The NBA draft is a building block for the Knicks’ reconstruction

JAIME C. HARRIS | 11/12/2020, midnight
The NBA draft is next Wednesday, Nov. 18, five months later than its traditional June date due to the COVID-19 ...
RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks Bill Moore photo

The NBA draft is next Wednesday, Nov. 18, five months later than its traditional June date due to the COVID-19 pandemic altering the league’s 2020 calendar. The Knicks currently hold the No. 8 and No. 27 picks in the first round and the No. 38 pick in Round 2.

The draft is essential to building a strong foundation on which to attract top free-agents. So the Knicks’ reconstruction under its new team president Leon Rose and first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau begins with acquiring and developing young talent that will evolve into All-Stars and impactful rotation players.

The 2020 Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat are the ideal model. In 2017 under the direction of their team president, 2008 Hall of Fame inductee Pat Riley, the Heat selected Newark, New Jersey native Edrice “Bam” Adebayo with the 14th overall pick.

The 23-year-old Adebayo helped lead the Heat to the Finals last month against the Los Angeles Lakers and is among the best two-way players in the NBA. This past season the 6’9” power forward was named a first-time All Star and NBA All Defensive Second Team. His fellow University of Kentucky product, Tyler Herro, was drafted by the Heat last June with the 13th pick.

The 6’5” Herro, who made NBA All-Rookie Second Team, exploded in the NBA bubble in Florida, displaying dynamic scoring ability and valuable rebounding from the shooting guard spot. Additionally, Miami’s signing of 25-year-old rookie guard Kendrick Nunn, who went undrafted in 2018 before playing in the G-League and its cultivation of 26-year-old, 6’7” forward Duncan Robinson, another G-League alumnus, reaped huge dividends.

The 6’2” Nunn was voted to the NBA All-Rookie First Team and the 6’7” Duncan an essential three-point specialist. All of the Heat’s pieces fit symmetrically with their signature star Jimmy Butler. The Knicks are absent a player of Butler’s alpha dog stature. Yet it was the Heat’s appealing young talent and their culture of winning that compelled Butler to sign a four-year, $142 million free-agent deal with the organization in July 2019.

Thibodeau was the head coach of the Bulls when the franchise drafted Butler out of Marquette with the 30th pick and last pick of the first round in 2011. No pre-draft evaluation projected Butler would become one the game’s best players.

It illuminates how critical scouting and development is to growing a sustained playoff contender. Neither Adebayo, Herro nor Butler were high first round picks. The Knicks have failed miserably over the past 25 years in drafting, nurturing and maintaining talent. Since 1985, Patrick Ewing (11-Time All-Star) is the only player the Knicks have drafted who has had multiple All-Star appearances as a member of the organization.

Incomprehensibly, Mark Jackson (1989), David Lee (2010) and Kristaps Porzingis (2018) are the only other players drafted by the Knicks who represented them in an All-Star game over the past five decades. Perhaps Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox R.J. Barrett and or one of next Wednesday’s picks will change that and be a significant components of altering a long losing culture.