When it comes to front offices in American sports, very few have been criticized lately more than the New York Knicks. Between owner James Dolan and president Phil Jackson, the Knicks have made some questionable moves over the years that have caused them to struggle. It has been more than 40 years since the Knicks last won a title, and 18 years since the team reached the NBA Finals.
A big part of the reason for the Knicks struggling over that time has to do with their drafting. They haven’t hit many home runs when it comes to making the right selections. Not only that, but they seem to have many years where they don’t even have a first round draft pick, which is a rough way of rebuilding a team.
So how have the Knicks done exactly when it comes to drafting over the past 20 years, and how could things have gone differently? Let’s take a look at the last 15 first round selections that the Knicks have made, and tell if you they made the right choice or not. If they didn’t, which player was still on the board that would have made more sense? Here is a look back at those 15 selections.
15 Kristaps Porzingis
Original Pick: Kristaps Porzingis
We start the list with the 2015 NBA Draft, since the Knicks did not hold a first round selection in 2016. New York would end up with the fourth overall selection, and picked Kristaps Porzingis out of Latvia after Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor were all taken off of the board. Though it is too early at this point to say for sure where the Knicks should have gone, it certainly appears that they made the right choice.
Porzingis is having a strong second season with more than 18 points and seven rebounds per game, while also averaging two blocks. The next few players taken in the NBA Draft haven’t been as solid as Porzingis, so it looks like he is on his way to having the best career out of the players that were available for the Knicks to choose from.
14 Rudy Gobert (2013)
Original Pick: Tim Hardaway Jr.
After skipping the 2014 NBA Draft as the Knicks again didn’t have a first round pick, we head to 2013 where New York held the 24th overall spot. With the pick, the Knicks selected Tim Hardaway, Jr. out of Michigan. Hardaway spent his first two seasons with the Knicks, averaging 10.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He would then be traded to the Hawks for Jerian Grant in 2015.
Now, Grant isn’t even on the Knicks as he was sent to the Bulls. What New York ultimately should have done in the 2013 NBA Draft was select the player that was taken 27th overall, and that’s Rudy Gobert. Gobert has continued to get better, and is averaging more than 13 points and 12 rebounds per game with the Jazz in his fourth NBA season.
13 Kenneth Faried (2011)
Original Pick: Iman Shumpert
The 2011 NBA Draft doesn’t seem to get enough love for how deep it ended up being, with many stars like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard all being taken in the first round. Unfortunately for the Knicks, all of those players were off of the board by the time their selection came up with the 17th overall spot. With that pick, the Knicks took Iman Shumpert out of Georgia Tech.
Shumpert would play for more than three seasons with the Knicks, averaging 7.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game before being sent to the Cavaliers. A better realistic alternative would have been Kenneth Faried, who was the 22nd overall spot by the Nuggets. Faried is still with Denver, and he has averaged 12.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
12 DeMar DeRozan (2009)
Original Pick: Jordan Hill
Just like in 2011, the Knicks didn’t even get the chance to take some of the best players in the NBA Draft. Blake Griffin, James Harden and Stephen Curry were all selected before the Knicks could make the eighth overall selection. The Knicks ended up taking Jordan Hill, who struggled with the team and averaged four points per game in less than one season.
Knicks fans kick themselves because of the next pick, which was DeMar DeRozan at the ninth overall spot. DeRozan has made three All Star Games in his career with Toronto, averaging 19.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. With Curry being taken seventh overall and DeRozan going ninth, the Knicks were caught in the middle of two really good selections, but botched their selection.
11 Brook Lopez (2008)
Original Pick: Danilo Gallinari
In the 2008 NBA Draft, the Knicks had the sixth overall pick, and just watched Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love get selected with the previous two spots. The Knicks answered by taking Danilo Gallinari out of Italy. Gallinari lasted for less than three full seasons with the Knicks, but averaged 13.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game before being sent to the Nuggets.
The pick was not a bad one, as Gallinari has actually improved his numbers since becoming a member of the Nuggets, but needed to get out of New York to hit his stride. An even better pick would have been Brook Lopez, who was the 10th overall selection. Lopez has averaged 18.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game with the rival Nets.
10 Wilson Chandler (2007)
Original Pick: Wilson Chandler
The Knicks actually did a good job with their selection in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft considering that they had to wait until the 23rd spot to choose. The Knicks would end up taking Wilson Chandler, who had an up and down rookie season. However, Chandler would improve, and averaged more than 15 points per game and 5.4 rebounds. Eventually, Chandler would be traded to Denver as part of the deal that made Carmelo Anthony a Knick.
It’s hard to say that the Knicks made the wrong choice, as Chandler has continued to be a solid NBA player since then, and was vital in the Knicks having the capital to acquire Anthony. For that reason, we will say it was the right choice. You could also consider the fact that there wasn’t much talent that was drafted after Chandler as it is.
9 Kyle Lowry (2006)
Original Pick: Renaldo Balkman
We have had to skip a lot of years because the Knicks didn’t have a first round pick, but in 2006, they actually had two picks in the first round. With their first selection, the Knicks had the 20th overall spot and used it on Renaldo Balkman from South Carolina. Balkman never made an impact in the NBA, and had two stints with the Knicks before leaving after the 2011-12 season with a total of 4.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
There were actually two better directions that the Knicks could have gone in between their two picks, as both Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry were selected before the Knicks came up again. Out of the two, it’s hard to argue that Lowry hasn’t been the better player, as he has been an All Star in the past three seasons and is averaging north of 20 points per game over the past two.
8 Paul Millsap (2006)
Original Pick: Mardy Collins
The next pick for the Knicks in the 2006 NBA Draft came with the 29th spot, and they used it to select Mardy Collins from Temple after making a trade with San Antonio. Like Balkman, Collins struggled and only played a handful of seasons in the NBA. Overall, Collins would average just 3.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He ended his NBA career after the 2009-10 season with the Clippers.
There wasn’t much talent left with the first round coming to an end, but the second round did feature a perennial All Star. With the 47th overall pick, the Jazz selected Paul Millsap from Louisiana Tech, who is now with Atlanta. Millsap has averaged more than 14 points and seven rebounds in his career, making the past four All Star Games.
7 Danny Granger (2005)
Original Pick: Channing Frye
Just like they did in 2006, the Knicks had a pair of first round selections in the 2005 NBA Draft. The first of the two came pretty high in the draft, as the Knicks selected eighth overall. They used the pick on Channing Frye out of Arizona. Frye is still in the league, though he would play for just two seasons with the Knicks. Overall, Frye has averaged 9.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game.
Though Frye has had better longevity, a player that would have helped them more immediately was Danny Granger, the 17th overall pick out of New Mexico. At his peak, Granger was averaging nearly 26 points per game. Granger had been a great player before injuries started to pile up, but when he was at his peak, he was one of the best players in the league.
6 David Lee (2005)
Original Pick: David Lee
The other first round pick that the Knicks held in 2005 came at the very end of the first round with the 30th overall pick. The Knicks used that pick on David Lee out of Florida after making a trade with the Suns. Lee eventually turned into a star in his five seasons with the Knicks, averaging more than 20 points and 11 rebounds per game in his final season with the team before heading to Golden State.
Even though Lee would eventually depart and his numbers would decline, he was still the right pick. It’s hard to get a lot of value at the 30th overall spot, but the Knicks definitely took the best player that was still available. There were other names available such as Ersan Ilyasova and Marcin Gortat, but Lee was the correct choice this time around.
5 David West (2003)
Original Pick: Michael Sweetney
The Knicks had the misfortune of drafting outside of the top five in the 2003 NBA Draft that was absolutely loaded at the top. Instead, they had to settle for the ninth overall spot. With the pick, New York selected power forward Michael Sweetney out of Georgetown. Sweetney ended up playing two seasons in New York and two in Chicago before his NBA career ended with just 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
While most of the big names were already taken, the Knicks could have gone in a different direction and taken another power forward, David West. West has made two All Star teams in his career, and has had several seasons averaging more than 17 points and eight rebounds per game. West is still playing in the NBA, as well, which would have given the Knicks a long-term answer at the position.
4 Amar'e Stoudemire (2002)
Original Pick: Nene
The Knicks held the seventh overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, and ended up drafting Nene from Brazil before trading him to the Nuggets. Out of the trade, the Knicks would receive Antonio McDyess after also sending away Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson. What the Knicks should have done instead is keep their pick, and use it on Amar’e Stoudemire, who was taken with the ninth overall pick.
The Knicks ended up getting Stoudemire eventually, but not until he was about to begin his decline. Instead, the Knicks could have gotten him with the full prime of his career. Overall, Stoudemire has been named to six All Star teams, including one with the Knicks in the 2010-11 season. Perhaps the Knicks could have had more success with a younger Stoudemire.
3 DeShawn Stevenson (2000)
Original Pick: Donnell Harvey
The 2000 NBA Draft, for lack of a better term, was a mess. From top to bottom, there really wasn’t any superstar talent, especially when it got to the Knicks at the 22nd spot. New York selected Donnell Harvey out of Florida, and was then traded to Dallas as part of a deal that brought Erick Strickland and Pete Mickael. If you can remember any of those players’ careers off the top of your head, you have a great memory.
This was one of those drafts where there weren’t really many better options, but there was a decent one at the next spot. With that pick, the Knicks could have landed shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson. Stevenson had several seasons where he averaged double-digit scoring, which is more than could be said for what the Knicks got out of their draft in 2000.
2 Ron Artest (1999)
Original Pick: Frederic Weis
In the 1999 NBA Draft, the Knicks held the 15th overall selection. Unfortunately for the team, they used that selection on Frederic Weis, a center from France. Weis would actually never sign with the Knicks, and it ended up being a wasted pick. Perhaps more than any other pick, this one was pretty obvious where the Knicks should have gone. The next pick (held by the Bulls) happened to be a beloved player from Queens that went to St. John’s.
In case you didn’t know who that was, it turned out to be Ron Artest. Artest (now known as Metta World Peace) ended up becoming an All Star and four-time All-Defensive team player that is still in the league. Artest has averaged more than 13 points per game with 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in his career.
1 Anthony Johnson (1997)
Original Pick: John Thomas
The oldest draft pick on the list goes back to 1997, when the Knicks selected John Thomas out of Minnesota with the 25th overall selection. Thomas never actually played with the Knicks, as he was shipped just before the 1997-98 season to Boston in the Chris Mills trade. Thomas played with several different NBA teams from 1997 to 2006, never scoring more than 4.3 points per game, so the Knicks probably wouldn’t have picked him again, even if they knew they were going to trade him.
Unfortunately, there really weren’t many better options in the shallow 1997 NBA Draft. Almost by default, the pick should have gone to Anthony Johnson, who was the 39th overall pick by the Kings. Johnson averaged upward of 9.2 points per game in the 2005-06 season. While he was never a star, he still had a better career than Thomas and was still on the board.
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