It’s been a big summer for the Knickerbockers, so it’s time to examine Phil Jackson’s job as team president of the New York Knicks thus far.
It’s been a busy Summer in New York. As the temperature continues to rise, so does the level of talent on the New York Knicks’ roster. For the first time in a while, the Knicks have a balanced lineup, adding Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah to the starting five.
Phil Jackson, who was hired as the teams President of Basketball Operations in March of 2014, endured harsh criticisms about his health and availability, his dedication, and his skills as an executive during his introductory season. Those criticisms were warranted; the Knicks went 17-65 and suffered the worst season in franchise history en route to earning the No. 4 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Since then, he’s made great strides toward turning the Knicks into a legitimate contender in the East. Entering the 2016-17 season, here are some reasons why it’s time to trust in Phil.
A Consistent Approach to Free Agency
Gone are the days of Amar’e, Starbury, Steve Francis, and Eddy Curry. Jackson has shown discipline during his two trips into free agency. He’s signed guys like Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, and Courtney Lee to low-cost contracts that make sense for the organization. He’s done a great job of plugging holes in the roster with guys who fit what the team needs, and that’s refreshing.
Success in the NBA Draft
Jackson and the Knicks’ front office hit the jackpot with Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis, who was met with boos and skepticism by fans in the Summer leading up to his NBA debut. With his gamble on Porzingis striking gold, he’s proven that the Knicks have a process for evaluating talent, and that the process is working very well. Jackson was able to find success in recruiting talent from the D-League, and later in the draft as well. He put young combo guard Langston Galloway on the map as an athletic rotational guard, as well as molding point guard Jerian Grant into a tradable asset.
Jackson’s run as Knicks President began with a few lackluster moves—mainly the Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton, and J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert trades. Those mistakes were redeemed, however, when Jackson was able to trade away Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks for the rights to draft Jerian Grant, a key cog in the deal that brought Derrick Rose to New York this summer. Jackson has shown an increasing aptitude for valuing his assets and making decisions with that value in mind.
Holding on to Draft Picks
From 2010 to the 2015 NBA Draft, where they selected Kristaps Porzingis #4, the Knicks made only 2 first-round picks in the NBA Draft. They hadn’t made a pick in the Top 16 since Jordan Hill in 2009, trading away virtually all of their future first-round picks in blockbuster trades.
After missing out on the first round of the draft in 2016 because of the trade that brought Andrea Bargnani to New York in 2013, the Knicks draft picks are fully intact moving forward. The flexibility that comes with a future first, to provide some affordable depth, is something the Knicks haven’t been able to rely on for a pretty long time.
Like many other decisions Jackson has made, that’s a huge step in the right direction.