What-ifs are usually based on situations that were close to happening. This can be applied to trades (What if the Knicks waited on Carmelo Anthony or traded for Kyle Lowry?), signings (What if the Knicks didn't pay Joakim Noah or Tim Hardaway Jr.?), and draft picks (What if the Knicks took Donovan Mitchell or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?). I'm going to go a bit outside the box. My what if isn't necessarily something the Knicks were possibly going to do, nor is it something that would have been easy. But it's arguably the biggest risk/reward move. What if the Knicks traded up for Luka Doncic?
The Knicks would have had to jump up from the ninth pick, as opposed to the fifth spot for Dallas. While I understand not everyone was as sold on Doncic as they are now, I truly believed he was a transcendent star in the making going into the draft. Given that he was available at three, let's say New York did what many NBA teams are hesitant to do: trade up.
So what if the Knicks took a leap and traded either an unprotected first (Dallas traded a top-five protected first) or two firsts for Doncic? Well, they would become...the Dallas Mavericks. It seems likely that if Doncic was a Knick and played as well as he did right away, Kristaps Porzingis would want to stick around. Sure, there were issues with the front office, but Luka showed us all pretty quickly that he's a winner. Rick Carlisle is better than any Knicks coach in years, but it's fair to assume Doncic, Porzingis, and the supporting cast have similar success that Dallas did this year. That would have the Knicks all but locked into a playoff spot this season.
Butterfly effect: What if the Knicks trading for Doncic leads to a series of events where we avoid this pandemic? Alright I'll get back on topic.
In all seriousness, the biggest benefits from this what-if is that the Knicks would have two homegrown stars and a path to contending. Doncic is a future MVP and almost burst into the race this year. Porzingis showed how talented he is after he shook off his injury rust. Knicks fans everywhere have been clamoring for their savior and for the young kids to get a chance to play. The truth is, winning is so much more satisfying when you start from the bottom and earn a title with the players you developed. If Doncic led New York to the promised land, he'd instantly become one of the greatest Knicks of all time.
The beauty of this scenario is that Knicks fans would just be beginning to reap the benefits. A trade-up for Luka would give the team consistent success for the foreseeable future. It's not something that was likely to happen, but I couldn't help but think of the possibility on draft night. Maybe even Frank Ntilikina thrives and the Knicks become this Euro team that the city throws itself behind.
Sadly, the reality is that a different team is living the Knicks' what-if dream. The Mavericks are on the rise, and while there's still several teams ahead of them in the West, both the present and future are bright. As for Knicks fans, they'll have to wait for their hero just a bit longer.