By John Schmeelk
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The worst season of Knicks basketball I’ve ever experienced in my 33 years on this planet is finally over. 17-65. They Knicks have finally bled out. The torture is over. Every Knicks fan can now put this nightmare behind him and move forward.
Knicks fans don’t have to watch Jason Smith take another mid-range jump shot. Witnessing Andrea Bargnani clang a three, only to run down and watch someone score a layup right in front of him, is now officially in the past. Amar’e Stoudemire will never vow to be his old dominant self ever again in a Knicks uniform. Cole Aldrich will not air-ball a 12-foot hook in the World’s Most Famous Arena ever again. Quincy Acy will disappear, never to return to the Knicks.
It’s finally, finally over.
Next year’s roster will look nothing like this one. The holdovers not named Carmelo Anthony will be more roster filler than main cogs, spare perhaps Jose Calderon, who could still be a big part of the rotation. If Tim Hardaway Jr., Langston Galloway and Lance Thomas are still playing 30 minutes a game, the team will be in trouble. The team very likely will not be championship caliber, but it should at least be able to compete for a playoff spot.
The first help will come in the draft. With the Knicks losing their final game of the season to the Pistons and securing the second worst record in the league, their lottery odds line up like this:
1st place: 19.9 percent (5.1 percent less than Minnesota)
2nd place: 18.8 percent (2.7 percent less than Minny)
3rd Place: 17.1 percent (.7 percent less than Minny)
4th Place: 31.9 percent (3.8 percent less than Minny)
5th Place: 12.3 percent (12.3 percent more than Minny)
A great chart of all the odds can be found here.
My early take on the draft is that it’s five deep. Karl-Anthony Towns is on top of my board, with Jahlil Okafor coming in at number two. Emmanuel Mudiay is not far behind at three, and then D’Angelo Russell and Justise Winslow round out the top five. (I reserve the right to change my mind in the next 40 days.)
A lot of people love Euro prospect Kristaps Porzingis, but there are always risks with bringing a player over from Europe. Towns and Mudiay seem to have the highest athletic ceilings with Winslow right behind them. Okafor and Russell are the most polished offensively, but they aren’t super explosive athletes and they struggle defensively.
Once the Knicks pick in the draft, they’ll have somewhere between $25 million and $30 million to spend in free agency, and then a lot next offseason as well. They can throw max money at any number of players (though the only ones worth that money are probably the guys who won’t come to New York: LeBron James, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard). But the Knicks can also take all their cap space and spread it around to several tier-two and tier-three free agents, building a team that will play team ball and very solid defense.
Phil Jackson is now on the clock. He had his year to tear down. The rebuild starts now. He can’t screw this part up, or the Knicks could be set back another decade. The worst, at least for now, is over. It is finally time to look forward to potentially better times. The work starts now. The ping-pong balls bounce in May. The draft happens in June. Free agency starts in July. The Knicks need to do well in all three.
The rebuild starts now.
Over the next couple of months I’ll write about potential Knicks free-agent and draft targets.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports.