The New York Knicks have been the worst franchise in the NBA since the 1999 season. They have been the laughing stock and butt of many jokes as a dysfunctional, chaotic organization. Knick fans have been suffering but have stayed loyal, selling out home games at Madison Square Garden.
It all starts at the top with owner, James Dolan. He hasn’t found the right front office/head coach combination or stay out of their way.
Since the miracle run in 1999 to the NBA Finals as an eighth seed, New York has had just five winning season with six playoff appearances, although they made the playoffs in 2004 with a losing record. Their futility has been well documented, from bad draft picks to terrible free agent signings to a frat house like office atmosphere.
The culture of the Knicks’ organization changed when James Dolan decided to put basketball minded people in charge with President Steve Mills, General Manager Scott Perry and Head Coach David Fizdale. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle: he left them alone so they could actually do their jobs.
The last and hardest phase to cleaning up their image is for Dolan to avoid public relation disasters. Some were with former players. (most recently Charles Oakley) Others were with fans, such as when Dolan banned one for telling him to sell the team after a game. The ban has since been lifted.
This front office/head coach combination works well together and they are on the same page as far as team direction and team identity is concerned. These are often underestimated and critical to long term organizational/team success.
The plan from day one was to acquire young talent and get rid of bad contracts and players who were not committed to New York. So far, so good but there is still more work to be done.
Going into the 2019 offseason, the Knicks have the third overall pick in the upcoming draft and with it, a chance to get a future star. They also have a second rounder, which shouldn’t be scoffed at considering last year’s pick was second team All-Rookie center Mitchell Robinson.
They also have the more cap space than any team in a loaded free agent pool full of elite/top tier talent (a position they have never been in). The front office had a successful first draft with Robinson, first round pick Kevin Knox and undrafted gem Allonzo Trier. With such a young team, player development will be essential moving forward.
They have some options in free agency but the draft will start the ball rolling and will dictate targets based off who they select. One thing is for sure, Kevin Durant is the biggest free agent prize and the Knicks top target (even with his recent achilles injury). They’ll know more about the second free agent target after the draft.
There are certainly no guarantees but the foundation is being laid to rebuild this team the right way.