The Knicks’ golden era was built through the draft. The final pieces that came later on — Dave DeBusschere, Dick Barnett, and later still Pearl Monroe and Jerry Lucas — were the auxiliary pieces that put them over the top. But from 1964-67, the following players arrived directly to the Knicks, who were smart enough to take them: Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Clyde Frazier, Cazzie Russell and Phil Jackson.
That’s a platinum-plated foundation. It’s worth noting the foundation of the current best team on the planet, Golden State, was also formed because of three draft picks — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green — none with the kind of elite pick the Knicks will have at No. 3. Curry was a 7, Thompson an 11, Green 35th.
Free agents are nice. Sign the right one, you can be taken to a higher level awful quick. But fundamentals still matter in building a team. And when you look at the 50 drafts connecting 1969 and 2018 for the Knicks … well, it’s staggering to see how many first-round mistakes have been made. It truly is a rogue’s gallery in many ways. Let’s rank the top 25. You go any deeper than that, you’ll want to question your sanity when you look at the names.
You may want to wear a helmet, anyway.
1: Patrick Ewing, 1985. Pick: 1. Could’ve had: Doesn’t matter. Patrick was the Knicks’ only perfect pick, the one immune to second guessing.
2: Bill Cartwright, 1979. Pick: 3. Could’ve had: Bill Laimbeer. Mr. Bill was also a good one.
3: Mark Jackson, 1987. Pick: 18. Could’ve had: Reggie Lewis. Jax is an outlier: the one outright draft steal the Knicks have had in 50 years.
4. Micheal Ray Richardson, 1978. Pick: 4. Could’ve had: Well, the Celtics picked Larry Bird two spots later. But he was a junior eligible.
5: Dean Meminger, 1971. Pick: 16. Could’ve had: Artis Gilmore, who’d committed to the ABA.
6: Hubert Davis, 1992. Pick: 20. Could’ve had: P.J. Brown. But Davis was far more useful on some very good playoff teams.
7: David Lee, 2005. Pick: 30. Could’ve had: Lee became an All-Star. This was a very good pick.
8: Kristaps Porzingis, 2015. Pick: 4. Could’ve had: No one better. As with everything about KP, this is mostly based on projection.
9: Charlie Ward, 1994. Pick: 26. Could’ve had: Better than anyone picked after him. Amazing that the Knicks seemed to hit better when they had lower picks.
10: Rod Strickland, 1988. Pick: 19. Could’ve had: Anthony Mason, though that worked itself out.
11: Greg Anthony, 1991. Pick: 12. Could’ve had: Dale Davis. But right about now this part starts to get fun.
12: Iman Shumpert, 2011. Pick: 17. Could’ve had: Jimmy Butler (30), Isaiah Thomas (60).
13: Nene, 2002. Pick: 7. Could’ve had: More to the point, they could’ve kept Nene.
14: Darrell Walker, 1983. Pick: 12. Could’ve had: Clyde Drexler (14), Doc Rivers (31).
15: Ray Williams, 1977. Pick: 10. Could’ve had
: Norm Nixon (22).
16: Sly Williams, 1979. Pick: 21. Could’ve had: Laimbeer. This one you can argue.
17: Wilson Chandler, 2007. Pick: 23. Could’ve had: Marc Gasol (48).
18: Danilo Gallinari, 2008. Pick: 6. Could’ve had: Brook Lopez (10), DeAndre Jordan (35), Goran Dragic (45).
19: Kenny Walker, 1986. Pick: 5. Could’ve had: Mark Price (25), Dennis Rodman (27).
20: Trent Tucker, 1982. Pick: 6. Could’ve had: Fat Lever (11).
21: Mike Woodson, 1980. Pick: 12. Could’ve had: Jeff Ruland (25).
22: Tim Hardaway Jr., 2013. Pick: 24. Could’ve had: Rudy Gobert (27).
23: Jerrod Mustaf, 1990. Pick: 17. Could’ve had: Antonio Davis (45).
24: Channing Frye, 2005. Pick: 8. Could’ve had: Danny Granger (17).
25: John Wallace, 1996. Pick: 18. Could’ve had: Zydrunas Ilgauskas (20).
My favorite part of the Mets season so far has been the genuine and obvious friendship between Pete Alonso and Dom Smith, who could’ve been embroiled in an awkward rivalry but openly root for and support each other.
In a time when the scourge of tanking infects all sports, here’s to Raptors boss Masai Ujiri, who went the extreme opposite path, took a gamble trading for Kawhi Leonard and another hiring Nick Nurse, and presently sits three wins from winning one of the biggest (and riskiest) futures bets in sports history.
I still have a hard time distinguishing the Yankees from the Astros for who the AL’s best team is right now. If Max Scherzer becomes a Yankee sometime between now and July 31, I will profoundly alter that assessment, however.
I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, but if you haven’t yet seen “Apollo 11,” it’s available now on most pay-per-view systems and you will not be sorry.
Whack Back at Vac
Andy Schefman: I wish I were a betting man. I wonder what the odds were on both Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit hitting triples before the end of May.
Vac: When Kendrys Morales eases into third with a stand-up three-bagger sometime this week, we’ll know June is going to be full of fun, too.
Paul Reynolds: Your column on Boston Title Town sports had me bent over laughing. As a true Bostonian and huge sports fan, I felt obligated to forward your column to all my friends. They had the same reaction I had. Go Bruins!
Vac: It restores my faith in the fun of sports that almost every Boston fan who read that screed last week took it with the good humor with which it was intended. Almost.
Cameron Morris: New York stinks, you stink. Boston will continue its reign of sports, you should start to breathe easier knowing this isn’t going to change. And you’ll continue to write your terrible articles of how jealous or should I say, covetous, towards us Bostonians you may be. Keep ’em comin’ bud.
Vac: As I said, almost.
@MetsOfficials: Is Pete Alonso a legit MVP candidate if he keeps close to this pace? He’s clearly a Rookie of the Year candidate. (He’d be a lock for that right now if not for Chris Paddack.)
@MikeVacc: In some years he might be. In a year where Christian Yelich is doing what he’s doing and Cody Bellinger is doing what he’s doing, I’d say the rest of the National League is fighting it out for third.
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