As a die-hard New York Knicks fan, I have seen my beloved team make tons of free agent signings, trades, and other personnel moves. Like any franchise in professional sports, some of them have worked out, and others have not.
Knickerbocker fans know all too well, however, that the latter is usually the case. If you want proof, look no further than the Scott Layden, Isiah Thomas, and the mercifully brief Glen Grunwald era as GM of the Knicks, and those memories alone would make any New York fan run for the hills, or even worse, consider cheering for the Brooklyn Nets. (Yes, it was that bad.)
Former GM Donnie Walsh was able to alleviate some of the pain, by dealing away bad contracts and adding superstar Carmelo Anthony via trade. Walsh, even guided the team to the playoffs in 2011, after the franchise missed the postseason seven straight seasons. The euphoria was short-lived, however, as Walsh resigned after the season.
Phil Jackson, the former Knicks' power forward, and 13-time NBA Champion, both as a player and head coach, was named Team President in 2014. After spending two years tearing down most of the work done by Walsh, and gutting the franchise of even more bad deals, Jackson, has the team and city feeling excited again, which is something it hasn't had a reason feel since Linsanity.
While the Knicks, are off to their best start in years this season, time will tell, if the excitement is justified or not, for an organization that hasn't experienced any real success since Patrick Ewing was the team's starting center.
With that said, we here at TheSportster give you the Top 15 Worst Management Mistakes In New York Knicks History.
15 Knicks trade Glen Rice for Shandon Anderson
We start the list with a sign and trade deal.
In 2001, the Knicks and Houston Rockets completed a deal in which the Rockets traded Shandon Anderson to New York. As part of the transaction, Anderson, who was coming off of his two best years as a pro, signed a six-year, $41 million deal with Houston before the trade.
Anderson, who was thought to be the prototypical 3 and D player, ended up being a colossal failure for the Knicks. Poor play and a multitude of injuries led to him not only being unable to match his career high in any of the aforementioned categories except for 3-point percentage, but they also limited him to starting 52 out of a possible 244 games.
Going back the other way, was sharpshooter and three-time All-Star Glen Rice. While the Michigan product suffered through an injury-plagued season in his only year with the Knicks (he only started 25 games due to plantar fasciitis), he was still able to average 12 points a game and hit a high percentage of his 3 pointers (.389%).
14 The Knicks trade Kurt Thomas
Kurt Thomas was the kind of do-it-all, hard to play against player that any team would love to have. The former 10th overall pick of the 1995 NBA Draft came to the Knicks via free agency from the Dallas Mavericks in 1998. He was the perfect replacement for the ornery, tough as nails, Charles Oakley, who would be traded to the Toronto Raptors later that season.
While Thomas' career average of 8 points and 7 rebounds a game won't blow you away, the TCU product actually posted put up his best numbers as a Knick, with 14 and 10 respectively. More importantly, the veteran provided the locker room with leadership, held his teammates accountable especially on defense, and played a key role in the team's NBA Finals run in 1999.
After seven seasons with the Knicks, Thomas was traded to the Phoenix Suns for Quentin Richardson and Nate Robinson. While the diminutive Robinson became a fan favorite for New York with his thunderous dunks (he would win a record 3 Slam Dunk Competitions), his contributions never equaled Thomas'.
13 The Knicks trade Jamal Crawford for Al Harrington
In fairness to the Knicks, despite the fact that Jamal Crawford averaged 16 points a game over four years in New York, the franchise traded him to the Golden State Warriors for Al Harrington in an effort to give more playing time to guard Steve Francis, who the team had acquired the year before in a trade with the Orlando Magic.
The trade didn't seem really necessary, given that the team already had a lot of forwards, including Quentin Richardson, David Lee, Channing Frye, and Renaldo Balkman, all who were already on the roster at the time of the deal.
Jamal Crawford, who will turn 37 in March and is currently in his 16th season, is averaging 12 points a game as a key member of the Los Angeles Clippers. The reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year is also the only player in league history to win the award three times.
12 Knicks trade Trevor Ariza for Steve Francis
A second round pick by the New York Knicks in the 2004 NBA Draft, Trevor Ariza quickly developed into an athletic defender, capable of hitting the 3 and slashing to the rim with ease. In short, he is the type of player teams search for in the first round or give multi-year deals to in free agency.
In former GM Isiah Thomas' attempt to build an offense-first back-court, similar to his playing days with the Detroit Pistons, Thomas traded Ariza and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway (remember him?) to the Orlando Magic for three-time All-Star and combo guard Steve Francis.
Prior to coming to New York, the Maryland product was a scoring machine for the Magic, and before that with the Houston Rockets, as he averaged nearly 20 points a game.
Unfortunately for the Knickerbockers, Francis' game seemingly disappeared overnight, as he averaged a career-low in points (10.8) assists (3.5), and rebounds (3.0).
To make matters worse, Francis, constantly looked unmotivated and lethargic on the court and was booed mercilessly by Knicks fans virtually anytime he touched the ball. The man nicknamed the "Franchise" would be dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers a little more than a year later and would be out of the NBA by 2008.
11 Knicks trade J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert
In 2015, looking to clean house and give the Knicks some salary cap space, Team President Phil Jackson traded guards Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In Shumpert, the Knicks gave up a young athletic wing, who despite being somewhat injury prone, could defend multiple positions, drive to the hoop, and hit the 3.
In J.R. Smith, New York said goodbye to a player who could lead the team in scoring on any given night but also do the same with technicals or bone-headed plays the next. When he is focused on his game, however, Smith, is a deadly 3-point shooter and slasher that can roll with your starters or be the spark a team needs off the bench, as evidenced by the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award he won as a Knick in 2013.
Coming back to the Knicks was Lance Thomas, Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk (who was immediately waived), and a 2019 second round pick.
Thomas has actually turned into a pleasant surprise for New York. Since joining the Knicks, he has averaged over 8 points a game and set career highs in minutes, as well as free throw and 3-point percentage.
10 The Knicks trade Dikembe Mutombo
Yes, Dikembe Mutombo played for the New York Knicks. In 2003, the Hall-Of-Famer and king of blocked shots, signed a 2-year deal with the franchise after he was bought out by the New Jersey Nets the season before.
Unsurprisingly, Mutombo became an instant fan-favorite with the Knicks, as his game-changing defense, rebounding, and engaging personality made him popular with teammates and fans.
Naturally, Knicks GM Isiah Thomas traded the eight-time All-Star and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year to the Chicago Bulls for Jamal Crawford and Jerome Williams.
As mentioned earlier, Crawford was solid in his four and a half years as a Knick, as the Michigan product put up his best offensive numbers of his career in New York.
9 Knicks sign Jerome James
In what seemed like a plot straight out of a movie, little-known Jerome James came out of nowhere during the 2005 NBA Playoffs to help the Seattle SuperSonics knock off the heavily-favored Sacramento Kings in the first round. He then gave the Tim Duncan-led San Antonio Spurs a run for their money in the second round, as he averaged a career-high 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds. The highlight of that postseason run was James wearing a torn-up garbage bag as a cape in a post-game interview.
Naturally, the Knicks, who have been on an never-ending quest to replace franchise center Patrick Ewing (more on him in a bit) since 2001, assumed that James — who before his fairy tale playoff run had averaged an unimpressive 4 points and 3 boards for his career — was the second coming of the Messiah, and GM Isiah Thomas gave the big man a five-year, $30 million deal.
Not surprisingly, James was a disaster for the Knicks. After arriving at his first training camp with the team out of shape, he missed multiple games with an array of injuries and ended up averaging an extremely underwhelming 3 points and 2 rebounds.
His second season was even worse, as James averaged less than 2 points per game (1.9) and was suspended by the team for not being prepared to practice.
8 Knicks trade for Stephon Marbury
Former GM Isiah Thomas pulled off a ton of bad trades during his reign of terror as GM of the Knicks, but his acquisition of point guard Stephon Marbury from the Phoenix Suns in 2004 (along with Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski) is arguably his worst.
Marbury, the two-time All-Star and Brooklyn native, was supposed to bring the Knicks not only a dominant point guard but a superstar who would lead the team for years to come. Unfortunately, while the '04 Knickerbockers made the playoffs, that was the height of their success with the man nicknamed "Starbury," as selfish play and feuds with team beat writers, management, and coaches came to define his tenure with the team.
Heading to the Suns was a first-round pick in the 2004 and 2010 drafts, Antonio McDyess, a bunch of spare parts headlined by Charlie Ward, and $3 million.
Both picks would be traded to the Utah Jazz. In the 2004 draft, the Jazz selected Kirk Snyder (okay, so no one is perfect). In 2010, however, the team from Salt Lake City took the criminally underrated Gordon Hayward.
7 Knicks trade Latrell Sprewell for Keith Van Horn
On a personal level, this trade broke my heart.
From the minute Latrell Sprewell came to the New York, he became an instant fan-favorite as he energized not just the team and their fans, but the city as well. Sprewell's redemption after the infamous 1997 choking incident between he and former Golden State Warriors' head coach P.J. Carlesimo was highlighted by the fact that he played a crucial role in helping the Knicks become the first 8th seeded team to ever make the NBA Finals in 1999 (They lost to the San Antonio Spurs).
Despite Sprewell being named an All-Star in 2001 for the fifth time in his career, the Knicks still missed the playoffs and would do so in 2002 as well. That summer, New York traded the fan-favorite to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a four-team trade, where he would help the T'Wolves reach their first and only Western Conference Finals.
Coming back to the Knicks was the second overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, Keith Van Horn. The former Utah product would average 16.4 points a game for the Knicks. Despite that, New York would trade Van Horne after 47 games to the Milwaukee Bucks for the seventh player picked in the same draft: borderline first round bust Tim Thomas.
6 Knicks let Jeremy Lin leave
The 2011 season was a magical one for the Knicks and their fans, as Jeremy Lin burst onto the scene. The undrafted point guard from Harvard used his speed, shooting, electric ball-handling, creativity, and ability to finish at the rim to not only lead the team to an electrifying seven-game winning streak but took the NBA by force and created a storm of popularity and excitement. Said excitement morphed into the phenomena called Linsanity that grabbed national attention and left Madison Square Garden rocking on a nightly basis.
That summer, instead of locking down their new-found franchise player to a long-term extension (he was claimed off waivers by the Knicks from the Houston Rockets), the team elected not to match an offer given to Lin, who was then a restricted free agent, by his former team. The deal was a three-year contract that paid him a combined $10.2 million over the first two years but then ballooned to $14.8 million in the final season, via the "poison pill" provision. That is used to discourage teams from matching RFA offers by back-loading the end of the deal.
5 Knicks sign Amar'e Stoudemire
The man nicknamed “STAT” was a highlight machine who showed shooting prowess along with power, explosion, and speed that allowed him to get to the rim and dunk on anybody at will. Looking to add a megastar in free agency and striking out with the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Knicks signed Stoudemire to a 5-year, $99.7 million deal.
Stoudemire, who played a career-high 36.8 minutes per game in his debut season with the Knicks, had a fantastic first year with the franchise as he averaged just over 25 points a game (25.3), was voted an All-Star, and became a legitimate MVP candidate. It's no coincidence that he succeeded while playing under Mike D'Antoni, who was also his head coach previously with the Phoenix Suns.
All that playing time, however, would become his downfall, as STAT, who already had a series of knee problems (he underwent microfracture surgery in 2005), only saw his knee problems get worse.
4 Patrick Ewing trade to the Seattle SuperSonics
For most New York fans, this trade would be number 1 on the list from a karma perspective. But since Ewing, arguably the greatest player to ever wear a Knicks jersey, was clearly on the downside of his Hall-Of-Fame career when he was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics, it gets the number 4 spot on the list.
Heading to the Knicks was shooting guard Glen Rice, centers Luc Longley and Travis Knight, guard Vernon Maxwell, forwards Vladimir Stephania and Lazaro Borrell, 2001 first round pick (Jamal Tinsley), 2002 first round pick (Kareem Rush), and two second round picks (Michael Wright and Eric Chenowith).
3 Knicks trade for Antonio McDyess
Looking to add a stud power forward to their lineup, the Knicks traded starting center Marcus Camby, point guard Mark Jackson, and the seventh overall pick in the '02 draft to the Denver Nuggets for Antonio McDyess.
In fairness to New York, McDyess had been an All-Star the previous season with the Nuggets and displayed the type of athleticism, power, and leaping ability that is reminiscent of a young Amar'e Stoudemire.
In typical Knicks' fashion, their new addition blew out his knee in exhibition play and would go on to miss the entire 2002 regular season. The following year, MyDyess would only play 18 games for the Knicks before being traded to the Phoenix Suns.
In essence, the Knicks gave up a solid backup point guard and floor general in Mark Jackson, a really good defensive center in Camby (who would win the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year Award and was voted to the NBA All-Defensive First or Second Team from 2004 to 2008), along with the draft rights to Nene, who is still an effective two-way player in his 15th season. All for 18 games of McDyess.
2 Knicks trade for Andrea Bargnani
Although he was drafted by different management, this trade falls squarely on the shoulders of former GM Glen Grunwald. Before becoming the Knicks GM in 2012, Grunwald also held the same role for eight years with the Toronto Raptors (1997-2004).
With the first overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, the same Raptors selected Andrea Bargnani. Besides teasing fans with his length, shooting prowess, and ability to star in lame pizza commercials, the Italian forward/center didn't do all that much for the Raps.
Nevertheless, the Knicks traded Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, a 2014 second-round pick, a 2017 (it's the gift that keeps on giving) pick, and wait for it...a 2016 first round pick!
1 Knicks trade for Eddy Curry
This one had disaster written all over it from the start. In 2005, the Knicks traded their 2006 first round pick, a second round pick in the 2007 and 2009 draft, the right to swap first round picks in the 2007 draft, and marginal players Michael Sweetney, Tim Thomas, and Jermaine Jackson to the Chicago Bulls in return for Center Eddy Curry and power forward Antonio Davis.
This trade still looks horrific 10 years later. The first reason is because Curry, who had one good year with the Knicks (he averaged 19 points and 7 rebounds), was constantly overweight, had heart ailments, and was routinely described as lazy throughout his career. He was even hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat even before the trade went down. Nevertheless, New York still went through with the trade.
The second reason this trade was so lopsided is because of what the Knicks gave up. With New York's 2006 first round pick (second overall), the Bulls selected LaMarcus Aldridge (they would trade him to the Portland Trail Blazers for Tyrus Thomas. We all make mistakes).
Oh, it gets better...
In the '07 draft, Chicago swapped first round picks with New York, allowing the Bulls to pick 9th overall, where they selected center Joakim Noah and the Knicks chose Wilson Chandler 23rd overall. While fans might think they got the last laugh because Noah is now a Knick, Chicago fans are still laughing due to the fact that Noah, who despite being only 31 years old, appears to somewhat washed up from years of hard play and looks nothing like the dominant two-way player he was just a few short years ago.
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