When the Knicks hired Scott Perry on July 14th last year, it signified a complete regime change for the organization. The Phil Jackson era had ended, and the Knicks seemed utterly hopeless. Now, entering year two, the Scott Perry-led Knicks actually look like a competent NBA franchise with a specific plan in place. Take a quick second to scan over the problems Perry inherited when he took over the role.
- Joakim Noah was owed $54 million for three more seasons
- Courtney Lee was owed $36 million over three years
- Carmelo Anthony had demanded a trade out of New York with two years and $50 million on his deal (Not to mention Anthony was coming off an injury-plagued season and his play declined which made his contract nearly untradeable).
- The relationship between Kristaps Porzingis and the organization was at an all-time low which led to Porzingis skipping his exit interview
- No true point guard on the roster
- Limited draft assets
Youth, Defense, Patience
Perry had his work cut out for him. During his introductory press conference, he preached three pillars for the rebuild: Youth, Defense, Patience. Perry knew the era of “quick fixes” was over. He needed to overhaul the roster from top to bottom.
“I’m excited about the young core players,” he said, “a young team that’s going to play energetic, that’s going to compete on a nightly basis.”
At the time, the core of the Knicks was Porzingis, Ntilikina, Hardaway, and Dotson. Luke Kornet and Isaiah Hicks were players on a two-way contract. Perry then added, “I will work tirelessly to develop a culture that demands results, commitment and pride from everyone fortunate enough to be associated with our team — from our staff to our players.”
This was music to Knicks fans’ ears. Perry’s first big move was dealing Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second pick via Chicago. The rebuild had begun.
The Knicks were active at the trade deadline. They had found a diamond in the rough with Trey Burke and were able to flip McDermott for Emmanuel Mudiay. Between Mudiay, Burke, and Ntilikina, the Knicks have three ball handlers all under 25.
The Knicks were also able to flip Willy Hernangomez to Charlotte for future second picks in 2019 and 2021 to replenish their chest of future draft assets.
Perry’s vision has become even more defined when he named David Fizdale to replace Jeff Hornacek as the coach. Fizdale has a strong reputation of being a player’s coach and a knack for preparing his players to compete each night. Fizdale can easily relate to the Knicks’ younger talent which will be crucial for player development. The Knicks targeted Fizdale as their first choice, and Perry got his man.
Knox and Robinson
The patience and youth that Perry preached have started to pay dividends for the Knicks this offseason. In the draft, the Knicks were able to grab Kevin Knox with the 9th overall pick and took Mitchell Robinson with the 36th overall pick they received in the Carmelo Anthony trade.
Knox and Robinson created a lot of buzz in Summer League. Both flashed immense potential, and Knox looked like he can contribute from day one. Kevin Knox made the Summer League All-First Team averaging 21.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in his four games. Robinson led all summer participants in blocks per game swatting away four per game.
In free agency, the Knicks didn’t go out and overpay for a veteran past his prime. Instead, the Knicks targeted Mario Hezonja and Noah Vonleh, two players who are still just 23 years of age with significant upside. Between the two of them, they’ll make a combined $9 million in salary. That’s reasonably good value for two former lottery picks who may just be able to tap into their potential with a change of scenery.
Perry has also been smart in not buying out Noah. Perry knows that the Porzingis injury prevents the Knicks from competing for the playoffs, so there’s no harm in letting Noah play every now and then to collect paychecks until his contract expires.
If the Knicks were to buy out Noah, they’d be eating between $5-$6 million in dead cap space for the next five years. That’d be an unnecessary self-inflicted wound. Plus, the Knicks can still trade him next year with his expiring deal. The Knicks will have between $18-$30 million in cap space for the 2019 offseason. They’ll likely be a bottom-five team, so they’ll have a high pick in the upcoming draft headlined by players such as R.J Barrett, Nassir Little, and Cameron Reddish.
Even though they’ll be bad, Perry is still doing his job and doing it well.
The Knicks will enter next year with the following roster:
- Ball Handlers – Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, Ron Baker, Alonzo Trier (Two Way)
- Wings – Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Kevin Knox, Mario Hezonja, Damyean Dotson
- Forwards/Bigs – Kristaps Porzingis (injured), Lance Thomas, Enes Kanter, Mitchell Robinson, Noah Vonleh, Joakim Noah, Luke Kornet, Isaiah Hicks (Two way).
In just one year, Perry hit his goal of making the team younger, more athletic, and better defensively. The Knicks now employ eight former lottery picks under 25. The Knicks’ future no longer looks so bleak.
For that, Scott Perry deserves the praise for implementing a plan and following through with it. With cap space, a high selection in the 2019 draft, Porzingis’ return from his ACL tear, and the development of Knox, Ntilikina, and Robinson, there is finally hope on the horizon for the Knicks and their fans. Another good offseason next year and the Knicks could be a formidable foe in the East for years to come. Who could have seen that coming just a season ago?
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Image credit: NY Post