Scott Perry Kristaps Porzingis
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The pressure to deliver is firmly on New York Knicks general manager Scott Perry now with Kristaps Porzingis traded.

Josh Benjamin

Well, folks, they actually did it.

Thursday, Jan. 31, 2018, a date which will forever live in New York basketball infamy, the New York Knicks pulled the trigger. In a move no one saw coming, but was probably inevitable, Kristaps Porzingis was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. In return, the Knicks received Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, and DeAndre Jordan along with two future first-round picks. New York also sent Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Courtney Lee to Dallas.

And with that, cue the spotlight being on GM Scott Perry. The man went from playing with house money to on credit faster than Barry Allen. Amid reports saying Porzingis would prefer to be traded, a deal was made. Since then, team president Steve Mills came forward and said despite what was said in public, it was clear Porzingis did not want to be in New York.

That means Perry’s job this summer just became all the more difficult. In a free agency summer featuring Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and more, New York’s main selling point is now gone. The Knicks’ draft strategy has also likely changed.

Knicks Nation is putting its trust in Scott Perry, but what should he do this summer? Well, here are some ideas.

The draft

Every Knicks fan worth their weight in gold cares about the NBA Draft. For some, myself included, it might as well be Christmas Day.

The reasons for this are simple. The Knicks’ draft history over the last twenty years has been so bad that anticipation always mounts come draft day, especially if New York holds a lottery pick.

And oh, the mistakes that have been made. French center Frederic Weis was picked over Ron Artest in 1999. Brazilian big man Nené was picked ninth in 2002, only to be traded to the Denver Nuggets for Antonio McDyess‘ bad knees the same day. Jordan Hill was selected ahead of DeMar DeRozan in 2009, and Iman Shumpert before Tobias Harris two years later. Needless to say, the Knicks aren’t exactly a model of smart draft practice.

Which is why come June 20, Scott Perry has to knock the Knicks’ pick out of the park. He has no margin for error. New York currently has the worst record in the league at 10-40. If the Knicks stay that course and finish with one of the three worst records in the NBA, they have a 14 percent chance of landing that top pick. Doing so would mark the first time New York has picked first since 1985 when Patrick Ewing became a Knick.

Draft strategy

Now, let’s talk about this year’s NBA Draft class. It’s nowhere near as strong as last year’s, but there are some names at the top the Knicks could use. There’s Duke scorer RJ Barrett, or electrifying Murray State star Ja Morant. The top prize, however, is Duke forward Zion Williamson, with his tremendous athleticism and dominant play in the paint. I even wrote a piece sometime back about how, because of Porzingis’ presence, Williamson wasn’t a good fit. My, how that has changed.

This means Perry and coach David Fizdale need to do two things. First, agree that tanking the rest of the way is the best option. Sure, New York could wind up playing better basketball as a unit now that the Porzingis circus is over, but winning isn’t a priority. The playoffs are well in the rearview mirror. Next, Fizdale has to tell Perry what his team needs the most in the lineup. Is it Barrett’s scoring? Williamson’s physical dominance? Morant’s electric play?

Finally, whomever the Knicks draft, Scott Perry has to own the pick entirely. General lip service on who was picked and why won’t do. No, Perry has to be completely direct and honest about New York’s pick in June. Be it any of the three mentioned above or someone else, they were picked for one reason: to make the Knicks relevant again.

Free agency pitch

But the NBA Draft is only half the battle for the Knicks in the post-Porzingis era. Where Scott Perry really needs to take advantage of the spotlight is free agency. Now, on top of the aforementioned Durant and Irving, Kawhi Leonard is also going to be available. So will Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker.

And despite their current standing, the Knicks are in a strong position in free agency. Including Hardaway in the Porzingis deal shed enough salary for New York to be able to offer two max contracts instead of one. The prospect of any two of the free agents just mentioned putting on a Knicks uniform is enough to make any New York fan salivate. Move over Thanksgiving Dinner, bring us a Knicks free agency spending spree!

This is where Scott Perry’s post-draft comments come in. When the time comes to meet with free agents, New York has a shiny new toy to use as a selling point. Not to mention, a young core of Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier, and Mitchell Robinson will all be a year older next season. Dennis Smith Jr. may also play well enough to stick around.

The pitch

Most important of all, Scott Perry has to acknowledge the Porzingis situation when meeting Durant, Irving, or anyone. Phil Jackson, despite his Hall of Famer status, did a bad job communicating with players. His handling of Porzingis is one of the main reasons the big Latvian wanted out, not to mention New York’s losing regularly. A great piece from Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic provides a small glimpse into how deep the lack of communication between Porzingis and the Knicks went. The long and short of it is, now that Porzingis has been traded, why should any players trust the Knicks?

But Perry isn’t going to spend his time harping on that. His meetings with free agents will be, as The Monkees once said, “That Was Then, This Is Now.”

The team’s recent top draft pick is the start of the real rebirth. Guys like Knox and Trier are only going to get better playing under Fizdale. This team often looked competitive in a losing season, so just imagine what could be if they had two superstars alongside them! Thus, any of those free agents could go to young and dynamic teams like the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers, but they’d be just another face in the crowd there. Especially with the Lakers having LeBron James, at that.

In New York, however, they would be basketball saviors who brought one of the league’s most storied teams back from the brink. Adding them would immediately make the Knicks a championship contender in the Eastern Conference, so selling the idea of them being winners in New York is key.

In conclusion

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how Scott Perry can make the best of trading Kristaps Porzingis. By selling the idea of playing with young talent and drafting smart, the Knicks’ may go from the dystopia of The Walking Dead to the relaxation of Cheers. Stability is key, and Perry has to sell that idea hard. It can be attained at Madison Square Garden, but only if free agency yields big results.

That said, enjoy the rest of the season, GM Perry. You’ve got a busy summer ahead of you.

 

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