After finishing 29-53 last season,11th in the Eastern conference, the Knicks will experience a similar ending this coming season. They are going to be a high- to mid-lottery team again after selecting ninth overall in the first round of last Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Which is why Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry have smartly chosen to immerse themselves in the futures market, acutely aware that drafting and growing young talent is a model that can be extremely fruitful, as opposed to chasing superstar free-agents with no stable foundation to attract them.
With All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis expected to be out until at least February recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, the Knicks will be in full player development mode next season. Their emphasis will be investing time and hope in players such as Kevin Knox, who’ll turn 19 in August and selected with the aforementioned No.9 pick, and 20-year-old 7-footer, Mitchell Robinson, plucked in the second round with the 36th overall pick.
Unless a miracle in the person of LeBron James is bestowed upon them, a highly unlikely occurrence, the Knicks are as sure a bet as there is in sports to miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, tying the franchise’s second longest postseason drought after going seven straight without an appearance from the 1959-60 campaign through the 1965-66 debacle.
So Knox, who played one season at Kentucky, and Robinson, who passed up playing at Texas A&M and Western Kentucky to concentrate on preparing for a career in the NBA, are prominent in the Knicks’ long-term rebuilding plans. Both are long and enticingly athletic, fitting the prototype of today’s front court players who can eventually provide the team versatility and flexibility on both ends of the floor.
“I can play pretty much any position on the floor,” said Knox last Friday at the draftees’ introductory news conference, “but with the league going where it’s going today, you see a lot of guys and wings playing the four, you see them playing the three. …Those two positions are kind of where I see myself, being able to be everywhere on the floor, handle the ball, be off the ball, be able to shoot the ball.”
Knicks first-year head coach David Fizdale said Knox could find himself in the Knicks starting lineup when the season begins. “I’m looking at our roster right now, absolutely,” he maintained at the presser held at the Knicks’ training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. “Who’s our starting three?”
There’s also optimism surrounding Robinson, who along with Knox played in the 2017 McDonald’s All-American Game and entered the draft widely viewed as possessing first-round ability. However, he carried the stigma of not playing organized basketball since leaving high school.
“[Robinson was] the most athletic big really in the class we felt,” said Perry. “The fact he was still able to be there at 36 we’re excited. … We know he wants this. He knows the decision he made, a conscious decision he made, to go about that path. I don’t think he’s the first guy to do that, and obviously he ended up here today and I think he’s ready to get to work for us.”