The Top 5 Best and Worst New York Knicks Draft Picks Since 2000
The New York Knicks have been one of the league's more notorious draft-talent evaluators in recent years—in years when New York hasn’t shortsightedly squandered its pick, that is.
Since 2000, the Knicks made a total of 23 picks—12 in the first round, 11 in the second.
To call it a mixed bag would be a polite understatement.
Indeed, as ESPN New York’s Ian Begley recently noted, New York’s history is rife with draft-day duds:
...In 2002, the Knicks sent their first-round pick to the Nuggets in the Antonio McDyess trade. That pick turned into Nene, one of the top big men in this year’s playoffs.
In 2006, the Knicks’ pick (No. 2) went to the Bulls and turned into LaMarcus Aldridge. In 2007, the Knicks’ pick (No. 9) went to Chicago in a pick swap. The Bulls selected Joakim Noah. The Knicks took Wilson Chandler at No. 23.
In 2010, the Jazz took Gordon Hayward with the No. 9 pick, which was given up by the Knicks in the Stephon Marbury trade. It wasn’t all bad, though. The Knicks’ first-round picks in 2012 (Royce White) and 2004 (Kirk Snyder) haven’t turned into top-tier players.
Amazing as it may sound, the Knicks haven’t exactly whiffed on all their post-2000 swings.
What follows are the five best and worst picks (two of the former, three of the later) that New York has made this millennium.
Why limit our query to the last 14 years? For the simple fact that a particular team’s recent draft history provides a much clearer window into its organizational philosophy—where it’s been and where it’s going—than an analysis of every pick it has ever made.
Let’s just say the Knicks’ window is in dire need of a cleaning.
Bad Pick: Mike Sweetney (No. 9, 2003)
Eighteen years after drafting arguably the most iconic player in their history, the Knicks had a chance to double down on their Georgetown fortunes, taking Mike Sweetney with the No. 9 pick in 2003.
In terms of sheer production, his collegiate tenure was nothing if not enticing. He put up 18.2 points and 9.2 rebounds over three seasons, with the burly 6’8” forward topping out at 22.8 and 10.4 during his junior season.
Sweetney would log just two seasons with the Knicks—averaging just 6.4 points and 4.5 rebounds—before being shipped off to the Chicago Bulls in the Eddy Curry deal. New York also parted with 2007's first-round pick.
Two years later, the Bulls used that pick to draft a high-energy center from the University of Florida. His name? Joakim Noah.
Sweetney was last seen splitting his time between professional leagues in Uruguay and Puerto Rico—a cautionary tale for not putting too much draft-day stock in big college numbers.
Good Pick: Tim Hardaway Jr. (No. 24, 2013)
Give the Knicks this: They have a pretty good answer to the question “What have you drafted for me lately?”
When they nabbed Michigan swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. with the No. 24 pick in 2013, many wondered whether the Knicks weren’t creating an unnecessary backcourt logjam—what with third-year man Iman Shumpert already pegged as the franchise’s shooting guard of the future.
However, after a surprisingly productive rookie campaign (10.4 points on 43 percent shooting, including 36 percent from distance) that netted him First-Team All-Rookie honors, Hardaway has all but usurped Shumpert on that front.
With the newly anointed Phil Jackson at the helm, New York’s near-future prospects are more in flux than just about anyone’s. But with the team looking more and more on the verge of a rebuild and with a dearth of draft picks to its name, Hardaway stands to be a crucial cog—or at least an enticing trade piece—over the next few seasons.
Bad Pick: Renaldo Balkman (No. 20, 2006)
As far as Knicks cult heroes go, Renaldo Balkman doesn’t boast many modern rivals.
As a professional basketball player? That’s a different story.
The South Carolina product—a dreadlocked, hyperathletic power forward—was taken by New York at No. 20 in the 2006 draft.
And while some would argue that you can’t exactly lampoon a team for taking a flier that late in the first round, it’s whom the Knicks missed out on one spot later that makes this a blunder for the ages: Rajon Rondo.
Adding insult to injury, Balkman never averaged more than five points per game in six NBA seasons, three of which were spent in New York (he was also included in the Carmelo Anthony deal).
Despite the occasional flash of basketball potential, Balkman carried himself with the nonchalance of someone content with simply having made it, rather than someone with something left to prove.
That only makes his DraftExpress.com synopsis all the more poignant—and not necessarily in a good way:
Undersized power forward whose hustle, defense, and scrappy play offensively allows him to effectively fill both forward positions. On the short side, only measuring in a shade over 6-5 without shoes, but boasts a 7-1 wingspan. Not the strongest player around either, but is a solid athlete and plays with an energy that helps him compensate for his size.
He may have entered the league as a high-energy player, but his staying power may be the best proof to the contrary.
Then again, if you've given the world something as beautiful is this, all is forgiven.
Good Pick: Danilo Gallinari (No. 6, 2008)
He hasn’t exactly turned into a legend in the making, but Danilo Gallinari—New York’s No. 6 pick in 2008—has been nothing if not impressive.
Since joining the NBA ranks at the tender age of 20, “Gallo”—whom Mike D’Antoni once called “the best shooter I’ve ever seen,” per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News—has proved to be one of the more versatile European imports of the past decade.
Unfortunately, his stint with the Knicks was short-lived: In 2011 he was sent to the Denver Nuggets—along with Felton and fellow Knicks' first-rounder Wilson Chandler, among others—in exchange for Carmelo Anthony.
If there's one singular statistic that tells you Gallo was well worth the roll of the dice, it's this: His PER has gone up in each of his five NBA seasons.
Toward the end of the 2012-13 campaign, Gallinari suffered a devastating knee injury that would sideline him for the whole of the subsequent campaign. And while it remains to be seen whether he can regain his high-upside form, the streaky Italian will go down as one pick the Knicks’ didn’t miss.
Bad Pick: Jordan Hill (No. 8, 2009)
Let’s start with a caveat: Since being taken by the Knicks with the No. 8 pick in 2009, Jordan Hill has authored a certifiably solid—if wholly unspectacular—NBA career.
For New York, the issue with drafting Hill has become less about Hill himself and more about whom the Knicks missed out on in the process.
And that’s just in the first round.
To recap: The Knicks, who now employ Raymond Felton at point guard, passed on no fewer than four borderline-All-Star point guards—and one All-Star shooting guard—for a hyperathletic, high-risk power forward whose shooting range is measured not by feet but by inches.
Even stranger, it wasn’t even clear at the time how he might fit into Mike D’Antonio’s uptempo, skill-dependent offense.
Expect to be be seeing this one on infamous Knicks top-10 lists for some time to come.