The Top 10 Rookies in New York Knicks History

Vin GetzCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2012

The Top 10 Rookies in New York Knicks History

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    The New York Knicks have historically given their rookies a good deal of playing time.  In turn, the rookies have consistently delivered.  This year is no exception.

    First-round pick Iman Shumpert is already averaging over 30 minutes a game.  Josh Harrellson is up around 20.  Both are outperforming expectations.

    Of all the Knicks' rookies, well over 100 since the team's first days in 1946, about 35 solid candidates emerged to stake a claim to the top 10.

    Last year's second-round pick, Landry Fields, was 1st Team All-Rookie.  The Knicks have had 14, three of whom won Rookie of the Year.  Those three made the list, of course.

    But there are a few surprises along the way, including the owner of the best rookie season in Knicks history.  It's not Patrick Ewing.  He's fourth.  It's not Willis Reed either.

    So who is No. 1, then? And No.'s 2 and 3?  And how does the rest of the top 10 play out?

    Here are your answers—but first some sort-of honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention: Mike Woodson (1980-81)

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    These honorable mentions have nothing to do with the rankings, but are some interesting bits of Knicks' rookie and roster history.

    Take Mike Woodson, for instance.

    The Knicks drafted him out of Indiana with the No. 12 pick.  That's him on your left in his only season as a Knicks player.  Now, of course, he's Mike D'Antoni's sidekick/defensive coordinator/looming harbinger.

    Woodson worked his way into 81 games for New York, all off the bench.  He had a mild season, scoring under 400 points, but would go on to play 11 years in the NBA, topping 1,000 points nine times.

Honorable Mention: Phil Jackson (1967-68)

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    Phil Jackson was 1st Team All-Rookie in 1967 and would later be a member of both Knicks championship teams.  The guy has a whole bunch of rings.

    Here, the second-round pick out of the University of North Dakota is channeling his best Frank Zappa.

    But Phil's rookie season was not good enough to crack the top 10.  He had just over 450 points and added a nice 330+ rebounds.

    The other 1st Team All-Rookie's that did not make the list, but should be noted are Channing Frye, Darrell Walker, Cazzie Russell, Dick Van Arsdale, Howard Komives and Art Heyman who was just edged out by No. 10.

Honorable Mention: Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton (1950-51)

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    Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton had over 500 points and nearly 500 rebounds his first season.

    But most significantly, he was the first African-American to play for the Knicks and he, along with Earl Lloyd and Chuck Cooper, broke the NBA's color barrier in 1950. 

    Clifton also played pro baseball that year in the offseason, for the Negro League's Chicago American Giants.

    Clifton played college ball for Xavier University of Louisiana before cracking the NBA.

Honorable Mention: Henry Bibby (1972-73)

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    Mike Bibby isn't the first Bibby to play for the Knicks.

    Here's his dad, Henry, who came off the bench his whole first season.

    And it just so happens, the Knicks won it all that year.

    Bibby was a UCLA Bruin and was drafted in the fourth round (things were different then).

    Now let's get to the top 10...

10. Walt Frazier (1967-68)

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    Walt Frazier is the No.1 coolest Knick, and the one with the most style, and some might say the best Knick ever, but he didn't have the best Knicks' rookie season.

    Frazier edges out Art Heyman to crack the top 10.  Both were 1st Teams.

    While Heyman popped off over 1,000 points to Frazier's satanic 666, Clyde topped 300 rebounds and assists and helped usher in the team's only championship era.

    Frazier was the fifth pick overall out of Southern Illinois University—the Salukis.

9. Ray Williams (1977-78)

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    Ray Williams.  Now there's a name that might slip some minds.

    The first-rounder (10th) out of the University of Minnesota was not All-Rookie, but he had a respectable rookie season, one better than those other mentioned who won the honor.

    Williams only dropped 750 points, but balanced that with over 350 assists and a slick 100+ steals.

8. Landry Fields (2010-11)

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    Don't let his sophomore slump fool you, Landry Fields was easily one of the best rookie performers to don the Blue and Orange.

    The second-round pick out of Stanford was a key player in the Knicks drive to their first postseason in seven years.

    Fields started 81 games, and was awarded 1st Team All-Rookie honors for his 500+ rebounds and 86 three-pointers (a team rookie record).

7. Gerald Wilkins (1985-86)

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    Gerald Wilkins failed to achieve an All-Rookie nod, but his rookie season compares somewhat with a fellow rookie's that same year—Patrick Ewing.  Wilkins is the first rookie in the rankings to top 1,000 points.

    In fact, Gerald outscored Patrick and had more steals and assists.  The former is surprising, but the latter is to be expected from the guard position.

    Wilkins went late in the draft: 47th out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

6. Lonnie Shelton (1976-77)

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    Lonnie Shelton, 25th pick out of Oregon State, had a magnificent rookie campaign.

    Shelton drained 955 points and combined that with over 600 rebounds, 125 steals and nearly 100 blocks.  Now that's some range.

    Along with Ray Williams and Gerald Wilkins, he's the third and final non-All-Rookie in the countdown.

5. Jim Barnes (1964-65)

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    Jim Barnes was the No. 1 pick in 1964, from the University of Texas at El Paso.

    And he was worthy of it.

    Barnes paired 1,159 points with 729 rebounds.

4. Patrick Ewing (1985-86)

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    The most heralded No. 1 pick in Knicks history was Patrick Ewing.  The Georgetown Hoya would become the face of the modern Knicks, taking a once-dead franchise to an abundance of postseasons and two finals, but unfortunately never brought home a ring.

    His rookie season saw him instantly become one of the most dominant defensive forces in the NBA.  It would stay that way for a good 12 years.

    Ewing just missed 1,000 points his first year, but more than compensated with 450+ rebounds, an all-time Knicks rookie best 103 blocks and a smart 100+ assists and 50+ steals.

    He was the 1986 Rookie of the Year.

    Ewing changed it all for New York right from the start.

3. Mark Jackson (1987-88)

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    The Knicks had back-to-back Rookies of the Year when Mark Jackson completely went off.

    Once Ewing's St. John's nemesis, the 18th pick joined forces with the ex-Hoya to create the foundation of a perenially lethal Knicks playoff team.

    Jackson's rookie season makes Ewing's look a little mild.

    Not only did Mark have more points than Patrick did in his rookie season, but he had a ridiculous 868 assists.  How about over 200 steals?

    Jackson had just about the same number of offensive rebounds as the big man, and naturally added more points from behind the arc.

    The Knicks would be catapulted into a 14-year postseason run upon the 6'1" guard's first year.

2. Willis Reed (1964-65)

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    This, admittedly, was a tough one.  Reed is arguably the greatest Knick of all-time, but not the team's greatest rookie.  It was close.  The top three were close.

    Mark Jackson had some amazing stats, but like Patrick Ewing, Willis Reed changed the face of the franchise, bringing the team into a whole new era. And he had some amazing stats.

    The Captain was the eighth pick overall from Grambling State.  He went crazy with 1,560 points and 1,175 rebounds in his first season.  That did it for me.

    And for the voters of the Rookie of the Year.  Reed is the third and last winner on the list.

    So, the greatest Knicks' rookie of all time?

1. Bill Cartwright (1979-80)

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    It's Bill Cartwright.

    The third pick out of the University of San Francisco poured in over 1,700 points, the team's rookie record, and matched that with 726 boards, third most amongst first years.  But that's not all.

    Cartwright had over 100 blocks, ample assists (165) and rates from the floor (55 percent) and line (80 percent) that were better than every Knicks rookie given his minutes—3,150, second only to Mark Jackson.

    Now Cartwright didn't win Rookie of the Year, but then again, he did lose to Larry Bird.

    Follow me at and on Twitter @VinGetz.

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