Leon Rose, James Dolan
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

With a fresh new draft pick and a new team president, the New York Knicks have no choice but to move onward and upward.

At long last, the New York Knicks have to move forward.

Just ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, general manager Scott Perry orchestrated a respectable trade. Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Marcus Morris was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers in a deal also involving the Washington Wizards. In return, the Knicks received Moe Harkless, a 2020 first-round pick from the Clippers, and additional picks.

This means the Knicks have no more room for excuses or pity parties. The woefully incompetent Steve Mills is out. Instead, former player-agent Leon Rose is in as the new president of basketball operations. The payroll is free of bloated player contracts.

Simply put, the New York Knicks can only go up from here and have no reason not to.

Out with the old

Think about the Steve Mills era for a second. It was defined by questionable trades, just plain bad free-agent contracts, and a never-ending coaching carousel.

As a result, the glory days of the 1990s quickly became a distant memory. Patrick Ewing’s hardwood magic was quickly overshadowed by the Stephon Marbury soap opera and Isiah Thomas’ antics. Years later, the ongoing drama between team president Phil Jackson and star Carmelo Anthony dominated the headlines.

In case some were wondering if this was an NBA team or an episode of Days of our Lives, you’re not alone.

And you can all trace this back to Mills, the one common denominator save for owner James Dolan. Mills was COO during Thomas’ tenure. Under Jackson, he was the general manager. Even if he wasn’t fully in power at that point, he always was a key member of Dolan’s inner circle.

The point is the fish rots from the head down and in the case of Mills, the Knicks’ rot is practically at bare bones.

In with the new

But now, after over twenty years of winter, the Knicks and their fans can finally dream of spring. Leon Rose hasn’t even been team president for a day, and he already has two first-round picks to use in June’s NBA Draft.

On top of that, Rose can look forward to having tons of payroll flexibility in the future. The one good thing that came out of Mills and Perry whiffing on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency is the Knicks’ current roster. Most of the team’s key acquisitions last summer were signed to two-year deals, except the contracts’ second years are team options.

Think about it. The New York Knicks now own the Clippers’ 2020 first-round pick on top of their own. This newly acquired draft pick could potentially be packaged with someone like Bobby Portis or Elfrid Payton in a trade for either draft picks or talent. Even Julius Randle, New York’s marquee free-agent signee last summer, has a movable contract and can be included in such a deal.

If not that, then Rose could decide he wants a fully clean slate and just rebuild the roster his own way. After all, he has represented everyone from Carmelo Anthony to Devin Booker to Joel Embiid. Rose was also LeBron James’ agent for years. He’s clearly in touch with today’s game and won’t build slow and outdated rosters like Mills and Jackson did.

The slate is clean, and the way forward is up.

Final thoughts

The best part of all this is the Knicks players are looking forward too. Ian Begley of SNY reported Thursday that young center Mitchell Robinson had hired Rich Paul, who currently represents James as well as Anthony Davis. Clearly, Robinson has big plans for the future.

And so do the Knicks. Hiring an agent to run the front office has worked with the Golden State Warriors and Bob Myers. The Los Angeles Lakers are, too, enjoying success under Kobe Bryant’s former agent, Rob Pelinka.

Dolan hiring Rose to the Knicks is clearly the team’s front office turning over a new leaf. This isn’t just a random hire. This is a legitimate effort to modernize the New York Knicks. Rose’s existing relationships with key players make him a fine man to be in the driver’s seat at this time.

Combine all of this with an upcoming lottery pick and a free agency class with some notable names, and the Knicks are in a position to finally climb out of the basement.

After all, things certainly can’t get worse, right?

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.