There was a lot of speculation about the Knicks trading up into the first round. If you look at the objectives the Knicks have right now, that doesn’t make sense.
Some people argue that the 31st-40th picks in the draft are the most valuable besides the top few, from a GM standpoint. While first-rounders have better players available, those early second-round slots provide similar talent, but don’t come with any salary cap restrictions. Draft a player with the 30th pick, you’re committed to paying that guy over $1 million for at least two years. Draft a player with the 31st pick, you’re drafting almost the exact same caliber of player and can do whatever you please with him. You can sign him, you can not sign him, you can give him an unguaranteed contract for as little as $500,000 a year.
For a team like the Knicks on a cost-cutting mission, that’s perfect. The Knicks have no financial obligation to Andy Rautins, Landry Fields, or Jerome Jordan, meaning they can keep their cap clear until after whoever signs in the Freeagentpocalypse this summer.
As for the players themselves, the Knicks understandably caught flak for drafting two guys that weren’t even on many draft boards in Rautins and Fields. I believe the most important thing about the draft is maximizing value, and the Knicks certainly didn’t do that: even if these two guys are great players, they could have signed them as undrafted free agents most likely, or even let another team draft them and buy the pick, as they did with Jordan. Instead, they wasted their two picks on players they could’ve gotten later.
But I get it if the team is really high on these two guys. Rautins is a legit shooter who can play defense, and New Yorkers will be semi-familiar with him from his days at Syracuse, which Syracuse pretends is New York’s college team, but nobody really cares about in the grand scheme of things. Fields’ selection caught a lot of people off guard – Chad Ford twat about how it was the first time in years that somebody had taken a player he didn’t consider to be in the top 100 – but I’ve seen him play two years running, and I like his game. Northwestern – where I go to school – had a home-and-home these last two years with Stanford, and Fields was far and away the best player on their squad. Even though opposing defenses focused on him, he used his athleticism to score, and dunk in horrific fashion on Northwestern’s big men. (can’t find the video, sadly.) Admittedly, he does seem like the player who is able to do that in college but won’t be able to against legit NBA athletes, but, I don’t think this pick needed the sound bashing it got.
As for Jordan, he’s still not officially a Knick. But I really like the guy – a seven-footer from Jamaica has my support any day. Like Fields, I saw him play in college. Not a polished big man, but a big, big, big man. He has size and athleticism going for him. You can’t ask for much more out of a pick you got for nothing more than cash considerations.