If Phil Jackson was never fired: 2017-18 Season
In real life, the Knicks finished the 2017-18 season with a 29-53 record, starting the year off 17-13. The Knicks were carried by Kristaps Porzingis, who had played like an MVP for the first 30 games of the schedule, and Tim Hardaway Jr, Steve Mills’ big signing in the previous offseason. They also had a record of 23-33 at the 2018 NBA trade deadline and traded Willy Hernangomez to Charlotte for two-second rounders.
However, without those two leading the way under this alternate world with Phil Jackson still calling the shots, the Knicks enter the 2018 NBA trade deadline with a record of 14-42. Jackson knew this season was a throw-away and that the Knicks would be tanking for the first pick, positioning themselves for Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton. Knowing that they needed to lose as many games as possible, Jackson entertains trade offers for George Hill.
Knicks trade George Hill to Cleveland
LeBron’s Cavaliers are a mess at 31-22, and Cavaliers GM Koby Altman begins blowing up the roster to surround LeBron with better talent. The Cavaliers want an established, veteran point guard to lead the team in their championship quest, so they call the Knicks about George Hill, who is averaging 14 points and four assists in 29 minutes per night.
Jackson still has beef with Lebron James and is hesitant to help out his foe, but he eventually agrees to a deal, sending George Hill to Cleveland for Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and a 2020 second-round pick.
Knicks buyout Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert undergoes knee surgery
Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert are not thrilled to be back with the Knicks, neither is Phil Jackson. After being painted as the enemy by Lebron James, Jackson has two players who do not want to play for the team. Channing Frye, who is an expiring contract, agrees to a buyout before he puts on a Knicks uniform. Iman Shumpert shows a good face but does not play a game for the Knicks that season, opting for season-ending knee surgery.
The Knicks are content with the trade and end the season 5-21, finishing the season with a 19-63 record, the worst in the league. Jaylen Brown thrives from being the first option in New York and averages 18.3 points and 5.9 rebounds on 43.7% shooting in his sophomore season. Josh Jackson benefits from being the starting small forward all season and averages 15.7 points and 5.3 rebounds on 41.2% shooting from the field, earning All-Rookie second-team honors. Frank Ntilikina averages 7.1 points and 4.3 assists, while Willy Hernangomez regresses, averaging 6.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 14 minutes a night.
The Knicks’ lack of talent was clearly evident this season, but their core pieces showed the potential to be solid NBA players, not a total waste.