The New York Knicks won the NBA trade deadline, fleecing the Detroit Pistons for Bojan Bogdanović and Alec Burks. They added the backup playmaker and off-the-bench scoring they were missing to reach championship contention. Fully healthy, and despite their recent injury-induced hiccup, the Knicks can and will— you heard it here first — win the championship this season. Holy crap, Knicks fans, it’s happening. To fully appreciate the present reality of the New York Knicks as contenders and Jalen Brunson as the best point guard in the world, you must first accept what Knicks fans survived to get here.

Things got so bad fans wore paper bags over their heads to the game. They chanted for head coaches to be fired during games. Dolan threw them out for yelling for him to sell the team. They had to watch players like Othella Harrington, Clarence Weatherspoon, Travis Knight, Lou Amundson and Renaldo Balkman wear their beloved orange and blue. This is why, at this moment, on this day, the fates finally decided that the Knicks have had enough suffering, thanks to President of Basketball Operations Leon Rose, coach Tom Thibodeau, and NBA stars Brunson and Julius Randle.

Dolan’s tenure as the owner can be cataloged by his incessant meddling, especially during the 2000s, where he often acted as a shadow GM alongside former executives Ishaih Thomas and Donnie Walsh. The Knicks treated draft picks like disposable waste and constantly went after washed-up, aging “stars” who ate up cap space and underproduced. This failed strategy would continue for more than 20 years, even though it bore only a single second-round series. In the ensuing years, the Knicks would add the following washed-up “stars” to the team when they were well past their prime: Penny Hardaway, Jalen Rose, Dikembe Mutombo, Antonio Davis, Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady, Chauncy Billups, Baron Davis, Mike Bibby, Rasheed Wallace, Kenyon Martin, Jason Kidd, Joakim Noah, and DeAndre Jordan. No other franchise can claim that level of washed star-chasing, only Dolan’s Knicks.

For Knicks fans living in the here and now, that level of survival is finally rewarded. The Knicks are not just back, as Amar’e Stoudemire once said. They are a bonafide championship contender with a limitless ceiling, all of their draft picks and a cache of tradable contracts and draft capital from other teams. After the trade deadline acquisition of Bogdanović and Burks, the Knicks are the deepest team in the NBA. They also have the best center depth with Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jericho Sims, a three-time All-NBA player in Randle and a superstar MVP candidate in Jalen Brunson.

Donte DiVincenzo has been a revelation, showing future All-Star potential. He’s also on one of the best deals in the NBA at four years, $50 million in his prime. Only eight players make 2.7 threes per game on 40 percent shooting or better. DiVincenzo is one of them. Brunson is the other. In back-to-back seasons, the Knicks have hit home run free-agent signings and midseason trades. Before being hit with injuries, the team boasted the best center trio in the NBA with offensive rebounding beast Robinson, passing-savant Hartenstein and raw, springy, athletic neophyte Sims. Once all three are healthy, the Knicks will have three bigs who give the team different looks and can punish opposing teams on the glass.

But the Knicks’ turnaround is thanks to Brunson, who is having an MVP-caliber season and has become the best point guard in the NBA. He’s also been the best free-agent signing in Knicks history, passing Stoudamire and Allan Houston. The Mavs made a historic error in letting him walk. In his first season with the Knicks, he turned a team that missed the Play-In the year before into a second-round slugfest with the Finals-bound Miami Heat. This season, he is averaging career-highs in scoring ) and assists.

Brunson joins Randle, who joined the Knicks in 2019 after they struck out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. While he is a three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA and 2021 Most Improved Player winner, Randle’s tenure in New York has been tumultuous. He has put up monster numbers, but not always with the best efficiency. And during the 2021-2022 season, he was at his most mercurial, beefing with fans and letting his emotions get the best of him. But he is having his best season this year and has shown leadership and a renewed commitment to defense and getting his teammates involved.

Two of those teammates are OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa, whom Rose fleeced from Toronto, shipping out two players the Knicks drafted and developed in RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. Anunoby posted a plus-239, the best across any 13-game stretch in about two years upon his arrival in New York before sitting out with an elbow injury. Since the start of 2024, the Knicks have outscored teams by 239 points in Anunoby’s 467 minutes. His corner three opened things up for Brunson and Randle, allowing for clearer drives to the basket. And on defense, he has been a revelation, showing high IQ decision-making and the capability to guard all five positions straight up. Speaking of defense, Achiuwa, a former Miami Heat draft pick, has been excellent off the bench and then as a starter after injuries ravaged the Knicks rotation. He excels as a defensive rebounder and finisher around the rim through backdoor cuts and lobs.

All the young kids are gone: Quickley, Barrett, Quentin Grimes, and Obi Toppin were all first-round picks the Knicks selected to initially build a team organically through the draft. Only Robinson and Randle pre-date Rose’s tenure. Rose has remade the roster to fit Thibodeau’s coaching style. The rotation is full of defensive dawgs who are willing to do whatever it takes to win. Managing injuries and implementing four new players isn’t easy. But Thibodeau looks poised to win his third Coach of the Year trophy. Thibs is an underrated developer. Except for Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, every player who has joined the Knicks and stayed has had their best season under Thibs. Speaking of those new additions, after fleecing Toronto for Anunoby and Achiuwa and fleecing Detroit for Bogdanović and Burks, Rose deserves Executive of the Year. Rose has been patient and prioritized drafting and development by hiring draft guru Walt Perrin and cap management in well-respected capologist Brock Aller. He has remained under the cap while extending players team-friendly deals that usually have team options on the last year of the deal.

Rose was the agent for all the players who became stains during the Dolan era: Curry, Balkman, Anthony and Bargnani, while running the Creative Arts Agency. He was also James’s agent when he took that infamous meeting with the Knicks in 2010, revealing just how out of touch the Knicks were with how modern NBA superstars think and prioritize when choosing teams. Rose would get a first-hand account of how the Knicks, specifically Dolan, set the franchise back during negotiations. Rose had always wanted to run his own team. He was a powerful and well-connected name around the league, But he wasn’t the flashy household name Dolan usually pursued to lead his team.

But at his rope’s end, firing his most loyal of lemmings in Steve Mills in the Spring of 2020, Dolan needed a fresh face at the helm. He would reverse course from his typical selection pool, opting not for the former player or in-house sycophant, but a former agent not known outside the back-room world of player representation. After Fizdale and Mills were both canned and Knicks sleuths found Elfrid Payton’s Twitter burner, Rose was hired to run the Knicks on March 2, 2020. On the job as President of Basketball Operations in the summer of 2020, Rose had a unique firsthand experience with how the Knicks operated, informing him on how he would drag the team out of poverty and into championship contention. But the road ahead has not been easy and required Knicks fans to practice the one trait they were exhausted of for 20 years: Patience. But thanks to Rose, Thibodeau and Brunson, that patience is paying off, with the Knicks reaching contender status for the first time in more than 20 years.


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