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March Mailsack, part 1: The draft, free agency, hot dogs and Hornaducks

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Mailsack, take me away...

NBA: New York Knicks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

March: when all the world’s a stage for playoff prep and tank jobbing. In the latter camp we find the New York Knicks, losers of 13 of 14. Remember that exciting game they won in New Orleans late in December? That was their last win against a winning team. While our team may be lacking quality, our mailsack is always first-rate. Here we go with part one:

“Let’s say we wind up with the number 9 pick. Mikal Bridges and the top seven (DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Michael Porter Jr., Trae Young and Mohamed Bamba) are all gone. Do you trade down or keep the pick?”

“Mikal Bridges and the Top Seven” sounds like a Motown one-hit wonder.

These are all 15 #9 draft picks from 2003 through last June: Michael Sweetney (sounding and looking better after rookie-year struggles that went way beyond basketball), Andre Iguodala, Ike Diogu, Patrick O’Bryant, Joakim Noah, D.J. Augustin, DeMar DeRozan, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, Andre Drummond, Trey Burke, Noah Vonleh, Frank Kaminsky, Jakob Poeltl, and Dennis Smith Chamberlain Bird Jordan Abdul-Jabbar Jr.

They’ve played 91 seasons between them, with all but Diogu and the Notorious P.O.B. (that really is O’Bryant’s nickname!) having maintained a spot in the league since their draft days. Out of those 15 players and 91 seasons:

  • 6 players have combined for 12 All-Star appearances.
  • One player made an All-NBA First team (he was taken with the Knicks’ draft pick and is currently on the Knicks, so natch he made All-NBA with another team). Two others each made the Third Team once.
  • One player won Finals MVP.
  • One player won Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Two players have combined for 5 All-Defense teams.
  • One player sounds like but isn’t the dude the Knicks waived after trading Willy Hernangomez.

Choose well at #9 and you can land a secondary star on a good team or a tertiary stud on a title contender. Choose poorly and 2009 happens. We’re all well-versed in the lamentations of Golden State landing Steph (nee Stephen) Curry one spot ahead of our beloved blue and orange. But do you remember whom the Knicks passed on when they took Jordan Hill?

What kind of deal could the Knicks make to trade down that’d be worthwhile? Five teams could end up with multiple first round picks. Two of Atlanta’s three picks belong to Minnesota and Houston; even if Jimmy Butler’s pick leads to a Timberwolf free-fall, those are low-value picks. Depending what happens with the Lakers’ ping-pong balls, either Philadelphia or Boston is going to end up with multiple picks, with Boston nabbing L.A.’s if it’s 2-5 and Philly netting it anywhere else; neither is likely to need anything the Knicks have to offer. Chicago has two picks, but since the existence of a loving God is compatible with an evil universe, the Knicks best pay heed to 30+ years of one-sided losses vs. the Bulls’ players and front offices and just avoid dealing with those Windy City Slickers altogether.

The Clippers currently hold the 12th and 14th picks. Phoenix has their own probable top-three pick plus #15 (c/o Miami) and #16 (c/o Milwaukee). If L.A. offered both picks for #9, I’d maybe consider it. The Knicks need young talent with upside on below-market deals. If you think it’s a 7-8 player draft and you’re slated to pick 9, adding two picks between 12 and 16 certainly maximizes stockpiling underpaid young talent.

If you think Porzingis is a good bet as a first banana or a second, you stay at #9 and you hope to draft that tertiary star, that Lamar Odom/Draymond Green/Chris Bosh-type. Then one day you land that big stud via trade or free agency (which never happens with this team, as borne out with Kareem [twice!], Dr. J, Michael Jordan and various LeBron iterations). So just wait 3-4 years for Ntilikina to reach MVP-levels, and voila! s’all good.

  • A rooster in the henhouse, riling everyone up. Podsternfuhrer James Marceda asks:

“Is a hot dog more or less of a sandwich than Frank Ntilikina is a point guard?”

Ntilikina is the most “hot dog” point guard in Knick history. Not the biggest hot dog to play point for the Knicks — there’ve been others light years ahead as far as cockiness. Consider the origin of the word “sandwich”: centuries ago, some rich git is partying with his people, gambling and drinking and chilling. He’s hungry, but he doesn’t want to bring the fun to a stop. So he tells someone in the kitchen to toss some meat between some bread and bring it out to everybody, so they can eat while they party. That dude was the Earl of Sandwich. Bam. You just consumed 75% of your daily recommended etymology.

The Earl of Sandwich broke free of the tyranny of the dining table and thus helped usher in the finger-food-friendly fabric of today’s sweatpants = effort Americana. The 13 colonies broke free of the tyranny of Sandwich’s monarchy, eventually leading to the formation of the only nation on Earth with enough grandiose vision and shortsighted recklessness to dream up the hot dog. Frank Ntilikina broke free of sitting on the bench in the Ligue Nationale de Basket to join the premiere basketball league in the world and sit on benches all across this great land. I don’t know whether he’s a point guard, a combo guard, or a two guard. I don’t know whether a hot dog’s a sandwich or not. I only know two things: every time I see a hot dog truck on the side of the road, I’m morally and digestively compelled to get the two-fer deal. And I believe in Frank Ntilikina.

  • GAx asks:

“Are there any gettable FAs either this summer or next worth pursuing or should we not worry about the cap for two years? Or is this unanswerable before we have our next draft?”

Enes Kanter ($18.6M), Ron Baker ($4.5M) and Kyle O’Quinn ($4.2M) all hold player options for next season. Figure Kanter and Baker opt-in because no one else is gonna pay them that much next year and KOQ opts-out because he makes less than Ron Baker. That’d leave the Knick payroll just over $95M, about $13M under the salary cap. In the summer of 2019, the team currently $64M committed to just six players. Four of the six are on expiring deals in ‘19: Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas and Damyean Dotson. Tim Hardaway holds a player option for 2020, and the Knicks will face the first of consecutive team options on Ntilikina.

Are we hopeful a healthy KP showing signs he’s back late in 2019 compels LeBron James or Kevin Durant or Paul George or Carmelo Anthony or Klay Thompson to sign a max deal that summer and birth a Knick Super Team (2.0)? If so, you probably don’t want to give Derrick Favors or Avery Bradley big money and long years; even if you do want to, $13M per ain’t gonna do it. I know Carmelo doesn’t belong in that group. I just felt like stirring up whatever hater’s bile or wistful longing the sight of his name angried up in you.

  • GAx, redux:

“Could a [9-foot tall] Noah win a fight against 40 duck-sized Hornaceks?”

No way. 40 Hornaducks win, easily. Whatever your feelings on Jeff Hornacek as Knick head coach, don’t sleep on what a tough hombre Jeff Hornacek was as a former player. Noah no longer has the lateral foot speed or quick-twitch athleticism to counter a multifaceted avian assault. You only need one beak to slip past his defenses and poke an eyeball out, and then it’s rideaux for Noah.

Some would-be Dr. Moreau out there needs to make this happen. MSG could make it a pay-per-view event and rake in the dough. It’d be the biggest Knick television event since the 1999 Finals.

  • I was always too scared to say “Bloody Mary” three times while looking in a mirror, but AJ_in_VA has no such qualms:

“It’s been about a year since we’ve seen a humiliating Jim Dolan story. What will the next one be and when will it happen?”

The upcoming part two is just a single question, but it’s such a good question it demands an entire mailsack unto itself. Stay tuned. Back in a week.