2012 NBA Draft Grades: Why New York Knicks Deserve Low Marks
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New York did not have much of a chance to wow its fans heading into draft night. As a result of the three-team trade that brought Tracy McGrady to the Knicks in 2010, New York’s first-round pick in the 2012 draft belonged to the Houston Rockets.
Armed with the 48th overall pick and no trade bait, the Knicks settled on little-known European talent Kostas Papanikolaou midway through the second round. Papanikolaou last played for Olympiakos in addition to the Greek National team.
It’s safe to say that many Knicks fans were not expecting NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver to announce Papanikolaou’s name with the 48th selection. After four hours of patient waiting, the Knicks’ decision was met with the exasperated cries and gestures of dumbfounded New York fans.
While Papanikolaou is not a terrible selection for the Knicks, he is not an immediate solution to any of the team’s pressing needs. That is why the New York deserves a low grade for their efforts in the 2012 NBA draft.
Did Not Address Needs
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The Knicks were inconsistent on offense during the 2011-12 season. They posted a .443 field-goal percentage last year, ranking 18th in the league, and were even worse from three-point range, ranking 21st in the league with a .336 three-point percentage (via ESPN.com).
Unfortunately for the Knicks' offense, Papanikolaou will not be the solution to New York’s shooting woes. Although Papanikolaou can be an efficient when he takes shots—he converted at least 60 percent from inside the arc with both Olympiakos and the Greek National team—he is not an aggressive shooter, according to his scouting report on DraftExpress.com.
The Knicks had a top-five defense in 2011-12, allowing only 98.4 points per 100 opponent possessions (via NBA.com). While the leader of the Knicks’ defense, Tyson Chandler, will be returning for the 2012-13 season, last year’s first-round pick, Iman Shumpurt, will be recovering from a torn ACL. With Landry Fields and Jared Jeffries currently testing free agency, the Knicks' defense is in jeopardy.
While Papanikolaou has the size and the effort to be a solid defender, he was not a shutdown defender in the Euroleague. His high basketball IQ and outstanding work ethic could help the Knicks' defense, but Papanikolaou will likely struggle against more athletic NBA talent.
European Role Player Making Leap to NBA
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Most NBA fans do not know the stars of European basketball, let alone the role players. DraftExpress.com characterized Papanikolaou as a “steady contributor” for his Olympiakos team. However, if not for an impressive performance in the Euroleague Final Four, he may not have even been drafted.
Papanikolaou, at 6’8” and 230 lbs, is the perfect size for an NBA small forward. In spite of this, Papanikolaou is not an elite athlete. During his short career in the Euroleague, Papanikolaou made up for his lack of athletic ability with a tremendous amount of hustle and hard work. While he struggled to create his own shot off the dribble, Papanikolaou still found ways to score thanks to his off-ball movement.
His average athleticism may show more against the bigger, faster competition of the NBA. While the Knicks surely desire Papanikolaou’s non-stop motor, it will not be enough to make a career out of at the highest level of competition.
No Immediate Impact
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The Knicks finished the regular season with a 36-30 record, earning themselves a No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. After failing to qualify for postseason play for six straight seasons, from 2004-05 to 2009-10, the Knicks have made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
With superstars like Amar’e Stoudamire and Carmello Anthony, as well as budding talents such as Jeremy Lin on the roster, the Knicks are finally beyond the rebuilding stage. After two straight first-round departures, though, New York needs to take the next step.
Papanikolaou will probably not be a part of that next step, as he plans on spending at least the next couple seasons in Europe. According to the New York Times, the earliest debut Papanikolaou could have with the Knicks would be during the 2013-14 season.
Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald told Nate Taylor of the New York Times that Papanikolaou is an “investment” that “needs to improve his shooting.” That’s the last thing New York fans want to hear when their team is only a few pieces away from being a legitimate Eastern Conference contender in 2012-13.
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Many Knicks fans are disappointed with their team’s performance in the 2012 NBA draft—and rightly so. The pick did not seem to reflect any of the team’s current needs, and investing in an unproven European talent seems a bit risky. With the team on the verge of large-scale success, their draft pick will be developing across the Atlantic Ocean.
Papanikolauo’s effort and Grunwald’s promise that the Greek small forward will progress are the only things keeping the Knicks from receiving a failing grade.