New York Knicks: The NBA Draft Is Key To The Future

Jun 25, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Kristaps Porzingis is escorted onto the stage with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number four overall pick to the New York Knicks in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 25, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Kristaps Porzingis is escorted onto the stage with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number four overall pick to the New York Knicks in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Though free agency can provide instant results, the key to the long-term success of the New York Knicks will be embracing the value of the NBA Draft.

If you’re a fan of the New York Knicks, then the NBA Draft is likely your least favorite event of the year. New York has an uncanny ability to trade draft picks for what it believes will be an instant fix.

If the Knicks want to build a truly sustainable contender, then they must embrace the value of the NBA Draft.

Since taking over as team president, Phil Jackson has spoken about building a team that can be great beyond his tenure. The key to that will be landing players who are young, talented, and promising enough to lead New York into the future.

Free agency can provide New York with short-term aid, but it’s the draft that will enable the Knicks to stretch the success over time.

New York traded its first-round draft picks in both 2014 and 2016. The latter was dealt for Andrea Bargnani, who is no longer in the NBA—a testament to how poorly the Knicks have managed their draft picks in recent years.

New York also traded its first-round draft picks in 2010 and 2012. Yes, that means it’s dealt away four of its past six first-round draft picks.

Going back to 2002, the Knicks have actually drafted well. The list of players selected includes a fair number of busts, as all draft lists do, but it also features Trevor Ariza, Wilson Chandler, Channing Frye, Danilo Gallinari, Nene Hilario, Jordan Hill, David Lee, and Iman Shumpert.

Unfortunately, New York couldn’t be bothered to develop that young and promising talent.

The Knicks realized just how valuable the annual selection process can be when Jackson selected Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4 overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. Just one season in, Porzingis is already being hyped up as the future face of the organization.

Whether or not he lives up to the hype, Porzingis has shown enough to warrant the faith of the New York masses.

Porzingis was unanimously selected to the 2016 All-Rookie First Team. He averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game, which were all the highest averages by a Knicks rookie since Patrick Ewing in 1985-86.

Porzingis also became the first rookie in NBA history to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 100 blocks, and 75 3-point field goals made.

Landing a Porzingis on a yearly basis is a highly unlikely scenario. New York can find quality players throughout the NBA Draft, however, even if a second young star is to become elusive.

Tracing the steps of recent NBA champions provides all the evidence one needs.

The San Antonio Spurs selected Tim Duncan at No. 1 overall in the 1997 NBA Draft. San Antonio also drafted Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, and Tony Parker, who have all played an instrumental role in the Spurs achieving their current status.

Since 1997, the Spurs have five NBA championships, six NBA Finals appearances, and 18 50-win seasons.

The Golden State Warriors won 73 games and reached the NBA Finals in 2015-16, and won the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2014-15. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson were the franchise cornerstones in both seasons.

Curry, Green, and Thompson were all selected by the Warriors in the NBA Draft.

Jackson’s own Chicago Bulls won six NBA championships with Michael Jordan at the helm. Along with drafting Jordan, the Bulls acquired Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant on draft night, thus forming the trio that led Chicago to its first three-peat.

The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted LeBron James—complicated, I know—and Kyrie Irving, and so forth.

The reality of the situation is that, for every superstar who’s selected in the NBA Draft, a complement is landed. That player doesn’t necessarily have to be a star—see: Fisher—but they must provide value and continuity.

In San Antonio’s case, mastering the draft has both netted stars and filled out the rotation with enough depth to overcome the occasional absence of star power.

For the Knicks, Porzingis is the first piece to the puzzle. He’s proven to be an NBA-caliber player, but the Knicks are relatively thin as far as long-term building blocks are concerned.

Three of the Knicks’ five starters—Carmelo Anthony, Courtney Lee, and Joakim Noah—are all over 30, and Derrick Rose will soon turn 28—28 with bad knees.

Willy Hernangomez is 22 years old, but there’s no telling how his game will translate from Liga ACB to the NBA. Brandon Jennings will soon turn a relatively young 27 years of age, but he’s on a one-year deal and is far from guaranteed to re-sign.

The Knicks aren’t necessarily old, but after Porzingis, there isn’t a second established player under the age of 25.

For the first time in an eternity, the Knicks have their future draft picks in order. Jackson intends to keep the 2018 NBA Draft pick, and league rules state that New York can’t trade the 2017 pick after dealing the 2016 selection.

New York has also acquired 2017 second-round draft picks from Chicago and Houston.

With a long-term vision in mind, expect The Zen Master to cherish the opportunity to land quality players via the NBA Draft. Even if it isn’t a star, merely plugging a hole in the rotation would be an invaluable development.

Anthony may be leading the present-day push for an elusive NBA championship, but it’s Porzingis who is anchoring Jackson’s long-term vision.

must read: Carmelo Anthony wouldn't be the first player to win their first title after the age of 30

That vision will only come to fruition if New York does what it did in 1964 with Willis Reed and in 1967 with Walt Frazier: embrace the NBA Draft.