When you review the New York Knickerbockers draft picks over the last decade and a half you realize there are a surprising number of pretty good players that have been chosen by them and you wonder why the team has not managed to perform better then they have. It becomes obvious however when you realize that, unfortunately for the Knicks, the majority of those quality picks are now playing with other teams, which might explain their position in the league hierarchy at the moment.
One player they do still have that is proving to be the real deal is the fourth overall pick from the 2015 NBA Draft, Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis is easily one of the New York Knicks best draft picks in a few decades, possibly the best in the 30 years since New York drafted Patrick Ewing out of Georgetown in 1985. But where do all the other first round draft picks for the New York Knicks rank overall in the last couple of decades.
16 Michael Sweetney (9th Overall in 2003)
The New York Knicks picked Michael Sweetney with the ninth overall selection out of Georgetown in the 2003 NBA Draft. Sweetney had been a finalist for the Naismith Award as well as a candidate for the John R. Wooden award after ranking in the top 20 in both scoring and rebounding during his junior year. He spent two years with the Knicks before heading to the Chicago Bulls where weight issues prevented him from playing. He tried to make it on with the Boston Celtics a couple of times in 2009 and 2011 but did not end up being signed. Since then he has played for teams in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Uruguay. Among those who were drafted AFTER Sweetney in 2003 that the Knicks could have had are David West, Boris Diaw, or even Kendrick Perkins.
15 John Thomas (25th Overall in 1997)
As a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, John Thomas helped lead the team, as its captain, to the 1997 NCAA Final Four. Despite choosing him with the 25th pick in the draft, Thomas was traded with three other players to the Boston Celtics shortly thereafter. He was traded again at the trade deadline to the Toronto Raptors. Thomas only lasted two years in Toronto before hitting the international circuit with appearances in the Dominican Republic, Spain, and China as well as the NBA D-League. He made his way back to the NBA for the Timberwolves and also played for the Grizzlies, Hawks, and Nets before slipping out of the NBA for good. Despite his uneventful career, the Knicks did not miss out on anyone who was drafted later on in that draft which was very top-heavy with Tim Duncan and Chancey Billups going first and third overall and no real big names after Tracy McGrady, who went ninth.
14 Donnell Harvey (22nd Overall in 2000)
After a stellar high school career which included being named a McDonald’s All-American and winning the Naismith Award as the top high schooler in the nation in 1999, Donnell Harvey made his way to the University of Florida to play for Billy Donovan. In his only year in Florida, Harvey helped the Gators advance to the Final Four where they eventually lost in the Championship game to the Michigan State Spartans. Harvey declared for the draft and was selected with the 22nd pick by the Knicks who quickly packaged him in a trade to the Dallas Mavericks. The following year he was sent to the Denver Nuggets and eventually joined the Orlando Magic, the Phoenix Suns, and the D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce before ending up playing internationally in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and China.
13 Mardy Collins (29th Overall in 2006)
A two time All-Conference selection while playing at Temple University, Mardy Collins was known as a solid defender when the Knickerbockers drafted him with the 29th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. He averaged 4.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in 52 games played as a rookie. The biggest highlights of the season were a 19 point, 12 rebound, eight assist game against the Bucks, and in a game against the Nuggets a hard foul on JR Smith sparked a brawl that lead to 10 players being tossed and a six game suspension for Collins. After two years with the Knicks, Collins was shipped to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008 where he lasted a couple of seasons before slipping out of the league. He continued his career internationally in Turkey, Venezuala, Italy, Greece, and Poland.
12 Renaldo Balkman (20th Overall in 2006)
The Knicks drafted Renaldo Balkman out of the University of South Carolina with the 20th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. Balkman had been a relative unknown in college and had not even been recruited in high school. Nevertheless he became a surprise first round pick. Once with the Knicks he showed potential playing 15 minutes per game and bringing an energy that the crowd loved. He eagerly took up the challenge of defending shooting guards, forwards, and centers depending on where he was needed most that night. His hustle on the court won him many fans but his offensive game, including his shooting, held him back. After his sophomore season Balkman was traded to the Nuggets, but he returned to New York a few years later in the Carmelo Anthony trade and has since spent time in a variety of Latin American leagues. The Knicks missed out on Rajon Rondo who was drafted with the next pick in 2006 and Kyle Lowry who went three picks later.
11 Frederic Weis (15th Overall in 1999)
Despite being chosen with the 15th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, Frederic Weis never played a minute in the NBA. He did carve out a decent international career in France, Spain, and Greece however and was a four time All-Star in the French League. Weis also won Silver Medal with the French team at the 2000 Summer Olympics. That was also the setting of his most famous moment as he was the victim of what became known in France as “le dunk de la mort,” or "the dunk of death," when he was brutally posterized by Vince Carter of team USA. The Knicks could have chosen Ron Artest in 1999, who was taken with the following pick, or even Manu Ginobili who went to the Spurs a the end of the second round.
10 Tim Hardaway Jr. (24th in 2013)
The son of Golden State Warriors legend Tim Hardaway played for the Michigan Wolverines and helped lead them to the 2013 Final Four before losing in the Championship game to the Louisville Cardinals. Hardaway was then drafted with the 24th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft by the knicks. Hardaway made an impact right away playing in 81 games off the bench and averaging 10.2 points per game. He continued to play well his sophomore season but a few minor injuries and a logjam for minutes behind Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith lead him to fewer minutes that year. After the season he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for the rights to Jerian Grant. During his first year in Atlanta he was shuffled back and forth between the D-League a few times but has now settled in and is averaging 11 points per game off the bench for them in 2016.
8 Jordan Hill (8th Overall in 2009)
In the 2009 draft the New York Knicks chose Jordan Hill with the eighth overall pick. Hill played his college ball for the Arizona Wildcats, earning third team All-American honors as a junior after which he declared for the draft. At the 2010 trade deadline, Hill was shipped to the Houston Rockets where he spent two years before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Over four years his numbers steadily improved with him averaging 12 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in his fourth year with the Lakers. In 2015 he signed with the Indiana Pacers and he now plays for the Timberwolves after signing with them in 2016. There were three All-Stars selected after Hill including DeMar Derozan who went to the Raptors with the ensuing pick.
7 Wilson Chandler (23rd Overall in 2007)
After spending two years playing for the DePaul Blue Demons, Wilson Chandler declared for the 2007 NBA Draft. He was chosen by the Knicks with the 23rd overall pick. He did well off the bench for most of the season before getting a few starts later in the year. During the next three years Chandler established himself as a legit NBA player, becoming an important part of the Knicks team and averaging around 15 points and five rebounds per game. In 2001 however the Knicks sent Chandler to the Nuggets as a part of the Carmelo Anthony deal. In Denver, Chandler continued his solid play, with the Nuggets making the playoffs. During the lockout shortened 2012 season Chandler decided to play in China. Shortly after returning to the Nuggets he was injured and remained out for most of the 2011-12 season. When he came back from injury he returned to form and played well until another injury sidelined him for the 2015 season.
6 Channing Frye (8th Overall in 2005)
A four year starter at the University of Arizona, Channing Frye helped the team make the NCAA tournament each year which included two trips to the Elite Eight. In the 2005 NBA Draft New York selected Frye with the eighth overall pick. He played for the Knicks for two seasons and earned NBA All-Rookie team honors in 2005-06. Frye was traded to Portland where he played for a couple years before signing with the Phoenix Suns in 2009. He became an important part of the Suns lineup averaging over 10 points and five rebounds per game each year and starting all 82 games in 2013-14. After signing with the Orlando Magic in 2014 his numbers tumbled somewhat and he ended up being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. He ended up winning a ring with the Cavaliers when the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the finals.
5 Iman Shumpert (17th Overall in 2011)
Known as much for his distinct High Top Fade hairstyle as for his defensive skills, Iman Shumpert was drafted by the New York Knicks with the 17th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft out of Georgia Tech. Considered one of the better on-ball defenders in the league since his rookie year when he made the NBA All-Rookie team, Shumpert was thought to be a building block for the Knicks but injuries limited him from breaking out. After four seasons with the Knicks he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015. In Cleveland he was an important piece that helped the team make it to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Warriors. The following year he played a more limited role but still provided help in Cleveland’s return to the finals where Shumpert earned his first ring as the Cavaliers won the title for the first time.
4 Nene (7th Overall in 2002)
The first Brazilian to ever be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft was immediately sent by the New York Knicks to the Denver Nuggets. The six-foot-eleven Brazilian who is known “soccer style” by just one name, started strong in Denver making the All-Rookie first team. The injury bug then bit, causing him to miss much of the next three seasons but he came back strong and averaged over 13 points and six rebounds during the next few seasons before being traded to the Washington Wizards. Now in his 15th season he recently joined the Houston Rockets. The Knicks could have gotten their hands on Amare Stoudamire eight years sooner than they ultimately did as he was available and taken two picks later by the Phoenix Suns.
3 Danilo Gallinari (6th Overall in 2008)
After a few years making his way up the ranks in the Italian league, culminating in his being named the 2007-08 Euroleague Rising Star and Italian League MVP, Danilo Gallinari decided make himself eligible for the 2008 NBA Draft. The Knicks chose him with the sixth overall pick but did not get much out of him during his rookie year because of a back injury that kept him on the bench for most of the season. He came out strong in his second year however averaging 15.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while starting for most of the season. He continued his strong play in his third season until he was sent to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade. In Denver his numbers have continued to improve and he has been an important piece of their team for the past few years despite missing 2013-14 year with a torn ACL.
2 David Lee (30th Overall in 2005)
A graduate of the University of Florida where he won a national championship while playing with future NBA All-Stars Joakim Noah and Al Horford, David Lee was selected with the 30th overall pick by the New York Knicks in the 2005 NBA Draft. Lee spent five seasons with the Knicks, ultimately averaging 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in his final season with the team and being named to the All Star team. He was the first Knick to make the All-Star game in almost a decade. In the offseason he signed with the Golden State Warriors. He played five seasons with the Warriors making another All-Star game in 2013 and helping Golden State win the NBA Championship in 2015. He moved to the Celtics and then the Mavericks over the following two years and he is now a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
1 Kristaps Porzingis (4th Overall in 2015)
A lot of Knicks fans were hoping Karl-Anthony Towns, Jalil Okafor, or D’Angelo Russell might slip to them at the number four slot in the 2015 NBA Draft but the consensus top three picks were all snatched up as predicted. When it came time for the New York Knicks to use their fourth overall pick they went with the much less well-known foreigner, Kristaps Porzingis. It was a choice that many people feared could be, at worst, a disappointment in the vein of Darko Milicic, or at best, a very long development process. Instead the selection turned into one of the big surprises of the 2015-16 season. The seven-foot-three Latvian immediately made his mark on the NBA, draining threes, blocking shots, and putting up double-doubles on his way to finishing second in the Rookie of the Year race. Now in his second year in the league Porzingis’ numbers have continued to improve as he establishes himself as a future star and cornerstone of the Knicks for years to come.