The Mavs were not punished by the basketball gods for their tanking shenanigans, leaving the Knicks without a draft pick this summer.
The NBA Draft Lottery has come and gone and while we now know that San Antonio is where Victor Wembenyama will be relocating to from France, very little is known after that. We have some assumptions at picks no. 2, 3, and 4, and a crap shoot after that. So what does that mean for the Knicks, who of course, do not have a lottery pick or any pick in the NBA draft for that matter? Well, it may not mean anything at all but could still mean a lot.
Leon Rose has not spent a single NBA draft night as the Knicks president of basketball operations without making at least one move. Wheeling and dealing has been the game for Rose and co-conspirator Brock Aller as they have either moved down in basically every draft pick to collect assets or moved up to go get their targets. There is no reason to believe that even with the absence of a draft pick, they won’t be an active front office on draft night.
While nobody can ever truly predict what a front office will do, we can garner general ideas of thought processes for the draft as well as team-building philosophies. When you are looking at the teams left in the Conference Finals, you can have a general idea of how they built their team and what the philosophy was to get there.
It is easy to say that the Knicks, playing in the Mecca in the biggest city in the world, should just chase every big-name free agent, but that has not been a successful plan in recent history for the New York Knickerbockers. However, this is the modern NBA and there is a way to get a star outside of the draft and free agency. Look at the Los Angeles Lakers — where would they have been if Anthony Davis hadn’t forced his way out of New Orleans and directly into Staples Center?
This approach is obviously up for debate, as logging into Knicks Twitter any time over the last month will tell you. Depending on the day and which account you happen to be arguing with, they were either in the right for not trading for “homegrown” Donovan Mitchell because they easily disposed of the Cavs, or completely in the wrong for failing to take a big swing and that is why they were outclassed by the Miami Heat. There is no right answer and we will never know how it would have gone, since it, in fact, did not happen.
However, folding on the Spida Sweepstakes last year did leave them as one of the richest asset teams in the NBA, given how active Leon Rose has been in building up the draft capital. Should they go all in for a move, and if so, who is that star and is it worth it? According to basically every report, the Knicks were conservative in which assets to include in a deal with Danny Ainge and Utah and ultimately felt that it wasn’t worth it.
Will that change? Maybe. The rumors have always been that Rose and co. have been star-hunting and trying to bring a superstar into the World’s Most Famous Arena. They are ready to pull that trigger from an asset standpoint, but a lot more goes into it. Do you keep waiting and waiting for something that may not happen with a potentially disgruntled star like reigning MVP Joel Embiid, or every piece of Knicks fanfiction: Luka Doncic? There are more realistic options but one could argue that somebody like Karl Towns may not be worth that level of trade.
Whether the Knicks want to hold on to every asset they have or not, they have to be better on the margins. The issue in the second-round series in the Heat was not the lack of a star. Jalen Brunson was the best player on the court and was every bit as good as they could have expected when they paid him last summer. JB did not have a good enough running mate as both Randle and RJ struggled against Miami so badly that half the fanbase was firing up the trade machine before Game Six ended.
The other issue that the Knicks saw was a lack of depth, which was made exponentially clear in the 48-minute Game Five performance for both Jalen Brunson as well as second-year man Quentin Grimes. There were not enough playable options to help those guys, and as much as I love Deuce McBride, he could not be on the court in that series. Not only did they struggle with the depth to have guys to play, but they also did not get a strong enough performance from the role players that did get on the court.
In the three years of drafting, the Rose-helmed front office has had four first-round picks on paper and traded out of three of them. In that time, their two lottery picks have resulted in Obi Toppin and future picks. However, the other first-round picks have been traded down to become Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley, the unequivocal big wins of this era both as the 25th pick of the draft. They have also been moved to acquire Deuce McBride and Jericho Sims as well as TKW favorite Rokas Jokubaitis in the second round along with Trevor Keels last year who spent his time in Westchester.
So, what does any of this mean for the 2023 NBA Draft? Time will tell, but nobody should be surprised if Leon Rose moves up or down to target someone late in the first in a very deep draft. This is an important summer for the Knicks and they may or may not make a bigger move on their roster, but this front office has shown patience time and time again. So, while I do not expect their stars to be traded, neither do I expect them to unload the clip of draft capital that they are holding onto oh so tightly.
Moves on the margins are more likely this summer, and the front office will have opportunities to add depth and the shooting. Not only does the draft give chances to take a flyer on a guy either ready to play now or develop down the road, but it is a night of chaos that a smart front office can take advantage of.
We have already seen a handful of teams fall apart this offseason and there is no better time for an impatient team to make a risky move than the weeks leading into the draft where every prospect has limitless potential. There will be teams making trades, and if you are to believe the rumors, maybe some big ones. The Knicks do not need to be aggressive in those moves, but they can offer a third team and take on more assets in the process.
So what you should be expecting on draft night is Knicks activity and whether they’re trading into a late first-round pick as a team is trying to free up their roster or their wallets, or collecting yet another future asset in a bigger move. Do not be surprised if the Knicks are drafting in the first round on June 22nd, 2023. The second round is even more likely as teams are giving away picks for a multitude of reasons and the Knicks should absolutely take advantage of those opportunities.
While Wemby and Scoot will be elsewhere, the Knicks need to be aggressive to find players on the margin to get more depth and get younger. The young Knicks are running out of young players and are coming into the age-old issue of having to pay those guys, this night will be an opportunity to restock the cabinet and get what they need which is shooting and ball handling.