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What can the Knicks expect from picks No. 8, 44 and 58? A historical perspective

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Figuring out the Knicks’ best-case scenarios this year based on history

Original photo: NBA.com. P&T illustration.

The Knicks have three picks in this year’s NBA Draft.

Yeah, so what? says the casual NBA observer. Teams have multiple picks all the time. Look at the Sixers! I think they drafted 58 out of the 60 picks that one year.

Well, casual NBA observer, the Knicks ain’t those other teams. We’re talking about a team that has drafted a total of eight players since 2010 (including none in the 2016 draft class). Of those eight, two played a combined 32 minutes at the NBA level (Andy Rautins and Thanasis Antetokounmpo), and one never played a game for the Knicks (Kostas Papanikolaou).

So to say that this is a new and exciting experience for many of us would be an understatement.

Gee, I guess you’re right. Sounds like a pretty significant year for the Knicks in the Draft.

It most definitely is! Look, only one of these picks is in the first round. One of them is a guy that’s going to be three picks away from being undrafted. But whatever, man! We take what we can get.

But just what can the Knicks hope to get with the Nos. 8, 44 and 58 picks? Let’s look into the past to see what could become in the future.

Pick 8

Let me set the scene for you.

The day is May 8, 1970. The New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers are in the NBA Finals (weird times by comparison to the present), and today is the day of the seventh game of their series. To this point, this matchup has been a heavyweight title fight — New York won the first game, Los Angeles the second, back and forth all the way up to this seventh go-around in New York.

Willis Reed, the Knicks’ center, NBA MVP and All-Star MVP in the 1969-70 season, tore his thigh muscle in game five and was, at best, a long shot to play again during the series. But then... well, I’ll let the video do the talking:

Yes, this man had a torn thigh muscle and stepped into the biggest game in New York basketball history, played good defense on one of the best centers to ever play the game (Wilt Chamberlain, creator of #LOLKnicks), and scored two buckets to boot. And did I mention that he had A TORN MUSCLE IN HIS GODDAMN THIGH?!

That four-point, three-rebound performance came to be the defining moment of Reed’s basketball existence, but impressive as it was, the rest of his career puts it to shame. Reed made seven straight All-Star teams to begin his career; he won Rookie of the Year after the 1964-65 season, in which he averaged 19.7 points and 14.7 rebounds per game at 22 years old; and through his first seven seasons, he averaged 20.1 points and 13.8 rebounds per game.

Make no mistake, he’ll never be in the conversation for Greatest Center of All Time, especially considering he played in the golden age of centers. But, that said, he held his own pretty damn well in his first seven seasons compared to others in the center GOAT category.

But, seven seasons... why do I bring up just his first seven? Well, unfortunately, injuries derailed what could have been a long and fruitful career for Reed. He was limited to just 11 games in the 1971-72 season, and after playing 69 games in ’72-73, he managed only 19 in ’73-74, his 10th and final season.

Even with his unfortunately short career for such a great player, Reed still takes home the honor as the best eighth overall pick in this writer’s eyes. It severely helps his case that the two guys that could most challenge him (Robert Parish and Sam Jones) both most notably played for the Celtics, and this is a Knicks blog, dammit. Neither Parish nor Jones were slouches in the slightest, but Reed’s star burned by far the brightest at his peak, even if injuries cut his time in the league prematurely short.

Here’s the results of me polling the 100 imaginary basketball writers in my head for the best No. 8 overall pick in history:

  1. Willis Reed — 55 votes
  2. Robert Parish — 22 votes
  3. Sam Jones — 20 votes (the Bahston vote got split between these two)
  4. Detlef Schrempf — 1 vote (old Seattle Sonics beat writer)
  5. Jamal Crawford — 1 vote (Seth)
  6. Marquese Chriss — 1 vote (someone thought I asked, “Which former eighth overall pick is most likely to be punched by Kristaps Porzingis in the 2017-18 season?” Honest mistake, it’s at the forefront of my mind as well.)

Pick 44

Hey, who enjoyed that nice little trip down memory lane? Glad to hear it!

NOW GET OUT OF THE DAMN CAR!

Yeah, things are about to get real, because the 44th pick in the Draft is not nearly as glamorous as the eighth (uh duh).

If I stuck strictly to picks 44 and 58 for this exercise... well, let’s just say it’s not pretty. So, since the second round is kind of a crapshoot and is mostly based on solid scouting, I’m broadening both picks to include one extra selection on either side. So instead of just analyzing the 44th pick here, I’m using the 43rd-45th as my criteria.

I’ll preface this by saying this: the 44th pick fucking blows in terms of historical impact. If this were based solely off of 44, Malik Rose would probably win. Which, like, OAKAAK, two-time NBA champ and all that, but I want to shoot higher.

Luckily, the 43rd and 45th picks offer many more bounties. 2008’s 45th overall pick yielded current Miami PG Goran Dragic, who is a very good player. Pick 43 gave even more positive results — former (got way better after he left) Knick Trevor Ariza was picked there, as was former Bucks guard Michael Redd and former Indiana Pacer Antonio Davis.

Let’s take a look at these guys’ career averages all next to one another:

Much like Reed, Redd’s career was cut short by a slew of injuries later on, forcing him into retirement in his early 30s. But man, this dude could flat out ball, and I think he takes the cake for the best pick in the 43-45 range.

We’re talking about a guy that put up six straight efficient 20+ point per game seasons in a row (at one point scoring 26.7 PPG on a .465/.382/.829 slash line with 29.5% usage). Somehow Redd only made one All-Star team in his career, but damn if he wasn’t one of the best scorers in the league for about half a decade.

With that, Redd gets my vote as the best pick in the 43-45 range, with Dragic as a somewhat distant second but a solid “Incomplete” on his report card. Here’s the results of my imaginary poll:

  1. Michael Redd — 44 votes
  2. Goran Dragic — 31 votes
  3. Trevor Ariza — 13 votes
  4. Antonio Davis — 11 votes
  5. Jorts — 1 vote (Seth)

Pick 58

Y’know, pick 44 didn’t end up being too bad. Picks 57-59... well, not quite as good, with one gigantic exception.

If we were going to go with purely pick 58... Man, it’s like reaching into a toilet, grabbing the most round turd, and throwing it in a rock polisher. I guess, gun to my head, I’d take Lester Hudson. He once averaged almost 13 points per game off the bench for the Cavs when they sucked! So there’s that. #PreChampionshipPedigree

There’s a runaway winner here, but just for competition’s sake, here’s a comparison of the two best players drafted in the 57-59 range, both from pick 57:

I know, I know. Marcin Gortat’s pretty damn impressive.

Yeah, Manu Ginobili’s the clear champion here. And in what’s supposed to be a deep Draft like this, there could be a a Manu Ginobili sitting there at 58 (trust in Clarence boiiii).

Here’s the results of my poll for the best 57-59th pick ever:

  1. Manu Ginobili — 100 votes

So what can we learn from all of this? Probably that a tremendous player will be selected in the second round, one pick before the Knicks make their choice. Or, if you want to keep on the bright side of life, the Knicks are totally going to walk away with Willis Reed, Michael Redd and Manu Ginobili from this year’s Draft, of course! Hang the banners now!