With Brandon Jennings, The New York Knicks Would Not Have Had To Wait For 2010

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With Brandon Jennings, The New York Knicks Would Not Have Had To Wait For 2010
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Somebody needs to wake up Donnie Walsh and the New York Knicks.

Come to think of it, don't bother. It is already far too late.

But if you get a chance, here are some things you can tell Mr. Walsh and his brass: No NBA team, based on previous precedents, should ever -- ever -- bank on free agency as a way to get better. And the single most effective way teams have been able to rebuild themselves is on this day in June called the NBA Draft.

You know, that day and phrase that seems foreign to most Knicks fans.

Ever since taking over as the President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks in the spring of 2008, Walsh has become obsessed with clearing salary cap space for 2010. On the outside looking in, you can't blame him. New York may be the league's most desired market to play in, and the Knicks have never been serious players in free agency due to exorbitant payrolls established by Walsh's predecessors, Isiah Thomas and Scott Layden.

However, during Walsh's time up to date, he has had two top 10 draft picks to work with, the sixth overall pick in 2008 and the eighth overall pick in 2009. Many a franchise player has been found in this range, and Walsh had not one but two chances of getting it right.

And although the jury is still out on Danilo Gallinari and Jordan Hill, Walsh swung and missed both times considering the players that were selected afterwards.

Sure, Gallinari has looked good as far as numbers go, but almost everyone gets inflated numbers playing in a system such as the one ran by Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni. But right after New York took the "Italian Stallion," the Clippers took Indiana's Eric Gordon with the seventh pick.

Gordon, 20, has been flourishing despite playing in that train wreck known as L.A.'s redheaded stepchild. He put up 16.1 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 38.9 percent (131-for-337) from 3-point range. In seven games this year, Gordon is averaging 18.9 points to go with 4.1 assists and 50.6 percent shooting from the field.

But forget about Gordon. Last Saturday night in Milwaukee gave basketball fans a glimpse of a young kid who could have really taken over Madison Square Garden: Brandon Jennings.

Saturday served as the NBA's introduction to the kid who just turned 20 yet accomplished a feat that a player like Carmelo Anthony never has and one like Dwyane Wade just accomplished last May in the midst of his sixth season in the league.

Jennings dropped a double nickel -- 55 points -- in just his seventh game in the league. And this came a month and a half after his 20th birthday.

You can say that hindsight is 20/20, but it seemed like Jennings wasn't even on the Knicks' radar. Fans and media in New York couldn't stop obsessing over Davidson's Stephen Curry, a 21-year old trigger-happy point guard who lit up scoreboards in college.

In the end, the Knicks settled on Arizona's Jordan Hill, a project big man in a draft that lacked any significant frontcourt player after the Clippers took Blake Griffin at No. 1.

Two picks later, Jennings went to the Bucks. And Milwaukee had its franchise player.

Meanwhile, the Knicks continue obsessing over free agency. And as mentioned earlier, that is never a tool -- especially in this day and age of the NBA -- to rely on. Max contract free agents just don't leave their teams anymore.

Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando for L.A. because the Lakers simply offered more money. Steve Nash left Dallas for Phoenix because the Suns offered more money. Carlos Boozer and Kenyon Martin left Cleveland and New Jersey, respectively, for the same reasons.

Rest assured about these facts: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are getting max offers from the Cavs, Heat, and Raptors, respectively. You may have heard this before, but it bears repeating: All of those teams can offer those players far, far more than the Knicks can regardless of any of the teams' cap situations.

James and Wade are already household names and amongst the most recognizable names in all of sports. Both play for winning teams, with Wade's Heat winning the NBA championship in 2006 and James' Cavs winning a league-high 66 games last year.

New York may offer the "big market" and endorsement possibilities -- possibilities that certainly don't elude either of these megastars -- but they don't offer a shred of hope at the Larry O'Brien trophy. And a guy like Jennings, at the very least, could have been a pretty attractive "Scottie Pippen" for a guy like LeBron James when it came time for James to evaluate the Knicks' roster in free agency.

Walsh has been so obsessed with clearing enough cap space to lure two superstars that one potential stud just slipped through his fingers while he was busy crunching numbers.

And when the Knicks, one of the worst teams in the league through 10 games of the 2009-10 season, strike out in free agency this summer, they won't have a lottery pick to fall back on this time around.

That's because their 2010 pick is owed to Utah. But based on how Walsh has fell asleep at the wheel on draft day, it does not seem like it would have mattered, anyways.

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