The New York Knicks’ front office will look different next season. But Scott Perry’s eye for talent should not be taken for granted.
Leon Rose and the New York Knicks need to press pause on the idea of ending their relationship with General Manager Scott Perry.
Perry, who signed a five-year deal back in 2017, will reportedly handle draft responsibilities for the Knicks despite the recent addition of former Cleveland Cavaliers executive Brock Aller to the front office.
According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the NBA shutdown has, at least, temporarily saved Perry’s job, however, when play resumes, Rose will “do his due diligence” in searching for a new GM.
The idea of “cleaning house” once a new president of basketball operations takes over is somewhat of a tired cliché. While most new executives do indeed hire their own staff, keeping a high ranking executive from the previous regime is not a new idea.
When the Philadelphia 76ers hired Elton Brand as general manager, both Alex Rucker and Ned Cohen were promoted within the organization. Cohen was promoted to assistant to the general manager and Rucker was promoted to senior vice president of analytics and strategy.
Similarly, when the Minnesota Timberwolves hired Gersson Rosas, contrary to popular belief, Scott Layden remained as general manager. Even after Sachin Gupta was brought on as vice president of basketball operations, Layden stayed in his current position.
Perry’s three years at the helm have included cap flexibility, added draft capital, and solid drafting and talent evaluation. However, on the flip side, the former fab-five assistant coach is also on the hook for the trade of Kristaps Porzingis, clumsy roster construction, and the hiring of David Fizdale.
Admittedly, I was, and still am a fan of Fiz. I believe he has the ability to be a solid NBA coach and players do love the guy. However, it would be foolish to dismiss Mike Miller‘s win-loss record and overall improved level of play, with essentially the same roster, once he took over as interim head coach.
Additionally, while I believe it’s difficult to separate Steve Mills and Perry from responsibility for transactions and the hiring and firing of staff, Perry’s reputation as one of the better evaluators of talent has continued with the Knicks. For that reason alone, I think Rose may strongly consider Perry as a part of his front office going forward.
If you’re in the middle of a rebuild, the name of the game is talent acquisition. Perry, for the most part, had done just that. With his first swing, he drafted Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson in 2018.
The jury is still out on Knox. And while the Knicks certainly haven’t made his development easy, the 21-year old’s career can be summed up as flashes of tantalizing talent surrounded by mediocrity. On the other hand, Perry’s instincts on Robinson may have landed the Knicks a cornerstone player.
Robinson literally backed out of playing for Western Kentucky in the middle of the night and did not play organized basketball for an entire year after being selected to the McDonald’s All-American Game in 2017. But give Perry credit, when everyone punted on Robinson, he took the chance, drafted him in the second round, and Knicks fans are glad he did.
In 2019, Perry and company set their sights on RJ Barrett and Ignas Brazdeikis. Barrett, 19, has done enough to show that he belongs at the professional level and Brazdeikis has had some good performances for the Westchester Knicks this season.
Prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, the Knicks had six first-round draft picks over the next four seasons. Perry added another one when he traded Marcus Morris to the Los Angeles Clippers for Moe Harkless, the rights to swap first-round picks in 2021, a 2021 second-round pick, and the rights to Issuf Sanon.
The picks, combined with the cap flexibility sustained this past summer, has the Knicks set up pretty well for the future.
However, while talent evaluation is a major responsibility for any general manager, so is roster construction. Despite their best-laid plans, no one can deny that the Knicks were shocked that they didn’t cash in on the 2020 summer grand prize of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The once highly-touted cap space created by the Porzingis trade was now just that, cap space. Plan B was to sign veterans on short-term deals. In came Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis, Morris, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, and Julius Randle.
From game one it was clear that the combination of veteran free agents and young players was not a great fit.
Back in July, I wrote about the new signings and how Fizdale’s minutes distribution was going to be a storyline for the entire season. In short, all of the incoming free-agents, with the exception of Bullock, averaged over 25 minutes per game over the last three seasons.
Fast forward 66 games, Fiz was fired, veterans were still playing the lion’s share of the minutes, and there are still major questions regarding the development of players like Knox, Damyean Dotson, Dennis Smith Jr., and Allonzo Trier. And yes, Perry deserves some of the blame.
Perry also shoulders the responsibility for constructing a roster with similar faults. Per Basketball-Reference, Randle, Portis, and Payton all rank within the top-five of current players on the roster in total minutes played this season. Neither player has a reliable jump shot on their resume to create the floor spacing needed for players like Barrett and Robinson to be successful.
Luckily, Rose, who has received positive reviews since coming on as president, has been described as a basketball man running a business and not a businessman running a basketball franchise. I have faith in Rose to understand the importance of analytics and floor spacing in the modern game.
However, with that said, Perry has earned the right to see what he can do with the Knicks’ abundance of draft picks. Whether that means making a move for the next disgruntled star or finding the next Mitchell Robinson, Perry’s eye for talent can still help the Knicks get to where they want to be.