Pop quiz, hot shot: Can you name a solid New York Knicks draft pick in the last 10 years not named Kristaps Porzingis?
If the first thing that pops in your head is an all caps LOL, I won’t blame you. It’s no secret that the big market Knicks have a medical history of soiling themselves on draft night, which was why on June 25, 2015, in New York, Porzingis was instinctively booed when he was selected as the Knicks’ fourth overall pick—the highest Knicks pick since Patrick Ewing in ’85.
The booing was an acute stress reaction from the traumatic events of previous drafts, a robotic response to anything Knicks. My reaction to the Porzingis pick was less hostile. I shrugged, took a deep breath, and like a washed actress running for public office, prayed for the best.
To quickly recap, these are some of the names recently selected by the Knicks on draft night:
• Frank Ntilikina (8th, 2017)
• Jerian Grant (19th, 2015)
• Cleanthony Early (34th, 2014)
• Tim Hardaway Jr. (24th, 2013)
• Kostas Papanikolaou (48th , 2012)
• Iman Shumpert (17th, 2011)
Look further back and you’ll see names like Jordan Hill, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Mardy Collins, Renaldo Balkman, David Lee, and Channing Frye—all selected in the first round.
These aren’t exactly bad players, but they didn’t help the Knicks’ cause, either. Most of them were either used as trade chips or not utilized at all. Some were used as punchlines.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the horrible trend began for New York, so I’ll just go ahead and say it was in ’99 when Frederic Weis (the guy whose soul now lives in a tiny locket carried around by Vince Carter) was picked 15th overall, ahead of Ron Artest, James Posey, Andrei Kirilenko, and Manu Ginobili. The Weis pick was so bad that the booing went on for the next 16 years. Forgive them, Porzingod.
The future looks bright though. The funky stench from the Phil Jackson era is slowly going away and being replaced with a breath of fresh air. In this year’s draft, Knicks general manager Scott Perry and Knicks president Steve Mills will get another shot at making things better for New York (their first attempt at change was trading Carmelo Anthony to OKC).
Perry is a veteran GM who, like the Knicks, have had his share of draft night up-and-downs. He was part of the decision to pick Kevin Durant in ‘07 and the WTF Seriously? move to pick Darko Milicic in ’03. Mills, on the other hand, was a former president and GM of the Knicks.
Mills earlier said the Knicks “like to get a wing player,” which means at the ninth pick, they’d have a chance to select either 6-foot-7 Mikal Bridges or 6-foot-6 Miles Bridges (unrelated). Neither of the two are going to shock the NBA, but shock is the last thing the Knicks need anyway. The Knicks just need to play decent at this point; they can leave the shock factor to Joakim Noah’s Instagram feed.
Both Bridges are versatile and can fit in well in the position-less basketball style that new Knicks head coach David Fizdale wants to deploy. Mikal is a prototypical wing guy with potential to be an elite 3-and-D player, molded in the image of a Robert Covington or an old school Eddie Jones. Miles is a do-it-all glue guy who can shoot from anywhere in the court and guard anybody, like a more exciting Tobias Harris. If they’re available at the ninth pick, any of the two are safe picks for New York.
But a less safe yet tempting pick hangs like a dark cloud over the Knicks: Michael Porter Jr., a 6-foot 11 sweet shooter.
Porter was projected to go as high as the second overall pick, but a mysterious hip injury forced his camp to cancel a workout in front of lottery teams, including the Knicks. The cancelled showcase is a big UH OH in bright neon red lights, which in the eyes of the previous Knicks management, may look more like a big PICK ME sign.
It’s unlikely that eight teams picking ahead of the Knicks would let a star like Porter slip. It’s not impossible though. And if Porter is indeed available at ninth, it’s also not impossible to believe that the Knicks would gamble on a talented player with health concerns.
Another player that should be on the Knicks’ radar is 6-foot-2 Trae Young, a point guard whose purpose on the court is to fire missiles from Steph Curry territory. Squint really, really hard and you’ll see shades of raw Steph in Young’s game (he has a YouTube highlight reel with the title “The Next Steph Curry”).
His form may not be as handsome as Steph’s, but he does have the two-time MVP’s lethal quickness and supreme confidence. At 19 years old, he also has time on his side. If I were Perry, I wouldn’t need to squint. I would just close my eyes and imagine that this is an ideal world where Young would fall on the Knicks’ lap.
As it is, the Knicks’ backcourt is already stacked with PGs: Frank “Grow Up Soon” Ntilikina, Trey “Hungover Iverson” Burke, and Emmanuel “Moody” Mudiay. One of them will have to go—*cough * Mudiay *cough*—to make room for Young.
The 2018 draft class is a talented bunch, and there are enough skills to go around that even a team as historically bad at drafts as the Knicks should be fine. They should be getting a contribute-now player like Mikal Bridges. And what I mean by that is…they should be getting real. Keep it simple, don’t go crazy, and get the best player available.
As a New York fan, I’m prepared to face another long season of headache and prayers. The Knicks is a team that’s been through enough drama and Melo isos that a decent lottery pick should be as valuable as a 40-win season. I’m going to let my prayers drown out the boos on draft night. That should be a good start.
Photos from Getty