Since the New York Knicks’ selection of Patrick Ewing in 1985–an opportunity revealed to the world by one swift rip of a standard business envelope–the NBA Draft for New York has been a shoulder shrug at best (Hubert Davis) and a nightmare at worst (Michael Sweetney!).
Over the past 30 years, New York has net nothing but scallywags, journeymen, castoffs, David Lee, and your friendly neighborhood role players. These last five years haven’t been much better, although hope springs eternal–pending the reconstructed knee joints of one Iman Shumpert.
In a reflective exercise, let’s turn the clock back to the year 2008 and examine the year-by-year selections made by a once ballyhooed front office.
Our story picks up from here: Donnie Walsh had just assumed power, Mike D’Antoni was still heralded as an offensive savant and the Knicks were looking with glee at the free agent class of 2010.
This pick smelled like team spirit and nationalism all rolled into one. D’Antoni had just been hired as the new head coach for the Knicks, and wanted to space the floor for his Seven Seconds or Less attack. The offense was perfected in Phoenix under Steve Nash, but who says lightening can’t strike twice? After all, Chris Duhon holds the team’s single game record in assists now!
Danilo’s pop Vittorio played with Coach Mike overseas in Italy, so if anyone knew how good El Gallo was to be, it was Mike D’Antoni. After some early back issues, Gallo played well…so well that he became the lynchpin in the mega-trade that netted Carmelo Anthony and the undead Renaldo Balkman.
He had the coolest birth date (8/8/88!) and the smoothest jumper we’d seen since Allan Houston. He’s now a rotational piece in the Denver Nuggets “GO!” attack and will be back to wetting jays soon enough.
The clock was ticking. We were one year away from the craziest summer in NBA history, so it was time to start shedding unwanted cargo. Jamal Crawford was the first to go, dealt hurriedly a year prior for perennial new city apartment hunter Al Harrington (7 teams, 15 years).
Hill wasn’t so much a player as he was a trade chip. We dealt him as soon as we knew he couldn’t ball for a single, spectacular game for Tracy McGrady (Kevin Durant, whyyyyyyy!!!!) and all the cap space we needed to coerce LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and others to the Big Apple.
Unfortunately, in this haste, the Knicks missed out on roughly ten billion great starting point guards (Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, Ty Lawson) and grabbed an unimpressive one instead (Toney Douglas).
We all knew who Andy Rautins was. He’d played in the Garden for four years, part of that three-pronged attack (with Eric Devendorf and Jonny Flynn) that terrorized the Big East Conference.
No one knew who Landry Fields was. He played out West and dominated the Pac-10 at a time when most New Yorkers are too busy catching Zzzz’s. Cheers erupted from Radio City with the Rautins pick, nary an eyebrow was raised with the Landry Fields selection.
Shows how much we know. Landry Fields became the second most popular Landry of those Knicks years (only topped by placekicker Landry from Friday Night Lights). Landry got his “KNICKS No. 6” jersey permanently placed in Spike Lee’s armoire and a spot on the All-NBA Rookie First Team. Landry let Jeremy Lin sleep on his couch.
Meanwhile, Andy Rautins moved to Europe…but not before going down next to Lavor Postell in the list of “most popular Knicks never to play a meaningful minute.”
Along with Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert helped make the Knicks a cool team again. Those guys brought their Scripture verses in cool handshakes and Iman matched with the high top fade. Iman was actually fun to follow on Twitter, actually fun to engage with as a fan. He made the Garden seem like more like a family than a franchise.
Shumpert had his share of question marks, too. He was a 6-5 guard who couldn’t shoot at all (30 percent from three during his rookie year) and was a half step late in his decision making in the Knicks failed point guard experiment. But Shumpert could always dunk on dudes, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Shumpert’s still in New York, most recently nearly using his improved jumper to resurrect the Knicks in a Game 6 loss in Indiana. Iman’s got the sprite to be the team’s first All-Star since David Lee, as long as he keeps shooting and jumping and smiling.