Ever since 2005 when the team drafted forward David Lee (and even he is a stretch) New York has not selected a rookie who had a significant long-term impact on the Knicks’ future. It can be argued that Danilo Gallinari and Iman Shumpert are exceptions, but the latter is still developing his game while the former was sent to the Denver Nuggets in the blockbuster trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York.
The Knicks had their pick of solid players for the taking in last year’s draft, when all they had was the 18th pick (48th overall) selection in the second round. Instead of using it on a versatile forward like Kevin Jones or the nation’s leading passer in Scott Machado, Grunwald opted to use the team’s pick on Kostas Papanikolaou, a forward out of Greece who the Knicks traded away just weeks later in the sign-and-trade deal that brought back Marcus Camby.
Granted, it was hard to argue with Grunwald’s reasoning for picking such a player. The Knicks were about to enter an offseason where a lot of money would need to be spent on free agents, and putting a rookie contract on the books would have made it hard to bring aboard guys like Raymond Felton, not to mention re-sign J.R. Smith.
This year, however, is different. The Knicks are in a position to find a potential gem late in the first round, be it Tim Hardaway Jr., Tony Mitchell or even Isaiah Canaan. With big contracts like Smith’s and the recently retired Jason Kidd‘s coming off the books, now is the time for the Knicks to bring in that rookie that can take them forward.
Wasting a pick on a European prospect who may not ever play in the league simply because they won’t have to be paid this year would be the worst move possible. Not only would it keep the Knicks stuck in neutral, but it would alienate a great deal of the revitalized fan base.
Thus, Grunwald had better do his research over the next few days and come up with a solid plan. Money could be tight come free agency, but the team’s future has to come first in this case.