By Joe Giglio
After whiffing on his first head coaching candidate, Phil Jackson’s recent moves as the head of the Knicks’ front office have been met with league-wide praise. From the fleecing of the Dallas Mavericks in this week’s trade to the drafting of Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early, the Knicks are on the right path heading into free agency.
Currently, the Knicks don’t have the cap room to sign a major free agent or assets to accelerate a rebuilding process that will take at least one full year from Jackson and his front office.
Yet, if there’s one way to change the present and future of the Knicks, it’s by facilitating a superteam in Houston with Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
Every summer, two or three ridiculous rumors take off and become mainstream fodder. In most years, the idea of the Rockets sending a star like James Harden to the Knicks as part of a massive sign-and-trade package, while also netting James in the process, would come across as nonsense.
This summer, with James’ free agency once again holding every front office in the NBA hostage, it holds validity.
In a perfect world, the Knicks would be in on the James sweepstakes, have enough assets and the ability to fit Anthony, James and other stars into the big stage at MSG. That, much like the idea of James leaving Cleveland for New York 2010, is outrageous.
While it would be easy to re-sign Anthony to a max deal or refuse to help him and James team up anywhere, Jackson should use New York’s leverage to coarse a superstar from the Rockets next month.
Harden may be a defensive liability that was exposed in the postseason, but don’t let a few bad games in May change the bottom line with the 24-year-old scorer. Harden, years from his prime, is the perfect two guard for Jackson’s triangle offense and an ideal building block for the next contending Knicks team.
Last year, while helping the Rockets win 54 games, Harden averaged 25.4 points, 6.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. On the surface, those numbers are impressive. Yet, when digging deeper, they become even more amazing.
In the history of the NBA, here’s a complete list of players, regardless of position, to average at least 25-6-4 in a single season: LeBron James, Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Dwyane Wade, Clyde Drexler, Rick Barry, Derrick Rose, John Havlicek, Richie Guerin and Harden.
That’s it, folks.
Much has been made about Jackson’s immense success when coaching some of the league’s best players and tandems. With more championship rings than fingers, Jackson’s famous triangle offense has always been at its best with a scoring shooting guard leading the pace.
Harden isn’t close to Jordan or Bryant, but he profiles now as what each of those players did in their respective primes: the best shooting guard in the NBA.
With Wade in decline and many of the highly-skilled young guards in the league profiling as point or combo guards, not many true two-guards exist with the skillset to be the lead man in the triangle offense that Derek Fisher will soon implement.
New York doesn’t need Harden and can easily form a winning nucleus with shrewd trades, solid drafting and wise signings next summer. Yet, if the Rockets are intent on giving James a new Big Three in Houston, offering up Anthony for Harden is too good for the Knicks to pass up.
Joe Giglio was the winner of Fantasy Phenom III in 2012. You can hear him on WFAN on Sunday from 2-6 a.m. Twitter? He’s on it @JoeGiglioSports
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