1. Team Overview
|The 1999 Knicks are not typical of the team with 15th
pick. For starters, they're in the NBA Finals. They were the eight seed in the East, which
is normally a team that can't seem to get over a hump. Typically a team like that has one
or two good players and some decent role players. They can't go far because the talent is
decent, but not great. They can't get any great draft picks because they aren't bad enough
to get into the lottery.
The Knicks have
a lot of talent. Larry Johnson
and Patrick Ewing were both
college players of the year from national title teams who were the top draft pick. Marcus Camby was the second pick in the draft
and a national player of the year. Allan Houston and Kurt Thomas
put up incredible numbers in college and were lottery picks. Latrell
Sprewell was an all-star. Childs, believe it or not, was a highly valued free-agent after a breakout
season with the Nets before crossing the Hudson. Charlie Ward won the Heisman.
Why was this team the 8th seed? Certainly not lack of
talent. It was a lack of chemistry and to be honest, a knack for losing close games. In a
50 game season they were only 6 games behind Miami and they were starting to come
together. Now they've beaten Miami, an injured Atlanta and (while injured) Indiana. With
LJ out, they'll probably lose to the Spurs in five.
How did they get things back on track? Ewing learned to
defer and focus on defense when others got hot. Houston and Spree learned to play
together. Camby returned to the form that he showed his final season in college. And LJ
showed he was just being a team player by changing his game to complement others, while
showing he still has the offense he had in Charlotte. In an 82 game season, the Knicks
would likely be competing for a top four seed.
But that isn't to say that they are like the Bulls of the
1990s, where (before this year) they simply drafted players because they were required to
and usually cut them within a year. As of this writing, the Knicks are down 0-2 against
the Spurs and there isn't a single reason. They have flaws and the draft will be one way
of dealing with them.
Here is the current roster with some
stats (contracts thanks to Patricia Bender):
|Rick Brunson G
|Marcus Camby F
|Chris Childs G
|Ben Davis F
|Chris Dudley C
|Patrick Ewing C
|Allan Houston G
|Larry Johnson F
|Latrell Sprewell F
|Kurt Thomas F
|Mirsad Turkcan F
|Charlie Ward G
|Herb Williams C
|David Wingate G
|Patrick Ewing - What can be
said about Ewing that hasn't been said before? He's typically called a "warrior"
and lately an "aging warrior". He has two more years on a very pricey contract
and will likely play them, then retire, ring or not. His mobility is on a serious decline,
but he has started to take a hint and play a more complimentary role, focusing on defense
instead of being the primary scoring option. As long as he's playing, he'll be the
starting center. But as the rest of the roster (and Finals) will show, he needs a backup -
Chris Dudley - Useless. This guy is paid $8.75 million per year and does absolutely
nothing to earn it. He allegedly plays good defense. That normally consists of sending
opposing centers to the foul line. His biggest problem is his contract. It's huge. He's
virtually un-tradable. The Knicks are stuck with him. In the "Trades and Other
Moves" section, I will list at least 10 free agents who are better and cost half as
Herb Williams - Old. He
really needs to retire. His biggest contribution to the Knicks this year was helping carry
LJ to the locker room in Game 6 of the Indiana series.
Conclusion - This position needs a serious upgrade.
|Kurt Thomas (PF) - Once led
the NCAA in scoring and rebounding. Every now and then he shows why. He's prone to fouls
and is becoming a bit of a thug. Overall, he turned out to be a good player for the money
he makes. He's no superstar, buthe's pretty good.
Larry Johnson (SF/PF) - Not a classic SF. He
sacrificed is offense for the team over the last few years but he still has it when he
needs it. His defense is pretty good. He's quick enough to cover most slashing SFs and
strong enough to cover most PFs. He hasn't done a good job against Duncan, but no one has.
Marcus Camby (SF) - He's
come alive in the playoffs. He's one of the best defenders in the NBA, especially as the
second man in a double team. His shot blocking is among the elite (he led the NBA last
year). His game is usually described as "above the rim". His offense is pretty
good. He can post or face the basket and has a decent outside shot. He's a good offensive
rebounder and can score on athletic put-backs. His biggest weakness is his lack of
strength. He's SF sized with PF height.
Mirsad Turkcan - Signed and
placed on the IR. He's never played for the Knicks. My guess is that he never will.
Ben Davis - The Knicks
placed him on the IR for the playoffs and guaranteeing their spot in the Finals. Twice in
his much traveled college career, he left schools (Kansas and Florida) before the season
started to see them make the Final Four. He's a competent 11th man but has never really
Conclusion - LJ, Camby and Thomas are a good rotation at
the forward spot. With Ewing injured during the Finals, they've been forced to cover the
center spot. If Houston and Sprewell both play next year, the Knicks will have a 3 guard
line-up and the forward spot won't need a lot of depth. This will work out since there
aren't a lot of true big men in the NBA these days.
|Latrell Sprewell (SG) -
Slashing scorer. Can create his own shot. He's lethal on the fast break but often
uncomfortable in a half-court offense. He's a 3 time all star and was probably the MVP of
the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Houston (SG) - Spot up shooter. He's not the best ball
handler but can shoot with the best of them. When he gets hot, look out.
Chris Childs (PG) - A decent
PG who can shoot competently and do a tolerable job running the team. His defense is OK.
He joined the Knicks as a hot FA coming off of a great season with the Nets. He hasn't
produced up to expectations. His contract is overpriced and he's pretty much untradable.
Charlie Ward (PG) - See
"Childs, Chris". His contract is inflated but he wasn't supposed to be a
starting PG at any time during his career. He doesn't have any real trade value.
David Wingate - On the IR as
of late. Little used.
Rick Brunson - Little used
reserve. Can play both guard spots.
Conclusion - The SGs are top notch. Houston and Spree
complement each other and when they are playing well, the Knicks win. The PGs are
tolerable. Neither will dominate a game, but they helped get the team to the Finals.
However, neither can really break down a defense and create shots for themselves or
others. This has hurt them in the playoffs when the other players (Spree, Houston, Camby,
Thomas, LJ) have to create their own shots.
|Jeff Van Gundy - He will
get $4 million for making the finals. He may get fired, but his salary is guaranteed. Did
he get the Knicks to the Finals or was it the lucky bounce against Miami? I happen to
think he's a great coach and would want him around for next year even if the Knicks had
lost to the Heat. He's a good strategy coach and apparently is a good players' coach.
Dave Checkets - Van Gundy's front office
nemesis. He fired GM Ernie Gruenfeld and offered Phil Jackson Van Gundy's job then lied
about it. He's a symbol of pride to sports management everywhere.
Conclusion - nothing changes. The public loves JVG so he
stays. He'll be fired at the first sign of trouble.
III. Team Needs
|I am copying the exact same text from the 1997 Usenet
Draft: "The Knicks need someone who is 6'9" or taller and 240 lbs. or bigger.
Ideally the player can play both center and power forward who is a good defender and good
enough offensively to keep the other team honest. The best way to beat a team with a good
center is to make them play defense." I picked Scot Pollard with that pick and wish
he was available this year. Fortunately, he's a free agent.
The Knicks need a big man. They need one of those PF/C combos who
can back up Ewing next year. A PG couldn't hurt and if the best player available happens
to be a slashing SF, that's an option. The only position that is truly solid is SG.
IV. Players Considered
|I've listed the top remaining SFs and all remaining PFs
and Cs who may be first-rounders. The Knicks don't need a SG and there are no decent PGs
Alex Radojevic C 7-3 260 Barton CC - Big guy. Developing. Probably has a good NBA career in store. But he's
already been drafted.
Ron Artest F 6-6 235 St.
John's - too much like LJ. Doesn't fit a need.
Shawn Marion F 6-6 200
UNLV - The Knicks don't have a forward like him. He's the
classic SF, slashing and shooting. But he's basically a taller, lankier Sprewell. He's
Tim James F 6-8 240 Miami
(Fla.) - He's a big guy who made Miami this year. But
he's been pegged for an NBA SF which is not what the Knicks need.
Lee Nailon F 6-9 250 TCU - Another Kurt Thomas? He put up huge numbers at TCU, but he's not
6'9". Another SF that the Knicks don't need.
Evan Eschmeyer F 6-11
245 Northwestern - Is he just another big white stiff?
There are probably better versions of him with more upside that can be signed for far
less. He's also injury prone.
Kenny Thomas F 6-8 260
New Mexico - Very intriguing. He can score and rebound
and he's big. If he were two inches taller, he'd be gone by now. He is a possibility.
Todd MacCulloch C
7-0 280 Washington - He's big. That's for sure. But the
word is that he's really slow. And with the new, athletic Knicks he needs to get up and
down the floor. The size is tempting.
A.J. Bramlett C 6-11
245 Arizona - tall, lanky, mobile. Very athletic.
Calvin Booth C 7-0 250
Penn State - Big 10 POY as a junior. Had a good camp. He
fits the bill. He might be the guy.
Lari Ketner F 6-10 260
UMass - Very big. He's a rock. His game isn't that
sophisticated but could be effective. He will not get pushed around in the post.
Venson Hamilton C
6-10 235 Nebraska - Big 12 POY. He's built like Marcus
Camby but doesn't have Camby's upside.
Cal Bowdler F 6-10 260
Old Dominion - Mobile, shot blocker with improving
offense. He fits the bill.
Jamaal Magloiore C
6-11 240 Kentucky - Potential NBA player. But he probably
will withdraw from the draft, so I'd get screwed in the overall game (mock draft vs.
Tim Young C 7-2 250
Stanford - Never really impressed me. He's big but seems shaky.
The Short List: Cal Bowdler, A.J. Bramlett, Calvin
Booth, Kenny Thomas,
V. The Pick
|Calvin Booth - Penn
him and not the others?
For starters, Thomas is the best player left in the draft
that the Knicks could use. But is he better than Kurt Thomas? Probably not. But if he is,
can the Knicks use him more than any of the others? No.
What about Bowdler? Is he better than Booth? Maybe. But
Booth is the better defender. The Knicks will get frontcourt offense from LJ, Ewing, Camby
Bramlett? I asked the question, "Who is more likely
to be an NBA starter?" The answer was Booth. Besides, he got schooled by Tim Young at
the Chicago camp.
Eschemeyer? Booth set a record 8 blocks against
Booth? He's an excellent shot-blocker and can likely
defend most NBA centers and PFs. I can see him developing into a starting center and the
eventual replacement for Ewing.
VI. Trades and FAs
|The Knicks really need two things: A legitimate big man
and a good PG. They are one of the shortest teams in the NBA, especially when playing
Houstong and Sprewell at the same time, even with Ewing. The PG combo of Ward and Childs
works, but isn't the best. Neither has a large trade value individually.
|On the trade front, there is the theory that Houston and
Sprewell can't coexist on the team next season since they are both top notch shooting
guards and need PT. A SG/PG combo could be used to acquire a first rate PG.
PGs who would be worth a Sprewell/(Childs or Ward) combo: Gary
Payton or Stephon Marbury.
Other FA PGs include: Sherman
Douglas, Mugsy Bogues, Terrell Brandon, Cuttino Mobely, Nick Van Exel, Dee Brown, Khalid
Reeves, Eric Snow, Penny Hardaway.
The only ones who are better than Childs/Ward are Brandon
and Van Exel, neither of whom are likely to be Knicks next year. Penny isn't exactly a PG
and I wouldn't want him around.
|Free Agents. Earlier, I promised a list of 10 FA big men
who are better and cheaper than Dudley. All are better and made less than Dudley last year
and will likely make less than $8 million next year.
Dwayne Schintzus Jamie Feick Bill Wennington Charles Oakley Loren
Meyer Othella Harrington Charles Barkley Joe Smith Will Perdue Malik Rose Greg Foster Todd
Fuller Cliff Robinson Scot Pollard
The last name is one that interests me the most. Two
years ago, as the Knicks GM, I drafted Pollard. If he were available again, I'd draft him
all over again. He's the player the Knicks needed two years ago and he's the player the
Knicks need now. His late-season and post-season play proved my drafting him two years ago
to be a good decision.
Harrington is another free agent who could be productive
and reasonably priced. Ditto for Wennington, Feick and Perdue. Rose fits the bill, but
he's a little undersized. Smith and Robinson are going to be very expensive and the Knicks
are probably way over the salary cap. The rest are mere role players. The Knicks need
someone who can actually play.
VII. What They Will Do
|Considering that the Knicks only have two players on
their roster that they've drafted (Ewing and Ward), they'll probably draft someone, not
play him and trade him for a washed up veteran (think Chris Mills) and watch him flourish
elsewhere (Doug Christie and John Wallace).
also re-sign Herb Williams out of sheer stupidity. Ben Davis is someone to keep around.
He's a PF, but he's not that big.
They may go after Brandon or try to do a backcourt combo
I hope they keep both Houston and Sprewell. When they're
clicking together, the Knicks are unstoppable. When one is off, the other can pick up the
slack. The problem is the starting line-up is just too short. Regardless, they will
probably sign one of the big men from my list and keep paying Dudley waaaay too much
The Knicks should still be a playoff team next year, but
there are a few questions:
Can Houston and Sprewell play together? Can you start
both? Will a 3 guard line-up make the Knicks too short? Will Ewing do what David Robinson
did and defer to younger players? Will Van Gundy and the front office get along? Will
Camby or LJ be the starting forward? If it's Camby, will LJ get an ego or be a good bench
player? Will the PG combo work or will they go for a high priced free agent or trade?