April’s mailbag features questions submitted way back in February. That may seem incongruous, but when you see what was on Knick fans’ minds back then, they’re the same questions you’d expect to hear after the season ended. Almost as if this year were a dream we’re all just waiting to wake up and move on from.
1) The best-laid plans of Mills and men
If the worst case scenario happen such as our pick drops to 5 and we strike out on the top free agents. What do you think there Knicks should do? What approach would you take?— Unicorns don’t exist (@KnicksFTW_HOTK) February 8, 2019
Falling to the five pick would present New York with a fork in the road: assuming Zion, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett are off the board at #5, they could swing for the fences and prioritize upside, Given that their last two first-round picks have each shown (admittedly early) deficiencies on one side of the ball, maybe it’s time to roll the dice on someone like Bol Bol, who could impact both ends.
Then again, whether you see the glass as half-empty or half-full, selecting higher-floor two-way talents like Jarrett Culver or De’Andre Hunter makes sense. Charles Oakley was a top-10 pick, though never a star. Ditto Marcus Camby. Ditto Lamar Odom. Harrison Barnes played four years in Golden State, started 80% of the games he appeared in and won a ring. James Harden is the only integral player on the Rockets, but take away Eric Gordon and their title hopes go from long-shot to no-shot. Teams are rarely built via the home run. A single here, a double there, a walk and then that home run becomes a grand slam.
Should all the big names scurry elsewhere in free agency, I’d feel like I did when I heard Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, who know as much about mercy as Frank Isola does about inner-peace, are considering cancelling the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Income-Driven Repayment programs for victims of America’s usurious student loan debts. You can expect the worst, get it, and still be surprised how it hurts.
The Knicks have never — NEVER — been a marquee free-agent destination. In the last 40 years their biggest signing has been who? Amar’e Stoudemire? Who’s Amar’e this summer? Kemba Walker? An undeniably gifted player who wouldn’t be the best- or even second-best player on a contender? I love Klay Thompson for the Knicks — he’s an elite shooter and defends multiple positions at a high level, which are not traits we associate with most Knicks this century (the elite shooting hasn’t really been a thing since the 1970s). But let’s say the Knicks miss out on everyone. Then what? How about a leap of faith?
Don’t spend money just because you have money. The front office has already promised not to. Keep accumulating and developing young talent. This won’t be the last time prime-time talent is available to acquire. In the summer of 2010, the Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to pair with Dwyane Wade. People lost their minds. Competitive balance was obsolete. One team would boss the decade. Won’t somebody please think of the children?
Fast forward to the end of that decade. The Heat won two titles. You know who put the kibosh on the Heat dynasty? The Spurs. The day Miami’s Big Three was born, Kawhi Leonard was prepping for his sophomore season at San Diego State. You know who’d end up bossing the decade? The Warriors. The day Miami’s Big Three was born, Steph Curry was a few months removed from his rookie campaign. Klay Thompson was still a year away from arriving; Draymond Green was two years away. Kevin Durant was a Thunder icon, the boy next door and paired with Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
If the free-agent targets the Knicks have their hearts set on don’t materialize, the letdown may be opportunity disguised. What matters most is they keep themselves open to opportunity. The only surefire way to win big is to stay in the game.
2) Would you rather trade the #1 pick (Zion) plus [Kevin] Knox, Dennis Smith Jr. and future firsts for Anthony Davis or trade pick #2-5 plus DSJ for Bradley Beal?
— Knicked to the Curb
The Beal deal is the real deal, shlemiel. Schlemazel. Hasenpfeffer incorporated. We’re gonna do it for a few reasons. Did you know Beal is only one year older than Damyean Dotson? He’s the same age (25) Allan Houston was when he left Detroit to sign with the Knicks. Last year he put up 25-5-5. He hasn’t missed a game the past two seasons and has missed only five the past three. He’s young. He’s great. He’s durable. I can get all that for Dennis Smith’s elbow hitch and a pick that turns into nouveau Rudy Gay/Jae Crowder? Give. The great shooters forget their failures. Bet Beal has already moved on from his.
Bradley Beal nvr do anything like this again plz pic.twitter.com/Um97NtZY6T— BealsBurner (@BurnerBeals) April 23, 2019
The man knows how to have fun. We could do with more of that.
Feel free to keep this receipt and shove it in my face should the Knicks ever land AD in a deal, but there’s no way I’m giving up Zion PLUS plural future firsts PLUS Knox (who yes, I like a lot) for Davis. I could give you reasons, but here’s the simplest: last year AD missed 26 games after the Klutch Sports/Lakers failed putsch to force New Orleans to trade him for LaVar Ball’s son, Brandon Ingram’s mom’s son, and some more sons only a mother could love. Even if you don’t count last year, Davis has missed roughly 14 games per year over his career. By the start of next season he’ll have 16,000 minutes under his belt; by the end of his next deal he’ll be 30. You think he’s getting healthier between now and then?
3) The only thing bigger and stronger than Zion Williamson may be the elephant in the room
Is anyone else worried about what happens if Zion can't shoot worth a damn?— Donttakemyname (@Donttakemyname) February 8, 2019
Zion attempted more than two three-pointers per game last year and hit 34% from deep. Kawhi Leonard took more than two per game over two college seasons and hit 25%. He broke into the pros hitting 38% and has maintained that as a career average. Giannis Antetokounmpo has only made between 16% and 31% of his threes the past five years. Those are two dudes with exceptional physical gifts and multi-facted, two-way skill sets. Think of it this way:
if when ends up somewhere other than New York next season and he’s playing against the Knicks, you think you’re gonna watch that game feeling relieved about his shooting? Or depressed about his everything? Zion is beauty. You know what they say about beauty.
4) Who will be the first Knick since Charlie Ward to sign a multi-year contract with the Knicks? Knox? Ntilikina? Mitchell Robinson? Zion? LeBron James Jr.? A person yet to be born?
— Stumbling and Bumbling
Remarkable. The Knicks have drafted 21 players in the first round since taking Charlie Ward and Monty Williams 24th and 26th in 1994. Eight of those 21 were lottery picks. And yet not a single one re-upped for a multi-year second contract with the Knicks.
The early frontrunner is Robinson, easily. Knox seems far more likely to be traded; Ntilikina is even-money to be traded this June; don’t tease me about Zion; everyone knows Rich Paul Jr. will remind LeBron James Jr. that Donnie Walsh once propositioned his dad while in a wheelchair and that’ll put the kibosh on the Boy King ever coming here.
This is an amazing streak of ineptitude, easily. But is it the most remarkable Knicks’ knack to knock? Consider the alternatives: they’ve won just one playoff series the last 19 years; since Red Holzman stopped running the show in 1982, only four coaches have lasted three full seasons in New York; the Knicks have lost every game they’ve played against the Rockets, ever. There can be only one. You decide.
Which is the most remarkable?
This poll is closed
No multi-year re-ups for any draftee since Ward
One playoff series won in 19 years
Coaches can’t get 3+ full years
That’s all for part one. Stay tuned for part two next week.