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The New York Knicks are – and intend to remain – hopeless.
Rotate their 2022 NBA Draft performance however you see fit. The end result does not change.
The Knicks are helpless, almost hilarious, unable to chart or follow a coherent vision. Sometimes they take a break from their brand of incompetence, but these are fleeting reprieves from the inevitable next chapter of organizational self-sabotage.
Which brings us to Thursday night. The Knicks entered the 2022 NBA Draft with the No. 11 pick and at the center of various too-good-to-be-true rumors.
Would they trade to land Jaden Ivey and finally invest real equity in a glam general prospect?
Or would they flip a lottery pick to free up space for the single opportunity paying Jalen Brunson, an incredibly talented offensive force who also isn’t good enough to accelerate or set the schedule for the organization?
New York went the busier route, trading the No. 11 to the Oklahoma City Thunder for three heavily protected first-round picks, one of which will be used to grease the wheels of a Kemba salary dump. Walker. The full (and complex) order of operations is as follows, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps:
Here’s what it looks like when an NBA team sinks into oblivion.
Functionally, the Knicks didn’t just trade the 11th overall pick. They effectively traded both No. 11 and No. 13. It’s impossible to digest after an 11th place in the Eastern Conference.
Those hoping the Knicks would continue to act like a normal organization postulated, at various stages of the night as details spilled out, that it could be part of an attempt to flesh out a larger trade package. . This was not the case.
New York dumped Kemba Walker and the cap hold on a lottery pick for the exact reason you think: making a run at Jalen Brunson in free agency.
Mark Stein @LaLigneStein
The Pistons get Jalen Duren … and the Knicks, more crucial to immediate free agency matters, are paying Kemba Walker’s salary to Detroit to help fund their free agent pursuit of Jalen Brunson. https://t.co/DDs1fk3JGC
Do these three additional future first players – all heavily shielded, one of whom has a reasonable chance of never passing (Washington’s first in 2023) – make the pain go away? I’m afraid that’s not the case.
Jake Fischer @JakeLFischer
If DET 2023 is not transmitted for the first time in 2027, it becomes the second round of DET 2027.
If WAS 2023 is not first transmitted in 2026, then it becomes Wizards seconds 2026 and 2027.
if DEN 2023 does not transmit first by 2025, then it becomes Denver seconds 2025 and 2025. https://t.co/w9MyjiCGcd
After factoring in Mitchell Robinson’s (miniature) free agent takeover, the Knicks’ exit draft night with roughly $15-16 million of space if they drop Ryan Arcidiacono (support free agent) and Taj Gibson (unsecured). It basically means they jumped through all those draft night hoops to…come in extra pay dump to offer a contract at market value to Brunson, which is expected to fetch more than $20 million a year, according to Bleacher Report Jake Fischer.
Flaws abound in this latest Knicks scheme. Chief among them: The Dallas Mavericks exist. The Mavs can dangle a fifth-year ahead of Brunson, and team governor Mark Cuban seems like someone willing to pay for it. Fischer also noted in an episode of the Please do not aggregate this podcast (sorry, Jake!) that Brunson’s return to Big D is described as “essentially a done deal.”
Things change. So let’s assume they did. The Knicks recently hired Rick Brunson, Jalen’s father, to join Thibs’ team. Basketball operations team president Leon Rose is also Jalen’s former agent. And beyond that, there’s no way the Knicks can do that without some assurance that they have a shot at getting Brunson out of Dallas.
Brunson is coming off a fantastic season in which he averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists while dropping 54.5% of his twos and 37.3% of those threes. The only other players to match or exceed those benchmarks: Kevin Durant and Jrue Holiday.
Brunson’s star rose even further in the playoffs, where he maimed the Utah Jazz in the first round while keeping the Mavs afloat without Luka Doncic. The pressure he puts on opposing defenses in the lane with his footwork and finishing is truly impactful. Among all players who had 500 or more drives last season, Brunson’s 56.7% shooting clip ranked fourth, behind only those of Chris Paul, Karl-Anthony Towns and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Adding Brunson to the fold would be admirable if your team needs a final piece, or if your best player also happens to be a top-10 star. The Knicks are neither close to a finished product nor have a legit star. at their job.
Chances are Brunson will become their best player if he signs with them. He alone doesn’t guarantee a playoff berth, let alone an even rosier cap. Best-Case Scenario: Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle all exist on comparable aircraft. That leaves New York … still smack dab in the middle of the Eastern Conference, on pace with its four game-winning seasons since 2001.
And that’s assuming the Knicks actually get Brunson.
Plan Bs are limited if he doesn’t go to New York. It’s not the summer to have hardware cap space, so naturally the plan is to have hardware cap space this summer.
They are widely should pivot in a Malcolm Brogdon trade to the Indiana Pacers if they sniff Brunson — an eventuality befitting a franchise seemingly obsessed with acquiring non-star guards earning more than $20 million a year.
It’s not a harmless dose of short-sighted thinking. This is organizational malpractice – the kind of short circuit that should cost managers their jobs.
Alan Sepinwall @sepinwall
If that’s what happened, everyone in the Knicks front office needs to be fired immediately. Kemba’s salary for next season – in a contract signed by this front office – is just $8 million. https://t.co/hHANfMTNe7
This latest crisis stings a little more knowing New York refers to the reform at the start of the Leon Rose era.
It’s not that the Knicks lost all trades. (This regime has generally drafted well.) Their missteps, like last year’s first-round trade, have been marginal. Of course, they clearly overestimated how they would build on their 2020-21 success. But their most unforgivable moves so far have been to rush to extend Julius Randle (four years, $117 million) and give Evan Fournier three guaranteed years when they’ve only handed out two to Alec. Burks and Nerlens Noel.
At New York’s defense, there’s still plenty of off-season track to cover. And head coach Tom Thibodeau likely would have shrugged off either lottery hopeful chasing 35-43 wins. None of this is as comforting as it is terrifying.
On Thursday night, the Knicks once again revealed the truth about themselves. And the truth is that they are an organization forever in their own way, unfit for change, forever wedded to the middle.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead, or Cleaning the Glass. Salary information via Spotrac.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by NBA Math’s Adam Fromal.