Tom Thibodeau/Julius Randle/Leon Rose Treated Image
In a year and a half that passed by in what felt like both a blink and a lifetime, Knicks fans went from nervous optimism towards a couple of their young pieces and a new front office to requesting paid time off for future parade dates.
When James Dolan first hired Leon Rose, many interpreted the move as another inevitable failure, one more false messiah that promises glory and delivers disappointment. Several smart hires, signings and trades, plus one Julius Randle breakout later and the franchise successfully restored some measure of its former glory.
In the whirlwind that led the Knicks to this moment and the euphoria for fans getting to experience a playoff team again, there was never a moment to let the job Rose and his staff did settle in. Now with two offseasons under his belt and huge hype surrounding his second full regular season, it might be time to recognize that the Knicks finally found their winning front office.
Some context first. Not since the days of Donnie Walsh and Isiah Thomas have the Knicks employed the same President for at least three years. That’s five different executives in the past decade, or six tenures since Steve Mills got two separate rounds of it.
The results are well known: a myriad of losing seasons and ill-thought out transactions to make up for them. There was sending multiple picks out for Andrea Bargnani, throwing $72 million dollars at an unproven Tim Hardaway Jr., and the botched Carmelo Anthony exit, among others. It seems the Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina picks, after years of patience, can be written off as busts.
While it’s only been two offseasons, it’s safe to say things have turned around.
It started from the beginning, with savvy hires that are already paying dividends. Rose hired Brock Aller – known for his salary cap expertise – who undoubtedly helped negotiate New York’s craftier deals of late, such as saving $3 million in cap space by trading out of this year’s Draft, opening up the door to signing Kemba Walker.
Walt Perrin, hired as an assistant to Scott Perry for college scouting, is amassing a solid draft record in New York to pile on his already impressive resume. Then there’s Tom Thibodeau, hired to help establish a culture and bring a competitiveness and edge sorely missed, but he wouldn’t do it alone.
Rose and co. decided to retain Randle after a disappointing first season with the Knicks, putting their faith in his growth and commitment. Combined with Thibodeau, the two formed the bedrock of New York’s comeback.
Each individual move since can be scrutinized, but here’s the big picture:
The Knicks no longer owe any of their own draft picks elsewhere, while they’re owed two firsts and six seconds from across the league.
In two years they’ll only have $50 million in guaranteed money on the books, including a cost-controlled All-NBA talent. And they still have four lottery picks/talents aged 23 or younger, not counting this year’s picks.
One summer turned a 21-45 team into a 41-31 team, despite few major roster changes. Then, they retained most of their talent on mostly good deals, upgraded on the wing, and somehow landed a recent four-time All-Star for less than they’re paying Nerlens Noel.
Not all of this was perfect, certain things may have even been luck. And this isn’t to downplay the strides made by past regimes nor block criticism of the current one.
Should the Knicks fail to advance a round in the Playoffs over the next several years, this may turn into a very different conversation.
That just doesn’t seem likely.
This isn’t the Knicks of old when harsh skepticism aligned with reality. The evidence thus far has been too convincing – this front office knows what it’s doing.
Knicks fans can start getting comfortable with that fact.