The Knicks' rebuilding plan, and spirits, took a hit when they were the only team to drop in the NBA Draft Lottery. But the sting can't linger. The Knicks' front office has plenty of work to do to build a contending team around Carmelo Anthony.
They won't be in position to take potential cornerstone big men Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor after falling to fourth in the draft on June 25. If the Knicks keep their pick, they could choose between talented point guards D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, versatile forward Justise Winslow or defensive-minded big man Willie Cauley-Stein, who has been compared to Tyson Chandler.
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The Knicks, whose 17-65 record was the second-worst in the league this season, need help at every position. At the very least, the No. 4 pick is one of the few assets they have. The Knicks can use it on a young player they hope develops into a star or try to trade it for a veteran who can help them now.
"Our goal is to become a playoff team," general manager Steve Mills said. "We feel like we have the opportunity to gradually build this team and continue to get better . . . We'll do the things that we have to do to make this team better. I feel very confident about that."
Team president Phil Jackson has stated that the Knicks will do most of their improving in free agency. Their draft position would seem to underscore their need -- and chances -- for getting Detroit big man Greg Monroe with some of the $28 million the Knicks should be under the cap on July 1.
Although the draft comes first, Mills said what the Knicks do will be impacted by their free-agent projections.
"A lot will depend on what we think we're going to end up doing in free agency," he said. "I think we'll be able to get a few good players in free agency and that might be an indicator of the direction we may go."
This year's class includes LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, DeMarre Carroll, Wesley Matthews, Khris Middleton and Long Island products Danny Green and Tobias Harris. Aldridge and Gasol are long shots. All season, the Knicks have been linked to Monroe, who is a good fit for the triangle offense.
But if the Knicks are going to become a playoff team next season, they'll have to do more than add Monroe.
"We have a lot of things on the table at this point," Mills said. "We still have [trade] exceptions we can use between now and the draft. We're talking to teams about a lot of different things. We're open to looking at different opportunities to continue to improve our team."
Mills also revealed that if the Knicks acquired a second-round pick, that player likely wouldn't be on the team because of their need for immediate help.
"We have a lot of young players on our roster right now," he said. "Our goal is to expand the team and add some more veteran and more experienced players onto the roster."
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