Tuesday night, the NBA's version of the Mega Millions takes place, when 14 teams hope to hit the jackpot and get the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The New York Knicks are used to being one of the teams involved in the NBA Draft Lottery, either hoping to nab the top pick themselves, or quite often, cringing as they watch another team look to cash in with the Knicks' natural pick while the executive from said team sits with the bewildered "How did we convince the Knicks to take (insert player/bad contract here) and give us a lottery pick?!" look.
The Knicks finally made the playoffs this season, so they won't be a part of tomorrow's proceedings. But as Knicks fans, we love to torture ourselves, and what better way than looking back at the Knicks' history in the Draft Lottery?
1985 - A Promising Start
So what if David Stern rigged the first ever NBA Draft Lottery so that Georgetown stud Patrick Ewing could save the sinking ship known as the New York Knicks? Ewing never did bring New York a title, but it wasn't really his fault, as the Knicks could never surround Ewing with the requisite talent that a championship team needs. Still, Ewing got the Knicks to within one win of the 1994 title, and made the Knicks a perennial playoff team and contender. He averaged a double-double nine times as a Knick, including a peak year in 1989-90 where he averaged a 29-11 and four blocks a game. There's no one else you would have taken with top pick in '85, it was a no-brainer at the time and in hindsight.
1986 - Whiff Number One
The Knicks took Kentucky's Kenny "Sky" Walker with the fifth pick in 1986. The '86 draft wasn't a great one, so you can't totally fault the Knicks for taking Walker. Notable names taken after him were Ron Harper (8th overall, Cleveland), Scott Skiles (22nd, Milwaukee), Arvydas Sabonis (24th, Portland), and the steal of the draft, Dennis Rodman (27th, Detroit). Still, Walker played just five seasons with the Knicks, averaging 10 a game in his first two seasons before becoming a bench player as injuries shortened his career.
2002 – Layden Strikes
The Knicks were finally back in the draft lottery after missing the playoffs for the first time since ’86-’87. They didn’t win the lottery, known then as the Yao Ming Sweepstakes, so the Knicks picked 7th. They drafted Nene Hilario (back before he was simply Nene), and it seemed that the Knicks had a promising young frontcourt player. Little did we know that then-GM Scott Layden had packaged Nene, Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson to the Denver Nuggets for Antonio McDyess, the 25th pick (which ended up being Frank Williams,) and a 2003 second round pick (Maciej Lampe – 30th overall in 2003 Draft). So here’s how the trade broke down:
Knicks get: Antonio McDyess, Frank Williams, Maciej Lampe
Nuggets Get: Nene, Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson
McDyess no doubt was a talented player but was damaged goods, having played just 10 games in the 2001-02 season, averaging a paltry 11 points and five boards. Then McDyess reinjured his already-bad knee in a preseason game in his first year with the Knicks, missing the entire season. He played 18 games in the 2003-04 season for the Knicks before being part of the deal that brought Stephon Marbury to town from Phoenix. Williams and Lampe played a combined six NBA seasons and 150 games.
My goodness. What if the Knicks had just drafted Nene? Or how about taking Amare Stoudemire, who fell to the 9th pick?
2003 – Mike Sweetney: Is there anything more to say?
In the 2003 top-heavy draft (LeBron James first overall, Carmelo Anthony 3rd, Chris Bosh 4th, Dwyane Wade 5th), the Knicks were stuck with the 9th overall pick. New York took lumbering Georgetown power forward Mike Sweetney. In his two years as a Knick, Sweetney had trouble cracking a frontcourt that had the likes of Keith Van Horn, Othella Harrington, Vin Baker, Maurice Taylor and Jerome Williams. He played four total NBA seasons, averaging 6.5 points a game. To top it off, the Knicks included Sweetney as part of the package to acquire Eddy Curry.
2005 – Could Have Had Bynum
With the seventh pick in 2005, the Knicks took Channing Frye. This really wasn’t an awful pick. The ’05 draft was fairly weak, and although the Lakers took Andrew Bynum with the 10th pick, he really was a project. And who knows how good he really is outside of playing for Phil Jackson and with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol? Frye is what he is, and he was what he was coming out of college: a talented shooter who can’t defend, and a terrible rebounder for his size. He averaged a solid 12 ppg in his rookie season, and spent just one more year with the Knicks before being traded in the Zach Randolph trade. Oh, Isiah.
2006 – LaMarcus Aldridge In Orange and Blue? Nope.
But unfortunately, the Knicks watched as their 2006 first round pick was used by the Bulls, at No. 2 overall, to take LaMarcus Aldridge, while Eddy Curry entered his second year with the Knicks.
2007 – Chicago Gets a Core Player
As part of the Curry trade, the Bulls had the right to swap first round picks in 2007 with the Knicks, which of course, they did, giving them the 9th pick. The Bulls selected Joakim Noah, and if you’ve watched both the NBA and the Knicks this year, you know that Noah’s exactly what the Knicks lack. Oh well, Curry had just come off a season where he averaged 19-7, so it was all good for the Knicks!
2008 – D’Antoni Watches Rose go to the Bulls
Mike D’Antoni had just been hired as Knicks head coach, and the perfect point guard to run his up-and-down, run-and-gun offense was out there for the taking. Derrick Rose was going to be the number one pick, and if the Lottery gods could be on the Knicks’ side, he’d change the franchise. However, Chicago, who had a 1.7% chance of landing the first pick in the lottery, did just that. The Knicks sat at No. 6 and took Danilo Gallinari, who could absolutely be a deadly perimeter guy for a championship winning team one day. The Knicks turned Gallinari and many others into Carmelo Anthony, and whether or not you think the Knicks gave up too much for ‘Melo, one thing is true: The Gallo pick was a success.
2009 – Jordan Hill Becomes Tracy McGrady Which Becomes Cap Space Which Becomes Amare
The Knicks took Jordan Hill with the 8th overall pick in the ’09 draft, and so far he’s on a very similar career arc as Mike Sweetney. The Knicks could have used a point guard at this time, with Chris Duhon running the show, and could have had Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Darren Collison, Eric Maynor, or Rodrigue Beaubois, all of whom were taken after Hill. The Knicks did take Toney Douglas with the 29th pick which they purchased from the Lakers, and while Douglas is very talented, the jury is still out on him as a point guard. The Knicks traded Hill along with Jared Jeffries to Houston for Tracy McGrady’s expiring contract, which was the right move as the Knicks positioned themselves for the free agent class of 2010. Obviously the Knicks ended up with Stoudemire, which helped point the franchise in the right direction.
2010 – Just for Fun…
The Knicks’ 2010 first round pick went to the Suns in the Marbury trade, as Starbury continued to destroy the franchise even though he was no longer in the country. Utah acquired that pick from the Suns way back in 2004 right after the Suns traded Marbury to the Knicks. The Suns sent Utah the Knicks’ 2004 and 2010 picks in a package with Tom Gugliotta that yielded Phoenix Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten. Well done, Suns. With the 2010 first rounder, which ended up being 9th overall, the Jazz made the most obvious pick of the 2010 draft by taking Gordon Hayward.