While it looks like the Knicks will tenuously move forward with CAA’s Leon Rose as president, the future is very much unclear for the franchise.
Editor’s note: The Knicks Wall staff writers Eli Cohen and Quentin Haynes gathered together digitally to discuss where they see the New York Knicks going from here. They also break down what looks to be New York’s actual move in bringing on soon-to-be former CAA sports agent Leon Rose along with “brand consultant” Steve Stoute’s recent gaffe on ESPN’s First Take.
Read their thorough discussion below.
Eli Cohen, features writer: Like Quentin wrote two weeks ago, I also think the Knicks are pretty much at rock bottom, but I can take the position that recent events have us looking at an upswing. It looks like Scott Perry is staying (for now)—the real question is, how much of Mike Miller’s rotation decisions (e.g. Robinson only getting 22.8 minutes and 4.6 shots a night over the last 23 games despite averaging 2.9 fouls) are his, and how much are team mandated? Q, do you have a strong opinion on whether they should keep Miller or find someone else? There’s also the president of basketball operations as former agent angle we can discuss; I think it could be an absolute disaster, but if it’s, say, Rich Paul, it could actually be a game-changer. The rest of the season will be interesting because we’ll see a little more of what Perry’s philosophy is now that he’s freed of Steve Mills’ influence.
Quentin Haynes, staff writer: As far as Miller is concerned, I’m out. Even though I believe his approach towards leaning on the veteran players on the roster goes back to the front office, he hasn’t done anything for me to suggest that he could be anything more than an average coach. I find him more as an ideal assistant who can help a team with development. I would much rather have a new voice leading the charge next season.
As for the POBO spot, I’m not too big a fan of this approach. Letting Mills go is a good move, but why are the Knicks rushing to what appears to be a CAA guy, or even Rich Paul? I would merely allow Perry to move Morris, move Julius Randle, and push to play the kids. Then, after the season, move into hiring one of Sam Presti, Masai Ujiri, Neil Olshey, or maybe even Sam Hinkie. The Knicks need to make a home run hire at the top and then bring in other smart guys behind him.
Eli: Bob Myers has been great in Golden State, from drafting Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green the same year to re-signing Stephen Curry to a very team-friendly extension, but it’s also worth noting that both he and Rob Pelinka, the other agent-turned-GM in the league, have benefited from some of the best luck in the business. For Myers, the one-time only cap spike that allowed them to sign Kevin Durant (of course, they were already a burgeoning dynasty before that). For Pelinka, stumbling into LeBron by virtue of being the Lakers after years of defying the odds to keep top picks, and then jumping once again into the top five to get the pick that allowed the Anthony Davis trade (a suspicious man might find their string of lottery luck… suspicious). The reason I bring this up is because this idea of finding agents and turning them into executives becoming a trend reminds me a lot of how coach/POBO was a thing for a couple years, before everyone remembered that those are two totally different jobs with different responsibilities and different approaches to the day-to-day operations. Sure, it could work, but it could also go terribly (take Minnesota under Thibodeau’s reign).
I don’t know what the half-life of his exile from the league is, but Hinkie seems to me to be the ideal choice. You wouldn’t have to give up draft capital to get him (as opposed to Masai or Presti), and he seems like the kind of guy who would relish the challenge of making the Knicks relevant. The fact that his name has yet to come up in any official rumors makes me think his blacklisting is an ongoing mandate by the league, but if not, a risk-taker with vision makes sense as the next face of the front office.
As for Miller, I have to say, I agree with you. Mitchell Robinson, the second-most important player on this roster, is playing some of the worst ball of his short career under Miller, who seems unable to help Robinson counter-adjust to the moves opponents have made to stop him from catching lobs. He has shown very little lineup creativity, refuses to break up the Morris/Randle pairing, and has a bad habit of punishing guys like Ntilikina and even Knox for their rare good play.
By the way, is there any reason Allonzo Trier still isn’t playing? He’s sure as hell not bringing anything back in a trade now, and it’s safe to assume he doesn’t have the warm fuzzies at this point for the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent. If it’s really a ploy to drive his value down ahead of his impending restricted free agency, as some have suggested, that’s a short-sighted move that betrays this front office’s incompetence and lack of understanding of interpersonal dynamics. If not, it’s somehow more confounding.
Quentin: I don’t know why Trier hasn’t received his shot. Everyone else has, and I don’t completely understand why he hasn’t. He’s a ball hog, he comes in and provides instant offense and not much else. That said, I’m surprised he hasn’t received one chance to play 15-25 minutes a night for, say, 5-8 games.
How do you feel about waiting for Masai? It seems like he’s going to at least listen to the Knicks this offseason, due to be up in contract next summer? Would he be your number one target? I’m probably the only one who feels this way, but I’d offer $100 million over five years and two draft picks to Toronto to call it a day. At the very least, the Raptors and MLSE aren’t matching it. What say you?
(Editor’s note: Now Quentin and Eli pivot to breaking down the Leon Rose hire and trade deadline)
Quentin: Eli, Marcus Morris was moved and it seems like CAA is going to lock down the President role with Leon Rose and Worldwide Wes will be involved in some (unofficial) capacity. Let’s start with the Morris deal, how do you think the Knicks did there?
Eli: As, I’m sure, is the case with many fans, I was hoping the Knicks would manage to get a combination of young players and a pick in any Morris return, and up until the moment it happened, it seemed that would be the case. Even once the Clippers made sharp-shooter Landry Shamet unavailable, it seemed like their 2019 first-round pick, Mfiondu Kabangele, might be in play, along with the young, athletic guard Terance Mann. So in that sense, there was a slight letdown when the only player coming back was (Queens native) Maurice Harkless.
But overall, I’m pretty happy with the return. This year’s pick will be low, and the draft is widely panned as being weak, but that usually applies to star power at the top of the draft, not role players available later in the first round. Not only that, but the Knicks managed to get Detroit’s second-round pick in the 2021 draft, which, given their current trajectory, is a near-lock to be in the mid-30’s. Combined with their own pick, Dallas’ first, and Charlotte’s second-round pick, this gives them a real treasure trove of draft assets in a very strong draft.
My bigger concern was the lack of any other side deals being made, as the Morris trade seemed to occupy all of Scott Perry’s attention for the final 24 hours of the trade deadline. Where do you stand on how the roster looks for the rest of the season? Do you see buyouts coming or is this the group rolling forward? And maybe most importantly, given the team’s recent improved play and his central role in the success, where are you at with Randle’s fit on the team looking past this season?
Quentin: I’m cool with the Morris deal. It gets them some more picks, and picks are good. I don’t see any buyouts coming out of this group any time soon. It’s a big concern that the Knicks couldn’t get anything done, but with the change in the front office throwing everything off, I think we can give them a slight break for that. I think if anything, New York just lets them go at the end of the season. I hate that the kids sit on the bench and won’t get the minutes they need, but it is what it is at this stage.
Randle should be traded this offseason. He’s just not good enough to be the number one guy, and he’s a bad fit alongside Robinson. I would honestly love to see him traded into someone’s space, rather than trade for a bad contract. Maybe a team like Charlotte would take him just into space. Nothing against him—I think he gets too much blame—but I would rather move on. The Knicks should honestly look to get as much cap space as they can, and then go into free agency with the intention of signing some nice players and taking some big, bad contracts with the remainder of the money.
Now, even after the entire Steve Stoute incident, how are we feeling about the new front office and “rebrand” the Knicks are going through?
Eli: I think the main priority of the summer needs to be building a team that complements their young players that they’ve invested in. That, more than any lack of talent, is why I agree with exploring trades for Randle. He’s by far the most talented, productive player on the team, but he’s also a mediocre fit with Mitch and a really bad fit with Barrett.
As far as the front office goes, it sounds crazy to say, but I’m cautiously optimistic—Steve “Drake of New York” Stoute snafu aside. We’ve seen big names with big-time connections come in and flame out before (though time seems to vindicating at least some of Phil Jackson’s legacy with the Knicks), but the consensus among people who know him seems to be that Leon Rose is one of the foremost “get s–t done” guys in the league. He’s not Masai and has no experience in this position, but the hope is that he’s smart enough to know what he doesn’t know, and will get the best possible guys to fill in those gaps. As an example, Newsday’s Steve Popper recently reported Denver’s GM Artūras Karnišovas might be in the mix to take over from Perry. Karnišovas had been the assistant GM in Denver since 2013 before getting the promotion, so he’s had a crucial role in the construction of one of the best teams in the league through both the draft and free agency. He’s exactly the type of person Knicks fans should be hoping is included in the search, and if they can get someone like that, combined with Rose’s own connections throughout the league, it’s not inconceivable that this team might be able to set a plan for the future—and for once, actually stick to it.
The biggest question, though, is how Rose and whoever the next GM is feel about the young guys on the roster. Do they believe in the current iteration of the youth movement, or will they try to bring in their own young guys who fit whatever vision they have?
I think the draft will be the first indication of where they’re at with this. Currently, the Knicks are slated to have the nos. 5, 25, and 36 picks—a very solid position to be in. Do they stand pat, or do they try to package those later picks with one of the younger guys (Knox? Frank? Maybe even Randle) to get another high-level pick? And in a weak draft, would that even be worth it?
Quentin: Yeah, I’m curious to see how this works. Karnišovas would be great start, but we’ll need more smart people. Losing Worldwide Wes seems like a blow, but not one from which the Knicks can’t recover. Give me multiple people who can work and operate the office under rookie executive Rose.
Three picks in the top 40 is worth it—just need to get the proper people in the front office who can figure it out. I think they’ll be able to find some good talent within those spots, but if not, you can always move up and down the draft with those picks, so you never know. It would be great if the Knicks could find some draft pieces similar to the Pelicans this past year. Eliminate Zion for a second; Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker would be a good look. Just some rooks with decent upside who can play right away.
I don’t blame you on being optimistic, to be honest. I keep looking at the cap space and draft picks and wondering why we aren’t better. Hopefully, we can hit on the correct front office people, the right head coach, and the correct picks this time. If we don’t, I don’t know this franchise is going to do.