The Knicks will be without a first-round draft pick in 2012, 2014 and 2016. It’s a familiar position for us: we traded young players for expensive, established talent, and the team now lacks the draft picks and the cap space to build a Thunder-esque foundation of young talent. It’s nowhere we haven’t been before.
Obviously things aren’t that bleak; unlike the past decade, this team is going somewhere, and may not be all that far away from elite. (In fact, given the way the Celtics series broke, with the close games and the injuries, I’d argue that it’s near impossible to tell how far away the Knicks truly are.) But they aren’t elite as we sit here right now, and the lack of cap space or draft picks puts a premium on this year’s pick. It doesn’t matter if the Knicks are one player away from title contention, or if they just need an asset for the Chris Paul sweepstakes – there’s an inordinate amount of pressure on the number 17 pick. Whoever he is, he absolutely has got to be a player in the league.
Given that, it’s reasonable to argue that the Knicks ought to go for the safest option available, and outside the lottery that usually means drafting a player with one special skill that absolutely must translate to the next level. What better target, then, than Kenneth Faried of Morehead State, the NCAA’s modern-era career rebounding leader? In the world’s only industry in which effort is a skill, Faried is a veritable master, averaging one rebound every 2.4 minutes at 35 minutes per game his senior season. He makes up for a lack of strength in the post with aggressive ball denial and quick hands, which are reflected in his 1.9 steals per game. And though he stands just 6’7.5” in shoes, his 35” vertical brings in rebounds other guys can’t touch.
Yet as DraftExpress illustrates, the top rebounders in college basketball over the past decade do not read off like a laundry list of NBA success stories. DeJuan Blair is there, sure, and so is Paul Millsap, but next to those two Faried looks like a kicker lining up on the offensive line. He isn’t Kevin Durant thin, exactly, but Blair’s and Millsap’s skills translated in large part because no man, college or pro, was going to move them off the block once they had position. Faried weighs in at just 225, some 40 pounds shy of Millsap and Blair, and more in the league of, to take another guy off the DraftExpress list, James Thomas. Who? Exactly.
Another problem may be that, though the Knicks are a fairly weak rebounding team, Faried’s skill set may not be as well-suited as we think. If the goal is to provide an interior defender to take some of the burden off Amar’e Stoudemire, Faried is in all likelihood a failure due to lack of size and strength. In Carmelo Anthony and Landry Fields the Knicks already have two players who are exceptional rebounders at their positions – if the pick is a frontcourt player, shouldn’t post defense be a greater priority even than pure rebounding?
Still, it’s difficult to argue with results. Although Faried encountered substandard opposition in the Ohio Valley Conference, he held two high-profile foes – Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Vernon Macklin of Florida – to eight and six points, respectively, while outscoring and outrebounding each. He also improved his field goal percentage from the mid-50’s to 62.3% his senior year, a key number for a guy whose ability to remain in the league probably won’t be judged by how many second chances he creates, but by how many he finishes.
I won’t claim to know if Faried can develop some kind of reliable offensive game – we know he’s a hard worker and he’ll give it his best shot, but his ball-handling and free throw form suggest he may not have the hand-eye coordination to significantly improve his offense. He is also pretty slow to pass the ball out of the post or find the open man after rebounds, not that any team will be force-feeding him inside. In interviews he is affable and strangely humble; the way he says “I view myself as a great player,” you’re not quite sure if he believes it himself. If Donnie Walsh believes it, Faried may well be the pick at 17, and the pressure to become that final Knicks asset will find him in short order. I guess the best thing you can say about Faried is it’s easier to deal with pressure when there are no shots to make – all he really has to do is hustle his ass off.
Points of Interest: Would vault over Ronny Turiaf for best hair on the Knicks…is Muslim…measures just 6’6” without shoes…who the hell still goes by “Kenneth?”…has a year-old daughter, Kyra.