In the postgame recap thread from last night (and into this morning), wolfe1177 pointed out that the Knicks actually haven't drafted as poorly as we're told. Lost in the narrative about New York trading away its first round picks and pursuing veterans over youth is the fact that over the last decade, this team has actually drafted pretty well. Now, of course, many of these players are shipped out shortly after (we're addressing that, don't worry), but the fact remains that the 'Bockers have been able to identify top talent in the draft in the last ten years -- and very rarely with a top selection.
First, the facts (since 2004):
Total selections: 14
Total first-round: 9
Total lottery: 3
Now in that stretch, the Knicks would have been eligible for the lottery six different times, but three of those picks were shipped elsewhere. Additionally, none of those three lottery picks they actually went through with were among the top five (highest was sixth in 2008).
The depression sets in when you look at where these players are right now. Just two are currently on the Knicks' roster, while eight in total (including those two) are active NBA players. That's where the perception of failure kicks in. In a 10-year stretch, they've drafted eight players who are still in the NBA -- a rate that doesn't seem half-bad by my non-scientific analysis. So who were the hits and misses, and who do we wish was still wearing orange and blue?
Trevor Ariza (2004, 44th overall): Ariza played in 116 games during his two seasons in New York, starting 22. He was shipped out in February 2006 with Penny Hardaway though, for Steve Francis, whose Knicks tenure was... forgettable (regrettable?). Since then, Ariza's played reasonably well in New Orleans, Los Angeles (Lakers) and now Washington, starting off and on throughout his career. For a middle-of-the-second-round selection, I'd say that's a pretty solid career to this point.
Channing Frye (2005, 8th overall): Frye started 73 games in two seasons with the Knicks, before summarily being traded (along with Steve Francis) to the Portland Trail Blazers. In New York, he was thrown into a lackluster starting lineup too early in his career, but since, he's made a name for himself as a dependable spot starter and player off the bench. For his current employer, the Phoenix Suns, he's averaged more than 10 points per game each season. His enlarged heart sidelined him for all of 2012-13, but he's now back to playing once again. While he doesn't play like a top-10 pick should, he's still experienced a productive seven-plus years in the NBA.
David Lee (2005, 30th overall): There's a case to be made that Lee is the best Knicks draft pick in the last 25 years, and when paired with Frye, it makes the 2005 NBA Draft a solid one for New York. Lee steadily improved as a Knick, even making the all-star team in 2010, while averaging over 20 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He left for Golden State while New York pursued the likes of Amar'e Stoudemire and LeBron James (nope) that summer. But since his departure, he's kept up a high performance level, making the all-star team just last season.
Dijon Thompson (2005, 54th overall): The Knicks' third and final selection of the 2005 draft was traded along with Kurt Thomas to the Suns shortly afterward and his NBA career never really materialized. BUT since he never suited up for the Knicks, it's worth noting who he was traded for -- Quentin Richardson (meh) and Nate Robinson, plus cash. Nate Rob spent over four fun years in New York before being shipped to Boston in 2010. While he's never been a star, his service was more than enough of a return on a late second-rounder like Thompson.
Renaldo Balkman (2006, 20th overall): The first sure-fire miss, Balkman played sparingly for two years and was sent off to Denver. Moving on...
Mardy Collins (2006, 29th overall): The volume shooter never really caught on with the Knicks, and was traded to the Clippers in the early parts of the 2008 season. He's been out of the league since 2010 and now plays in Greece. Oh the 2006 draft. You were bad.
Wilson Chandler (2007, 23rd overall): Chandler became a favorite of the Knicks' faithful during his time in New York, and was scoring over 16 points per game in the Stoudemire-led offense of 2010-2011 until he was shipped off to Denver with a ton of other pieces in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. We'll judge him on the basis of what he was with the Knicks (a decent wing who could score and play significant minutes), as well as what he earned the Knicks (Melo). So overall, this pick is a win.
Danilo Gallinari (2008, 6th overall): Another player shipped to Denver in the Melo trade, Gallo's time in New York was notable for earning the love of the Garden crowd and playing reasonably to expectations. Since leaving for Denver, he has earned a large contract and been injured for a ridiculous amount of his tenure. In reality, I'm willing to have a conversation about Gallo as one of the NBA's most overrated and overpaid players (shoots under 42 percent on his career and health has been a huge issue), but that's a story for another day...
Jordan Hill (2009, 8th overall): Picked too high and then a victim of pre-Free Agent Palooza cost-cutting, Hill never really had a chance. Today, he barely plays for the Lakers.
Andy Rautins (2010, 38th overall): Another player picked far too high, plus he only has one skill -- three-point shooting. I'll always have a soft spot for Andy due to my own love of Syracuse basketball, but beyond that, he was never supposed to be a real NBA player. He's been out of the league since 2011.
Landry Fields (2010, 39th overall): Starting as a rookie, Fields looked great as a Knick early on, especially for a second-rounder. Since leaving for the Raptors though, he's just never lived up to much more than being a role player. Lucky for the Knicks, they never had to invest much in him and got the most out of him. His overall story remains incomplete.
Iman Shumpert (2011, 17th overall): Shump's gained notoriety as a tenacious defender, sort-of hot head and electric playmaker at times, too. More than just about any homegrown talent beyond perhaps David Lee, Shumpert is one Knicks fans desperately want to hold onto. He's far too young to have a fully written legacy yet (especially considering the time he missed after tearing his ACL, but the future looks bright for the insanely athletic wing.
Kostas Papanikolaou (2012, 48th overall): Picked late and traded to the Blazers soon after, it's tough to truly evaluate the Greek standout. He never suited up in the NBA and has progressed well enough for Olympiacos and now, FC Barcelona. I wouldn't get worked up over this one way or the other.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (2013, 24th overall): Too soon to truly call him a hit, but Hardaway has already improved drastically in his time as a Knick, and we can all see the potential for him as a core part of the franchise going forward. While some may have derided the first-round selection based on last-name alone, he looks to be rounding into a dynamic scorer off the bench and even more effective in extended minutes.
So in total, there are nine players whom we could consider as at least partial "hits," which looks like a solid 10-year run to me. No, the Knicks have yet to draft the next superstar in that time, but they've only openly botched one lottery selection (Hill) and they've actually gotten more value out of late-first and early-second round picks than most franchises not named Oklahoma City and San Antonio. We've got plenty of room left to grow in terms of drafting and retaining talent (which is likely to be the case so long as Dolan is in charge). But the continual narrative around our poor drafting is actually far from the truth.