Knicks undergo wildly unproductive regime change

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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The Knicks spent the offseason shooting wildly, sometimes hitting something – including their own feet.

They opted into the final two years of Phil Jackson’s contract in the spring then fired him in late June – but not before allowing him to alienate Kristaps Porzingis and use the No. 8 pick on Frank Ntilikina. After Jackson, New York turned over power to former team preisdent Steve Mills, who asserted himself by signing Tim Hardaway Jr. to a ridiculous four-year, $71 million offer sheet. Like Jackson, Mills went out of his way to alienate Carmelo Anthony – without actually trading him.

Amid all the chaos, the Knicks just backslid further.

No. 8 pick Ntilikina was a defensible choice – maybe even the right one. But it’s just too likely Jackson selected the big point guard due to his fit in the triangle, a scheme New York will gladly never hear another word about. Three players at least a tier ahead of Ntilikina (No. 11 on my board) – Dennis Smith Jr. (No. 4), Malik Monk (No. 7), Zach Collins (No. 10) – were still available. Passing on Smith, a pick-and-roll lead guard who doesn’t fit the triangle, looks particularly regrettable. Again, maybe Mills or some average decision-maker would have picked Ntilikina. But you’d be hard-pressed to convince anyone Ntilikina’s triangle fit didn’t play an outsized factor in his selection.

Splurging on Hardaway could cost the Knicks for years to come. Even Mills’ stated logic for the signing is lacking. The Knicks president said Hardaway’s $17,737,500 average salary was the going rate for a starting shooting guard and that Hardaway is one – two questionable claims. But say Mills is right. Hardaway merely qualifying as a starting shooting guard (No. 30) doesn’t mean he should be paid like an average one (No. 15 or so).

Hardaway’s contract was so bad, it overshadowed New York giving Ron Baker the full room exception (two years, $8,872,400 – with a player option!). Baker was a restricted free agent. Did the Knicks really have to make such a high opening bid? It probably won’t pay off, anyway.

With such little experience between Ntilikina and Baker at point guard , Ramon Sessions was New York’s most important minimum signing. Michael Beasley was the better one. He could become a discount version of Anthony as a scoring forward.

Of course, the Knicks would have to trade Anthony first. He didn’t make it any easier on them by refusing to accept a trade anywhere but Houston. It appears increasingly likely Anthony will return for another season in New York.

That just promises more drama.

Firing Jackson was supposed to reduce the tumult, but the primary source of dysfunction remains. Mills, Jackson and Mills again running the front office – these are still James Dolan’s Knicks. Now, they’re locked into a triangle point guard and expensive middling-at-best shooting guard.

Offseason grade: D+