After a rollercoaster day for Knicks fans, media and seemingly staff, the organization's best prospect since Patrick Ewing is now a Dallas Maverick, they have roughly $74 million in cap space to throw around this summer, and this city has gone *erases, scribbles* 0 days since the last melodrama.
A brief recap: Kristaps Porzingis was reportedly upset with the team's direction, aired his concerns out to management and wanted out, to which Scott Perry and Steve Mills quickly responded by flipping him, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, a 2021 unprotected first round pick and 2023 top-10 protected first round pick.
Got all that? Well, the timeline of all this transpiring is still fuzzy, and it's looking like the Knicks did not hold out for the best offer, try to reconcile with KP, or even salvage his trade value before moving on. That's okay though, because now the team is prime to sign two max deals (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, anyone?), or fall back squarely on whatever's left of this 10-win roster and what comes up of this year's lottery pick.
It was a hectic series of events, even for Knicks standards, and there's still just under a week until the trade deadline and free agents to woo. Here's where New York is likely to go from here: The first step should be to waive Jordan and Matthews. They're nice players, but winning is not the priority right now with the Knicks fending off fellow tankers for the worst record in the league.
With the new Draft Lottery rules, this position doesn't actually secure top odds for the first pick, and with it Zion Williamson. But finishing last would assure they don't slip further down than fifth in the draft order. Trading one or both could be an option, but it's hard to imagine them getting much back in value without taking on longer-term salary.
So what moves can the Knicks make at the deadline? The Anthony Davis sweepstakes is all but out of the question now, and there isn't much salary left to shed.
They now have a bit of an awkward situation at point guard however, with a big twist on the mini-rivalry of Frank Ntilikina and Smith Jr. The two were selected one after the other, and have been the subjects of major debate among fans and even LeBron James. It's possible head coach David Fizdale is privy to the idea of them competing against one another for the starting job and playing time, but given his lack of confidence in Ntilikina, a trade could be in the works.
One option could be flipping him for the Orlando Magic's Mo Bamba, whose name has appeared in trade rumors recently. The Phoenix Suns are short a point guard for their young core, so the Knicks can try and talk them into shipping Dragan Bender or Josh Jackson.
Another direction New York can go in is flipping someone they'd have to battle the market to re-sign, such as an Emmanuel Mudiay or Noah Vonleh. Either should be able to net a pick from a competitive team looking for added depth.
Unless the Knicks have another blockbuster up their sleeve, there probably isn't much else to their trade deadline strategy. Then comes what's sure to be a slog of a final stretch of the season. During that time, the Knicks can do two things to set themselves up for the all-or-nothing grand prize of July's free agent bonanza.
First, play and develop the young guys. While giving the developing pieces burn over established veterans has been a struggle in months and years past, there are only two tenured players left on the roster, assuming Jordan and Matthews are on the way out. If not, it's a mistake, and they shouldn't take minutes from the neophytes. Get Smith Jr. the ball and let him run high pick-and-rolls with Mitchell Robinson all game long. Give Kevin Knox 40 shots a night. Allonzo Trier should be known as Iso-Zo from here on forward.
Free agents the Knicks will want to pitch should have a body of work to examine from the young core that's supposed to back them up. And if nobody of significance joins, hopefully one or many of these guys develop into an impact player.
Finally, try to avoid anything else that might scare off a Durant or Irving, for instance beefing with a tremendous young talent, and leaking his displeasure amidst a swift deal to get him out of town. Try and function quietly, professionally, even normally.
That may be too much to ask, but the Knicks have once again staked their future on a star-studded free agency class with no established talent to sell folks on. They are not short on ambition.