By Alex Horowitz
For the first time ever, Phil Jackson is at the helm of a losing team.
Entering December 1, the Knicks stand at a dismal 4-14 record and are 9.5 games out of the first in the division. Despite my overly optimistic feeling entering this season, this is simply not the Knicks year at all. One would think that a team with a star in Carmelo Anthony would lead his team to a decent record, especially when surrounded by players with enormous potential and leadership like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jose Calderon, respectively. Not these Knicks, though. Even after acquiring Calderon from Dallas, a new point guard has not changed the team’s fortunes. Their offense ranks 23rd in the league, while the defense is even worse at 26th. But could this have all been a part of Jackson’s long-term plan for success?
Fast-forward ahead six months. It is right before the NBA draft and the Knicks have a first round selection. Yes, you read that correctly. Even though it seems as if the Knicks trade their prized first round selection each year, the NBA luckily prevents such foolishness from occurring on a yearly basis; teams are unable to trade away a first round pick in consecutive drafts. With a first round pick in their arsenal, the Knicks will have a shot at drafting Duke’s Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky’s Karl Towns, among other top prospects. The catch is, though, that they’ll need to be bad in order to have a chance at grabbing one of those guys- and really bad, at that. Okay, maybe not 76ers bad. But nonetheless, bad enough to be at the top of the lottery.
So, let’s theoretically say that Okafor comes to New York. Already a huge improvement over Samuel Dalembert. Jackson won’t be done just yet, however. It has long been known that the Knicks will heavily pursue Marc Gasol, who is one of the top available big men in the 2015 free agent class. His brother Pau played with Derek Fisher and was coached by Phil, so he’d be key in convincing Marc to come to Manhattan. The Knicks will have ample cap space too, so a max deal is definitely in the realm of possibility. Let’s go with 4 years / $85 million. Let’s also assume that they fill out the remainder of their roster through low key and minimum salary contracts. Here’s what the 2015-16 opening night starting lineup could look like:
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Jahlil Okafor
C: Marc Gasol
Playoff caliber? No doubt.
Championship contender? For sure.
Realistic? Maybe. Obviously I’m banking on a ton of good stuff to turn in the Knicks favor, but hey, it’s the Knicks; they’ve been without a championship since 1973- they need some good luck for once. Knowing the capabilities of the Zen Master, this dream scenario may be anything but a dream come this summer.
During a lost season, it’s tough to find positives to look forward. And, quite frankly, I hate to root for my favorite team to tank. But I see what the Knicks’ plan is leading towards. It’s a process, and not one for the hasty minded fan, but if all goes according to plan, the end results will be basketball paradise.
For the first time ever, Phil Jackson is at the helm of a losing team. Hopefully it’s his last.
Alex Horowitz is a senior at Briarcliff High School and is an aspiring sports writer. As a lifelong sports fan, he has rooted for the New York Knicks, New York Mets, and Detroit Lions. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhorowitz3