Since the Knicks won the first NBA draft lottery in 1985, the team was only bad enough (aka missed the playoffs) to be in the lottery
nine ten times. Sadly, eight of those nine ten times happened between 2002 and 2010. More sadly, while the Knicks were terrible on the court, their front office was making even more terrible decisions by either trading the picks, drafting crappy players to later use as trade throw-ins, or Danilo Gallinari.
In honor of last night’s lottery, I thought it would be fun to rank the players that were taken in the Knicks lotto spot (even if the Knicks didn’t draft the player). Many of the players are still in the NBA, so I had to look into the future a little. Feel free to disagree and post your own rankings in the comments.
11. Michael Sweetney (9th pick in 2003)
Sweetney played two seasons and 119 games with the Bockers before being traded to Chicago in the Eddy Curry deal. He played two more seasons with Chicago before eating himself out of the league and making a rumored line of athletic shorts. Yet, I still don’t really hate this pick because of who was available. In retrospect, Nick Collison would have made more sense, but Sweetney had the upside. Here is an excerpt of a Knickerblogger interview with John Hollinger before Sweetney’s second season in 2004-2005 season:
By the end of the year, who will be the Knicks’ starting PF?
Mike Sweetney, if they know what they’re doing.
10. Jordan Hill (8th pick in 2009)
Hill isn’t last because he will be an NBA player for more than four years. I really hated this pick and if Knicks Bricks existed back in 2009, there would be at least 100 posts by me on the topic. For the Donnie Walsh apologists, I get that the Knicks were quasi-surprised that Stephen Curry was taken with the 7th pick. The possibility of Curry not being there was far from remote, and Hill was a poor plan B. If you wanted a project, why not go with Brandon Jennings, or better yet, my choice of Ty Lawson who was killing it in predaft camps. That would’ve freed the Knicks up to draft Dejaun Blair at 29 instead of Toney Douglas (even Bakeshow can probably no longer defend TD). Regardless of the missed opportunities, Hill was a bad pick for a Mike D’Antoni team because he had 80 assists total in three years of college ball. Overall Donnie Walsh made more good moves than bad, but this was a bad misfire and his biggest mistake.
9. Kenny “Sky” Walker (5th pick in 1986)
Ron Harper went 8th and Del Curry went 15th. Both obviously had better careers, but I was too young at the time to remember/know whether they were considered top 5 picks. Things could’ve been worse for the Knicks in the cursed 1986 draft, so let’s remember the good times of Walker winning the slam dunk contest.
8. Channing Frye (8th pick in 2005)
I can’t second guess this pick and bring up Andrew Bynum, because I ate up the Channing Frye story. He was a four-year senior about to return home (Frye was born in White Plains). His jumper was silly making him a great fit with Stephon Marbury in the pick and roll/pop (although he was/is allergic to rebounding). It started so well for Frye too as he had 18.1 PER in his rookie year and was named to the All-NBA rookie first team while playing under Larry Brown. Things went real south in his second year with Isiah Thomas at the helm, and Frye was traded along with Steve Francis for Zach Randolph during the 2007 NBA draft. Now with Nash and the Suns, Frye has developed a consistent three-point game. Because of that range he would be a great big man off the bench for these current Knicks.
7. Gordon Hayward (9th pick in 2010)
When the Knicks acquired Stephon Marbury in 2004 few thought that this pick would be a lottery selection (let’s hope the 2016 first rounder in the Melo deal doesn’t haunt us in similar fashion). At the time, the Knicks had only made four lottery selections ever and Marbury was still considered a superstar, albeit a selfish one. As much as I would like to blame Isiah (that’s coming), I can’t this time. A first round pick six years later seemed so insignificant. Unfortunately that lack of foresight has cost the Knicks are pretty good young player. After the All Star break Hayward averaged 14 ppg, 4.2 rpg, and 3.1 apg with a .482/.863/.422 shooting slash. He also had 41 blocks and played pretty good defense for a young Jazz team. Barring injuries, Hayward will have a better career than Frye, but I can’t project him to be better than the remaining five.
6. Danilo Gallinari (6th pick in 2008)
I prefered Eric Gordon, but at least it wasn’t Joe Alexander. Gallinari played 2 1/2 years with the Knicks and showed flashes of brilliance. He has played in 214 out of a possible 312 games in his career and appears injury-prone (although 54 of those 98 missed games came in his rookie year). For his career his PER is 15.4, and he posted a career best 16.5 last season. Pre-injury he looked like he was heading for a 20 PER and was being discussed as a possible All Star. His ceiling remains higher than Hayward’s, but I wouldn’t rule out Hayward having the better career, especially if Hayward is more durable. Bakeshow would probably rank Gallinari second.
5. Nene (7th pick in 2002)
Plenty of people point to the Patrick Ewing trade as the moment that began the Knicks demise. I don’t disagree, but the Nene/Camby/McDyess trade signified a different type of low point. It reeked of desperation as Scott Layden didn’t think rebuilding in NY possible. That’s a fine outlook, but trading for a guy coming off knee surgery was not the answer. Nene has had a pretty good career posting 15 ppg, 8.5 rpg and a .561 fg%. Despite the injuries, he is ahead of Gallinari on the list because he has played more and been more productive when he has played.
4. Joakim Noah (9th pick in 2007)
Another player who has battled the injury bug during his whole career. I am a big Noah fan, and I can understand some thinking he should be lower on the list. When Noah does play and stays out of foul trouble he produces 11.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.8 bpg, and 1.0 spg per 36 minutes of action. He is a high energy guy whose enthusiasm appears infectious to his teammates. Surprisingly Noah is already 27, but he should be able to play into his late 30s because he does the little things. The Bulls were able to acquire Noah because they had the rights to swap picks with the Knicks from the Eddy Curry deal (the Knicks took Wilson Chandler 23rd). Thanks Isiah, thanks a lot. Chandler was a good player for the Knicks and certainly outplayed his draft position, but Noah is the second or third best player on a team that has had the best regular season record two years running.
3. Lamarcus Aldridge (2nd pick in 2006)
The Noah for Chandler swap is a slap across the face, while the Lamarcus Aldridge pick is a kick in the nuts. Losing out on the second pick isn’t as bad as losing out on the first (Clippers…cough…Clippers). What makes this pick worse is that Isiah had no protections on it. The Knicks won 23 in 2005-06, and the pick was traded in the summer of 2005. Isiah must have thought the Knicks were going to make the playoffs, and to his credit he was only off by 17 wins. Aldridge’s hip injury could alter his career, but prior to that he showed the ability to be a top 15 player in the NBA. That would’ve been nice to have instead of watching Eddy Curry and Jerome James put Jody Chesnutt to shame. Knowing the Knicks organization at the time, Aldridge probably would’ve had his arm bit off by a couple of Qyntel Woods’ pitbulls.
2. Scottie Pippen (5th pick in 1987)
Full disclosure, I made a huge mistake and overlooked research into the 1987 draft. I knew the Knicks drafted Mark Jackson in the high teens (18th actually), so I assumed the Knicks made the playoffs. This morning I woke up thinking that Ewing missed the playoffs his first two seasons and looked it up. Bad mistake and I sincerely apologize for the error. We know how good Pippen is, but I still Ewing was better (feel free to disagree and disparage me for that and the oversight). The Knicks swapped first round picks with the Sonics when they acquired Gerald Henderson on November 12, 1986. The Knicks also acquired the Nuggets first round pick for Darrell Walker on October 2, 1986. Four weeks later the Knicks traded the pick to the Bulls for Jawann Oldham (he played 44 games for the Knicks and averaged 3.9 ppg). The Bulls and Sonics later ended up swapping picks with the Bulls taking Pippen fifth and the Sonics taking Olden Polynice 8th. But for Gerald Henderson and Jawann Oldman, the Knicks would have had both players. Like the Knicks, I made a huge tiny, mistake. We do a fair share of apologizing at Knicks Bricks.
1. Patrick Ewing (1st pick in 1985)
Easy choice for this list as Ewing is a Hall of Famer and probably only Aldridge has a chance to make the Hall of Fame. His career was marred by playoff disappointments, but at least they made the playoffs every damn year after his rookie first two seasons. Ewing has had the sixth best career out of all the number picks in the lottery era behind Duncan, Shaq, LeBron, David Robinson, and Iverson. He should be passed by Howard, maybe Rose depending on his ACL, and there is a chance that Blake and Irving pass him as well. Still Ewing will be in the top 1/3 of the first picks in the lotto era. Maybe I didn’t appreciate him enough when he was playing, but after eight lottery trips in nine years and only one of the players drafted making it to a third season with the Knicks (Gallinari), Ewing seems pretty damn great. With or without a championsip.