Let’s pretend for a moment that Derrick Rose never won an MVP.
Let’s pretend that he isn’t a former All Star, that he’s not one of the biggest names in basketball, that this trade was made strictly on basketball terms.
The New York Knicks had arguably the worst point guard play in basketball last season, so they added a point guard who averaged 18 points and five assists on totally respectable .444/.344/.789 shooting splits from February through April of last season. The only player of note they gave up was Robin Lopez, a questionable long-term fit anyway as Kristaps Porzingis is likely a center and Carmelo Anthony will probably need to transition to power forward as his athleticism starts to go. On those terms alone, this was an excellent short-term trade. The inflection point comes in July.
There are two ways that the Knicks can treat this deal. If Jeff Hornacek has his way, the Knicks will look for younger wings to flank Rose on the free agent market. That means names like Kent Bazemore, Harrison Barnes and Evan Fournier. Any additions will be based on the Kristaps Porzingis timeline, they’ll be younger and they’ll shoot three’s, and they absolutely will not need to fit the triangle. Rose will be a short-term gamble and nothing more.
Considering Hornacek’s offensive style, that’s a roster that makes a lot of sense. A team with Rose at the point and Anthony at power forward would play fast and shoot a ton of three’s. It would be highly pick-and-roll based, and the defense would rely on Porzingis growing into a high-end rim protector (possible, though likely a stretch in Year 2). It has the pure fire power to be one of the better offenses in basketball, it has the talent to make a decent playoff run right away, but it also has the roster flexibility to easily be re-tooled for Porzingis in a year or two (especially since a Knicks team making real playoff runs instantly becomes a highly desirable free agent destination).
This is the sensible path. It leans into the direction modern basketball is heading. And then there’s the crazy old man Phil Jackson route.
This involves chasing a big-name center, eschewing shooting and just hoping talent wins out. This treats name value as something of importance in a market that sells games out anyway. This means forcing square pegs into triangular holes.
That’s the biggie. Derrick Rose cannot play in the triangle. He is the absolute worst point guard for that system. Triangle point guards are quick decision makers who shoot three’s and move off of the ball. Rose does none of these.
None of the available centers (except for Pau Gasol, who was drafted before Porzingis’ great grandparents were born) fit the triangle either. Hassan Whiteside has 36 assists in his entire career. He’s not going to be able to make the quick read-and-react high post passes a triangle center has to make. Dwight Howard just wants to post people up so he can convince himself he’s still a relevant offensive player.
Signing someone like Whiteside or Howard, and even to a lesser extent Gasol or Joakim Noah, is exactly the sort of mistake the old Knicks used to make. Then again, the old Knicks never would have used the No. 4 pick on someone like Porzingis. So all bets are off. We’ll know by mid-July which path New York is taking, and for their own sakes, let’s hope it’s the first.