The New York Knicks have spent most of the past two decades as perennial underachievers and Eastern Conference bottom dwellers. There has not been a true superstar in Madison Square Garden since Carmelo Anthony’s prime. The Knicks have not had a winning season or a playoff berth since the 2012-13 season.
Enter Tom Thibodeau. The embattled former coach of the Bulls and Timberwolves has come out swinging in his first season at the Garden. Most expected a slow battle back to relevance as he built a new culture and slowly collected some pieces. However, Thibodeau is aiming straight for the playoffs. The Knicks are currently 18-17 and sitting at number 4 in the Eastern Conference.
Thibodeau is known for bringing “his guys,” players who fit his hard-nosed, defensive-minded, blue-collar basketball culture, with him as his career has progressed. Last month, the Knicks brought veteran guard Derrick Rose over from Detroit. Rose had played for Thibodeau in both Chicago and Minnesota. A nice piece of nostalgia, a fun headline, and a positive jolt for this team, but not a real franchise-altering maneuver.
Now, we hear rumors that the Rose trade was just a warning shot, potentially preceding some more major moves from Leon Rose and the Knicks’ front office. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News has reported that Tom Thibodeau is open to reuniting with his former star in Minnesota, Karl Anthony Towns.
This has come as a surprise to some. There were rumors of locker room tension between Thibodeau and his young core during his time in Minnesota. Towns have been quoted calling Thibodeau’s approach to coaching and developing young players “a disrespect and a slap in the face.” However, for the opportunity to escape a league-worst squad to join a playoff contender, Towns would likely also consider a fresh start to his relationship with his former coach.
The Timberwolves just parted ways with head coach Ryan Saunders last week. At 7-28 on the season, they are the worst team in basketball. With just one win in their last 10 games, they are floundering. These struggles are despite having some solid young talent, headlined by Karl Anthony Towns. It would certainly make sense for the Wolves to blow it up and move in a different direction.
The Knicks have the assets if they have the interest. They have their own first-rounders as well as a first-round pick from the Porzingis-to-Dallas trade in upcoming drafts. New York has several prospects with potential including this year’s first-round pick Obi Toppin and some talented role players. This is along with their emerging starts in Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. Leon Rose and the company have a great deal of cap space and financial flexibility.
What would Towns bring to New York?
The Knicks would finally have a clear-cut superstar to build around for the future (no offense, Julius Randle). Towns would instantly be an adrenaline shot to a long-suffering fan base. The Knicks would have their best big man since Patrick Ewing. They would have direction. They would have their coach, and he would have his star player to develop.
Towns is a walking 20/10 guy, a great passer, a beloved teammate who good for two blocks a game, and a big man who has shot 40% from three for his career.
What would it take to bring Towns to the Garden?
Julius Randle is an All-Star this year and is the primary catalyst for the Knicks’ success under Thibodeau this year, so he is likely untouchable. RJ Barrett is the other most valuable piece for the Knicks and would be the most attractive for a rebuilding Wolves squad. It is safe to say Derrick Rose is in it with Thibodeau for the long run. Everyone else on this squad is likely fair game.
In a perfect world, the Knicks would send a package of young prospects, role players, and first-round picks to acquire Towns. Kevin Knox, Obi Toppin, Elfrid Payton, and Nerlens Noel could all be easily moved, along with the Knicks’ and Mavericks’ first-rounders, as an example.
It is entirely likely the Wolves will be hesitant to move Towns until they give their new head coach, former Raptors’ assistant Chris Finch, a chance to turn things around. But if the Wolves are open to wiping the slate clean this year, it appears Thibodeau is ready to bury the hatchet and try again with Karl Anthony Towns as his guy.
If the Knicks could pull off this transaction, a potential core of Towns, Randle, and Barrett could quickly develop into a formidable foe in the East. The Wolves, already at rock bottom, would at least gain some valuable draft picks and flexibility for a rebuild.
More to come from the Garden.