The Knicks ditched their first-round pick and ditched Kemba Walker.
It was a confusing and hectic first two hours of the draft for the Knicks, with little to show for it in the shortterm but more cap space for their Jalen Brunson quest.
They failed to trade for Jaden Ivey, who was picked fifth by the Pistons. Then Leon Rose dealt his 11th pick to OKC for three future lottery-protected first-round picks, although unknown to the Barclays Center crowd, which booed the choice of Ousmane Dieng because they thought the Frenchman went to New York.
Two picks later, at No. 13, the Hornets took Memphis center Jalen Duren and sent him to the Pistons in a three-team trade involving the Knicks, with Walker going to Detroit for a Knicks’ first rounder and four second rounders.
So Walker’s sad homecoming chapter is over, and it cost the Knicks draft capital. He has $9.2 million left on his contract, which the Pistons will likely eat by releasing the Bronx-bred point guard.
The Pistons were the winners of the draft by adding Ivey and Duren to a lineup with Rookie of the Year Caden Cunningham.
The Knicks were, if nothing else, a draft-day letdown after flirting with fireworks. Perhaps shedding salary will work in the long run in their pursuit of Brunson or Malcolm Brogdon or (gulp) Kyrie Irving, but sacrificing draft picks to shed a player signed just a year ago is an acknowledgement of failure from the front office.
The Knicks were $18 million under the cap after getting rid of Walker, according to ESPN cap guru Bobby Marks. They’re also trying to deal Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks and Evan Fournier before free agency. An offer starting at about $25 million should be too high for Brunson, per league analysts, but the Knicks are bullish on the point guard.
It’s also worth noting that Brunson’s father, Rick, was just hired as an assistant coach and is very close with team president Leon Rose.
Rose’s son, Sam, now represents Jalen Brunson for CAA.
The night started with a shocker with Duke’s Paolo Banchero going first overall, blowing up the mock boards that had Auburn’s Jabari Smith as the consensus top choice.
Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren went second to OKC and Smith fell to the Rockets at third. Iowa’s Keegan Murray was a slight surprise at No. 4 to the Kings, who passed on Ivey. Perhaps not coincidentally, Ivey wasn’t keen on joining the Kings and said he had no contact with the organization before the draft.
The Knicks bailed on the first round after their disappointing 11th-place finish last season, one year after climbing to fourth.
Barring the unexpected, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett will head the roster after both averaging over 20 points last season. Randle’s production and mood remain a hot topic after last season’s deterioration.
Derrick Rose should return from his ankle surgery to boost the offense, but the young players – specifically Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes – surged toward the end of the season and earned consideration for greater roles.
This was the first year for NBA Experiences at the NBA draft, an attraction for fans who pay for for two days of dining and immersion.
Among the perks was a steak dinner with Dominique Wilkins, who provided the following highlight tales of his career:
· Bernard King was the only player who ever intimidated him.
· Former Hawks teammate Kevin Willis used to place onions on his chest before games to make himself upset.
· Michael Jordan admitted to Wilkins that the only reason he won their famous 1988 Slam Dunk contest because it was in Chicago.