Should the Knicks Trade Their First Round Pick?
*Photo via USA Today
As we all know, the New York Knicks will be among a handful of teams hoping to win this year’s NBA draft lottery. With a current record of 14-57, it is a definite possibility that New York will end up with this year’s first overall pick. The two teams challenging them for that top pick are the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-54) and the Los Angeles Lakers (18-51). Considering it’s almost impossible for the Knicks to string together a few wins in a row, I’m going to assume that these standings will hold up as is. The Knicks are guaranteed a top 4 pick regardless of how the lottery plays out, so there should be a quality player when they select either way.
NBA reporter, Brian Windhorst was quoted a few weeks ago saying that New York is “looking into opportunities to see what they could possibly get if they trade their draft pick.” I know that most of you reading this are asking yourself, why in the world they would do such a thing, however I’ll explain why this may make sense. If the Knicks do indeed decide to trade their pick, it would allow them to acquire an impactful player, while also having $25 million in cap money to spend. This particular scenario would allow them to obtain two proven stars to pair alongside Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks must decide whether or not they want to wait for a 19 year old prospect to develop into the player they need him to be. Carmelo isn’t getting any younger, as he will turn 31 years old on May 29th. His window to win a championship is closing rapidly and New York’s front office doesn’t want to waste the few prime years that he has left. If a player such as Kevin Durant became available for a trade, you almost have to assume that Phil Jackson would try and pull the trigger. Players such as Kevin Durant don’t come around too often and teaming him up with Carmelo Anthony could pose a lethal threat to defenses.
This year’s NBA draft has some excellent young prospects that have the ability to make an impact immediately. Jhalil Okaor (Duke), Karl Towns (Kentucky), and D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) are the three players that have been linked to the Knicks over the past few months. Okafor and Towns are both 7 feet tall with tremendous upside. They both have great footwork for guys that size and have a unique ability to finish around the rim. Russell has the size (6’5) that Phil Jackson covets in point guards. His ability to shoot from long range and attack the basket is a nice fit with what Fisher is trying to do in the triangle offense. I believe that the safest pick would be Okafor, because of the fact that he seems to be the most polished as a player. Towns definitely has greater upside because of his athleticism, however in my opinion it is always better to go with the sure thing. I don’t see the Knicks taking Russell unless they trade back or get unlucky in the lottery. If the Knicks do in fact select a player at the top of the draft they will have acquired a player who is under contract for the next 4 years at a minimal salary. This would also give them much needed flexibility to fill out the rest of their roster.
Over the course of the years there have been several 1st overall picks that have not lived up to the hype. From 2005-2008, Andrew Bogut, Andrea Bargnani, and Greg Oden were the 1st overall selections in consecutive drafts. All 3 of these players were highly touted before entering the NBA and from a pure production standpoint have disappointed tremendously. Greg Oden in particular was a “can’t miss prospect” at the center position, coming out of college, however ultimately knee injuries cut his career short. It is extremely hard to predict success in the NBA for a 19 year old kid, and that is a reason why the Knicks should tread with caution. There are clearly pros and cons of trading the pick vs. keeping the pick, however I believe that the Knicks would be wise to gauge the market and see who may become available before making a decision.