GREENBURGH, N.Y. — I am not going to sit here and tell you that Phil Jackson made a mistake in taking Latvian toothpick Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth pick of the 2015 NBA draft.
Jackson was in the press room at 8:20 p.m. Thursday night comparing the kid to Pau Gasol, and Jackson is a better judge of talent than I am. He gets paid $12 million of Jim Dolan’s money each season to make these decisions, to “preside.”
But I will tell you that the Knicks are doomed to another half-decade of decrepitude, at a minimum. You know when they make their next draft pick? A mere 24 months from now — 2017.
That will be after they have the worst record in the NBA for each of the next two seasons.
But doom and gloom — and even levity — were not in attendance at Knicks headquarters on draft night. Jackson defended the pick as the best move for the franchise, a statement that will take years to properly judge.
If Emmanuel Mudiay turns into an All-Star, if Frank Kaminsky spends 15 years in the NBA as Danny Schayes predicts, if Justise Winslow competes for a championship in Miami next season — all of those factors will be weighed against Porzingis as the kid fills out and grows up. He is probably two years away from being a rotation player, and he’ll probably log half as many minutes next season as Jerian Grant, who Jackson picked up from Atlanta in a trade for Tim Hardaway Jr.
There is no telling who will be in the starting five for New York on Opening Night aside from Carmelo Anthony. There are now three point guards, Jose Calderon, Alexei Shved and Grant; no center, although Greg Monroe is the odds-on favorite to be taking Samuel Dalembert’s old job; no shooting guard; and no small forward, unless you want to elevate Cleanthony Early to a starter’s spot.
By December, Knicks fans will be longing for the days of Travis Wear and Quincy Acy.
If you belive what you read on Knicks press releases, Porzingis is 7-foot-3 and weighs 233 pounds.
It would have been nice to hear whether Jackson caught a glimpse of the Knicks fans reactions on television, including a little boy crying. And it would have been entertaining to hear if he had a response to Fran Frachilla’s pronouncement on ESPN: “The Knicks stink.”
But the Knicks being the Knicks, they kept Jackson’s comments brief, and there was little of substance beyond the Gasol comparisons when Jackson spoke of the 19-year-old Latvian who looks like he could be blown over by a stiff wind.
“We need someone athletic, and this is an eye-opening athletic player,” Jackson said, noting that Porzingis has better shooting range than Gasol, who was a stringbean, too, when he entered the league as a rookie weighing 227 pounds.
Porzingis needs to add about 30 pounds of muscle to play in this league, and Jackson said on ESPN it might take five years to determine whether he was the proper pick. So do not expect young Kristaps to be an impact player next season, when the Knicks will field a starting lineup of Carmelo Anthony and four players to be determined at a future date.
Unless the Knicks purchase a second-round pick, Porzingis will be the last player drafted by the Knicks for the next two years.
Their 2016 pick is going to the Toronto Raptors as payment for the Andrea Bargnani fleecing, but it’s actually more complicated than that. When Dolan took over the negotiations from Donnie Walsh during the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2012, he gave the Nuggets the right to swap picks with the Knicks in 2016. If the Nuggets indeed swap picks with the Knicks, the lesser of the two picks will go to Toronto. Which means the Knicks will be paying again in 2016 for both the Anthony fiasco and the Bargnani debacle.
But it doesn’t end there.
This year’ second-round pick was shipped off in 2012 in the deal to acquire Marcus Camby. Next year’s second-round pick was also sent to Houston (along with the draft rights to Kostas Papanikolaou, who is still in the league) in the trade to acquire Raymond Felton.
The 2017 second-round pick was sent to Toronto as part of the Bargnani trade, although the Knicks will get a second-rounder from Houston in 2017 as partial payment for Pablo Prigioni. Jackson also got a 2019 second-rounder from the Rockets for Prigioni, which is astounding when you consider the fact that Jackson got twice as much for Prigioni as he did for the combination of Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, who were still playing basketball 10 days ago for the Cavs. Just to remind you, Jackson acquired a single second-round pick, in 2019, for those two guys.
In their final move of the night, the Knicks send two future second-round picks in 2020 and 2021 to the Sixers for the rights to Guillermo Hernangomez, a teammate of Porzingis’ in Spain. He is expected to remain overseas.
So again … The Knicks have no more draft picks until 2017.
Yes, they have cap space, and Jackson has identified size as a basic need, which is why Monroe is likely headed to New York. Jackson will be able to add a second-tier free agent, too, and then he gets to go Kevin Durant shopping in the summer of 2016 when the cap jumps to $90 million and Durant will be the No. 1 prize.
If anyone thinks KD is going to come to a team led by a 33-year-old Carmelo Anthony, a 22-year-old Kristaps Porzingis and whatever Phil is able to scrape off the sidewalk in free agency, they are kidding themselves.
The Knicks have no future. They are doomed to the lottery for the next half-decade. They will never play a playoff game during Jackson’s five-year tenure as team president.
It is hopeless.
Jackson was asked about this pick being part of his legacy, and he dismissed the notion.
“That’s not my thought process. My thought process is ‘What do I do that’s best for the franchise?’ ”
If he thinks long and hard about that question, there’s only one logical answer: Trade Anthony for multiple future No. 1 picks, and build from the ground up. That way, and only that way, can Porzingis experience playing in an NBA postseason game before he is pushing 30.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor in chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.