Using the New York Knicks Disaster 2014-2015 season
The New York Knicks, so rich in history and with so many great players and coaches, have worked in the so-called "Mecca of basketball". From Patrick Ewing playing for the last great Knick team in the 90s, to Isiah Thomas' disastrous stint as head coach in 2006-08, the Knicks know how to draw big names, and now one of their favourite sons have returned.
Former Knicks dual championship player and one of the greatest coaches to ever coach, Phil Jackson, the 11-time championship winning coach came in as president of basketball operations and as a mentor to rookie coach Derek Fisher. This is the best move owner James Dolan has made in a very long time, and it is time now for him to step back and let Phil do his job to mentor and build a team capable of winning a championship, which the Knicks haven't done for 42 years.
Dolan has a habit of interfering in team operations, which most managers stay out of due to lack of knowledge. This will be the biggest test for Dolan and the Knicks rebuild will hinge on this.
There are two alternatives Phil can take so that these Knicks can come back to better times and become the juggernaut they should be; building through free agency, and building through the draft.
Building Through Free Agency
This is the most popular route for a rebuild these days, and the most likely route Mr. Jackson will take, due to the impatience and expectations of fans and the owner. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right way. In a nutshell it's a shortcut; there are no growing players through the draft together, no watching young college players grow into all stars.
The reason this is such a high risk, high reward option, is because it has failed so many times before. Not every team can be like the 2010-2013 Miami Heat who won two championships in four seasons and made the finals all of those seasons, but this is an exception for the rule.
For every Miami Heat, there is a Los Angeles Lakers who in 2012 tried to build another championship team for Kobe Bryant and failed miserably by trading a mega deal for three time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, and signing two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash. The Lakers ended their one season with Howard with a 45-37 record, and it was a very underachieving team and season.
This is the pitfall the New York Knicks who must not buy into this way of building a team, as it is flawed at its core and is essentially combining three or four players in their prime when they have already blossomed and grown with different playing styles and are used to different tactics. Bringing them into a new environment (bar one who would usually already be at the team) and trying to gel them into a championship winning team is hardly ideal and has rarely worked.
The Knicks have one of the best chances in years to defy the odds and make this theory work. They have Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Cole Alderich, Shane Larkin and Jason Smith, who all are unrestricted free agents this off-season. They also have Quincy Acy and Travis Wear as restricted free agents. Letting these players go could mean excess of 30 million dollars in cap space to find a player to fit next to their cornerstone small forward Carmelo Anthony.
The dream situation for this Knick team would be to combine one or two big free agent signings, such as Paul Millsap and Goran Dragić, and combining them with the odds on top 3 draft pick they will have this draft - who could be anyone from Duke Powerhouse, to centre Jahlil Okafor, to the electric Emmanuel Mudiay. This would significantly speed up the rebuild they are currently under.
The biggest danger with this theory is that with so many funds getting poured into the starting five there is not much left to find a competitive bench that could help this team get onto a championship track. When looking at the pinnacle of bench production, you wouldn't have to look far to see that last years champs, the San Antonio Spurs, had the best bench in recent years - posting an average of 43 points last season. This in terms of building a team is a dream scenario and credit has to be given to Gregg Popovich for building a dynasty with the pieces he did but he didn't build it through free agency.
When looking at what Phil Jackson's best options are, one would argue that this one would be the best because it can lead the team to a quick fix and will have them challenging for a title much sooner than his other option which takes a lot of patience and dedication.
Building Through the Draft
This is a tried and tested method of building a team, and it has a much better success rate in terms of building an NBA team that can last and building sustained success that the Knicks have been missing for quite a few years.
You just have to look at some of the greatest teams in recent history to see that this method works: The Chicago Bulls of the 90s and The San Antonio Spurs of the last decade are two of the best examples of building through the draft. Now teams like Golden State, Toronto and Washington are showing the NBA that building through the draft is still the best way to win.
The Knicks have one problem with this method of building through the draft. By trading for players like Andrea Bargnani, the New York Knicks have lost many of their draft picks for the next five years. 2016 both draft picks have gone to either Denver or Toronto and their second to Houston. They have picks in the first round for 2017, 2018, and 2019 but no second round picks till 2020.
This creates a huge problem because without picks, the Knicks can't draft players. So if this were to work, Jackson must to gain back some of these picks with players like José Calderón and Tim Hardaway Jr who would have to be sacrificed for the greater good.
We have seen David Blatt go through a hard rookie NBA head-coaching season with the monstrously high expectations that have been thrust onto him from coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers and more importantly Lebron James. He has had a renaissance of late but he is also on thin ice if this doesn't pan out. The same cannot happen to Derek Fisher. He must be given time to learn his trade and find what suits him best.
The other benefits are that the next two years have some loaded lottery talent like Jahlil Okafor, Karl Anthony Towns and D'angelo Russell. Ben Simmons and Jaylen Brown, two of the best high schoolers in the world, will be eligible for the draft in 2016. This gives the New York Knicks plenty of opportunity to build a star team for the future with the draft.
Sacrifices do have to be made, the fans of the New York Knicks will have to be tortured with a well below average team, but it is a growing trend with some of the historically great teams like the Lakers, 76ers and Celtics who can be seen mid way through their individual rebuild phases.
The Knicks have some decisions to make now, which could affect this team for the next five to ten years. But with the immensely wise sage Phil Jackson steering this ship there still is a glimmer of hope for the New York Knicks! Lets hope he puts the right plans in place so we can finally see a championship banner get raised in Madison Square Garden!
Annemarie de Villiers is studying sports science and has a dream to be a sports scientist for a professional club. Born in South Africa, raised in New Zealand and tertiary professionally qualified in Melbourne Australia.
Annemarie de Villiers' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/annemarie-de-villiers.html