It's true that the Knicks are one of the East's worst teams, but they have a proven All-Star in Carmelo Anthony and an exciting rookie in Kristaps Porzingis that can be used as building blocks to perhaps more quickly turn things around.
Phil Jackson may have had the opportunity to add real talent at the trade deadline, but the most appealing asset he had was the one (via ESPN's Ian Begley) that he refused to give up.
Jackson's firm rule at the trade deadline, per league sources, was that the Knicks hold on to their 2018 first-round pick.
It's unclear how frequently the Knicks were asked for the pick in the days leading up to the trade deadline, but what is clear is that it was off limits, according to league sources familiar with the club's thinking.
"Phil said that they weren't dealing it," was how one source put it.
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Right about now is the time for Knicks fans to go ahead and rejoice.
New York reportedly looked at players like Jeff Teague and Ricky Rubio as potential trade targets, though it's unclear if that pick and a combination of lesser players would have been enough to pry either of those guys loose. But keeping the pick shows a change in the organizational philosophy, one that has a consistent track record of foolishly giving away picks as part of questionable deals in the past.
The reason that draft picks are so important in building a successful team is because they can translate into talented, productive players who are on inexpensive rookie scale contracts. If a team is smart in selecting the right players, this can be a huge advantage in that it leaves plenty of money under the salary cap to add more proven talent in free agency.
As we've seen in recent years, the combination of cap space and a large market is no longer desirable for star free agents all by itself. If a legitimate star is going to change teams, he wants to know that contending for a title is at least a possibility in his new situation. That's why it's so important to begin to build a real foundation, and it seems as though the man in charge in New York has finally convinced ownership to realize it.