You read that right, I believe Phil Jackson is taking the Knicks in the right direction.
If Jackson has done one thing right in New York, it is that he has removed the overpaid superstars, and replaced them with affordable players who care about winning first and VH1 reality TV shows second.
I love Melo and believe he is a true New Yorker but he has fallen into the superstar trap. He does not hustle back on defense or make his teammates better, and he is grossly overpaid when you compare his salary to Lebron, Durant, and other superstars.
Knicks fans know he doesn’t have the skillset to transform a franchise- yet he gets paid like he does have these skills. There is no reason why Melo was outplayed by Paul George in the 2013 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals and stuffed by Roy Hibbert at the rim to lose Game 6 to the Indian Pacers. What team does Hibbert even play for anymore?
There is no reason why Melo was not in the top 10 ranking for small forwards this past year. He was outranked by Jae Crowder and Otto Porter and gets paid 3 times more than Crowder and six times more than Porter.
How can anyone justify Melo's contract?
I grew up through the Marbury years of the Knicks when the Knicks couldn’t win over thirty-five games. The coach then was Larry Brown who coached the Pistons’ dynasty in the early 2000s. But not even Brown could make the playoffs with Marbury leading the show. When Isiah became coach, Marbury caused more problems, even allegedly coming to blows on the plane because Thomas didn’t think Marbury was a starter anymore. Fans like me could not figure out how one of the best players of all time could not coach the Knicks to the playoffs. There was something happening within the Knick's organization that fans couldn't find out.
Post-Marbury, the Knicks best players for several years were Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, and even Kurt Thomas for a while. While each is a fantastic individual player, they are not the type of players that will take a franchise from a sub-30 win team to a playoff contender. Now, Crawford comes off the bench on a stacked Clippers team who can’t make it past the first round of the playoffs. How were the Knicks supposed to even make the playoffs when he was their best player?
Then the Knicks developed the habit of acquiring superstar players past their prime such as Tracy McGrady, Steve Francis, and Kenyon Martin. Fans often tend to forget about this tactic to sell more tickets. Other than drawing big names, albeit way past their prime, these names did not change the losing culture around. Why did we not go to the draft and start investing in the future?
The Knicks strategy for the past 15 years has been all over the place.
When Phil came to the Knicks, he created a strategy of attracting competitors who want to win at reasonable prices. He has done everything he could to take the Knicks away from a circus and towards a respectable playoff team. Trading J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers was a great move to get rid of players that are not worth their value. Granted both players can put a lot of fans in the stands with their athleticism, but they are not the type of players that will win a bunch of basketball games. In five games in the 2017 NBA finals, Shumpert had a total of 18 points and he was paid $10 million in 2017. Smith averaged 12 points in the finals, took a few boneheaded shots, and had several defensive lapses and he was paid $13 million last year. Combined they took up about $23 million in salary, which is difficult to justify.
Too many basketball fans forget that basketball is an actual business and that winning is excellent for business. But in order to win, a team needs to have excellent basketball players at the right price. Golden State is such a great team because they get tremendous value from their players at reasonable prices.
When is the last time a Knicks fan could say that?
Jackson drafted the best player in 2015 draft with Porzingis, besides Towns in Minnesota. Everyone in New York was upset because they didn’t know Porzingis. They preferred Emmanuel Mudiay because he was more athletic. But Mudiay hasn’t turned out to be half the star of Porzingis. Mudiay averaged 11 ppg last year while Porzingis averaged 18 ppg with 2.0 blocks and 7 rebounds.
The trade last year for D-Rose and Joakim Noah had a lot of upside potential but unfortunately has not yet worked out as planned. I still love the move, however, because Jackson was trying to acquire two proven winners to the organization. Granted Lopez is a great player and Grant has a lot of upsides, neither have the winning track record of Rose and Noah who competed in the Eastern Conference against Lebron.
In this draft, Jackson selected Frank Ntilikina from France, which is hard to have a problem with. He didn’t go to a powerhouse college and doesn’t carry himself like a superstar. We will still have to see how he turns out but I love the fact that Jackson is attracting international talent, who are great for building a winning culture and don't come with the "Marbury-esque" uncoachable attitudes. Everyone knows what Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili has done for the Spurs franchise and the duo always had reasonable contracts.
I give Jackson an A+ for eliminating overpaid players (Shump and JR) and injecting the team with some international youth (Porzingis, Hernangomez, and Ntilikina.) His next accomplishment has to be unloading Melo for some more talented youth and he will be the best thing that has happened to Knicks since Ewing.