NBA Draft Struggles of the New York Knicks

“The New York Knicks are now on the clock”

Usually, when you hear your team’s name during the draft, it’s a reason for excitement. For fans of the Knicks, it’s a reason for anxiety and fear.

Those nine words are usually followed by something horrible. Maybe not immediately, but it will happen.

When it comes to first round picks and the Knicks, there three options:

  1. Pick was traded years earlier
  2. Pick doesn’t last more than two years with team
  3. Pick is good, but gets traded as he enters prime

This story highlights all three of these options and covers only the last 20 years worth of drafts.

Players Received for a First Round Pick

One way the Knicks have screwed up the draft is simply by not having a pick. Over the last 20 years, the Knicks have acquired some good players, while trading away too many assets, including picks.

This is the story of the 6 players acquired and 7 trades made involving first round draft picks.


Players Who Spent Two Years or Less on Knicks

This group of 9 players didn’t spend more than two seasons on the Knicks roster. Some of them were traded before they were given a fair chance and some just never panned out (or both).


Good Picks, Bad Endings

Good news for the Knicks – there have been good picks!
Bad news for the Knicks – they were all traded for poor returns.

The six good picks the Knicks have made the last two decades have all left New York, either on bad terms or in bad deals.


Recent Picks, Active Knicks

Knicks have three current lottery picks on their roster, from each of the last three years.

The last Knicks first round draft pick to sign a multi-year contract with New York after his rookie deal was Charlie Ward, who was drafted in 1994. Will any of these three become the next??

RJ Barrett (2019, #3)

Problem with the pick: Knicks had the worst record in the NBA in 2019 and picked third, which meant missing out on generational star Zion Williamson and presumptive 2019 Rookie of the Year Ja Morant.

Barrett is a good player, with the potential to be great. He is a building block moving forward and with the right coaching staff and supporting cast, could be in a position to make multiple All Star Games (before the Knicks trade him for someone who inevitably gets injured or leaves on bad terms, right?).

Kevin Knox (2018, #9)

Problem with this pick: Knox has yet to kick it into the next gear. He was one of the youngest players in the NBA during his rookie season, in which he played 75 games (starting 57) and averaged 12.8 ppg and played 28.8 mpg. He seemed to regress in 2019-20, and often looked slow or lost out there.

Knox was part of a truly awful team as a rookie and this past season lost playing team to veterans on one year contracts. He hasn’t been dealt a great hand, but it still extremely young, that the right coach could tap into his potential. IF the Knicks are patient…

Frank Ntilikina (2017, #8)

Problem with this pick: Fan and media’s choice was Dennis Smith Jr (#9) and Donovan Mitchell (#13). To be honest, I personally wanted Smith. But he has been a disappointment as a Knick. Maybe things would have been different if he was drafted initially? Mitchell, was a 2020 All Star, but there was less buzz around him in NY at the time.

Ntilikina was Phil Jackson’s final act as Team Present, as he was relieved of his role about a week after this pick was made.

Frank is one of the most polarizing players in the league. You either love him and think he has star potential or hate him and can’t wait to see him out of the league. He is an excellent defender with a long wingspan and his contributions don’t always translate to the stat sheet. He has been slow to develop a three point shot and offensive skills, but you can see that they are coming. In this day and age, NBA front offices aren’t patient enough to wait 3-4 years for potential and defensive-minded players don’t always fit in to this era of 120+ ppg.


Second Round Picks

With such an awful history of first round picks, there’s no way it could be worse in the second round could it? Ugh.

Here are the total numbers on Knicks second round picks since 1988 – 854 games played (247 starts), an average of 4.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.7 apg.

If you remove the Knicks’ last two second round picks, Mitchell Robinson and Damyean Dotson, the totals dip to 562 games (179 starts), averages of 3.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.5 apg.

Most stars are born from lottery picks, or the first round in general but recent All Stars from round two include Paul Milsap, Nikola Jokic, Khris Middleton, Marc Gasol. These aren’t just throwaway picks, which is how the Knicks have treated them.

We only looked at 20 years worth of first round picks here, but how about diving into 30+ years of Knicks’ second round picks.


The I Don’t Know Section

Mardy Collins (2006, #29)

Collins doesn’t fit any of the above categories. He wasn’t that good (averaged 3.7 ppg in 13.9 mpg), his tenure was longer then two years (2.5 seasons, 107 games), and it didn’t really end horribly (in 2008, was traded to the Clippers with Zach Randolph for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley).

But it’s important that we include him in this list for one major reason…

His best highlight was in 2006, Collins committed a hard foul and sparked a huge brawl, that resulted in Carmelo Anthony sucker punching Jared Jeffries.

Ironically, Nate Robinson also plays a big role in this video. In February 2005, Knicks acquired the Suns’ 2005 (David Lee) and Spurs’ 2006 (Mardy Collins) first round picks, along with Malik Rose from the Spurs for Nazr Mohammed and Jamison Brewer.


Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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