There is palpable disappointment among the Knicks fan base that the likelihood of the team signing Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker is low. Their collective feelings are in stark contrast to the cautious optimism embraced a little over month ago prior to the NBA Draft Lottery.
When the Knicks, who were hoping their league worst 17-65 record would yield the No. 1 overall pick, fell to No. 3, it was an omen for some pessimists that the franchise was cursed in the same vein as the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, who went 86 and 108 years respectively before breaking their World Series droughts.
It has been 46 years since the Knicks won their last NBA championship and 20 since their previous Finals appearance. No doubt 2020 won’t be the year they end the unenviable streak. But it won’t approach the dispiriting number of years that generations of Red Sox and Cubs fans endured.
Acquiring difference-making players via free-agency and/or trades is a proven path to a title. The Miami Heat’s signings of LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2003 and the Raptors gaining this season’s Finals MVP Leonard in a trade last July are just two examples. The Knicks ultimately will have to do one or both in their quest to become a title contender. But drafting and developing players is still a critical component of the process.
Knicks fans should have a well above moderate degree of confidence in team president Steve Mills’ and general manager Scott Perry’s acumen in evaluating young players and the organization’s ability to develop them, led by Craig Robinson, the Knicks’ vice president of player and organizational development.
Last year’s rookie class consisted of Kevin Knox, the ninth pick in the NBA draft, Mitchell Robinson, the 36th pick, and the signing of Allonzo Trier as an undrafted free-agent. Knox was the second youngest player in the league and won’t turn 20 until Aug. 11. He played in 75 of the Knicks’ 82 games, averaging 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in 28.8 minutes.
Robinson emerged as a disruptive force on defense and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team after ranking second in blocks in the league at 2.44, including leading the NBA with 24 blocked three-pointers. He also was first in field-goal percentage (69.4 percent), fifth in rebounds (6.4) and fifth in double-doubles (11) among rookies.
Trier was one of the most dynamic scorers in the 2018 rookie group, as evidenced by a 31-point performance against the Houston Rockets in
January. As of yesterday, one day before tonight’s draft, the Knicks have seven first round picks over the next five seasons. They may make a deal for their No. 3 pick or use it to draft R.J. Barrett, the 6-foot-7, 19-year-old who played for Duke this past college season.
The Knicks’ rebuild may not be as dramatic and rapid as many thought it would be leading up to this draft, but as the Red Sox and Cubs proved, losing is not eternal.