Building a contender won't be easy for the Zen Master, though. Not only do the Knicks face the potential loss of their biggest star, but they don't own a first-round pick in a draft that is chock-full of talent.
That may not be the case come draft night, however. A potential trade and specific target head the list of rumors floating around the franchise at this point in the offseason.
P.J. Hairston a Potential Trade Target?
The Knicks' absence from the first round of the draft hasn't kept them from scouting potential targets in case of a trade up on draft night. Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that the Knicks are interested in trading into the latter half of the first round, and Hairston could be the target.
Who fits the Knicks better long-term?
As Berman speculates, there are plenty of teams such as the Thunder and Suns who might be looking to unload their late first-round draft picks. The embattled former North Carolina star is expected to go somewhere between picks 20 and 30.
Hairston—who worked out for Jackson before Derek Fisher was hired—may have had a rocky road at North Carolina. He was forced to transition to the NBA D-League after an infraction involving his use of a rented car.
However, that may not be an entirely bad thing. He's already made a transition from the college game to the pros, and one anonymous general manager had this to say about what he brings to the table, per Berman:
Two things stick out for him: his body, one of the stronger bodies of anybody in the draft for a wing position like Mitch Richmond. He’s extremely strong, a bully-type scorer. He can shoot the NBA 3 and beyond without a lot of effort because he’s so strong. He had some huge games in D-League. Downside to him, though, is as high as his highs are, his lows are just as low. He really struggled in some games. Consistency was an issue for him.
With Iman Shumpert on the last year of his rookie deal, Hairston's blend of size (6'5", 240 lbs) and ability to shoot may just be intriguing enough to cause Jackson to pull the trigger.
Carmelo Anthony Has Positive Meeting with Phil Jackson, Still Quiet on Future
A player like Hairston might be a key piece for the future. The question that lingers on every Knicks fan's mind, of course, is whether Carmelo Anthony will be back next season.
As Ian Begley of ESPN reports, Phil Jackson's decision to hire Derek Fisher won't hurt New York's chance of retaining the star:
Anthony reportedly met with Jackson, general manager Steve Mills and head coach Derek Fisher in Los Angeles. According to Begley, Anthony said that the meeting went "great."
Begley also writes, however, that a source close to Anthony doesn't believe that the star forward's plan to opt out of his contract and test free agency has changed since the meeting.
Should the star hit the open market, there's a growing list of suitors who would love to take 'Melo out of the Big Apple.
Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets Set Sights on 'Melo
Speaking of potential suitors for Anthony, a pair of contenders in the Eastern and Western Conferences are rumored to be gearing up for runs at the forward.
According to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, the Chicago Bulls—who own two picks in the upcoming draft—may look to deal on draft day to clear up cap space for Anthony:
Source: The Bulls may trade both of their first-rounders (#16 and #19) for future firsts, to free up cap space for Carmelo Anthony pursuit.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 19, 2014
With a roster that already includes Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, it's certainly an appealing option for Anthony on paper. With the Miami Heat showing extreme wear and tear in the NBA Finals this year, the Windy City may be 'Melo's best shot at contending for a championship right away.
Out west, Marc Stein of ESPN reports that the Houston Rockets are in the market for a superstar, and Anthony has become the primary target:
For those asking why Rockets not cited in Love mix: I keep hearing they're focused on Melo hunt ... and seeing if they can get in LeBron mix— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 20, 2014
Again, the Rockets present a more loaded roster than the Knicks can provide in the short term. With Dwight Howard and James Harden already in the fold, Houston would in effect create its own Big Three to contend with the one that took home two championships in Miami.
Even with Anthony's support of the Derek Fisher hiring, it appears that it's becoming more and more unlikely that the star will be part of Phil Jackson's long-term plans.