NBA Draft: Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks' 10 Smartest Draft Picks
The New York Knicks have only drafted one player who has stayed with the team for more than five consecutive seasons in the last 25 years, and the person who earned this honor was better at football than basketball in college.
New York has made a litany of brainless picks over the years (Jordan Hill over Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson being my recent favorite), but 10 smart picks in particular have gone on to great success with the Knickerbockers.
The following 10 men aren't necessarily the 10 best players in Knicks history, but given some of their draft positions, they are the 10 smartest picks the Knicks have made.
Patrick Ewing (1985, Round 1, Pick 1)
OK, so this pick was not brilliant since it was blatantly obvious, but passing him up would have been one of the worst draft blunders of all time, so kudos to Knicks director of basketball operations Dave DeBusschere.
There was no greater sound echoing through the Madison Square Garden rafters in the 1990's than the PA announcer's voice screaming "PA-TRICK YOU-WING" following a sensational slam, which was followed by deafening chants of "DEE-FENSE" as Ewing blocked some poor soul's shot into the second row.
Ewing was never the truly elite center that people predicted, but he is one tier below.
David Lee (2005, Pick 30, Round 1)
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For being one of only maybe four Knicks who hustled in the Isiah Thomas era, David Lee deserves special recognition. Even though Isiah Thomas tried to run the Knicks into the ground, he was quietly an excellent assessor of college talent. He picked David Lee with the 30th selection of the 2005 NBA draft, and one could argue that he was the fifth-best player taken that year overall.
Willis Reed (1964, Pick 1, Round 2)
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The Knicks took a player named Jim Barnes with the first pick of the 1964 NBA draft. He lasted one season with the team.
New York then took a little-known center named Willis Reed with the first pick of the second round (the equivalent of the 10th overall pick). He played 10 seasons, winning two championships and becoming the only player in NBA history to solely win the regular-season MVP, the All-Star Game MVP and Finals MVP in the same season.
Reed is the best player in the history of the Knicks franchise, co-leading the team alongside Walt Frazier to two championships.
Walt Frazier (1967, Pick 5, Round 1)
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Only two players from the 1967 NBA draft became Hall of Famers, and New York had the privilege of watching both of them (Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe). Monroe was taken by the Baltimore Bullets with the second overall pick, and Frazier was taken fifth. The two eventually teamed up for the Knicks starting in 1971.
Frazier's accolades are many, but he is most famous for scoring 36 points to go along with 19 assists and five steals in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, a 113-99 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mark Jackson (1988, Pick 18, Round 1)
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The St. John's star became the lowest pick to ever win the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 30 seasons after he averaged 13.6 points and 10.6 assists in 1987-88, helping lead the Knicks to their first postseason appearance in four years.
After a good sophomore season, Jackson regressed and was eventually benched in favor of Mo Cheeks. He was traded to the Clippers and bounced around the NBA before coming back to the Knicks for the better part of two seasons in 2001 and 2002.
Charlie Ward (1994, Pick 26, Round 1)
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In the "Facts That Will Blow Your Mind" department, no player taken in the 1994 NBA draft stayed with his original team longer than Charlie Ward, who played 10 seasons with the New York Knicks. It was a shrewd move for the Knicks to take Ward, as he was a quarterback for Florida State (1993 Heisman Trophy winner and national champion) and did not post eye-popping stats on the basketball court there (10.5 PPG and 4.9 APG in his senior year).
Ward was the Knicks' full-time starter from 1997-2000, a very successful period which saw New York make the second round three times, the conference finals twice and the NBA Finals once.
Landry Fields (2010, Pick 9, Round 2)
Even though Mike D'Antoni is trying really hard to ruin Landry Fields' NBA career and any semblance of confidence he may have by playing Roger Mason and Bill Walker more minutes than the deserving rookie in the playoffs, Fields is still a key reason why the Knicks were over .500 for the first time since 2001.
Fields was a steal with the 39th overall pick, averaging 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in the regular season, routinely playing solid defense.
Richie Guerin (1954, Pick 8, Round 2)
Guerin was the 17th overall pick, and while he was the star of an awful Knicks era (if you thought the Isiah Thomas Knicks were bad, see how the team did in the early 1960's), he did average over 21.5 PPG in four seasons with New York, including 29.5 PPG in 1961-62.
Photo courtesy of hoopedia.com
Gerald Wilkins (1985, Pick 23, Round 2)
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I don't profess to know the history of the players who hold the distinction of being taken 47th overall in NBA draft history, so if my assumption that Gerald Wilkins is the best from this lot is wrong, I apologize.
Wilkins played a big part in turning the Knicks from an also-ran into an NBA title contender but was shipped out of town before New York's ultimate period of success in the mid-1990's. The younger brother of Dominique Wilkins showed some tremendous dunking ability and was a good scorer, posting as many as 19 PPG while with the Knicks.
Phil Jackson (1954, Pick 8, Round 2)
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Like Richie Guerin, Jackson was also the 17th overall pick of his draft. The best coach in NBA history was the best hustler of his time, constantly diving for loose balls and playing aggressive defense to compensate for his lack of physical talent. He was the symbol of the defensively-oriented Knicks from 1968-1973, who made six conference finals, three NBA Finals and won two championships.