Every team has draft picks they wish had a 90 day return policy. The New York Knicks seem to have more than a few. It’s hard to comprehend at times how Madison Square Garden is referred to as “The Mecca” of basketball based on the Knicks sub-par performance.
In 1985, the NBA instituted the Draft Lottery. This prevented teams from intentionally tanking during the regular season for a coveted pick in the draft. The Knicks ‘miraculously’ won that first draft lottery and selected Georgetown center Patrick Ewing to become the face of their franchise.
The Knicks have added other pivotal players after drafting Ewing. Some of which include hometown kid Mark Jackson and 7-1 center Bill Cartwright. The team went deep into the playoffs every year and won three division championships in 1989, 1993 and in 1994 where they reached the NBA Finals. The team never accomplished its goal of winning a NBA championship but proved that the draft picks they selected were a success.
Draft picks aren’t always a guarantee though. The reality is that most prospects who are lucky enough to be selected in the first round fail to live up to the hype. Most NBA players will have a career span in the league of less than five seasons. The Knicks have drafted a lot of those kinds of players.
The following are the worst draft picks in New York Knicks history…
15. Channing Frye
The 2005 NBA Draft was heavy on point guards. The top five picks consisted of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Raymond Felton. The Knicks went in a different direction and drafted Channing Frye eighth overall, a center from Arizona.
Frye was expected to be the big man of the future for the organization. His lanky physique and 6-11 build projected him to average a double-double every night. In his first year with the team, he played 65 games, starting in 14 of them. Frye was a consistent scorer averaging over 12 points per game but grabbed just under six rebounds.
The following season, he started 59 games but his scoring average went down to under 10 points and he averaged just over five rebounds. That offseason Frye was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in multi-player deal, making him one of the more disappointing draft picks in Knicks history.
14. Kenny Walker
Being a top five draft pick comes with high expectations. The Knicks were on the rise in the late 1980s and were assembling a championship team. They wanted forward Kenny Walker to be a part of the journey when they selected him with the fifth overall pick in 1986.
Walker had just finished an impressive four year career at the University of Kentucky and was perceived to be ready for the NBA. Walker’s first two seasons in New York saw him make an instant impact as he averaged over 10 points per game.
The following season, Walker made the change from playing power forward to small forward and the change backfired on the team. Walker’s scoring average was nearly cut in half. He never averaged over 10 points per game again and was out of the league after seven seasons.
13. Mike Sweetney
The legendary 2003 NBA Draft will be talked about forever. Names like James, Anthony and Wade have made a lasting impact on the game of basketball. The Knicks had the ninth pick in the draft and selected Michael Sweetney, a forward from Georgetown.
The Knicks attempted to recreate the Patrick Ewing era by selecting another big man from Georgetown, but Sweetney was anything but a franchise player. In his first season with the team, he only started in one game. The following year, he played in 77 games (starting in 28 of those games), averaging over eight points per game. That was sadly the best year of his career. The following season he was traded to the Chicago Bulls for Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis and he was out of the league after only four years.
12. Andy Rautins
In 2010, the Knicks had a resurgence. They signed Amar’e Stoudemire to a five-year deal and traded for key players like Raymond Felton and Ronny Turiaf.
In addition to the splash in free agency, they had back-to-back picks in the second round of the NBA Draft. In the second round they took Syracuse Orangeman Andy Rautins with the 38th overall pick, before taking Landry Fields with the 39th pick (we’ll discuss him later).
The shooting guard was expected to be an important bench player. Instead, he spent one season in the league, scoring a grand total of 8 points. That’s far from impressive.
11. Walter McCarty
Winning a NCAA championship can certainly enhance a player’s chance of moving up in the draft. In 1996, the Knicks took that bait by drafting Walter McCarty from the National Champion Kentucky Wildcats with the 19th overall pick.
The Knicks teams in the mid-90s were known for their toughness and size advantage over the competition. McCarty, at 6-10, was supposed to add to the advantage that the team had on a nightly basis. McCarty was more of a force on the bench though. He only played in 35 games for the Knicks and averaged under two points.
The following season, he was traded to the Boston Celtics where he took on a larger role.
10. Josh Harrellson
Some players are just made for the college game. The Knicks learned this the hard way when they traded for ‘6-10 center Josh Harrellson. Harrellson just came off of a successful stint with the Kentucky Wildcats where he averaged 13 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.
The Knicks were looking for a backup center for Amar’e Stoudemire who was constantly battling injuries. Harrelson appeared in 37 games that season starting in four of them.
That season he injured his wrist and required surgery. After coming back from surgery Harrellson’s role was reduced to coming off the bench, even if Stoudemire was unhealthy.
9. Monty Williams
Great coaches are often not the best players. Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers and Steve Kerr were all part of great teams but weren’t superstars. Monty Williams made the transition to the bench in 2005. However, before he was on the sidelines in a suit, he laced up for the Knicks.
After a four year career at Notre Dame, Monty Williams took his game to New York after being drafted by the Knicks with the 24th overall pick in 1994.
The Knicks didn’t get the forward they bargained for. Williams started in just 23 games for the team, averaging a little over three points per game. Later that season, he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs, where he went on to become a decent role player.
8. Jerrod Mustaf
Most draft picks don’t live up to the hype. It’s not uncommon for these players to take their talents overseas.
The Knicks witnessed this first hand after drafting Maryland center Jerrod Mustaf with the 17th overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. Mustaf’s time in the league was short. His time with the Knicks was even shorter. After one season in New York, where he averaged just over four points per game, he went to the Suns for three seasons.
In 1995, Mustaf took his talents overseas where he finished his playing career.
7. John Wallace
It can be quite aggravating when a player who is underperforming on one team, has success with another. John Wallace did this when he left the Knicks for the Toronto Raptors in 1997. Wallace was taken with the 18th overall pick in 1996. In his first season with the Knicks, he averaged under five points per game.
Wallace then went to Toronto, where his scoring nearly tripled as he averaged close to 15 points per game in his first year. The Knicks brought Wallace back for a second stint in 1999, but his production wasn’t the same. He averaged under seven points per game in the 60 games he played with the team.
6. Lavor Postell
A second round draft pick isn’t the most coveted thing in the draft. Nevertheless, it’s an investment that teams take on and they expect players to give them something. If anybody stuck with a player too long, it was the Knicks with Lavor Postell.
Postell was taken late in the second round in the 2000 NBA Draft. He ended up playing for the Knicks for three seasons, barely receiving any playing time. His best season was in 2002, was he averaged a meager four points per game.
After his three years in the NBA, Postell went overseas to play for multiple teams.
5. Renaldo Balkman
It’s always exciting when an NBA team drafts a hometown player. In 2006, the Knicks did just that by taking forward Renaldo Balkman with the 20th overall pick.
Balkman’s first two seasons in the league weren’t anything special. He started in only one game and averaged less than five points. Balkman was then traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2008 in a multi-player deal including draft picks.
The Knicks struck out with by drafting Balkman in 2006. Not only did he not produce, but they passed on a solid player, as the very next pick was Rajon Rondo, who was taken by the Boston Celtics 21st overall.
4. Landry Fields
The Knicks had back-to-back draft picks in the 2010 draft and selected Landry Fields with the 39th overall pick. Sadly, Fields talent in college didn’t transfer to the NBA. In his first season, he averaged nearly 10 points per game and started 81 out of 82 games.
The following year, his minutes were reduced after the Carmelo Anthony trade. His scoring lowered to under nine points per game and he had an abysmal free throw shooting percentage of 56%.
After those two average seasons, they allowed Fields to walk as a free agent and his production has fizzled out with the Raptors.
3. Jordan Hill
Some players are traded away before teams can see what they can do. In Jordan Hill’s case, the Knicks traded him away before they could see what he couldn’t do. The Knicks were fortunate enough to get a top 10 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and wasted it on big man Jordan Hill from Arizona.
Hill only played 24 games for the Knicks before he was traded mid-season to the Houston Rockets. It’s heartbreaking to know the Knicks were one pick shy of drafting Stephen Curry, who went seventh overall. What’s more tragic is the heap of players the Knicks passed on to select Hill. Players like DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Darren Collison, Taj Gibson, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Beverly, Marcus Thornton and Danny Green.
2. Greg Anthony
The Knicks looked to establish a dominant backcourt to compete against the Chicago Bulls in the early 1990s. They attempted to do this by selecting Greg Anthony with the 12th overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft.
Alongside John Starks, Anthony was expected to propel the offense to the top of the Eastern Conference. Anthony played in all 82 games his first season but averaged under six points per game. The following three years were no different and Anthony never became the dynamic point guard the Knicks had hoped for.
Anthony went on to become a valuable role player for other teams who was known for his tough defensive play. Sadly, it’s just not what the Knicks were hoping for.
1. Charlie Ward
The Heisman Trophy is the highest honor given to a college football star. Therefore, it was surprising that Charlie Ward, who won the award in 1993, went into the NBA instead of the NFL.
The Knicks took the athletic Ward with the 26th pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. In his first three seasons, Ward rarely saw playing time and averaged just under five points per game.
In 1997/98, Ward started every game that season but failed to live up to expectations. He averaged just over seven points per game, under six assists per game and was an average three point shooter. Ward rode the bench for the majority of his career, probably because he should have been playing on the gridiron instead of the hardwood.
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