New York Knicks attempting to learn from past mistakes

Steve Mills, New York Knicks (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Steve Mills, New York Knicks (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks have lived and died by trades and free agency. Steve Mills is attempting to learn from the mistakes of his predecessors.

The New York Knicks have a longstanding history of making a big splash and ignoring the ripple effect. Landing a big name has been an appealing enough decision for a title-hungry fan base to ignore the short shelf life of a free agent or the decrepit roster that’s left in the wake of a trade.

As championship-caliber teams continue to be built through the NBA Draft, however, the Knicks are finally realizing the importance of sustainability.

New York is turning over a new leaf, uncharacteristically valuing the NBA Draft over free agency. Bad contracts and fragile relationships have overshadowed that development in the short-term, but the details found in recent Carmelo Anthony trade rumors are a promising sign for the future.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the Knicks want a significant return if they’re going to trade Anthony.

"After Jackson’s firing last week, the Knicks have maintained a stance of wanting significant assets back for Anthony in a trade and have resisted the idea of a contract buyout, league sources said."

Of even greater significance is that the Knicks are opposed to the idea of taking on long-term salaries belonging to older players.

"Sources said the Knicks are trying to avoid long-term salary commitments to older players."

Who are these Knicks and what have you done with the past 19 years of James Dolan’s influence?

Team president Phil Jackson was justifiably dismissed, but he put the Knicks in a better long-term position than they were in when he took over. That starts with Kristaps Porzingis, whom most have deemed the the most promising young talent New York has built around since Patrick Ewing.

The Porzingis trade rumors were undeniably concerning, but the fact he’s on the roster is a reason to be thankful.

Fellow Jackson draft-night acquisition Willy Hernangomez was named All-Rookie First Team in 2016-17. Frank Ntilikina was selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and second-round selection Damyean Dotson is earning praise for his lights-out shooting.

Some may question whether or not Ntilikina and Dotson were the right selections, but Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders provided necessary context:

"Last week, the Knicks made a pick in both the first and second rounds of the same draft for the first time since 2005!"

That’s both inspiring and sickening.

It took 12 years for the Knicks to utilize both their first and second-round selections in the same NBA Draft. Jackson, of course, inherited a situation in which the previous regimes had traded New York’s 2014 and 2016 first-round selections.

In the one year before 2017 that Jackson inherited a first-round selection, he selected Porzingis at No. 4 overall and traded for Hernangomez at No. 35.

Both selections have worked out wonderfully, and Jackson has New York in possession of all of its first-round selections moving forward.

This isn’t a puff piece written in Jackson’s favor; its focus is actually equal on his shortcomings. Facing pressure to build around Anthony—to whom he never should have given a no-trade clause—he handed out an inexcusable four-year, $72 million contract to Joakim Noah.

Signing Noah wasn’t a bad move unto itself—he’s regarded as a great locker room influence—but the length of the contract was instantly criticized.

Furthermore, Jackson’s inability to help team morale was the ultimate justification of his firing. It was also the last straw that New York needed before it was ready to move on to someone who had been studying these events as closely as anyone.

Equipped with his own basketball knowledge and a rooted understanding of what not to do as an executive, Mills is ready to learn from the Knicks’ past failures and build upon the successes.

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Due to both the contributions of Phil Jackson and the timing of his recent departure, the New York Knicks are in a better place than they were when he took over.

Steve Mills will attempt to build upon that positives.