The New York Knicks have really struggled drafting the last five years, lacking the resources to stockpile their roster with talent and not selecting the right players when it’s their turn on the clock. This, in turn, has led to the Knicks falling off from a steep cliff after a 54-win 2012-13 campaign to a 17-win season just last year. Rarely do you see this type of drop-off in performance so quickly, and while part of that is due to Carmelo Anthony’s injury last year, a stronger base surrounding Anthony could’ve salvaged last season in a brutal Eastern Conference. What’s gone wrong with the Knicks’ last five drafts?
Following a promising 42-win season in 2010-11, the Knicks were slated for only one mid-round pick in the 2011 draft. They selected Iman Shumpert at pick 17, a combo guard with elite athleticism and a stat-stuffer at Georgia Tech. It seemed like a good pick at the time, but Shumpert regressed after a promising rookie year (an ACL tear helped set him back), and he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team deal last season.
The Knicks also bought a draft pick and selected big-bodied Kentucky center Josh Harrellson, which seemed like a reach at the time among draft analysts. Harrellson was traded the following summer to the Houston Rockets and has been fighting for a roster spot in the NBA since.
The lockout-shortened 2011-12 season was promising for New York, as they finished 36-30, giving fans reason to be excited for the next year. The Knicks traded away their 2012 first-rounder and forward Jordan Hill as part of a deal to open up cap space to sign Amar’e Stoudemire in the summer of 2010, which backfired on them after a strong start for Stoudemire in New York.
The Knicks’ only selection that year was Kostas Papanikolaou at pick 48, who they then sent to Portland for Raymond Felton. The Knicks didn’t really have a lot of options in this draft, and Felton was solid his first year in New York before really struggling.
Following the excellent 2012-13 season, expectations were high for a Knicks team looking to remain among the elite in the Eastern Conference. New York had one pick in the first round of the 2013 draft, and that pick became Tim Hardaway Jr. at 24. Hardaway was a knockdown shooter at Michigan with excellent length, but lacking ball skills. He had a promising rookie season which was relatively efficient (42.8 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from three), but regressed in his next season. Hardaway was traded to the Atlanta Hawks this summer on draft night in a deal that landed them Notre Dame combo guard Jerian Grant, which was one of the few smart draft decisions the Knicks have made of late.
The 2013-14 season was a disappointment for New York thanks to a 37-45 record, which kept them barely out of the postseason in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, thanks to the Melo trade, the Knicks didn’t have a chance in the lottery after trading away that first-round pick.
New York had two second-round picks, and they selected forward Cleanthony Early and swingman Thanasis Antetokounmpo, two promising prospects with decent upside. It’s still too early to tell where these two are heading in their respective NBA careers, but this season should be quite telling for the Knicks to see what they’re working with. The Knicks also acquired the rights to Louis Labeyrie in this draft, and it’s unclear if the 6-10 big man will ever make his way overseas to make an impact.
The Knicks were simply a disaster in 2014-15, winning a franchise-worst 17 games. This time, the Knicks had an opportunity to select a top talent in the draft, and they snagged Latvian Kristaps Porzingis. Ever since that selection, Porzingis has drawn comparisons to Shawn Bradley by Phil Jackson. The worry is that Porzingis is too thin for a “big” man, but his athleticism, skill and fluidity is unparalleled by most 7-3 frontcourt players. How he develops is the big question here, as he has the natural talent to be a staple of their future. But for now, he remains a big question mark.
The Knicks used their second first-round pick – acquired in the Hardaway trade to the Hawks – to nab Grant. Grant is more NBA-ready at this point and could make an immediate impact. New York also acquired Philadelphia’s 35th pick for two future seconds and ended up with Guillermo Hernangomez, a past teammate of Porzingis overseas. Hernangomez is likely to stay overseas for a bit longer as he continues to develop his game.
Overall, the Knicks’ moves have been pretty brutal the past five years. It’s possible the 2014 and 2015 classes change things in the future, but both the 2014 second-rounders haven’t shown much yet and the rookies are completely unproven. It’s tough to grade New York highly based on the fact that most of the team’s free agency moves and trades haven’t panned out, which hurt their draft assets in the process. The Knicks will be improved this season, but they likely remain a few years away from being a legit contender in the Eastern Conference.