Divining the perfect Knicks' starting five for next season is akin to planning the perfect vacation in our present situation.
Hawaii comes to mind first, but what are the cost of flights? Am I flying first class? Is this a child-free venture, or does my trip come with built in babysitters? Can I even be anywhere near my elderly in-laws at any point in the next calendar year?
I hear Disney Cruises specialize in child care, but who the heck knows when the cruise industry will be back on its feet in the midst of this pandemic?
Perhaps a simple drive to Atlantic City for a long weekend then, once social distancing restrictions are relaxed of course? But, well...Hawaii sounds a whole lot more delightful than AC, doesn't it?
You may have already guessed, but yes, Chris Paul is indeed Hawaii in this scenario, Fred VanVleet is the Disney Cruise, and Elfrid Payton is the $19.99 All You Can Eat Prime Rib Buffett at the Golden Nugget.
Since this is my perfect offseason, I'm going to go ahead and pencil in a tidy discount on those tickets to Oahu and assume I'm getting Chris Paul for the Hornets' 2020 second rounder, Dennis Smith Jr, Julius Randle and several expiring salaries.
Is this really perfect? Of course not. Paul turns 35 in a few days, costs a ton, and isn't the drawing card he once was. But if he's not costing real assets (and helps unload Randle) there's also a lot to like, starting with the fact that he's still really freaking good. This is also a vote of confidence in Fred VanVleet's agent, and the fact that the Toronto combo guard will cost too much for the Knicks' liking. LaMelo Ball? Handing the reigns to a rookie point guard who can't shoot and doesn't defend is definitely a good path to a great pick in 2021, but that also seems to be outside of the spirit of this exercise. So Paul it is.
Is the trade to get him a generous one from New York's point of view? Probably. But like I wrote about a few weeks ago, there's no other obvious suitor who may be willingly to take on Paul's contract. It's a light haul for OKC, but it's also not completely unrealistic (especially if Paul exerts his power and expresses a desire to be moved to New York).
With CP3 at point and RJ manning the wing, Reggie Bullock would be a perfectly acceptable shooting guard, but where's the fun in that? Instead, how about the Knicks win the whole damn lottery and draft Anthony Edwards.
Might he be a train wreck on a team that gives him too much responsibility and can't properly reign in his less desirable tendencies while he learns the lay of the land? Oh yes. Yes yes yes.
But would that be nearly as much of a worry with Chris Paul as the floor general? Not in the slightest.
I see no reason why Danilo Gallinari wouldn't want to extend his time playing with the best point guard of his generation, so let's say he comes back home to play the four on a two-year deal (second year partially guaranteed for $5 million) with whatever is left of New York's cap space.
And of course that leaves Mitch to man the five.
Is it perfect? Not really...there's one too many guys who prefer to have the ball in their hands, and they're one elite shooter short of being a truly dangerous team.
But it mixes together the perfect blend of win-now and win-later without a lot of the downside risk that would otherwise come by putting two ball-dominant teenagers in your starting five. Paul will eventually age out, but not before shepherding an honest to goodness young core over the next two seasons...just in time for the NBA's next great free agent class in 2022.
Let's make this happen, basketball Gods. You owe us one.
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Anthony Edwards
SF: RJ Barrett
PF: Danilo Gallinari
C: Mitchell Robinson