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NBA PM: Knicks Still Chasing Ricky Rubio

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This past February, the New York Knicks flirted with the Minnesota Timberwolves about the possibility of trading Ricky Rubio to the Big Apple. The Knicks had interest in Rubio dating back to 2009. That year, Rubio was drafted by the T-Wolves with the fifth overall pick in the draft—three spots ahead of the Knicks. The franchise opted to select Jordan Hill at eighth and has struggled to find consistent play at the point guard position since.

According to a report from Ian Begley of ESPN New York, some in the Knicks organization remain hopeful that the Knicks can still find a way to acquire Rubio. There are some obvious pros and cons to the addition, but what makes it most interesting is what it may say about the thinking of Phil Jackson and his front office.

In last week’s draft lottery, the Knicks secured the eighth pick in what is considered to be a guard heavy draft. Having consistently been a position of weakness for the Knicks, zeroing in on a young guard seems to make a lot of sense. However, with Jackson’s noted affinity for playing in his beloved triangle, there’s now reason to wonder.

Many around the Knicks organization believe that Carmelo Anthony has played his last game with the franchise, and Jackson has already let it be known that he believes Anthony would be better off elsewhere. With a dearth of small forward talent on the roster and concerns about scoring points without Anthony, it might make sense for the Knicks to look to replace Anthony with a younger wingman who could excel alongside Kristaps Porzingis.

That’s why the Rubio report is interesting.

Although the seventh pick isn’t preferable to, say, the third, the Knicks will certainly have an opportunity to grab one of the six intriguing prospects on the board after Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball are (presumably) selected by the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers: Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith, Jonathan Isaac and Malik Monk.

If the Knicks truly are interested in Rubio, however, it could be a tipping of their hand.

Some familiar with the thinking of the front office in New York have cautioned against buying into the conventional wisdom that says the Knicks should draft a point guard with an eye toward developing him for the future. The acquisition of Derrick Rose was done, in part, to give the Knicks an opportunity to gauge whether and to what extent that an “attack guard” would mesh within the offensive philosophy. Early on, though, it was quite obvious that Rose wasn’t happy being forced into the system.

One can only wonder how a young explosive guard would take to the same demand.

As cautioned earlier, teams generally approach the draft in one of two ways: some pick the prospect with the best perceived value, regardless of the pieces that currently sit on their roster. One of the most recent examples of occurred back in the 2009 draft—the very one where Rubio was drafted. Despite having a bevy of talented guards on the roster, including Jamal Crawford and Monta Ellis, the Golden State Warriors selected Stephen Curry with the seventh overall pick.

It’s safe to say that was a wise decision, though it was high-risk.

In the most notable occurrence of the opposite—a team selecting based on perceived roster need—the Detroit Pistons passed on Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh back in 2003.

At this point, nobody seems to know for sure what the Knicks are thinking regarding their biggest need, but their apparent interest in Rubio is noteworthy. Generally, point guard appears to be a position of strength across the league. Almost every team either has one that has proven himself to be really, really good or appears capable of being really, really good. For that reason, one could argue, it makes little sense to use an early pick on acquiring a point guard, especially if there are bound to be plus contributors available on the free agency and trade markets.

That becomes even more true if the Knicks continue to be married to Jackson and the triangle.

This is precisely what makes covering the draft so interesting. Often, it’s difficult to figure out what teams are thinking, what’s real and what is a smokescreen. Considering that the Knicks continue to have registered interest in Rubio, however, this is noteworthy.

So on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, as crazy as it may seem, don’t be surprised if the Knicks walk away having not selected a guard.

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About Moke Hamilton

Moke Hamilton

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and international basketball.