It was humorous watching all the reports pertaining to the New York Knicks come in before the NBA Draft. It seemed like every other hour there was a new report stating something different about what the Knicks wanted to do or who they liked. It was peak NBA Draft Season, and each new report brought about a new round of hand-wringing from the fans.
Ultimately, the No. 4 pick led to more hand-wringing and plenty of booing when NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the name of Kristaps Porzingis as the Knicks’ selection. Stephen A. Smith ranted incoherently after the draft about how bad the pick was, and Knicks star Carmelo Anthony reportedly isn’t thrilled about the selection because Porzingis is a project and may not be ready to be a major contributor for another few years.
Anthony just turned 31 in May and is coming off knee surgery. Just how many seasons of his prime are left? It’s understandable to be frustrated with how things have gone the last few years, but Anthony knew what he was getting himself into when he signed that big contract in New York last offseason, and it’s not like there was a clear-cut guy at No. 4 who was going to help him lead the Knicks into title contention right away.
With Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor off the board, Phil Jackson made a bold move for the future by taking the 7’2 Porzingis, who drew rave reviews in advance of the draft when people began to become more familiar with his game. But while it’s a bold and risky play, it’s one that could come with a huge rewards.
Porzingis is a versatile big man who can shoot it from distance and block shots, which makes him an ideal fit for today’s NBA. He’s drawn comparisons to everyone from Pau Gasol to Kevin Durant to Dirk Nowitzki. Obviously those are the most optimistic projections and a bit outlandish, but the general consensus is the kid can play.
I get why some Knicks fans (and some others in general) are skeptical. People are always looking to crown the “Next Dirk” when a big, talented European comes to the league, and recent drafts have been littered with those hyped Euros who turned out to be huge busts. The Knicks have one on their roster in Andrea Bargnani, who has turned into the butt of plenty of jokes.
But that doesn’t mean Porzingis will be a bust, and he’ll be out to prove that he can help turn the awful Knicks around. He’ll have to put on some weight and continue to develop his game as he adapts to the NBA, but he could be a special player if things break right. I commend Jackson for taking a chance on the talented Latvian.
Phil wasn’t done after drafting Porzingis. Later in the draft, the Knicks dealt away Tim Hardaway Jr., who was awful last season, for Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, the 19th pick in the draft. Grant is an athletic lead guard who should see big minutes right away in New York. He’s an excellent slasher and distributor, and while he struggled shooting from distance in his senior season (31.6 percent), he shot 40.8 percent from three as a junior.
To snare a quality player in Grant in exchange for Hardaway, whose value wasn’t very high after a poor second season, is quite the coup. The Knicks also made a deal for Guillermo Hernangomez, Porzingis’s European teammate, in the second round for the price of two future second-rounders. Hernangomez isn’t ready to come over to the NBA just yet, but perhaps he can be an impact big down the line, and lord knows New York needs help in the frontcourt.
All in all, I’m a fan of what the Knicks did on Thursday night. I know many fans were dreading what would happen and many aren’t thrilled with the Porzingis pick, but it’s a calculated risk by Jackson with a potentially great reward, and the Hardaway-for-Grant swap was a good one. New York will look to make more quality additions in free agency, and while title contention is still a ways away, there’s reason for optimism.