A sense of dread surrounds the New York Knicks.
There are few better ways to put it. Team president Phil Jackson's relationship with Carmelo Anthony isn't the best right now. Superstar of the future Kristaps Porzingis isn't exactly thrilled with much of anything.
To top it all off, the Knicks hit Tuesday's draft lottery and managed to do what seemed impossible by falling back into the eighth pick—something the team had a 22.6 percent chance of doing, according to ESPN.com's Ian Begley.
Even so, this is an exciting time of year for most franchises. This includes the Knicks, who have a top-10 pick and attempt to steer the ship in the right direction. In fact, two of the big rumors around the team center on prospects the team might target.
With the lottery concluded, now is a good time to step back and take a look at some of the notable rumblings surrounding the franchise.
Knicks Eyeing North Carolina Forward?
The knee-jerk reaction is to presume the Knicks will take the best point guard that falls to them in a class littered with elite talent at the position and call it a day.
Maybe so, but based on a new rumbling, some in the New York front office wouldn't mind addressing other areas.
According to Begley, the interest elsewhere stems largely thanks to the allure of North Carolina's Justin Jackson: "Some members of the organization are high on North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, according to sources."
As the writeup goes on to note, the Knicks grabbing Jackson would mean some sort of trade. It's hard to imagine a trade down, so perhaps the Knicks look to flip assets and get back into the first round.
Either way, Jackson is an elite scoring prospect at 6'8" and 200 pounds who averaged 18.3 points per game as a junior last year while shooting 44.3 percent from the floor and 37 percent from deep.
Stats aside, critics point out Jackson is already 22 years old. But the Knicks haven't shied away from a flirtation with win-now mode as of late, so grabbing an NBA-ready prospect who can score isn't a bad idea. If Anthony isn't on the roster for one reason or another next year, Jackson could team with Porzingis and lead something of a youth movement.
On draft day, Jackson's stock is something Knicks fans should watch closely.
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It sounds like a moot point after Tuesday's lottery to talk about the star point guard prospects, but the NBA draft itself can be a weird place (we're living in a timeline where the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have the top two picks, folks).
Anyway, if the Knicks had their choice of top points in the 2017 class, they'd apparently roll with Markelle Fultz over Lonzo Ball, and it doesn't sound like it has anything to do with the latter's father and the Big Baller Brand.
Chad Ford of ESPN kept it simple, writing that "the Knicks prefer Fultz because of his better fit with the triangle."
It's hard to imagine the Knicks could go wrong with either prospect. Ball is a big (6'5", 195 pounds) point who is arguably the best passer in the class. He'd come in right away and end any talk about who orchestrates the offense in the Big Apple. Fultz seems to be the consensus top player in the draft, though, because he's a monster two-way player at 6'5" and 186 pounds who has unlimited range, can slash to the hole and get others involved.
At the least, this nugget hints at what the Knicks might look for at the position this offseason while trying to get away from the Derrick Rose disaster. Other quality options such as Dennis Smith and De'Aaron Fox might be available at No. 8, not to mention free agency. Jackson's triangle and how it shapes the roster clearly isn't going away.
Jackson's Impact on Carmelo's Trade Stock
On paper, the idea of trading for Anthony isn't the most attractive thing in the world.
Anthony is on the downswing of his career at 32 years old and is a cap hit north of $26 million in each of his next two seasons, per Spotrac. His no-trade clause only complicates matters.
As if this weren't bad enough, it doesn't sound like Jackson has helped make the idea of a move any better.
Look at what an NBA executive told the New York Post's Fred Kerber: “Phil made a statement basically that Carmelo’s a losing type of player. Well, if he’s a loser for the Knicks, he’s going to be a winner someplace else? That obviously didn’t help,”
Indeed, Jackson has had some odd comments about his superstar as of late, including suggesting Anthony might be better off elsewhere.
Kerber followed up with another executive who echoed the sentiments of the first: “He essentially said, ‘I want to dump this guy.’”
To be fair, Jackson doesn't seem to want Anthony at all and it has been plain as day. Anthony himself hasn't said anything terrible in public about the situation, though he'll ultimately choose where he ends up, if anywhere.
So while it seems Jackson talked himself into a corner here, the reality is simple—only a contending team will come calling for Anthony and it'll do so without offering anything other than draft picks. Giving up a rotational piece to get Anthony didn't make sense given the circumstances before Jackson made his feelings public in a big way.
Still, it's interesting to get an alleged temperature on the situation around the Association. Given all the above as a whole, it seems like the best bet to go on high alert for an Anthony trade is during the draft itself.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.