

Mills and Perry are the only active African-American decision-making duo in the NBA, and both are excited to be role models for younger folks.

“That’s not something that’s lost on me,” Perry said. “[But] we want to be recognized for the quality of individuals we are and our ability to produce a winner here in New York.

“I embrace the gravity of that and knowing that if we’re able to be successful it will hopefully open up the door for other young African-Americans who are hopeful to have these jobs one day.”

Said Mills: “This is about creating opportunities and young kids looking up to you and knowing that they can be successful. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

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Adam Zagoria is a basketball insider who has run ZAGSBLOG.com since 2006. He is a college basketball contributor for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the co-host of The Four Quarters Podcast via VSporto.com, which is available via iTunes. Zagoria is also a contributor to The New York Times. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.

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