The New York Knicks are doing just fine in their first season without Carmelo Anthony. New York is 17-14, currently good for third place in the Atlantic Division and enough to land the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference if the playoffs were to begin right now.
New York has gotten impressive performances from role players like Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and even Michael Beasley. Of course, we can’t overlook the steady presence of Tim Hardaway Jr. who has proven his worth in New York. But the main reason for the Knicks’ good fortunes has been the stellar play of third year man Kristaps Porzingis.
The Unicorn Porzingis is off to a hot start this season, averaging a career best 24.5 points, 2.0 blocks and 1.9 three pointers made per game. He’s relishing every second of his new role as the Knicks’ new franchise player and is absolutely thriving in it.With the way things are looking, it seems like Kristaps Porzingis will be the Knicks’ face for many years to come. And that’s good news for a franchise which is so hungry to bring back its glory years.
But before things got this well Porzingis in the Big Apple, the Knicks almost dealt Porzingis. This happened after Porzingis missed his exit interview. According to ESPN’s Iag Begley, the Knicks almost traded Porzingis:
“Young star Porzingis skipped his exit meeting with Jackson and then general manager Steve Mills over what team sources described as frustration with the drama and dysfunction surrounding the franchise. Jackson and the Knicks then discussed potential trades of Porzingis with several teams in the days and weeks leading up to the NBA draft. Those conversations were painted in some corners as Jackson teaching Porzingis a lesson after the skipped exit meeting, but multiple sources familiar with the matter say that there were members of the organization in favor of trading Porzingis at the time.”
Luckily for the Knicks, that didn’t happen. Or else, they’d be in a worse condition than they were when Phil took over a couple of seasons ago. But what if the Knicks did trade Porzingis? What deal would’ve they accepted in exchange for their Unicorn?
Here are five possible deals that would’ve pushed thru had they been formally offered to the Knicks -before or after Phil Jackson was booted out:
The Knicks were said to have reached out to the teams that had the Top 5 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft so it was obvious that they weren’t just looking for outright compensation but future investments as well in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis.
The Sixers had both. Philadelphia traded up to snatch the first overall pick from the Boston Celtics and in doing so, they had the best draft pick among all the interested teams that the Knicks could’ve gotten in exchange for Porzingis. It’s open knowledge that the Knicks coveted Josh Jackson before the draft and were willing to work out a trade that would’ve included him in the package. Getting Jackson would’ve been done the easiest with the Sixers’ Top pick. And Philly had plenty of young assets to dangle to the Knicks.
Dario Saric isn’t a transcendent talent like Kristaps Porzingis. Not by a mile. But if you look at their Per 36 minutes averages during their rookie season last year, there isn’t much difference between the two. Production wise, Saric would’ve made up for Porzingis numbers. If the Sixers sweetened the offer with another young talent like T.J. McConnell or Robert Covington, the Knicks would’ve likely pulled the trigger on the deal.
Two young potentials plus the1st overall pick in the draft? Kristaps Porzingis could’ve easily been part of the process right now.
The Suns owned the 4th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and it’s no secret that the Knicks talked about sending Porzingis to Phoenix. The Fultz, Ball and Tatum were almost a lock at 1-2-3 long before draft night so the Knicks knew that Josh Jackson would most likely be available at #4 for them. So Phoenix passed the first criterion for the Knicks: that they pick high enough to pick Josh Jackson.
As for other assets, the Suns definitely have plenty to package along with the 4th pick. Dragan Bender would’ve been a good one. The 4th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft has the same physical attributes as Porzingis: tall, lean and lanky. Heck, some even compared Bender to Kristaps but the truth is, Bender doesn’t come close – at least not yet.
It’s obvious that he isn’t as explosive or athletic as Porzingis but on the upside, he is two years younger than the Latvian Unicorn. No, he won’t grow hops like Porzingis’ but he’s already almost as good a shooter as Kristaps is at his age. With the game gravitating towards stretch 4’s, Bender would be the power forward of the future. Marquese Chriss as the cherry on the cake here would’ve made this deal easier for the Knicks to agree on.
Even after the Kyrie Irving trade, the Boston Celtics still had plenty of assets to offer to the New York Knicks. Yes, Boston was among the teams rumored to be interested in Kristaps Porzingis. And yes, they had the #3 pick ( after trading one for two- #1 for #3 and a future pick ) which was one of the Knicks’ pre-requisites. Future star Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier were still in green post-Kyrie so a combination of Brown and any or Smart or Rozier would’ve had the Knicks happy.
Prior to having Irving, the Celtics even had more with Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley still on board. At that time, the Celtics could’ve offered Thomas and Crowder plus the 3rd pick in the draft. Boston didn’t include the 3rd pick/ Tatum in the Irving deal but if they were getting Porzingis instead, maybe the Brad Stevens would’ve taken the risk. Anyway, he still had the Nets’ 2018 first rounder on hand.
Thomas would’ve been the perfect franchise player for the Knicks. Not only is IT the perfect scoring machine, he is also the kind of leader that the Knicks have long coveted. We saw Thomas’ heroic efforts in Boston last season and if he could’ve brought that act to the world’s most famous arena, it would’ve been a perfect match.
Sure, we know that the Lakers were hell bent on picking Lonzo Ball with the 2nd overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. But what if a parallel universe existed and in that world, LaVar Ball didn’t exist? In that case, Magic Johnson wouldn’t have been bluffed into drafting a kid who was supposedly better than Steph Curry, or so his dad said.
The Lakers also have plenty of young assets to offer the Knicks aside from the #2 pick. The pair of Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson would’ve been a very enticing option for the Knicks. Randle is the versatile big man who plays with the kind of toughness that the Knicks haven’t seen since perhaps Charles Oakley. Jordan Clarkson is the point guard that they badly needed and although JC is more of a scoring point guard, he would’ve been a good fit alongside Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Another interesting option with the Lakers is before the Lakers got Brook Lopez. D’Angelo Russell would’ve been an interesting prospect at the one spot for New York. And if the Lakers offered Russell along with Randle and Clarkson, the Knicks may have found that to be fascinating. In lieu of Clarkson, the Lakers could’ve also offered their ‘other’ first round pick, which turned out to be Kyle Kuzma. That would’ve been a huge bonus for New York.
There were reports when the Knicks weren’t interested in trading Kristaps Porzingis for Kyrie Irving. Really? This was in August and after Phil Jackson was already gone. But if Phil was still around, he would’ve been actively shopping Porzingis, even if it were only to discipline him. Point of the matter is, if the issue with the exit interviews had not been resolved yet, would you think that the Knicks would say no to Kyrie? Maybe not.
Irving is pretty much a transcendent talent like Porzingis. Although they are two very different players, Irving is as much a franchise cornerstone as the 7-3 Latvian is. In fact, when we talk about playing in the clutch this season, nobody has been better than Kyrie except perhaps LeBron James.
If Porzingis was really decided on leaving New York, there was no other proven franchise player nearest to his age than Kyrie Irving. Getting the Top 4 pick to select Josh Jackson would’ve been a risk. Look what Jackson is producing right now. And look how Kyrie is playing for the Celtics. New York was one of Irving’s preferred landing spots so this would’ve been another excellent deal for the Knicks, even without the draft pick.
At the end of the day, Porzingis is happy in New York and the fans are glad that the Knicks kept him. All’s well that ends well in the Big Apple.