Knicks fans quickly called out Stephen A. Smith for misremembering who he wanted New York to take in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Nothing annoys New York Knicks fans more than national television pundits. It’s hard enough rooting for the James Dolan-owned team that hasn’t appeared in a playoff game since RJ Barrett turned 13-years-old without constant reminders of the franchise’s failures appearing on television.
With Donovan Mitchell playing in an epic Game 7, before the tragic outcome for the Jazz, ESPN talking head and self-proclaimed Knicks fan Stephen A. Smith was at it again, claiming he was “screaming” for the Knicks to pick Mitchell over Frank Ntilikina in 2017.
“As a diehard New Yorker, I was screaming Donovan Mitchell, Donovan Mitchell,” Smith said on Tuesday in talking about the 2017 NBA Draft. “I watched him at Louisville. And Phil Jackson drafted Frank Ntilikina.”
New York selected Frank Ntilikina 8th overall, five picks ahead of Mitchell, and fans of the blue and orange have been reminded of it ever since the Louisville guard has blossomed into an NBA superstar.
Did Stephen A. Smith really advocate for Donovan Mitchell?
The nice thing about people who share loud opinions on television is there is always a record of what they previously said.
Rewinding back to June 23, 2017, the day after Phil Jackson pegged Ntilikina the point guard for his triangle offense, Smith went on another one of his rants in which he was critical of the Ntilikina selection, but not because he wanted Donovan Mitchell, instead noting how the team overlooked Malik Monk, Zach Collins, and Dennis Smith Jr.
“When you looked at who he passed up along the way [in selecting Ntilikina], can we look at this,” Smith asked rhetorically the day after the 2017 NBA Draft on ESPN. “The next three picks: Dennis Smith Jr. out of North Carolina State. Everybody has been raving about this kid’s upside… After him, Zach Collins out of Gonzaga… And then at number 11, Michael Jordan and the Hornets, who had a good draft by the way, Malik Monk, ever heard of that dude? That brother can play. Did you draft him out of Kentucky? No, you didn’t.”
Mitchell is never mentioned by Smith back in 2017. In several appearances surrounding ESPN’s draft coverage that year, he championed for Monk or Smith Jr. in hoping the team would add a dynamic, scoring guard to their offense.
It’s important to note that these were trying times for Knicks fans. And revisionist history is kinder to Phil Jackson than it is to both Stephen A. Smith and New York’s faithful. It was in the days leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft that it was first reported that Jackson was exploring trade options for Kristaps Porzingis, which ultimately led to the Zen Master’s firing a few days later.
One rumor suggested Phoenix was willing to offer Devin Booker and a pick swap for the Knicks to select Lauri Markkanen in exchange for Porzingis. Sound a little better than what Steve Mills got from Dallas?
But this article is about Stephen A. Smith and his classic memory of what he wanted the Knicks to do, so I digress.
While there were certainly conversations about the Knicks taking Mitchell, with his connection to New York through his father, and the team even invited him for a workout leading up to the draft, but the debate at the time was overwhelmingly focused on Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk in comparison to Ntilikina.
A lot of people were wrong on Donovan Mitchell, not just the Knicks. But luckily, the man who was a key reason why Utah traded up to select him is now employed by James Dolan, and that is Walt Perrin.