• Alder Almo

Knick Fury and The Avengers: Leon Rose Assembles A-List Front Office

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

In his first public appearance since replacing Steve Mills as the New York Knicks’ President of Basketball Operations, Leon Rose teased fans with his grand plan in a one-on-one interview with seasoned anchor Mike Breen on MSG network.

“No one deserves a winner more than Knicks fans,” Rose said. “I know it’s been tough. But my pledge is that we are going to work tirelessly. We are going to do business. We are going to be prudent. We are going to be creative. And we are going to be in play in every aspect of the draft, trades and free agency. And we are going to build this the right way to build you a winner.” 

Tall talk for a newcomer, but Rose seems ready to walk the walk. He’s already rebuilt the Knicks front office with some of the best minds in the business.

A former agent to LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Joel Embiid, and many other big names, Rose was a huge force at Creative Arts Agency. And now he’s bringing one of his CAA colleagues and long-time friend to the Big Apple.

If the NBA is the Marvel Universe, Rose is trying to be Knick Fury with William Wesley, aka World Wide Wes, as his Ironman. He is assembling an A-List front office, his own version of Avengers, in his quest to bring the Knicks back to relevance and basketball supremacy.

Capping off Rose’s frenetic but calculated front office moves is the hiring of Wesley as New York’s new Executive Vice President and senior advisor. An immensely influential figure, Wesley has been a power broker in the basketball and entertainment circles for the longest time. 

Wesley and Rose trace their roots to Southern New Jersey. It’s perhaps worth noting the two share ties to Milt Wagner, father of Dajuan whose son DJ is the ESPN's No. 1 prospect for 2023.  The Knicks own a total of eight first round picks through 2023. 

To Rose’s credit, his recruitment has been top-notch.

First on deck is salary cap guru Brock Aller, the right hand and strategist of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert. His superpower is to crunch the numbers and find holes in the salary cap rule. He will now serve as the Knicks’ Vice President of Basketball and Strategic Planning. Former Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin, who is now with the New Orleans Pelicans, lauded the hire, describing Aller as a “big-picture guy who is also a diabolical genius from a cap standpoint.”

Walt Perrin from the Utah Jazz was the next piece for Rose’s Puzzle. Perrin will bring in his uncanny vision and college scouting. In his 19 years with the small-market team, Perrin and the Jazz had a solid track record in the Draft. The team picked or traded for the likes of Mo Williams (2003, No. 47), Deron Williams (2005, No. 3), Paul Millsap (2006, No. 47), Gordon Hayward (2010, No. 9), Rudy Gobert (2013, No. 27) and most recently, New York native Donovan Mitchell (2017, No. 13).

Rose is pairing Perrin with Frank Zanin from Oklahoma City Thunder as the team’s new Assistant General Managers. Scott Perry will remain GM for at least another year.

Zanin, a Philly native and a close friend of the late Kobe Bryant, traces his ties with Rose back when he was starting his NBA career as a scout. During that time, Rose’s most high-profile player, Allen Iverson, was the Sixers’ main man. Zanin has worked his way up in the executive ladder to become an assistant GM in Brooklyn Nets under Billy King and most recently, under Sam Presti at the Thunder.

Rose also hired Frank’s brother TJ Zanin, an international scout who had stints with the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, Chinese national basketball team and Team USA.

Completing their scouting team is Alex Kline from the Pelicans. The 26-year old scout has been named twice to Forbes’ Top 30 under 30. He started out as a high school prodigy being the brains behind The Recruiting Scoop for Rivals.com. He also founded the Mary Kline Classic Sports and Business Symposium, in honor of his late mother. The annual event includes a charity basketball showcase that has attracted some of the top high school prospects in the East Coast counting on Karl-Anthony Towns, Mitchell, Markelle Fultz, Michael Porter, Jr. and Jamal Murray as alumni.

Rose’s new-look Knicks front office hasn’t wasted time. They have started making back-end moves, which could have an impact in the grand scheme of things, even with the team eliminated from the Disney Bubble and the real offseason many months away.

They waived seldom-used guard Kadeem Allen, who has exhausted his second two-way player options with the Knicks, for former Auburn star Jared Harper. The 5-11 guard lit up the G-League averaging 20.8 points, 5.7 assists and shot 35.9 percent from beyond the arc.

They next waived fan-favorite Allonzo Trier, who was mysteriously dropped from the regular rotation following a solid rookie year. Taking his spot is ex-Brooklyn Net Theo Pinson, a starter in the 2018 UNC championship team who has yet to find his footing in the NBA. The Knicks saved a couple of millions in salaries and could be more if they don’t pick up Pinson’s $1.7-million team option by October 17.

The couple of moves, especially the last one, has Aller’s imprint all over it as the Knicks will try to take advantage of the expected drop in salary cap due to the economic crunch brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rose was able to assemble a versatile front office that can run the extra mile and build through the draft or go for the quick play, hunting for star power through trades and the free agency. That direction will depend largely on who will be their Captain America.

The long-suffering franchise may have started to reverse their fortunes but what’s the endgame for James Dolan’s Knick Fury and his Avengers? Their upcoming coaching decision will give us a clue.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo