Re-draft of the 2006 NBA Draft for the Knicks: Rajon Rondo
Knicks pick: 1st Round, Pick 20
Actual player selected: Renaldo Balkman
Isiah Thomas drafting Renaldo Balkman with the 20th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft over both Rajon Rondo (drafted 21st) and Kyle Lowry (drafted 24th) was one of the worst draft picks in Knicks history. The Knicks were coming off a disastrous 2005-06 campaign, where the team finished 23-59 and fired legendary head coach Larry Brown after just one season on the bench.
New York had an abundance of ball-handlers that season with Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Nate Robinson, and Jamal Crawford dominating the ball.
They brought all four of them back, but the team should have severed ties with Marbury that season to fix the team’s toxic culture. After feuding and clashing with Larry Brown all season, Marbury continued to be a distraction during the 2006-07 season, and his play began to decline.
The team drafted Balkman for his ability to provide versatility and hustle next to their group of combo-guards. He was a significant reach at pick number 20, and many executives regarded him as a second-round talent.
The 2006 Draft did not feature many talented wings at the Knicks’ draft position, and the team should have taken the best player on the board, which was Kentucky’s Rajon Rondo. If the Knicks wanted a wing, they should have waited until pick number 29, where they had a second first round pick that we will talk about in a minute.
Although the Knicks had more significant needs than at point guard, the Knicks’ lead guard situation was less than ideal, and they needed all the talent they could get. Rondo is one of the best playmakers in NBA history and has one of the highest basketball IQs of a player in recent times. The Knicks lacked a true facilitator, who could make his teammates better, because of their heavy rotation of score-first guards.
Drafting Rondo would have expedited the end of the Marbury-Francis experiment and would have given the Knicks a long-term option at point guard, something they are still searching for.
It is easy to attribute Rondo’s success to the Celtics’ championship culture and Doc Rivers, but a player with his vision and IQ would have thrived in any situation. His fiery personality in a toxic and losing culture in New York would have been a bad match, but Rondo had the potential to stick with the team long-term, unlike Balkman, who was traded two years into his career.