Leon Rose, James Dolan
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

With the start of his tenure on the horizon, Leon Rose has quite the to-do list to clean up the New York Knicks.

Josh Benjamin

On March 1, Leon Rose will usher in a new era of New York Knicks basketball.

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, this is when the former player agent will take over as the Knicks’ new president of basketball operation. Rose will succeed Steve Mills, who was fired from the same role earlier this month.

Rose, who used to represent LeBron James, now has his work cut out for him. He must now take the reins of the long-suffering Knicks and achieve success not seen in over 20 years. New York has won a single playoff series in that time and clinched just six playoff berths since 2000.

Throw in what must be done with the roster, and Leon Rose’s first to-do list is already looking pretty lengthy.

Clean out the front office

This one almost goes without saying. Rose absolutely must wipe the slate clean and make some fresh new hires in the front office. Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic recently wrote a piece about the team’s approach to player development and it’s clear that whatever the Knicks are doing isn’t working.

This means Rose must first make a decision on whether to keep GM Scott Perry. If he’s serious about turning the Knicks around, it might be better to get rid of any and all holdovers from the previous regime. This also includes revamping the scouting department.

A full front office blowup may seem like a lot, but it’s necessary. The fish rots from the head down and if Leon Rose wants results, it means making changes from the top down.

Hire a strong head coach

It’s pretty obvious now that interim head coach Mike Miller is not the long-term solution for the Knicks. This means Rose will look for the team’s eighth head coach in the last decade.

The coaching search is what will truly set the tone of the Leon Rose era. New York needs to hire the right coach for its young core and going with an unknown won’t do. Rose needs an established name on Madison Square Garden’s sideline, preferably one who can develop young players.

Perhaps Rose will value experience and go with former Grizzlies and Kings coach Dave Joerger. Maybe the New York roots of former Warriors coach and Knicks point guard Mark Jackson will tickle his fancy, drama aside. Rose could also pursue former Knicks star and current Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing, or go completely outside the box and hire longtime assistant Becky Hammon.

One way or another, Leon Rose needs his head coaching hire to be a slam dunk. Putting together a winning roster is only half the battle. The other half is finding a coach who can get the best out of it.

Ace the NBA Draft

It’s not a matter of if the Knicks will draft a point guard, but when. The NBA Draft is still three and a half months away. If Rose is smart, he’s already put together a list of players to scout.

And the Knicks have no excuses this year. On top of their lottery pick, they also own the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round selection.

This opens up several opportunities for the Knicks. They are currently tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third-worst record in the league. Tanking increases their chances of landing the first overall pick, but doesn’t guarantee it. Just look at last year, when New York only managed the third pick despite owning the NBA’s worst record.

It’s also worth noting the Knicks landed a pair of first-round picks from the Dallas Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade. Combined with the Clippers’ pick, this could be a means of trading up or down in the draft. Leon Rose can also orchestrate a trade for a player using these picks.

But finding a scoring point guard is first priority, and there are several who would be good fits on the Knicks. Regardless of position, it is crucial for the Knicks to take a step forward with their next draft pick.

Pursue Anthony Davis

This could be Leon Rose’s tallest order of all. Last summer, Mills and Perry went all-in on landing one or both of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Both signed with the rival Brooklyn Nets, leaving New York with a bunch of cap space and only Julius Randle to show for it.

Under Rose, things have to be different. New York will have a fair amount of cap space this summer too, especially if second-year options on Bobby Portis and Reggie Bullock aren’t picked up.

This brings the conversation to Anthony Davis, who has enjoyed tremendous success with the Los Angeles Lakers this year. He’s an impending free agent and his agent, Rich Paul, hasn’t exactly closed the door on a move to New York.

Granted, Davis has downplayed the idea of leaving the Lakers, but this is where Leon Rose’s experience as an agent comes in handy. He knows how to talk to players and has been on the other side of the negotiating table before.

Think about it. When free agency begins, the Knicks will have a fresher idea of the future. Their draft picks will be signed and the franchise will be moving in a modern direction regardless. Davis, meanwhile, would be an automatic star with the Knicks and not have to share the spotlight with LeBron James as he does in Los Angeles.

The odds of this actually happening are unlikely but if anyone can pull it off, it’s probably Leon Rose. Here’s hoping his time with the Knicks kicks off with smooth sailing. He certainly has his work cut out for him.

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