Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
About a week before the 2020 trade deadline, some with the Knicks organization were optimistic that they had the framework of a package in place that would land D'Angelo Russell from Golden State.
Any momentum in the talks with Golden State stalled when then-president Steve Mills was removed from his position.
But the Knicks' pursuit of Russell didn't end when Mills was reassigned. The Knicks remained engaged with Golden State on Russell up through the deadline, even after reports of Leon Rose's hire surfaced.
New York obviously didn't land Russell or any other young star prior to the trade deadline (Russell was dealt to Minnesota; for what it's worth, one package for Russell under Mills that had support included Bobby Portis, Allonzo Trier and Frank Ntilikina).
The only move the Knicks made at the deadline was trading Marcus Morris for Moe Harkless, a 2020 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick.
That trade left them with seven first-round picks in the next four drafts, and a young core that includes RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and Ntilikina. They'll also have significant cap flexibility, which is partially the result of the short-term deals with team options inked last summer.
Because of that, some with the Knicks feel that they are incredibly well positioned to trade for a disgruntled star if one becomes available.
"It's the best path for us," one front office member recently said.
This aligns with a directive that the Knicks were operating under prior to the 2020 trade deadline: Whatever happens, we need to maintain enough assets to be in position to trade for a star player. Even though he wasn't officially in charge at the time, it's fair to assume that Rose was on board with that thinking. And it's fair to assume that, based on that directive, Rose will be aggressive if the right young star becomes available via trade.
It's unclear if or when the next young star will privately -- or publicly -- seek a trade. But recent history suggests it's inevitable.
Just look at the past few seasons: Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kristaps Porzingis and Anthony Davis have all asked to be traded.
Based on that trend, it's fair to assume that at least one young star will seek a trade within the next year or two.
The Knicks, you'll remember, had no interest in trading future assets for Butler. They engaged with Cleveland on Irving and with New Orleans on Davis, but New York wasn't comfortable giving up enough assets to land either player.
Under former team presidents Phil Jackson and Mills, the Knicks had been strongly opposed to dealing future first-round picks. This was a reasonable stance to take for an organization that had been burned so often by trading first-rounders in the past.
But before the 2020 deadline, that approach changed. The Knicks were comfortable including future first-round picks in deals for Russell and Charlotte's Terry Rozier.
The feeling among some in the organization is that they have so many picks (again, seven in the next four drafts) that they can afford to send one or two out in a trade if it nets a star.
In his letter to Knicks fans in early March, Rose offered a small window into how he may approach building the roster.
"Nothing about this is easy, or quick, so I ask for your continued patience. What I promise you in return is that I will be honest and forthright. We will develop a plan that makes sense, both to jumpstart our short-term growth and ensure our long-term success."
It seems like part of jumpstarting the Knicks' short-term growth includes being aggressive in trading for stars when the opportunity presents itself.