Where Did All the NY Knicks' Draft Picks Go?

Jim Cavan@@JPCavanContributor IJanuary 24, 2014

Could've been a Knick. Is not a Knick.
Could've been a Knick. Is not a Knick.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Last week, we took a deep, dark dive into James Dolan’s uncanny financial mismanagement of the New York Knicks.

There, we zeroed in specifically on a handful of the worst contracts green-lighted by Dolan over the past 15 years—trades and free-agent signings alike.

The [estimated] sum total of wasted Dolan Dollars: $316 million.

Do not adjust your television sets.

As astronomical as that number sounds, it’s only the largest piece of a sprawling mosaic of mind-numbing incompetence orchestrated by the Cablevision scion.

Indeed, there’s another equally disturbing aspect of Dolan’s rein which, while slightly more esoteric, is no less fascinating in scope: the sadness that is New York's draft-pick hindsight.

Today, we look at how the Knicks’ propensity for disposing of draft picks years ahead of time—typically through questionable trades—has come back to bite them.

In each case, we'll assign a numerical value (the “dumb quotient”, represented on a 1-10 scale) as well as a brief explanation of how the transaction hurt or helped the Knicks.

Hurt, mostly.

For the sake of both concision and overall-narrative weight, it makes the most sense to start in 2001, two years after Dolan assumed near-total control of the Knicks.

The trade that started it all.
The trade that started it all.CHERYL HATCH/Associated Press

Year: 2001

Trade: A four-teamer involving the Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Seattle Supersonics. The details are way too complicated to get into, but it involves the Knicks sending Patrick Ewing to the Sonics and a first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns while receiving three picks (they won’t be around long) and Luc Longley, who was waived the following year.

Pick turns into: Jason Collins.

Also available: Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas, Mehmet Okur. 

Dumb quotient: 10. Fitting that our first move involves the Knicks jettisoning arguably the best player in their team’s history. They might not be kicking themselves over losing out on Jason Collins, but the other guys? Yeesh. Hindsight aside, a poor precedent has been set in motion. That, coupled with the karma, accounts for the 10.

Year: 2002

Trade: A draft-day deal in which the Knicks sent Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson and Nenê—whom they had just selected with the seventh overall pick—to the Denver Nuggets for Frank Williams and Antonio McDyess.

Pick turns into: Well, it turned into Nenê. Last we checked, he was pretty good.

Also available: Carlos Boozer, Luis Scola, John Salmons. Oh, and Amar'e Stoudemire.

Dumb quotient: 9. One of the more legendarily bad moves of the Dolan era. It’s not clear what the Knicks thought they were getting in McDyess, who was coming off a series of devastating, career-altering knee injuries. What they weren’t getting in Nenê—and, to a different extent, Frank Williams—may have been just as crushing.

Could've had him. Don't have him.
Could've had him. Don't have him.Danny Johnston/Associated Press

Year: 2004

Trade: The Marbury Mega-Deal, whereby the Knicks sent McDyess, Charlie Ward, a pair of fringe prospects—Maciej Lampe and Milos Vujanic—and two first-rounders (2004 and 2010) to the Suns for Stephon Marbury, Anfernee Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski.

Picks turn into: Kirk Snyder in 2004 (So what?) and Gordon Hayward in 2010. (Oops.) Who was selected one spot after Hayward? Just a guy named Paul George. Perhaps you've heard of him.

Also available: Larry Sanders, Eric Bledsoe, Greivis Vásquez, Lance Stephenson.

Dumb quotient: 8. Before Carmelo Anthony’s controversial homecoming, the Knicks tried to make Marbury the face of Manhattan. It failed spectacularly—not merely because of Starbury’s spotty play and strange antics, but for how the move hindered the Knicks financially. Losing out on Hayward (a very good player) and George (the second coming of Scottie Pippen, basically) certainly doesn't help.

Back in 2009, the New York Daily News' Frank Isola reported a rather amusing anecdote relating to the Marbury trade, whose implications had already been felt:

Isiah Thomas' signature trade, acquiring Stephon Marbury from the Phoenix Suns six years ago - continues to be the trade that keeps on giving ... for everyone other than the Knicks.

Included in the Marbury deal was a lottery-protected first-round pick that the Suns eventually traded to the Utah Jazz as part of the Tom Gugliotta deal. Next year, however, the pick is unprotected, so if the Knicks fail to reach the playoffs they will be handing over a lottery pick to Utah.

"I found out about that as I was going through the process (of being hired last year)," says Knicks president Donnie Walsh. "We don't have a pick. But I'd like to have one."

Good luck with that!

Year: 2006

Trade: The Knicks got Eddy Curry, Antonio Davis and a first-rounder (later turned into Wilson Chandler—not bad) in exchange for a slew of roster flotsam and four picks—two firsts and two seconds.

Picks turn into: LaMarcus Aldridge (2006), Joakim Noah (2007).

Also available: So, so many.

Dumb quotient: 37. We’ll just let you look at this chart, courtesy of our friends at BlogABull.com:

BlogABull.com (@BullsBlogger)

Year: 2010

Trade: Another super-complicated one, this one involving the Knicks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings, with New York’s goal being to free up cap space that would eventually be used to sign Amar’e Stoudemire. The Knicks sent a first-rounder to Houston.

Pick turns into: Royce White.

Also available: Terrence Jones, Andrew Nicholson, Jared Sullinger.

Dumb quotient: 3. In the end, the Knicks got what they wanted: a big free-agent to rebuild their roster. Needless to say, White hasn’t exactly panned out. The long-term effects of the move are debatable, but you can’t say the Knicks gave up much on the draft front.

Year: 2011

Trade: Denver sends Melo, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and Renaldo Balkman to the Knicks in exchange for Wilson Chandler (there goes that pick), Danilo Gallinari (and that one), Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, one first (2014) and two seconds. The Minnesota Timberwolves were also involved in an ancillary capacity.

Pick turns into: Knowing the Knicks? Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Aaron Gordon or Joel Embiid, probably.

Dumb quotient: TBD—depends on how that first-rounder renders. While you can argue all that was a steep price to pay for Melo, it'll likely be years before we find out exactly how steep.

The Knicks traded a first-rounder for Bargnani.
The Knicks traded a first-rounder for Bargnani.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Year: 2013

Trade: In an effort to bolster their scoring, the Knicks reel in Andrea Bargnani from the Toronto Raptors. The price: Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, a 2016 first-rounder and two seconds (2014, 2017).

Pick turns into: TBD. 

Dumb quotient: TBD.

That bring us to today. Obviously this kind of exercise is ripe for the counter-argument, not the weakest of which is this: Who’s to say that the Knicks—who haven’t exactly hit it out of the park with picks they’ve actually managed to keep—wouldn’t have whiffed anyway?

It’s a fair point. To wit:

A legacy of "meh"
YearRound 1Round 2All-Star appearances
1999Frederic WeisJ.R. Koch0
2000Donnell HarveyLavor Postell0
2001Michael Wright, Eric Chenowith0
2002NenêMiloš Vujanić0
2003Michael SweetneyMaciej Lampe, Slavko Vraneš0
2004Trevor Ariza0
2005David Lee, Channing FryeDijon Thompson2 (Lee)
2006Renaldo Balkman, Mardy Collins0
2007Wilson Chandler0
2008Danilo Gallinari0
2009Jordan Hill0
2010Andy Rautins, Landry Fields0
2011Iman ShumpertJosh Harrellson0
2012Kostas Papanikolaou0
2013Tim Hardaway, Jr.0

The lowdown: some good players (the vast majority of whom New York ended up trading anyway), some mediocre players and a lot—a lot—of pretty bad players.

And that's not even taking into account guys the Knicks passed up in lieu of...how do we put this...guys who are worse? (See: Rondo, Rajon and Balkman, Renaldo.)

Given such a sordid track record, it almost makes sense that the Knicks would be quick to part with picks—a twisted, self-fulfilling sense, but sense nonetheless.

In the pantheon of poor decision-making, trading draft picks isn’t on the same level as, say, handing out hundreds of millions of dollars to guys with shaky knees—all things being equal.

Problem is, it’s never been a matter of either or with the Knicks.

Rather, the two are mutually reinforcing: New York makes a bad pick, includes that player in a trade package (along with another pick, if need be) to add a "better" but overrated player, falls short of subsequent expectations and end up watching the abandoned pick turn into someone better than what they wound up getting in the first place.

Who would you rather have, Eddy Curry or LaMarcus Aldridge? Exactly.

Nope.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Make no mistake, the Knicks weren’t the first team to botch a trade or blow a lottery pick. And nor will they be the last.

But it’s the frequency with which Dolan and his managerial minions have made the wrong move, and the timing of those moves, that make the Knicks such a special, endlessly sad case study in how not to run a basketball team.

With the team careening down the conference standings and the fate of myriad more ditched picks yet to be determined, New York’s propensity for impatience looms larger than it ever has.

Should they miss the playoffs, the Knicks might well be watching as Denver turns the former’s failure into its own future fortune.

Maybe then, after Melo bolts and the Knicks hit the reset button once more—likely without a draft pick to show for it—will Dolan finally come to grips with another of his regime’s rotten legacies.

A quick tip of-the-hat is in order for two people: SB Nation's Tom Ziller, and Bloomberg Sports' Jared Dubin, both of whom laid some fundamental groundwork on this topic. 

Additional source: Basketball-Reference.com


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