The New York Knicks’ stated goal is to be younger with a focus on building toward the future. Yet, their goal is failing even before the season begins.
On the one hand, the Knicks have a 19-year-old point guard who needs veteran guidance. On the other, if Steve Mills is committed to making his team younger, he is failing already. The veterans remaining on the team are a year older on top of the aging players signed this offseason.
Carmelo Anthony remains on the team and casts an overrated shadow on Kristaps Porzingis. While Knicks management can’t force Carmelo to accept trades, they have nevertheless failed to move the disgruntled star.
Outside of the NBA Draft, there is only one way for a team to get younger: sign young players. The New York Knicks did the opposite of that most of this offseason. Ron Baker and Tim Hardaway Jr. are two younger players Mills did sign. However, he overpaid for both players and handcuffed the team for the foreseeable future.
Last season, the Knicks had one player on their team with more than 10 years of NBA experience: Carmelo Anthony. Going into this season, there are four players with at least a decade of NBA service: Carmelo, Sessions, Jack and Joakim Noah. Courtney Lee and Michael Beasley, a new signee, each have nine years of experience.
There is nothing wrong with a young team signing veteran players to finish out their training camp roster. However, the New York Knicks need the highest NBA Draft pick they can get next year. The veterans Mills added won’t win them a championship but they could win enough games to cost them a high draft pick.
The rebuilding of this Knicks team is still a long-term work in progress in the early stages of development. A Carmelo trade will probably send away multiple veterans and allow the team to embrace its youth. Yet, at this point the Knicks are a team still confused about who they are and where they are going.
There wasn’t a player available to the Knicks this offseason that would have made them a championship contender. Consequently, Steve Mills and Scott Perry rightfully chose a path to make the team younger. The signings of Ron Baker and Tim Hardaway Jr. met that goal at much higher prices than deserved.
Now that the team heads into training camp with Ramon Sessions on the roster, conventional wisdom would say to sign young players. Unfortunately, Mills signed another injured veteran guard in Jarrett Jack.
At the same time, the Portland Trail Blazers signed undrafted Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe to a training camp contract. Archie Goodwin was also available and he fits the young, athletic mold a rebuilding team usually needs.
Jack is a better player than Briscoe, who will struggle to make the league, but that’s not the point. If the Knicks were truly focused on youth they wouldn’t waste roster spots on washed up, oft-injured guards like Sessions and Jack.
Where are we going?
In the press conference to introduce Scott Perry as general manager, it was clear the team would head in a younger, smarter direction. The resulting few months showed glimpses of youth (Baker, Hardaway Jr.) and then a solid stretch of veterans (Beasley, Sessions, Jack). This confused style of leadership direction is the hallmark of a team directed by a James Dolan crony.
The story of the New York Knicks’ rebuilding process is still being written, albeit by a very confused author. Organizational and team goals should be clear but the offseason was once again full of mixed messages. A youth movement is Steve Mills’ stated goal, but that movement may be failing before it even began.