After another truly horrible season, the future can only get brighter for the young and embattled New York Knicks.
Congratulations, New York Knicks faithful, you made it!
Another long rebuilding season is over! No more watching inevitable losses and sporadic wins for another six months. No more worrying about James Dolan interviews. Allow watching 1990s Knicks highlights while crying into a pint of Cherry Garcia become a thing of the past!
At long last, long-suffering Knicks fans can relax and put another bad season behind them.
That is, until this summer. New York is guaranteed a top pick in June’s NBA Draft and will be key players in free agency come July too. One way or another, the team is going to look different in the 2019-20 season.
The New York Knicks have, again, hit something of a bottom. The difference this time is there is nothing but hope for the future, and here’s why.
Strong draft position
As the worst team in the NBA, the New York Knicks have plenty to be excited for come June’s NBA Draft. Thanks to new draft lottery rules, the Knicks will receive no worse than the fifth overall pick.
This means if the team misses out on the first pick and, by extension, Duke star Zion Williamson, all is not lost. If a twist of fate crueler than Lord Voldemort robs New York of him, the offseason isn’t at all sunk. There are plenty of prospects other than Williams who can make the Knicks a better team.
Ja Morant could be an electrifying scoring guard in David Fizdale’s offense, as could Williamson’s teammate RJ Barrett. Texas Tech star Jarrett Culver’s fiery tenacity could be just what the doctor ordered for a young Knicks team, not to mention help lure free agents.
More importantly, GM Scott Perry is determined to end the Knicks’ tenure as the laughingstock of the league. Great as winning the Zion sweepstakes would be, he knows banking on that is foolish. One way or another, count on the Knicks making an impact on Draft Day.
Free agency cap space
The New York Knicks have been a bad team for a while, but have one advantage this summer: money. Thanks to including Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, the team has tons of cap space this summer. Per Spotrac, the team has $72.9 million to spend to be exact.
That means in a free agency class featuring a plethora of superstars including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, New York is in a position to offer two max contracts. If rumors are true, the Knicks could have plenty of reason to celebrate. Appearing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report called Durant’s decision to sign in New York “done:”
"From everything I've heard, it's done. Yes, he's leaving… If he so much as gets [the Knicks] into the Conference Finals, he will be beloved there like he never has been at Golden State after 2 Championships."@RicBucher on Kevin Durant's free agency pic.twitter.com/eCHgKQxKTF
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) April 3, 2019
Similarly, Frank Isola of The Athletic (subscription required) reported Monday, via an agent, Irving and Durant are “debating” over who will sign with New York first. Despite winning less than 20 games this year, New York definitely seems to be on free agents’ radar.
And even if Durant and Irving sign elsewhere, the Knicks have plenty of options. Kawhi Leonard is also hitting the market. So are Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, and Kemba Walker. On top of that, if the Knicks are unable to sign max free agents, they have enough draft picks stockpiled to trade for max money.
But with the amount of cash the Knicks have on hand, plus other factors, expect this to be a summer to remember.
A strong young core
However, what will really help the New York Knicks to continue trending upward isn’t a top draft pick, nor a lucrative free agency. Sure, both would be a big help, but this isn’t like LeBron James’ first time hitting the market. New York isn’t banking all its hopes on landing marquee free agents to come to play with a bunch of glorified role players.
Rather, unlike that fateful summer of 2010, the Knicks will have a strong core in place come next season. Kevin Knox will only get better as a dynamic young wing. Mitchell Robinson is a dominant center in the making. Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier are youngsters with the potential to do it all.
Not only that, but this Knicks team is better than its record suggests. Even en route to a double-digit loss, the players managed to keep things competitive. At no point was it obvious New York was tanking or sleepwalking through the season just for a high draft pick.
No, Fizdale clearly struck a chord with this young group and will continue to do so with a revamped roster next year.
Look, I get it. Being a New York Knicks fan isn’t easy. In fact, some would probably rather get a root canal than put their faith in the team again. Some would rather eat brussels sprouts three meals a day for the whole offseason. Others would sooner take a road trip with Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers.
This summer, ladies and gentlemen, will not be like others. No, the Knicks have a plan in which a free agency splurge isn’t the end-all and be-all of the offseason. The NBA draft excitement is real. Free agency won’t bank on landing just one player in particular. The homegrown core’s continued improvement provides plenty of hope.
The long and short of it is after nearly two decades of mediocrity, and I use that term generously, the Knicks are due. Fate has to smile on them at some point and no time is better than this summer.
Keep your heads up, Knicks fans, because the nightmare could soon be over. One way or another, there’s nothing this team can do but improve off of this season.