FanFiction: New York Knicks Edition


New York used to be an attractive place for free agents, but is the era of big name branding done with?

By now, everyone in New York knows that the New York Knicks are done for the season and are gearing towards the draft and free agency. Phil Jackson’s clock will start to tick as soon as the Knicks are on the board on draft night, but what can the Knicks do to improve their odds for next year? Carmelo Anthony alone (AND coming off a knee injury) does not appeal to potential FA targets, so how else can the Knicks get players to come to the Big Apple?

Jan 19, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) talks to teammate center Amar

Knick fans across the nation are getting wide-eyed about the possibility of landing the No. 1 overall draft pick. Throughout the past few drafts, the worst team in the NBA record wise has not necessarily received the top pick. The New Jersey Nets were the best example of this; they went 12-70, but were left with the #3 selection of the draft, which turned out to be Derrick Favors. They were the worst team in the NBA and were historically bad, but were not guaranteed the first overall pick, which the Wizards used to select John Wall.

The current Knicks team looks like they will be historically bad as well, but they too are not guaranteed the No. 1 pick. Even if they landed the first pick, what makes fans believe that the prospect will develop? With the one-and-done’s in today’s NCAA, players are no longer developing fully before declaring for the draft. The consensus top college player in basketball, Jahlil Okafor, is not a lock to be the next Dwight Howard or Anthony Davis, for that matter. Even Davis took a few years to develop, so whomever the Knicks choose, the player most likely will not have a tremendous impact on next season.

The top free agent candidates for this coming summer include Marc Gasol, Goran Dragic,  Greg Monroe, and Rajon Rondo. Others who MAY be available (but probably will not), are LeBron James and Kevin Love, if they opt out. It seemed when Dallas made the trade for Rondo that he would re-sign with them,  but his issues with coach Rick Carlisle may allow him to explore other options. Gasol most likely will stay with the Grizzlies, but there could be an outside shot of other big market teams making an enticing bid. Kevin Love’s motivation to stay with the Cavs would be purely for annual-championship reasons, though I doubt he likes being the third fiddle in Cleveland. Dragic initially seemed to be available, but his trade to the Miami Heat makes it unlikely for him to leave.

Before globalization and small town players being awarded multimillion dollar shoe deals, the best way for NBA players to make the most money was to get endorsements in either New York or Los Angeles, the big name cities. Nowadays, with shoe companies not caring about the city the players play in, star athletes in other markets, like Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard are also receiving lucrative shoe endorsements. New York is not as attractive as it may have been a decade ago, but it is still the Big Apple and New York sports fans are the best in the world.

More from Carmelo Anthony

Back to free agency now. Suppose Jackson and the Knicks sign Rondo and draft Okafor, and still allocate money for summer of 2016, when Durant and Davis may become available. Even with a core of Okafor, Melo, and Rondo, the Knicks will not be a major threat to teams like Washington, Cleveland, or Chicago. These three Eastern Conference elite teams already would have chemistry under the belt and would be able to squash a new Knicks team which would not have played together in a high pressure playoff atmosphere. Rondo, Melo, and Okafor would probably be .500 through the first 41 games while building chemistry, but would not have much playoff experience while playing together. True, the Knicks would be better, but this will not be enough to contend with the main Eastern Conference powerhouses.

Let’s go further along with the Knicks pipe dream. Suppose that somehow they spend wisely and have room for 1 more max player in 2016, even with Rondo and Melo on the books. There is virtually no chance that Durant, LeBron or Davis would want to come to New York unless the Knicks were a legitimate championship threat or unless their respective teams collapse in 2015. The culture of New York sports needs to be rebuilt as well. The city name itself is no longer as attractive for free agents to come here as it used to be. The best way now to attract players is to instill a winning culture. Unless the Knicks happen to be a real title threat next year, then the idea of big time free agents coming here is, well, just fan fiction.

Next: Are the Knicks closer to winning a title than the Nets?

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