Knicks Fail To Land LeBron James; Who They Must Acquire Now

David CohenSenior Analyst IJuly 9, 2010

The Knicks have sacrificed two long years of basketball in the hopes of resurrecting the franchise by signing LeBron James. He was supposed to bring the Knicks back to the glory days, or at least to relevance as an annual contender.

In a far too familiar tale, the Knicks failed.

The Knicks need to do something major. There’s no room for complacency. As in any business, when the plan to revive the company fails, changes are in order.

Just look at the shares of MSG stock during this saga. When LeBron and the Cavs started reeling against the Boston Celtics, MSG shares rose more than 10 percent. They soared almost 7 percent near the end of trading on Wednesday when reports of LeBron going to New York surfaced.

Everyone was all-in on LeBron. While Amar’e isn’t a bad piece of the puzzle, he can’t be the main attraction.

Right now the Knicks are a cheap version of what the Toronto Raptors were with Chris Bosh as their best player. An afterthought on NBA schedules.

Whether it’s fair or not, the blame has to fall on Donnie Walsh. When he was brought in as the President of Basketball Operations, he had two responsibilities.

The first was getting the Knicks under the cap by ridding the team of seemingly insurmountable bad contracts. He deserves a lot of credit for getting rid of some of the hideous deals taken in by predecessors, like Jared Jeffries and Jerome James.

The Knicks are swimming in cap room. Walsh earned his pay.

The second was obviously landing LeBron James. James had flirted with New York for quite some time, from wearing a Yankee cap at a Cleveland Indians vs. New York playoff game to his selling of special edition NY sneakers.

Walsh had to free up cap space but leave enough allure for LeBron to come on board. Obviously he fell short.

As investors are about to abandon MSG faster than BP, the Knicks need to evaluate themselves as a business. In a crisis situation there has to be someone who can shape things together.

The Knicks need a new business plan. And a new president.

A major reason for the Knicks failure to get LeBron was an inability to bring in quality draft picks who would be light on the payroll during their initial contracts. The three most promising players on the Knicks team last year were David Lee, Wilson Chandler, and Danilo Gallinari.

The latter was the only pick under Walsh who has shown major flashes of potential. Toney Douglas will likely be the only other Walsh pick on the Knicks roster in September.

The 2009 draft might have been the back breaker for Walsh’s hopes of landing LeBron. With the eighth pick the Knicks reached badly for Jordan Hill, a classic case of a one year overachiever who received a lot of hype because he’s 6’10” (this year it was Ekpe Udoh).

Two picks later, the Bucks took Brandon Jennings. If the Knicks had taken him, they would have the future PG of their franchise solidified. They could have marketed a respectable lineup for LeBron to come into with Stoudemire and still have money for solid role players to fill out the roster.

The most recent draft wasn’t exactly a home run either. The Knicks took two players who had no chance of being drafted. They passed on hometown favorite Lance Stephenson, who is currently lighting up the Summer League for the Pacers. Right after Stephenson went Jarvis Varnado, who will be a top 10 NBA shot blocker from the moment he gets consistent minutes.

The Knicks under Walsh have treated most of their picks as if they had Swine Flu. By not building a foundation from within, there was nothing to entice LeBron to come to New York from a basketball standpoint.

When you draft someone eighth overall and trade him less than a year later along with a future first round pick for a washed up, has-been who can barely jump over a phone book, you’ve failed as President of Basketball Operations.

Even Isiah Thomas knew how to draft players.

The Knicks now have a great talent in Stoudemire with a couple of good supporting players. They have a coach who is attractive to most players. They just need to build a foundation from scratch.

Donnie Walsh has already proven not to have this skill set. The Knicks need a master architect. And easily one of the best in the business is inexplicably unemployed.

The best move the Knicks can make is to hire Kevin Pritchard to replace Walsh.

Pritchard has an acumen for building a roster where eveyrone has the potential to contribute. He is always accumulating picks in the draft, and like the New England Patriots in the NFL, it has paid off well. Since coming into power in 2007 he bought Rudy Fernandez, traded Joey Dorsey for Nicolas Batum, acquired Jerryd Bayless, and then Marcus Camby. The best player he gave up for any of these players: Steve Blake. Who he signed in 2007.

The Blazers are a team loaded with talent but lacking a second star. If that roster played in New York, LeBron would be in New York. There is no reason Pritchard can’t continue his drafting and trading prowess.

The only mistake Pritchard has made is drafting Greg Oden ahead of Kevin Durant. It was an understandable move as the Blazers needed a center and already had Brandon Roy to provide a lot of what Durant was slated to provide in the league.

Durant would not be the player he is right now if he was in Portland. Because he had to shoulder the load and was allowed to initially progress as a two-guard, he has flourished into the best pure scorer in the league.

The Thunder are another example of what a good front office can mean for a franchise. They have a superstar and several excellent role players who were all drafted by the team.

Kevin Pritchard can bring similar success to the Knicks. It will take more time and patience then fans might like, as they’ve been asked for these qualities for some time already in the LeBron fiasco. That being the case, if the goal is to be a perennial contender, Pritchard has the ability to deliver.

We already know Walsh can’t deliver the goods. The Knicks let Isiah Thomas roam around for far too long.

If you don’t learn from history you are bound to repeat it. For the sake of what once was a great franchise, I hope this isn’t a sequel. 


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