It’s the beginning of summer, and Knicks fans are once again left without a team to root for in the playoffs. But there is one thing to look forward to: the NBA Draft.
After another disappointing season, New York is back in the lottery. With a record of 32-50, the Knicks finished the 2008 season dead-last in the Atlantic Division, but were beaten-out by seven other teams for the worst record in the NBA. Hence, the odds of earning the top pick in next week’s lottery are a mere .028 percent.
The good news is that only the top three picks are determined by David Stern’s ping pong balls. Therefore, the Knicks can pick as high as number one, and no less than tenth. But assuming the lottery goes as planned, the Knicks will have the number eight pick in the draft.
Knicks fans will recall, however, that picking in the top ten does not automatically mean a franchise-changing player is on the way.
Remember Michael Sweetney? In 2003, the Knicks used their ninth pick to choose the power forward out of Georgetown. Although that draft class has proven to be rather weak, except for the four superstars drafted in the top five - Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh - the Knicks did pass on future All-Stars David West, Josh Howard, and Mo Williams.
In 2005, the Knicks had the eighth pick in the draft and decided to choose Channing Frye. In doing so, they passed on players like Andrew Bynum and Danny Granger.
Though to be fair, almost all the analysts that year agreed that Frye was the right choice, and lambasted the Lakers for drafting Bynum with the tenth pick. The Knicks were also able to pick up David Lee and Nate Robinson.
Then there’s last year when New York used their sixth pick to draft Danilo Gallinari. Although he has yet to prove he is worthy of such a high pick, he was injured for much of last season and is still only 20 years old. Time will tell if this was a wise choice, as the Knicks drafted Gallinari knowing he would be a project.
Unfortunately, New York fans are not that patient. They expect their teams to win, and are expecting the Knicks to use this year’s pick on an instant-impact player. So lets take a look at some of the players in this year’s draft class
No matter who wins the lottery, it’s pretty much a guarantee that the top two picks will be Blake Griffin and Ricky Rubio.
Griffin was a First Team All-American last year at Oklahoma, and garnered nearly every award as the nation’s top player. He is a can’t-miss prospect who already has the size, strength and quickness to play in the NBA.
Griffin also has the ability to throw-down monstrous dunks, which will undoubtedly land him on numerous highlight reels. The only skill he needs to improve is his mid-range shooting, which was inconsistent in college.
Rubio is also considered a can’t-miss prospect, despite being somewhat of an enigma. He has played professionally in Spain since the age of 15, and now, at 19, plays significant minutes on one of the best teams in Europe.
Despite this, many Americans have yet to see him play, save for the 2008 Summer Olympics and YouTube highlight videos.
At 6'3", Rubio has good size for a point guard. He also has a tremendous handle and great playmaking ability, as he routinely makes passes out of the back of his head. The only concern with Rubio is whether he is physically and mentally ready to play in the NBA.
After the first two picks, the next few are not so clear-cut. As the weeks go on and players are put through pre-draft workouts, this may become clearer. But as of now, it’s anyone’s guess as to who could be drafted three through fourteen.
One player the Knicks will certainly be interested in is the 7'3" center from Connecticut, Hasheem Thabeet.
With Eddy Curry in Mike D’Antoni’s doghouse all of last season, the Knicks lacked an intimidator on defense, and a low-post presence on offense. This forced David Lee to play out of position, and had him matched-up against players like Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal.
Thabeet would certainly help the Knicks defensively, as he dominated the paint last year. He swatted anything within reach, and was able to take over a game without scoring a point. But this is also Thabeet’s downside, as he is very raw offensively.
Another player the Knicks may be interested in is Arizona State’s James Harden. The 6'5" shooting guard is a flat-out scorer. Although he’s not very flashy, he is able to consistently drive to the basket, or step back and hit the outside shot. With these skills, he would fit nicely into D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense.
The Knicks could also consider picking Arizona’s 6'10" inch power forward Jordan Hill. Even though he is still very raw offensively, he is further along than Thabeet, and has a tremendous upside.
Hill is very athletic for a big man and can run the floor well. He can also finish around the hoop, and has shown the ability to hit the mid-range jumper. Hill would add size to the Knicks frontcourt, which they lacked all of last year. He could also develop into a very good low-post scoring threat.
USC’s DeMar DeRozen is another player the Knicks will take a close look at. At 6'7", DeRozen is probably the most athletic player in this year’s draft. He can play the two or the three and has a very solid mid-range game.
He has the potential to be a Shawn Marion-type player, which is exciting for Knicks fans, knowing how Marion thrived under D’Antoni in Phoenix. However, to live up to this hype, DeRozen will need to work on his three-point shooting and creating his own shot.
Another intriguing player who may still be available when the Knicks are on the clock is Brandon Jennings. If not for the new rules that say a player has to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from high school, Jennings would have been a lottery pick in last year’s draft.
Instead, he became the first high schooler to skip college and play professionally overseas.
Jennings is an exceptionally talented player. At 6'1", he is the prototypical point guard. He is lighting-quick, which enables him to blow by defenders with ease and penetrate the lane.
Jennings also has the instincts and court vision to distribute the ball and create open looks for teammates. But unlike pure point guards, Jennings also has the ability to score at will, and has a flair for making the spectacular play.
Drafting a player like Jennings could bring some excitement back to the Garden. His playing style would also fit perfectly with D’Antoni’s offense. The only real question marks about Jennings are his outside shooting and defense.
If the Knicks land the number eight pick, the two players most likely to still be in the green room are Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry.
Evans is a do-it-all combo guard who can play the one, two or three. But at 6'5", he will most likely be a shooting guard in the NBA, unless he can improve his handle.
Like Harden, Evans is a natural scorer. He already has the size, strength and athleticism to play against the pros, despite only being 19 years old. He also has the ability to drive into the lane or create his own shot.
With his size, Evans can also defend multiple positions and is an excellent rebounder. The only weakness in Evans’ game is his outside shot.
Evans could be a solid contributor, coming off the bench as a viable scoring option. However, his style of play is very similar to Larry Hughes. Because of this, Evans may not be the right pick for the Knicks.
On the other hand, the one thing the Knicks truly lacked last season was a pure shooter, and Curry is the best shooter in the draft.
At Davidson the past three seasons, Curry was a scoring machine. He burst onto the nation scene two seasons ago during the NCAA Tournament when he led Davidson to the Elite 8, averaging more than 30 points per game.
But if the Knicks decide to pick Curry, it would not come without controversy. Many people are weary about his size and strength. At only 6'3", 185 pounds, Curry is stuck somewhere between the point and shooting guard positions. Although he is tall enough to play the one, he does not possess the skill set of an ideal point guard. Curry is also shorter than the typical two guard.
If Curry can bulk up and improve his dribbling and passing, he can turn into a player like Golden State’s Monta Ellis, who is almost identical to Curry in size and weight. Both players are very gifted offensively, as they have good off-the-ball movement and can create their own shots. Although Ellis is more athletic than Curry, Curry is a better shooter.
With Duhon and Robinson already on the roster, Curry could play the two while trying to learn the point guard position. And with D’Antoni’s offense, Curry would get lots of open looks from the perimeter, both in transition and in the half-court set.
Even with the addition of one of these players, Knicks fans know that they will probably not win a championship next year. But that’s okay, as most are just biding their time until next summer, when Lebron James becomes a free agent.
Donnie Walsh has done a tremendous job of unloading long-term contracts in exchange for ones that will expire after the 2009-2010 season. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the Knicks are idle this summer or next season.
Unfortunately, this may mean that Lee and Robinson will not be re-signed next summer.
If this occurs, the Knicks would have approximately $40 million of cap space to spend on the best free agent class in the history of the NBA.
In 2010, the Knicks could have a starting five with a combination of any two of the following superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Joe Johnson – just to name a few.