With no 2012 picks in their pocket as of now, this year’s draft is a big one for the Knicks. And with the summer’s CBA talks weeks away from yielding anything concrete, it’s also a strange one for the NBA as a whole. Many would-be first round picks, who in any other year would have been draft-bound, have instead chosen to avoid the uncertainty and stick around campus another year. In what’s being called one of the thinnest draft classes in years, and with no second rounders in their chamber, the pressure will be on the Knick front office to get as close to the bull’s eye as possible.
Mike Kurylo: If you really think about it, the Knicks have multiple needs. Obviously rebounding/shot blocking big man and point guard are at the top. However New York could do well with a lights out shooting guard or a swingman that can really clamp down on defense. A player that can fill both of those needs would be pretty valuable to the Knicks as well. Beyond that New York needs defense at just about every position. The attribute the team doesn’t particularly need is a high volume scorer, which they already have covered in spades.
To state the obvious, the most important thing the Knicks need is value. Whether the team keeps this player or trades him, they need someone that will stick around in the league. If Donnie Walsh is planning to pick up a third All Star, then Chauncey Billups and Landry Fields isn’t going to be enough to get the deal done. In this situation, a firecracker rookie that can contribute on the NBA level would be most helpful.
Jim Cavan: In his first draft as Pacers GM in 1987, Walsh raised as many eyebrows as pitchforks when he selected Reggie Miller with the 11th pick, passing on such auspicious names as Joe Wolfe, Chris Welp, and Jim Farmer.
Since then, DW has arguably connected in the first round (Rik Smits, Malik Sealy, Travis Best, Al Harrington, Danny Granger, Gallo) more than he’s whiffed (Scott Haskin, Freddy Jones, Primoz Beszec, COUGHJordan HillCOUGH). He’s also made his fair share of late steals, with Antonio Davis (45th pick in 1990), James Jones (49th in 2003) and Landry Fields (39th in 2010) being chief among them.
No, he hasn’t been a drafting Carnac. But to those who count Miller as his only home run, consider this: With the exception of Smits (the 2nd overall pick in 1988), Walsh never had a pick higher than #10 during his tenure in Indiana — a testament to an overall GM savvy that helped transform the “small market” Pacers into a perennial contender.
In a perfect world, we should be looking to kill two birds with one stone: fill an immediate need, and — assuming Chris Paul or Dwight Howard pull a Melo — nab a player who might contribute enough off the bat to entice a New Orleans or Orlando to deal their disgruntled star for a package that would likely include Fields, Douglas, Chauncey Billups’ expiring contract, and draft pick X. That would mean most likely passing on Jordan Hamilton, Terrence Jones, Tobias Harris, or Tyler Honeycutt — players who, despite their undeniable talent, will more than likely need time to develop beyond the three or four months leading up to the February 2012 trade deadline.
That leaves guys like Kenneth Faried, the brothers Morris (Markieff and Marcus), or even a Jimmer Fredette — all of whom have at least three years under their belts — as the safe bets. Even if Walsh and D’Antoni don’t intend to keep them.
On the other hand, this year’s draft class doesn’t appear to be bursting with a lot of sure things, even in the top 10. In the midst of such uncertainty, teams could be more willing to take risks, and that could scramble the board very quickly. To that end, expect Walsh to go the “best available” route. Even if the pick doesn’t make sense when it happens, Walsh has shown over the years that his is an approach that, more often than not, has been successful. Even if it isn’t always conventional.
John Kenney: Watching Corey Brewer provide a spark for the Mavericks in Game 2 of the LA-Dallas series made it clear that the Knicks were foolish to waive him (as many predicted at the time). Giving up a quality NBA player looked even worse in retrospect, as the Knicks had to reach deep on their bench against the Celtics due to all the injuries sustained during the series. Knicks management’s reasoning at the time- “We have plenty of wing players, can’t guarantee him playing time” – was always suspect. First, the Knicks lacked a good wing defender, and Brewer definitely could have provided that. Watching Paul Pierce and Ray Allen go to town on the Knicks defense, it was impossible to avoid imagining how different the game might be if either of them had Brewer chasing them all over the court. Second, Brewer is simply a quality basketball player. When the Knicks waived him, a number of contenders were immediately interested. Those are the types of guys you want on your team.
The moral of the story? Get NBA-quality players on your team, and keep them. The Knicks right now have an incredible lack of depth. To focus too much on positional needs would be a mistake- what the Knicks need is someone who is immediately a rotation-quality player. I would love to see either one of the Morris twins from Kansas fall to the Knicks’ draft spot. If still available, Kenneth Faried from Morehead St. could be a huge help as well. None of those players fills a true positional need, true. However, the Knicks need a point guard or a center, and there will not be quality at either one of those positions as low as we are in the draft. Drafting a PF to backup Amar’e could help shore up the rotation as well. Shawne Williams wouldn’t have defend as many minutes at PF, and the Knicks could have some intriguing lineups with Amar’e at center. Whatever the choice is, Walsh needs to make sure the player can help the team immediately next season.
Max Fisher-Cohen: The Knicks would be wise to buy some picks in the late first or early second. They need to luck into some depth, and for a team that is unlikely to have cap space going forward, the draft is the best way to do that. I agree with John Kenney in that early on you go for players who will be able to contribute next year. However, if we do end up buying later picks, I think the only option is to hunt for steals, even if they aren’t ready for the NBA. Young players with potential can be stashed overseas and are appealing as trade assets since they don’t cost any salary. Here are some players I like:
Kenneth Faried — Forward, Morehead State: D’Antoni had the right idea in playing Jared Jeffries big minutes. His help defense made things difficult for opponents. Per 48 minutes (in the regular season), the Knicks outscored opponents by 9.2 points with Jeffries on the floor. Imagine how much more dramatic that difference would be if we had a player who potentially could play the defensive role Jeffries played while being a serious upgrade in rebounding and on offense. Enter Kenneth Faried. Faried is a Taj Gibson type player — undersized, but muscly and active, a good finisher, and wholly capable of guarding 4s.
Reggie Jackson — Guard, Boston College: Quick, pretty athletic, played out of position (should be a point guard) for a bad team, so didn’t get much attention. He’s supposed to be deadly on the pick and roll and knows how to shoot. If he’s there early in the second round, he’s worth giving a chance.
Lucas Nogueira — Center, MMT Estudiantes (Spain): He’s looking like a late first rounder. He played five games this year in the Tournament of the Americas and averaged 8 blocks/36 minutes against Division I level competition. He’s 18, 7’ tall, athletic, and impressively skinny. Maybe he won’t immediately contribute, but he’s the kind of promising young player that the Hornets could advertise to fans as a part of a rebuilding process.
Justin Harper — Forward, Richmond: Harper is an elite shooter (44.8% from three) who did nothing for his first three years, and this year improved enormously in nearly every statistical category. Because no one had heard of him before and because his team was mediocre, there’s a good chance he falls to the second round. For what it’s worth, Chad Ford compares him to Rashard Lewis.