Thursday night showed Knicks president of basketball operations Steve Mills and Knicks general manager Scott Perry meant it about being committed to player development in building this Knicks team from the ground up.
With the No. 9 pick, they drafted Kentucky starting forward Kevin Knox, and with the No. 36 pick, they drafted Chalmette High School center Mitchell Robinson. Their first round pick is coming off a one-and-done apprenticeship in college, and their second round pick decided to forego college and work on preparing for the draft.
Not only are the picks gutsy, but it was smart. It was the way to go for a downtrodden franchise that is trying to provide hope for a suffering fanbase. Drafting a player like Mikael Bridges would have been safe, but it would be boring, and it would not generate any buzz. By drafting Knox, it gives the Knicks time to build and fans would be interested to see how he develops. This team is years away from being a legitimate NBA title contender.
The Knicks are going to need two more young players to build around before they can be good. That was the purpose of drafting Knox. By the time he grows into an NBA body and be a star in the league, they hope their other draft picks in future years will evolve as stars, too.
Mills and Perry should be commended for backing up their mission statement with action. For years, Knicks executives such as Isiah Thomas, Donnie Walsh and Phil Jackson would talk one thing about building with youth and doing the opposite. It could have been tempting by current Knicks executives to do the same, but with James Dolan’s blessing, they have carte blanche of building a team through youth.
The Knicks fans were fine with the plan, but even then, they had something to complain. When a team has not won anything since 1973, it’s hard for fans to be reasonable. Here’s what happened: They booed the selection of Knox because they wanted the team to draft Michael Porter Jr.
These are the same idiots that booed the Kristaps Porzingis pick few years ago and that turned out to be fine.
It’s remarkable how uneducated Knicks fans are about Porter. There was a reason he slid down in the draft. Teams did not want to take a risk in drafting a player that has a back injury. The Nuggets finally drafted him at No. 14. That’s okay for them to draft him because they already have a nucleus to build around in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
For the Knicks, they could not afford to take that risk. The last thing they needed was to waste a draft pick on a guy who may be a question mark forever with his back. It’s not a way to start a rebuild plan no matter how good Porter turns out to be.
What’s funny is these same Knicks fans would have complained if the Knicks draft Porter just to see him have injuries while Knox shined somewhere else. Good thing for the team that Perry and Mills seem to have a clue on how to build a team than the fans.
To Knox’s credit, he shrugged off the boos. He said he would use it as motivation, even though deep down, he knows that it’s hard to take Knicks fans seriously. He received a good lesson on how fickle the Knicks fans can be.
Knox was the best player on the board. He has a good shooting touch. He has the basketball body to be a difference maker on the glass whether it’s blocking shots or getting rebounds. He won’t be afraid to attack the rim. That’s the type of athleticism the Knicks lacked for the last two decades. That was why he was appealing to the Knicks.
What the Knicks need is a player who can be versatile, and Bridges is not that guy. Knox can be that guy with his potential, so it made sense to get him.
We are not talking about a project in Knox. He played for a good offensive coach in John Calipari at Kentucky, and he flourished there, so this is a guy who can grow into a star. He is further along, so his process can be quick for the Knicks.
Remember Kentucky has produced standouts such as DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Anthony Davis, Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Karl Anthony-Towns under Calipari’s tutelage, and that’s what makes Knox appealing to the Knicks management. That itself is why this is a better pick than Porter, even if Knicks fans are dim-witted to realize that.
The Knicks won’t be good this season or even next season. That’s irrelevant because the goal is to win a championship. It’s already been a long wait, so what’s another five or six years? That was the thinking of Mills, Perry and Dolan, and that’s why they decided to take the page of the Philadelphia 76ers and start having a process of their own by building around with the draft.
If there is anything to watch this season and next season, it’s about watching the young guys play. Knicks coach David Fizdale will be committed to playing Frank Ntilikina and Knox this coming season. As for Robinson, he will likely be playing in the G League since he is far from a finished product, but at least the Knicks are serious about going with youth.
Whether or not the picks pan out, Thursday night’s picks mean there is a plan in place.
The days of quick fix is over.