The Knicks traded away Kristaps Porzingis, taking back Dennis Smith Jr., expiring contracts, and a couple of first-round draft picks, one of which is contingent on the condition of another draft pick, and may finally convey under weird, potentially unappealing circumstances. To hear the Knicks tell it, their hand was forced by the revelation that Porzingis was no longer a believer in the organization’s trajectory.
It’s hard to be fully on board with management’s plan when there is no coherent plan. Since drafting Porzingis the Knicks have already fired a head coach and then fired his replacement; they’ve scrapped an entire all-encompassing basketball philosophy, and fired its architect; they’ve lavished an expensive contract on a replacement-grade guard who they’d previously traded away for a draft pick, which was used on a player they subsequently traded away for Derrick Rose, who was with the team for one appallingly, legendarily bad season. They gave a $72 million contract to Joakim Noah, and then used him for 53 total games, and then waived him via the stretch provision. Noah, by the way, right now, today, represents the most expensive contract on New York’s books for next season, while he is a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.
They passed on Dennis Smith Jr. in the 2017 draft—the player they just acquired via a trade of the best player they’ve drafted in probably 30 years—in order to select Frank Ntilikina, and then hired a coach who has absolutely zero interest in ever using or developing him. They waited far too long to buy out Carmelo Anthony, then traded him for Enes Kanter, and then allowed that relationship to curdle into one of even dumber mutual antagonism than the one with Anthony, even while Kanter developed into a fan favorite. If there has been a plan before now, it has been a really fucking confusing one. Even if you expect Porzingis to give Mills and general manager Scott Perry the benefit of the doubt and forget everything that happened under Phil Jackson, there’s still very little to suggest the Knicks have been executing the same plan from week to week, let alone from last season into this season into next season.
The Knicks via this trade cleared some $71 million in salary cap space for this summer, to be put to use courting not one but two max-level superstar free agents. Reports have them eyeballing both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, which would be quite a haul. If that was the plan before today, surely that’s the kind of thing any player in “management’s plan” could get behind. But the Knicks only cleared that cap space by getting the Mavericks to take on the contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee, as part of the price of acquiring Porzingis. There was never going to be a trade route to dumping both of those expensive and undesirable contracts that didn’t involve shipping away players of actual value, of which the Knicks only really had just the one. Thus, a virtual prerequisite for clearing the salary cap space to lure two superstars to Madison Square Garden this summer was trading away the superstar they already had.
So this plan cannot have been the plan Porzingis wouldn’t buy into! If anything, Porzingis’s trade request protects this dipshit organization from ever having to reveal whatever Professor Frink-ass plan they were cooking up before now. Trading Porzingis saved the Knicks from themselves—only by honoring his request were the Knicks able to shed the consequences of their earlier idiot moves and free up the salary cash to become big-time free agency players. Of course, what they’ve done is set themselves up for another long-shot haymaker, because they are the Knicks, and every half-assed aborted rebuild invariably ends with a desperate effort to clean up an earlier mess in time to kindle the feeble hope that The Big Apple will attract a savior or two to their dismal little circus. Even if it were possible for Porzingis to be a part of this plan, he’d be right to run in any other direction.
With any luck, the Knicks will use one of these new draft picks on a player who is someday good enough to be the next glowing and undeserved asset that buys the team a ticket out of whatever stupid and self-sabotaging moves they make this summer. Probably even that is too much to hope for: