Just days before the NBA trade deadline passes at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, the Knicks suddenly find themselves scrambling for a new president after parting ways with Steve Mills on Tuesday.
In their press release announcing the departure of Mills, the Knicks revealed they are already looking for his replacement — though GM Scott Perry will assume the role for the time being.
The vacant position, however, refuels the rumor mill of Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri making his way down to the Big Apple. Knicks owner James Dolan has long been after the 49-year-old, who built the Raptors into a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference as they’ve made the playoffs every year since his arrival in 2013.
Meanwhile, this will be the Knicks’ seventh-straight season without a postseason appearance.
Ujiri’s efforts surmounted to a first-ever title for the Raptors franchise last season, fueled by the one-year rental of Kawhi Leonard, whom he traded franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for.
Dolan initially went after Ujiri in 2017 when Phil Jackson was removed from his role as president, which was later awarded to Mills.
While the Knicks might not be the most desirable destination for players and front-office members alike, Ujiri turned down a contract offer from the Raptors last summer and said he would be “intrigued” by the job in New York, per Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck.
Granted, a hefty paycheck and unlimited funds to support his Giants of Africa project would help, but it isn’t that easy.
Ujiri is under contract through the 2020-21 season and the only way the Knicks will be able to get him is via trade.
The Raptors would be looking for considerable draft compensation, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, which the Knicks are reluctant to give up.
That draft capital is one of the only few good things that the Knicks have going right now. A young core is not being properly developed and utilized in a broken organizational system as they own the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference.
Ujiri would help bring that all-important structure to the dysfunctional franchise, but it will all be up to Dolan and the Knicks’ willingness to part ways with the few favorable assets they have.