With rumors swirling of the Knicks shopping Carmelo Anthony, fans have already written the eulogy on his tenure with the team. Some are choosing to look back on the good times with fondness while others have resorted to tearing him apart and blaming him for the Knicks lack of sustainable success during his time in The Big Apple. As a member of the Carmelo is Underappreciated, But I’m Definitely Open to Trading Him Coalition, I’d like to turn my attention to the man running him out of town: Phil Jackson. We are currently in the third year of the Phil Jackson Era and more than enough moves have been made to issue a mid-contract performance review.
March 17, 2014: Phil Jackson signs a 5 year/$12 million contract to become the Knicks team president.
June 25, 2014: Knicks trade Tyson Chandler, and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, and two 2014 2nd round picks.
The Zen Master started his tenure off with a bang by trading one of the Knicks “big three” for players that better fit his system. Looking back on this deal it can be classified as nothing short of a colossal failure. Jose Calderon spent two seasons with the Knicks and spent most that time as a target for fan anger as he averaged 8 points and 4.5 assists per game. What stings more than Calderon’s ineffectiveness is the loss of Chandler for no return. Not only has Chandler remained a strong rebounder and defender, but had Jackson waited until the trade deadline to move him, he could have reeled in a similar package to the two 1st round picks the Nuggets received for Timofey Mozgov.
2014 NBA Draft: Knicks use three 2nd round picks on Louis Labeyrie, Cleanthony Early, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
Three swings and misses, as the kids like to say, that’s a “strikeout.” Labeyrie never suited up for the Knicks, and is the least recognizable name here. Antetokounmpo played a few garbage minutes with the big club, but spent most of his time with the Knicks as a D-leaguer who was overhyped due to his relation to the Greek Freak. Early also played his fair share of garbage minutes, but will go down as the Knick who was shot in front of a Queens nightclub. Early was recently traded by the Knicks D-league team, which did teach me that that is a thing that can happen. Thanks, Cleanthony!
2014 Free Agency: Notable signings: re-signed Carmelo Anthony to a 5 year/$124 million contract.
Wow, I completely forgot how little the Knicks did during this offseason. That being said, Jackson was able to keep Carmelo from fleeing to Chicago, so that’s something. The numbers on this deal may look exorbitant, but with the salary cap constantly on the rise and Carmelo still being a premier talent, I have no problem with this deal.
January 5, 2015: Knicks trade Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith in a three-team trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk, Lance Thomas, and a 2019 2nd round pick.
Another misuse of assets by Phil Jackson, who appears to only trade players when their value is in the basement. Both Smith and Shumpert were contributors on last season’s Cavalier championship team, and LeBron even went out of his way to mock the Knicks making the trade during the Cavaliers victory parade. In return, the Knicks got Lance Thomas and some seat-fillers. Jackson better hope that back-of-the-draft future pick develops into the next Isaiah Thomas.
January 7, 2015: Knicks sign Langston Galloway.
My first instinct was to call this a great pickup, one of the better finds since Jackson has been in New York. Then I found at that Galloway had been cut by the Knicks twice in the previous year, and the only reason he got a chance to shine is because of the following move.
Febuary 19, 2015: Knicks trade Pablo Prigioni to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Alexey Shved and two 2nd round picks (2017, 2019).
Actually, a decent use of a veteran asset by Jackson, hopefully indicative of how he treats this upcoming deadline. Prigioni was an above average point guard and master of the inbounds steal while in New York, but was in no way a long-term asset at 35+ years of age. In return, the Knicks got an unknown in Shved, who didn’t pan out, but did receive two lottery tickets. In a deep 2017 draft the Knicks will have an extra chance at landing a second-round gem.
2015 NBA Draft: Knicks select Kristaps Porzingis (4th overall). Trade Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Jerian Grant. Trade two 2nd round picks (2020, 2021) to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the rights to Willy Hernangomez.
Those who defend the Zen Master constantly being up his selection of Porzingis in the 2015 draft. Despite being a foreign player, Porzingis was always thought highly of by scouts, it’s not as if success in the NBA is a fluke. At the #4 spot in the draft, the pick likely came down to KP, Emmanuel Mudiay, Justise Winslow, or Frank Kaminsky. Jackson went with the player with the highest upside, let’s not grant him carte blanche based off a single draft pick. That aside, great pick Phil! The Hardaway for Grant trade ended up as a wash, both players are playing less than 15 minutes per game, and neither plays for the Knicks. Grabbing the rights to Hernangomez, although the cost was steep for an unknown, has turned out to be an excellent move. Those who have watched him closely this year can tell that Hernangomez can develop into a 25+ minute per game big man with a well-rounded game.
2015 NBA Free Agency: Notable signings: Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, Aaron Afflalo, Kevin Seraphin, and Sasha Vujacic. Notable losses: Andrea Bargnani.
This offseason represented Phil’s first swing at “build around Carmelo and win-now.” Lopez, Afflalo, and Williams all made contributions worthy of their salaries, but none had big enough seasons to alter the direction of the Knicks. Also, Bargnani was taken off the books, so that’s a plus. While this was a fine offseason, the only remaining player from this haul is Sasha Vujacic, a microcosm of the nepotism Phil Jackson has displayed as president of the Knicks.
July 9, 2015: Knicks allow the Orlando Magic the right to swap 2nd round picks in 2019 in exchange for Kyle O’Quinn.
I’ll admit it, Jackson hit a homerun here. In addition to being an offensive and defensive asset off the bench, Jackson signed him to a fiscally conservative contract just after signing him.
June 22, 2016: Knicks trade Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, and Jerian Grant to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, and a 2nd round pick (2017).
At first glance, one might say that this was an excellent deal for the Knicks; betting on Rose’s health has worked out through 48 games for the Knicks. However, I would argue this trade only slightly favors the Knicks and perhaps is even a wash. Trading Lopez allowed Jackson to sign Joakim Noah to a 4 year/$72 million deal. A deal that has blown up in the Knicks face, despite being healthy, Noah appears to be a shell of his Chicago-self. This contract will almost certainly be a bigger hindrance to the Knicks offseason plans than Carmelo Anthony’s. Despite Derrick Rose’s health and offensive production, he has been a complete liability of the defensive end and hasn’t been an effective distributor to this point. Justin Holiday has been a nice surprise off the bench for the Knicks but is in the final year of his contract. As a similar player to Langston Galloway, I question that Phil will pursue resigning him in the upcoming offseason.
2016 NBA Draft: No picks or trades.
2016 NBA Free Agency: Notable signings: Brandon Jennings, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Ron Baker, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas. Notable losses: Aaron Afflalo, Langston Galloway, and Derrick Williams.
As previously mentioned, Jackson’s biggest financial investment, Noah, has been a failure to this point. Brandon Jennings has been as frustrating a player as always, putting up 20+ points and double digit assists from time to time, but far more often, disappearing on the stat sheet for several games at a time. While expensive, Courtney has met all expectations on both the offensive and defensive ends and is certainly a piece the Knicks will hold onto and build with. Like Hernangomez, taking a shot in the dark on Kuzminskas has been a great investment. The two of them, paired with Porzingis, could make up the Knicks frontcourt for the next decade.
Despite the ultra-positive conclusion, Phil’s player moves have included far more misses than hits. This can be said of many GMs, but Phil’s mistakes go much further than roster construction. When he came to the Knicks, Jackson was tasked with hand selecting a coach to run his team; Steve Kerr initially appeared to be a lock for the job before leaving Phil at the alter for the Golden State Warriors and their superior roster. Phil’s second choice, his former point guard Derek Fisher, led the Knicks to their worst record in franchise history before being fired halfway through his second. Jackson then brought in another former player of his, Kurt Rambis, who couldn’t even make it through half a season without a controversy erupting over his liking of pornographic Tweets. Now, Jackson has Jeff Hornacek at the helm, the triangle has been all but abandoned, and the team continues to struggle. In addition to his inability to find a long-term coach for the Knicks, Jackson has failed to attract big-name free agents to New York. In 2014, the Knicks laughably lost out to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Greg Monroe sweepstakes. In 2015, premier free agent Lamarcus Aldridge cancelled a meeting with the Knicks after Jackson insisted that Porzingis was the power forward, and Aldridge could only play center. This has since become laughable as the Knicks are now transitioning Kristaps Porzingis to his more comfortable defensive position, center. Unable to attract stars to “The Mecca of Basketball,” Jackson is now trying to run one out. By now you’re already familiar with the situation, but in broad strokes, it appears that Phil Jackson leaked his negative views on Anthony through his close friend and media member Charley Rosen. Now that the not-so-secret is out, reports are surfacing that Melo is being shopped to the Cavaliers, Celtics, and Clippers. Carmelo Anthony has been with the Knicks for a better part of a decade now, the amount of disrespect Jackson has shown to him is disgusting. Considering his decline (and projected decline) in production, and the fact that the Knicks don’t appear to be close to championship contenders, I would consider trading Melo under the right circumstances and for the right return. The idea that Anthony could be traded for a package centered around Austin Rivers is insulting to both Knicks fans and Carmelo Anthony. I can’t speak for all fans, but here’s hoping that Phil packs up his lackeys, packs up his 11 rings, grabs a flight to LA, and wins back Jeanie Buss. A happy ending for the Zen Master, and a new beginning for the New York Knicks.