With their main focus on the free agency period and potentially adding a few veteran players to bolster a star-laden roster, the Knicks had a very quiet night at the NBA Draft. The only real noise came from the usual boos from Knicks fans who attended the draft at the Prudential Center in Newark. Booing the Knicks pick, no matter where it is, has become tradition at the draft.
This year the Knicks only pick came in the second round, at No. 48, and they selected a rugged Greek forward, Kostas Papanikolaou. He has an NBA body at 6-8 and 235 pounds, has a nice outside shot and is a high-effort player in the mold of an Omri Casspi-type. But that's about as much as anyone needs to know about this player because he won't be seen in a Knicks uniform for at least a year. Papanikolaou, 21, is under contract with his pro team, Olympiacos, and does not have a buyout clause until 2013.
The Knicks first round pick, at No. 16, went to the Houston Rockets as the final piece of the March 2010 trade that sent Jared Jeffries and Jordan Hill in a salary dump to Houston for Tracy McGrady's expiring contract. That deal opened up enough salary cap space in the summer of 2010 for the Knicks to potentially target two top free agents. They missed out on LeBron James, but still were able to sign Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. The latter was included in the Carmelo Anthony trade, which also brought Chauncey Billups to New York. Billups was then waived via the NBA's amnesty clause, which opened up the room for the team to acquire Tyson Chandler in a sign-and-trade.
Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald said without a first round pick, the team opted to go with Papanikolaou because he saw no one left on the draft board who had the potential to be immediate impact players. There is certainly need in the backcourt, but Grunwald opted to pass on a tough defender such as Darius Johnson-Odom, whom many consider a very undersized shooting guard.
The Knicks passed on a few point guards, such as Scott Machado and Tu Holloway, but the thinking here is that they already have a very young point guard in Jeremy Lin, 23, and the preference is to find a veteran via free agency to support Lin at that position, rather than add even more youth and inexperience.
That the Knicks will attempt to do after the free agency period opens on July 1. By then it is expected that the NBA and NBA Players Association will reach a settlement on the league's appeal of a Bird Rights arbitration decision. Lin is expected to have his Early Bird Rights, which means the Knicks can re-sign him without needing to use their Mid-Level Exception. That is a major victory for the Knicks, who can use the $3 million taxpayer's mid-level exception and the $1.9 million bi-annual exception to add veteran players to the roster.