The Knicks are all-in on Euros and a youth movement, which continues to paint Carmelo Anthony as the old man out.
Knicks president Phil Jackson didn’t trade Kristaps Porzingis on draft night Thursday and selected two European players among his three picks. The Knicks took French guard Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick and added Serbian guard Ognjen Jaramez at 58. They went with Houston senior guard Damyean Dotson at 44.
Presuming Jackson doesn’t deal Porzingis, the Knicks have three European players who could be part of their core for the future, and they’re all 23 and under. Porzingis is 21, Willy Hernangomez 23 and Ntilikina 18. The Knicks also hope to re-sign guard Ron Baker, 24.
“The reality is we have to grow a team together,” Jackson said after selecting Ntilikina. “I think we have to start growing our own kids.”
Anthony isn’t a kid. He’s 33 and entering his 14th NBA season. The question remains, will it be with the Knicks or another team? Jackson has made it clear that he would like to move on from Anthony, who is in control because he has a no-trade clause. Jackson said Anthony told the Knicks “he’d just as soon stay.” But Jackson said there will be further conversations “after teams start reorganizing their rosters.”
The Cavaliers, Clippers, Spurs, Thunder and Wizards are teams that might pursue Anthony. There has been speculation that if Anthony isn’t moved, he could be bought out.
The Knicks, who are 80-166 under Jackson’s watch and have missed the playoffs four straight years, are rebuilding. Jackson wants players who buy into the triangle offense. To that end, he seems to favor international players over college players. They fit and are more willing to adapt.
In his last two drafts, four of the six players the Knicks took or acquired through trade were foreign-born. Jackson signed Lithuanian forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas last year and signed Sasha Vujacic to one-year deals the past two years.
“Sometimes it’s the ability for players to grow up into a system of play that they adapt to as they’re growing up as young players, and fitting into that style,” Jackson said. “A lot of the times in our college ball here, without making a lot of claims, a lot of it is about our college ball adapting to who the players are and our college game becomes more a style of what you can do offensively.
“Just giving a lot of room to players just to play whatever one-on-one or whatever ability they have, whereas the European players are schooled into a system and how to fit into it.”
That’s what Jackson likes about Ntilikina, who is 6-5 and versatile enough to play both guard positions in the triangle.
Even after taking Ntilikina, the Knicks are expected to pursue a point guard and defensive-minded players via trade or in free agency. Ntilikina could be a lead guard, but Jackson doesn’t want to throw too much too soon at the teenager and is fine with letting Ntilikina grow.
“He does some really nice things,” Jackson said. “He throws the ball up ahead on the court. He reads his teammates well, follows directions. He’s very good at that. He plays the role well. He’s a good role player. I think he’s a good fit for us.”
Notes & quotes: All three picks are expected to play for the Knicks’ summer league team in Orlando. It’s unclear whether Jaramez will stay overseas during the 2017-18 season . . . Vanderbilt center Luke Kornet, Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes and Florida guard Canyon Barry, the son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry, also will play for the Knicks’ summer league team. Kornet and Hayes have received training camp deals.