The Knicks Are Executing a 4-Point Plan

The Philadelphia 76’ers had a Process. The Knicks have a Plan. And they are executing on that plan — despite the media smashing them relentlessly all summer into the Fall. Here is the plan as we see it — a 4-point plan:

1. Develop a Young Core

The Knicks have: RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Allonzo Trier, and Frank Ntilikina. That’s a pretty good young core.

  • Barrett (age 19) has a terrific all-around game and looks like he will be a star in the NBA.
  • Mitchell Robinson (age 21) is an elite big man with sky-high ceiling — he was the best big man on the court the other night in a game against Dallas and Kristaps Porzingis.
  • Knox (age 20) was looking very good early this season — a legit 6’11’ with modern game (either shoots the 3 or drives to basket with Eurostep; no in betweens), with beautiful and efficient 3-pt shot. He is a tad awkward on offense and defense. The Knicks management needs to make a determination if that will dissipate.
  • Dennis Smith Jr (age 21) had a horrible start to season but came alive against Dallas; remember LeBron James speaking so glowingly of him — a year ago.
  • Allonzo Trier (age 24) can score with the wind and is currently leading the Knicks in shooting percentage from 3 and from 2 despite being on the bench right now.
  • Ntilikina (age 21) is “a dog” who can turn a game around with his defense.

The Knicks currently have the youngest team in the NBA.

2. Maintain Cap Flexibility to Add “the Right” Superstars

The Knicks were crucified this summer for not signing elite Max free agents like they said they were. Two points here:

  1. The NBA has changed in the last two years. The Salary Cap was massively expanded — kept artificially low in the $50+ million area for over 15 years it has now more than doubled into the $110 million range. But the Max Contract has also increased — players are now getting $40 Million/year, 5-year contracts. Two types of contracts have emerged — superstars are getting that 5-year, Max Money contract; most other players are getting 2- and 3-yr with-club-option-for-final-year contracts — essentially 1- and 2-year contracts. This gives teams cap flexibility. It also means clubs have to be EXTREMELY careful on who they give their 5-year Max Money contracts to.
  2. Any good Plan is one that is flexible — can be changed as external forces change. The external forces that changed last year were:
  • Kevin Durant blew out his achilles. The Knicks were extremely lucky here — lucky that Durant played the final game of the NBA finals and fully blew out his achilles, making it an easy decision for the Knicks to not fully pursue him. Before that, he was down with a ‘calf sprain’. If you saw the play, Durant simply took a jumper and his leg collapsed — not a good sign: there was something up there more than a sprain. Even before the injury, it would be risky business signing Durant as great as he is, because he would be 31 years old this year. The Knicks have a 40-year history of getting an elite star just on the back end of his bell curve due to age or injury (Xavier McDaniel, Larry Johnson, Antonio McDyess, Amare Stoudemire). Durant at 31 has a 3-year window. Now he’ll be 32 when he next plays, coming off an achilles — and yet the Knicks were raped by the media for not pursuing to sign him anyway!
  • Kyrie Irving poisoned the Boston Celtics clubhouse all last season. It was like watching something fall in slow motion. Month by month there was another incident or public comment. Kyrie became a poison pill — something that you had to sign to get Durant.

Media has it that the Knicks should have still used their 2 Max salary slots to sign other elite stars. Who?

  • Kemba Walker? Kemba was an ill-fit for NY — he is 29 which means as a super fast point guard, he’s also looking at a 3-year window. The Knicks are looking to see what they have in Dennis Smith Jr. Kemba was a perfect fit for Boston and it would’ve been folly to try to inject themselves into that situation.
  • Kawhi Leonard would have moved the needle but he’s at a point in his career where he wants to win (again) now. Plus he’s another eccentric fellow who only a year ago nobody wanted to touch because he’d done the unthinkable — quit on and feuded with Greg Popovich.
  • Who else were the Knicks supposed to lay a 5-year Max Money deal on? Jimmy Butler (age 29)? Klay Thompson (age 29 and wedded to the Warriors)? Tobias Harris? Kris Middleton (wedded to the Bucks)? D’Angelo Russell?

The Knicks’ “Money Ball” Free Agency

Instead the Knicks played it smart with a “Money Ball” free agency, signing lesser stars such as Marcus Morris and Julius Randle to 2- and 3-year contracts with club option for 2nd year — essentially 1- and 2-year contracts.

The “Right” Max-Money Superstars

This keeps them in perfect cap position for the upcoming summers — when greatest-player-of-all-time types Anthony Davis (who will be 27 in summer 2020) and “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo (who will be 26 in summer 2021) become free agents.

Anthony Davis, who demanded a trade to LA or the Knicks, famously cautioned to not be so fast in thinking he’ll resign with the Lakers, although one would assume they will do everything in their power to resign him since they gave up so much to get him.

Elite Free Agents DO Want to Come to New York

Some say “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo would never come to the loser Knicks. That no elite free agents would sign with NY. That’s just fake news and narrow-minded analysis:

  • LeBron James stated last year that it was either LA or the Knicks for him, when he chose LA last summer.
  • Anthony Davis requested a trade to either NY or LA. Several years ago when he was just 23 he signed a long extension with New Orleans, then as he got older realized he’d outgrown New Orleans. New Orleans is a great town to visit, as is Milwaukee.
  • Carmelo Anthony years ago Demanded a trade to the Knicks.
  • Just this summer, Marcus Morris had a verbal agreement with San Antonio and Greg Popovich, then changed his mind and signed with the Knicks!!! This received almost zero coverage by the main stream sports media.
  • If a superstar of Greek Freak or AD’s ability came to NY and helped the Knicks win they would become LEGENDS.

If the Knicks can establish themselves as a team on the rise, there is no question Greek Freak would entertain coming to the Knicks. Which is why the next part of the plan is so important.

3. Develop a Winning Culture via Coaching & Improving Roster

The first two parts of the plan (above) are in place; the Knicks must now develop a winning culture. That is why they did the “Money Ball” free agency to bring the (young) veterans like Marcus Morris and Julius Randle in (along with 3-pt shooters like Bobby Portis and Wayne Ellington).

The Knicks need to start Winning now. 35 wins this year. 40 wins next. A team on the rise.

And this is why the PRESSURE is on David Fizdale the coach.

Sometimes a coach is only good as his assistant coaches (see Doc Rivers with Tom Thibodeau his defensive assistant coach and secret sauce to the 2009 Celtics title), and Fizdale has two with great reputations in Keith Smart and Mike Miller.

This summer, the Knicks promoted Miller from Westchester to Fizdale’s assistant coaching ranks. Miller led the Westchester Knicks to the playoffs the last two years, and won Coach of the Year in G League in 2017-18. So Miller is there not only to help as an assistant coach, but probably as an insurance policy as well. If Fizdale fizzes, Miller may take over this season. (A contingency plan within the overall plan.)

4. Be in NYC

This part of the plan is done. New York City is the place where.

This doesn’t seem like part of a plan — but it was for the Nets, who moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn as part of their plan for increased attendance. Most owners of NBA clubs wish they could move their team to NYC. The Knicks were blessed with this advantage as a birthright, and it is an important advantage for them — even if people say it doesn’t matter anymore with global endorsements and communication.

The Garden ROCKS like a playoff game for regular season games — not just the one with Porzingis the other night — think back to the end of last season when the Knicks — the 17-win Knicks — won a game in the last week — the Garden was ROCKING like a playoff game. The celebrities are on the sidelines. The atmosphere is stratospheric.

This part of the plan interweaves with point 2 of the plan above. Being in NYC will attract the elite free agents, if you can execute #3 above.

Everyone Should Have a Plan

Everyone should have a plan as good as the Knicks plan above. Examine your work, and your life, and your financial situation. Lay down a 4-point plan. Then execute.

The Knicks have a plan. And they are executing.

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