Former New York Knicks executive Phil Jackson expressed his displeasure with Kristaps Porzingis early this offseason after he skipped his exit meeting, prompting Jackson to shop the Knicks young star via trade.
While deals were discussed, particularly with the Boston Celtics who have a lot of future assets that could have been given up in a trade, ultimately nothing came to fruition, and Jackson ended up being relieved of his duties after a rough three years heading up New York’s front office.
It appears that Jackson was after the Celtics’ No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, which they ended up trading to the Philadelphia 76ers for the third pick and a future first rounder.
While speaking with Alex Kennedy on the HoopsHype Podcast, veteran NBA reporter Peter Vecsey said that Jackson wanted to acquire the pick to take UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, who ended up going No. 2 to the Los Angeles Lakers:
“People knew, they probably wouldn’t have accepted, but Phil was angling to try and trade Porzingis for the No. 1 pick to Boston and he would have taken [Lonzo] Ball. That’s who he was after. In the end, people might really like that.”
It’s unclear how close Jackson and Danny Ainge came to making a deal, but if they did it would have altered the entire NBA, as if the Knicks acquired the No. 1 overall pick to take Ball then the Lakers would have likely chosen Markelle Fultz at No. 2.
Fultz ultimately went to the Philadelphia 76ers with the top overall pick they acquired from Boston, so Philadelphia would have had to alter their pick at No. 3, which could have shifted the entire draft.
Additionally, instead of the Celtics drafting Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick they got in the trade with Philadelphia, they would have had Porzingis on their front line with Al Horford, perhaps making them the favorites in the Eastern Conference.
It is also unclear whether Jackson approached the Lakers about making a trade for the No. 2 pick once the 76ers acquired No. 1, knowing Philadelphia intended to take Fultz.
Lakers fans are happy that a deal was never made though, as they now have Ball at point guard leading the team into the future.