Tonight would normally be an exciting night for New York Knicks fans. It could probably be a painful night instead. I’ll refrain from saying should, which I’ll explain in a bit.
Tonight at 8 pm on ESPN, the NBA Draft Lottery will take place, awarding teams who failed to make the playoffs a chance to draft a valuable player early in the draft. For normal organizations, this is the payoff from suffering through a losing season. For the New York Knicks, this would be the reward of a 37-win, playoff-less season, but instead, they can merely be spectators at where a could-be Knicks will end up.
Despite missing the playoffs, the Knicks don’t have a first-round pick because they traded it, unprotected, to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The terms of that deal have been debated ad nauseam, and personally, I will say Anthony in his prime is worth a draft pick, although the Knicks could have done better in getting something in return or at least protecting it.
For some, it doesn’t even matter. The three-and-a-half years of Carmelo Anthony and the three playoff appearances that came with him were enough. And to be fair, not many people expected the Knicks to even be in the lottery after the 2013-14 season — not with Anthony on board.
But this is besides the point; it’s not just about the Knicks missing a pick entirely in one of the deepest drafts in recent history. It’s about the Knicks’ continuous purge of draft picks, aka Possibly Valuable, Talented Players Who Are Cheap and Can Stay With The Team For A Long Time. Ian Begley detailed the Knicks’ recent history of giving up draft picks and how those picks have usually turned into pretty good players.
This SB Nation chart also gives a handy little run-down of the Knicks’ swapped draft picks:
I mean, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joakim Noah, Nene, Gordon Hayward….?! GAHHH!
Some fans will point to 2015 as the relief of this moderately successful, but still mismanaged era for the Knicks. New York will have tons of cap space and their 2015 first-round draft pick. But this current era still extends its gracious paws further into the future. The Knicks, as you can see above, gave up their 2016 first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani this past summer. Yes, a guy who was an amnesty-candidate for the Raptors was traded for a first-round pick.
And we’re only discussing FIRST ROUND picks. The Knicks gave up two additional second round picks for Bargnani, too. Hell, they gave up a second rounder, plus the rights to two overseas Greek players in exchange for Raymond Felton.
Draft picks are obviously important for acquiring talented, cheap players. This year, teams were extremely hesitant to give up draft picks at the trade deadline, just because in the new CBA, rotation players on rookie deals are extremely valuable.
However, they’re also important assets for future trades. Had the Knicks not stripped their team of them with the Andrea Bargnani trade, there’s a possibility that a draft pick + a young player could have fetched New York Kyle Lowry, who had an All-Star worthy season. Carmelo Anthony is a worthwhile prize to save a draft pick for, but Bargnani? Eddy Curry? Stephon Marbury is arguable now, though acquiring players in free agency was easier back then, so the Knicks could’ve been a little more selfish in dishing out picks.
The hope is that the Knicks, under Phil Jackson, will learn to be more stringent with their picks. The current CBA makes it more difficult to acquire players in agree agency, but it rewards team who draft intelligently. Watching tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery, it will be tough not to wonder whether Denver or Orlando will be taking home a star that could’ve been the Knicks’.