For the past decade, the New York Knicks have been one of the few teams to constantly be giving away draft picks. Even some of the picks they made were traded immediately before being given a chance to develop. That being said, there are still quite a few players that really worked out well for the Knicks and should be acknowledged.
Let’s take a look at the Knicks’ first round picks since 2002, whether they were chosen by the Knicks, or used by another team in a trade.
2002- No. 7- Nene
This was a great pick at number seven overall. The other player they could have taken was Amar’e Stoudemire, but the Knicks at the time were not high on high school players. Nene never played a minute in blue and orange because he was traded on draft night to the Denver Nuggets for Antonio McDyess. Nene has gone on to have a productive career averaging 12.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg, while McDyess never really recovered from his knee surgeries and was dealt after half a season for Stephon Marbury.
2003- No. 9- Michael Sweetney
Looking for the next great forward out of Georgetown, the Knicks selected the heavy set power forward Sweetney. In his rookie season, he didn’t contribute much, but he did have a promising sophomore year where he averaged 8.4 ppg and 5.4 rpg. He was then dealt to Chicago in the famous Eddy Curry trade, where he eventually ate himself out of the league. I guess it landed them a better center (in theory), but for some reason Isiah Thomas felt the need to give up unprotected first round picks.
2004- No. 16- Kirk Snyder (Utah Jazz owned Knicks’ pick)
The Jazz whiffed pretty hard on this one. The Knicks had given up this pick in the Stephon Marbury trade (Thomas LOVED trading first round picks), and then Phoenix traded the pick to Utah later on. Snyder didn’t amount to anything other than a reserve in his six year career. Seeing that Josh Smith and J.R. Smith were the next two picks, it’s safe to say yikes on this pick.
One of the Knicks best drafts of all time saw three very good selections by the Knicks. If there was one thing Isiah Thomas was good at, it was finding talent in the draft. All three were very good young players for the Knicks, giving them the slightest bit of hope in a very dark time. Frye had a very good rookie season in New York, but after a sophomore slump, Frye was dealt to Portland to acquire Zach Randolph. The Arizona product has gone on to have a solid NBA career as a stretch four. Nate Robinson electrified the Garden with his acrobatic dunks and energy off the bench. While childish at times, Robinson had the ability to fill it up in a hurry (17.2 ppg his final year in New York) which made him so valuable coming off the bench. He also won the dunk contest multiple times. David Lee developed into an All Star power forward and a key piece on a very good Golden State Warriors team. In his walk year in New York, Lee became the first Knick All Star since Allan Houston averaging 20.2 ppg and 11.7 rpg.
Hang on Knick fans; this one’s going to sting. Instead of drafting the franchise center/forward they thought they were getting in Curry, the Knicks watched Chicago benefit from a terrible trade and select the perennial All Star Aldridge. At least the Bulls made a terrible draft day trade themselves when they exchanged Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas. The Knicks shocked the world by taking undersized forward Renaldo Balkman. Solid energy guy his rookie season, but c’mon, Rajon Rondo was picked right after him! We’ll always get to remember his famous meltdown though. Mardy Collins was a defensive minded point guard (supposedly) who was out of the league at 25. Bad draft to say the least.
Chicago wasn’t done crushing Knick fans’ souls. With the right to swap picks with New York, Chicago selected one of the best, if not THE best, defensive centers in the league in Noah. An all NBA first team selection this year reminds Knick fans just how bad that Eddy Curry trade was. At least Thomas made the most of a bad situation when he drafted Wilson Chandler out of DePaul. He was given a promise by New York in pre-draft workouts, which seemed odd at the time, but he proved to be a very solid NBA player. Viewed as a strong, defensive wing player, Chandler took the league by storm averaging 14.4, 15.3, and 16.4 ppg in his second, third, and fourth season with the Knicks. He was later dealt in the Carmelo Anthony trade and has played well for the Denver Nuggets.
2008- No. 6- Danilo Gallinari
With the Knicks highest pick (that they actually owned) in over a decade, they took the Italian forward to fit right in with new head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense. In his rookie season, Gallo struggled through some back injuries and looked to have the early label of bust. But he came out firing his sophomore year and showed just why he was ranked so high in the draft. A terrific shooter with great size, Gallo instantly became a fan favorite with his goofy hair and entertaining celebrations. Averaging over 15 points per game in three consecutive seasons in New York, the Italian forward looked to be a perfect building block moving forward. To many fans’ disappointment, Gallo was sent to Denver with Chandler to bring in Melo in February of 2011. It was sad to see him go; he and the rest of the Knicks were so fun to watch with Amar’e Stoudemire headlining the show. Gallinari has become the star player in Denver, averaging 16.2 ppg in ’12-’13 before tearing his ACL. He missed all of last year because of this injury. Overall, great pick.
2009- No. 8- Jordan Hill
This was a terrible draft year for the Knicks. In what looked like such a promising draft, the Knicks and Donnie Walsh whiffed hard on this pick. Letting everyone in the world know that they were going to draft a point guard of the future, all three of there targets went off the board before they could pick. Minnesota elected to go with back-to-back point guards with Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn at 4 and 5, while Golden State took the Knicks’ golden boy Steph Curry with the 7th pick. The Knicks panicked like usual and picked a lifetime reserve. Halfway through his rookie season he was dealt in a salary dump to Houston for a fossilized Tracy McGrady. From there Hill has gone on to play over 20 minutes a game only once in his career; last year he averaged 9.7 point and 7.4 rebounds on a Laker team that not even a Lakers’ fan could name five guys (trust me, I lived with one). If the Knicks wanted to go best player available, how did they pass up DeMar DeRozan? If there claim was “there weren’t any more point guards we liked,” I think Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, or even Darren Collison would suffice. Ugh. What a whiff that was.
2010- No. 9- Gordon Hayward (Utah owned the pick from Phoenix from Stephon Marbury trade)
Having no pick in 2010 was both beneficial and heart breaking. The good news was that they didn’t have to pay a first rounder’s salary while they were trying to sign two max contract players. The bad news was the Knicks stunk the year before and really deserved a top ten pick. The former Butler star has improved every season in his young NBA career. His best season came this past season where he scored 16.2 ppg, while also averaging 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists. The Knicks already had Chandler and Gallo in his position (and hoped to sign LeBron James) so he likely would not have been the pick. I’m guessing they would have still looked for a point guard or shooting guard (since they picked two in the second round that year) with players like Eric Bledsoe, Avery Bradley, or Xavier Henry in mind. At least they chose Landry Fields in the second round. He turned out to be a nice surprise and a solid rotation player.
2011- No. 17- Iman Shumpert
Finally the Knicks were picking OUTSIDE the lottery by CHOICE. The Knicks made the playoffs finally with a roster built around Stoudemire and Anthony, but needed another point guard. The Knicks, as they have a knack for doing, surprised everyone by taking Georgia Tech combo guard Iman Shumpert. The attraction here was his great on-ball defense and extremely good athleticism. Reminding some of Latrell Sprewell, Shumpert really impressed his rookie season. His season came to an early ending however when he tore his ACL in the playoffs against the Miami Heat. Since then, Shumpert has not improved the way Knick fans had hoped. His shooting has regressed each year, but his defensive ability and athleticism is what keeps fans hopeful. If he can become a more consistent offensive contributor, Shumpert has a chance to be a very good player.
2012- No. 16- Royce White (Houston owned pick from Tracy McGrady trade)
See a common theme here? Who needs draft picks anyway! Houston selected a guy who never played because of his fear of flying and anxiety issues. He claimed the Rockets and their staff didn’t help him with his issues. His only NBA stats came last year with Sacramento: 3 games, 9 minutes, 2 fouls, and a missed jumper. Nice! The Knicks didn’t really miss much that year; maybe they could have taken Terrence Jones, Perry Jones III, or Tony Wroten? I don’t know, they did manage to draft a Greek guy in the second round who is supposedly finally coming over this year to play for Houston. A lost draft for the Knicks.
2013- No. 24- Tim Hardaway Jr.
Great pick. Love it. In a terrible draft class, the Knicks managed to get the steal of the night with a late first round selection of the Michigan sharpshooter. The kid has great athleticism and can really shoot the ball. An All Rookie First Team member, Hardaway Jr. averaged 10.2 points per game and shot 36.3% from downtown in only 23 minutes a night. Expect a big sophomore season out of him in the New York triangle offense.
2014- No. 12- Dario Saric (Orlando owned the pick from Carmelo trade)
It’s too early to tell if it will hurt, but the Knicks wanted to make sure they didn’t have a first rounder again. The Knicks did manage to pick Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo in the second round, so at least they came away with first round talent.
As you can see, the Knicks have not had the best success in the draft over the years, whether it’s making bad picks or trading away picks. Hopefully they stop trading picks. They already don’t have one in 2016.