Luke Walton and the Lakers know attempting to build a team to challenge the Golden State Warriors is futile. The New York Knicks should take the same approach.
It took a historically great game for the Cleveland Cavaliers to defeat the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving led the way with James posting 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds and Irving scoring a game-high 40 points. It took this, plus an NBA Finals record 24 three-point shots to delay an inevitable Golden State Warriors championship. Instead of winning yet another title in Cleveland, the Warriors will likely close out the NBA Finals on their home turf for the first time since moving the team to California.
The Warriors dominance does not appear to be ending anytime soon either. As LeBron James pointed out before Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors have control of their core for the foreseeable future. Golden State will be able to re-sign future Finals MVP Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry this offseason, and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are already under contract.
Teams are starting to realize it is better to be rebuilding during Golden State’s era of dominance than assembling a team to slay this beast of a team.
“I joke a lot. I said ‘if there’s a time to be rebuilding, this is the time to do it.’ The Warriors don’t look like they’re going anywhere for a while. They’re pretty darn good right now,” said Walton.
Walton is smart enough to look at the bigger picture, something virtually all teams should be doing if LeBron James does not play for them. One of the teams who should agree with Walton’s comments the most is the New York Knicks.
This appears to be the perfect scenario for New York to continue to develop their young players. Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez and New York’s future first-round pick will all be beneficiaries from a team looking to grow players rather than chase pointless wins.
But the growing discontent of New York’s fanbase could impact New York’s plans. Four straight losing seasons could motivate New York to try and build a playoff-contending roster. The bottom line is New York’s recent failures should not foster the Knicks to attempt to blow assets to acquire top level players.
The Knicks could learn from another big market, the Los Angeles Lakers, about approaching free agency. The Lakers, much like the Knicks, are obviously not one player away from a complete turnaround. They will not be eager to sacrifice young talent for big names.
When Walton was asked about pursuing top-caliber free agents, he stated:
“My only caution,” he continued, “would be let’s not give up too much of our young core for one superstar because, like we just talked about before, let’s not forget that those Golden State Warriors are just a little bit north of us and it’s going to take a lot more than one superstar to dethrone them from the West. There’s that fine line in trying to get there quicker rather than developing our own guys.”
The Knicks do not have the same amount of young assets as the Lakers, however. Los Angeles has young players like former top-five picks Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell, and a former top-ten pick in Julius Randle. This does not even include Jordan Clarkson or possibly UCLA’s Lonzo Ball.
The only real assets New York has is its two international big-men and its first round pick. Giving up too much for the Knicks is not nearly the same as Los Angeles giving up too much. New York realistically is not able to part with any young talent yet.
The Knicks can not fall into false promises of contending. If Carmelo Anthony refuses to waive his no-trade clause to remain in New York, the team can not look to appease him with another top-tier player.
Pairing Anthony with a top-tier player will at best bring the Knicks to mid-April basketball for the first time since 2013. It will not bring them far in the playoffs, and will certainly not help them defeat the Warriors juggernaut.
It is imperative for the Knicks to continue to rely on their young guys and refrain from making any big moves for the short-term. This team is more than a few moves from competing with the top teams in the NBA, to say the least. Despite wishes from fans, the Knicks should take notes from the Lakers and continue to stash young talent for the foreseeable future.