RJ Barrett, Kristaps Porzingis, Devin Booker
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

If they just corrected some of their past draft picks, the New York Knicks may not be the rebuilding team they are today.

In the first 20 years of the new millennium, the New York Knicks, one of the NBA’s most iconic franchises, have reached the postseason just five times.

There are several reasons for these long-winded struggles, but perhaps the biggest is the poor decision-making in the NBA Draft.

The Knicks made six first-round selections last decade, and the picks went so poorly that one can make the argument that all of them turned out to be mistakes.

In this redraft, we will revisit each of New York’s most recent first-round selections and determine whether or not the team made the right choice. Each discussion will consider who was still on the board during the time of selection.

All in all, the results would form a “big three” that Knicks fans can only dream about.

2011 

  • The pick: SG Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech (No. 17 overall)
  • Redraft: SG Jimmy Butler, Marquette (No. 30 overall)

Drafting Iman Shumpert was not a total disaster. He ended up becoming a key role player for a pair of playoff-bound seasons in New York.

In the 2013 playoffs, Shumpert averaged 9.3 points per game. This helped the Knicks advanced to the conference semifinals for the first time in over a decade.

Taking Jimmy Butler in that draft would’ve been the smarter choice, though.

Butler fell to the bottom of the first round and has proved the doubters wrong since entering the league. He’s been named an All-Star five times with three different teams and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award in 2015.

It took Butler some time to develop, but he’s now thought of as one of the elite players in all of basketball.

2013

  • The pick: SG Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan (No. 24 overall)
  • Redraft: C Rudy Gobert, France (No. 27 overall)

Like Shumpert, drafting Tim Hardaway Jr. wasn’t a complete failure. It’s who the Knicks passed up on that makes the pick look ugly.

Hardaway averaged 10.8 points per game in his first two NBA seasons before the Knicks dealt him to the Atlanta Hawks. He’d later re-sign with the Knicks in 2017 only for them to include him in the Kristaps Porzingis trade in January of 2019.

Instead of drafting a player who struggled to find his niche within the organization, the team could’ve selected a keeper in Rudy Gobert.

Arguably the best defensive player in the NBA, the 7-foot-1 center has won two Defensive Player of the Year Awards and is a three-time All-Defensive First Team selection. He additionally led the league in blocks in 2017.

While the Knicks finally found a reliable center in 2018 with second-round pick Mitchell Robinson, they could’ve found their man five years earlier.

2015

  • The pick: C Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia (No. 4 overall)
  • Redraft: SG Devin Booker, Kentucky (No. 13 overall)

It appeared the Knicks finally struck gold when they drafted Kristaps Porzingis with their first lottery selection of the decade.

Porzingis took the city by storm in his rookie campaign, averaging 14.3 points 7.3 rebounds per game through 72 contests. He followed that up with a strong sophomore season and was on pace to a monster third season when he tore his ACL in February of 2018.

The injury was the beginning of the end of Porzingis’ time in New York. Before playing another game for the Knicks, he demanded a trade. The blue and orange then sent him to the Dallas Mavericks in 2019.

Considering the failed marriage, the Knicks would’ve been better off with selecting sharpshooter Devin Booker.

Just 23 years-old, Booker already earned a $158 million dollar extension and earned an NBA all-star nod. By resigning with a terrible Suns team, he proved he’s one of the league’s most loyal players. The Knicks could’ve benefited greatly from an individual like Booker.

2017

  • The Pick: Frank Ntilikina, PG France (7)
  • Redraft: Bam Adebayo, PF/C Kentucky (14)

The bold decision to draft french point guard Frank Ntilikina hasn’t worked out for the Knicks.

In three seasons, Ntilikina is averaging just 5.8 points per game with three assists and 2.2 rebounds. Simply speaking, these are not the numbers a lottery pick should be producing.

While Donovan Mitchell was the best player on the board at seven, big man Bam Adebayo would’ve been a better fit for New York.

In just his third NBA season (2020), Adebayo was named an All-Star. He’s averaging a double-double with 15.8 points and 10.4 rebounds. His big season has helped the Miami Heat shock the NBA world, as they’ve emerged as NBA title contenders.

The Knicks have possessed physicality issues and Adebayo would’ve brought that to the frontcourt.

2018

  • The Pick: Kevin Knox, SF Kentucky (9)
  • Redraft: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky PG/SG (12)

Perhaps the worst draft decision of the decade by the Knicks was the lottery selection of Kevin Knox.

After a solid rookie season, Knox is suffering a major drop off in year two, averaging 6.8 points per game and 2.9 rebounds. With these numbers, Knox is a -1.0 win player.

While Knox hasn’t worked out, his college teammate has flourished.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 10.8 points per game in his rookie year with the Los Angeles Clippers. He was then traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a deal that sent Paul George to Los Angeles.

In his first year with the Thunder, Gilgeous-Alexander has Oklahoma City in the postseason race. He’s averaging 19.5 points per game with 6.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

If the Knicks drafted Gilgeous-Alexander, they’d finally employ a player who can do a little bit of everything on the court.

2019

  • The Pick: RJ Barrett, SG/SF, Duke (3)
  • Redraft: RJ Barrett

After five questionable decisions, it appears the Knicks finally made the right pick with RJ Barrett.

As a rookie, Barrett is averaging 13.6 points with 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

While he’s struggled at times, Barrett’s future looks bright. He’ll surely be an important piece of the Knicks’ future plans.

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