If you ignore the popular narrative, you’ll realize that the New York Knicks nailed this past week’s blockbuster trade.
Despite having their hand forced, team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry managed to get major pieces in a deal that ends the short, but memorable Kristaps Porzingis era in New York.
The duo also added flexibility under the salary cap to become major players in what will be a star-studded free agency class this summer headlined by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard.
Look beyond the back pages. Forget the optics. The Knicks made the right move this week. In an era of constant hand-wringing, it isn’t popular to say. Outrage is the name of the game these days and this week’s blockbuster trade certainly registers on that front.
Take a cool, collected and rational look at things: the Knicks now have seven first-round picks in the next five seasons with the ability to sign two max free agents in the summer. We all knew this season was going to be a rebuilding one for the franchise. Now, the reconstruction of the roster has a chance to be expedited with assets and cap room galore.
Kristaps Porzingis is no longer a Knick, a sad parting of ways for a franchise that thought it had drafted a generational player just three years ago. But Porzingis, coming off a major knee injury, wasn’t buying into the direction of the Knicks and was a flight risk to bolt the team. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Knicks had to make a move and it involved them being bold.
Netting a future point guard in Dennis Smith Jr. is nice.
Getting two first-round picks results in important building blocks for the future is also important. The 2019 NBA Draft class is expected to be top notch with Duke’s Zion Williamson considered the “can’t-miss” prospect in this group.
This trade can’t simply be measured linearly, as if compensation for a player like Porzingis could ever truly be reaped. The Knicks couldn’t risk losing Porzingis after next summer with nothing in return for their former first-round pick. To be able to get a future starting point guard like Smith is a good return. Adding in those two first-round draft picks and clearing major cap space makes this trade a win, albeit a somber one.
Losing Porzingis is a gut punch. His unique gifts such as his obscene wingspan and ability to pull up and shoot on a dime aren’t found every day. Jettisoning the young star forward is tough enough, but seeing him leave next summer with no compensation is unconscionable.
For too many years, the Knicks have chased after the past, hoping that big names on the backsides of their careers would come in and change the franchise’s fortunes. Maybe it worked for a year or two, but it was never sustainable. It led to a cycle of limited success followed by years of salary cap hell and abject failure.
The Knicks have needed to build via the draft for years. They also needed to get control of their salary cap situation. In one move, the Knicks were able to address both glaring issues.
No one wanted to see it come to this, Porzingis departing a team that saw him grow into a legitimate star. But with his future uncertain and coming off last year’s knee injury, the Knicks could no longer sit and wait for maybes.
Their future is now in their hands.
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