At a press conference at their practice facility in Greenburgh,...

At a press conference at their practice facility in Greenburgh, Knicks introduced Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert, who was the team's first round draft pick Thursday night. Shumpert and Donnie Walsh enter facility to talk to media. (June 24, 2011) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Donnie Walsh’s final act after a commendable three years of transforming the Knicks was yet another draft in which he bunted when he should have swung for the fences.

When you get that late in the draft, “best player available” should almost always trump need.

He passed on Florida State forward Chris Singleton and chose a guard, Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert, because with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire already on the roster, Singleton wouldn’t fill an immediate need and more playing time figured to be available for Shumpert.

But 6-8 ACC defensive player of the year Singleton could have been groomed to check LeBron James, whom the Knicks are going to have to beat for years to come.

“The fact is, we’re going to have more room at the point-guard position and two-guard position than we’re going to have with the guys we have at three and four,” Walsh said. “And I know people can say can play the two, but that would be very difficult for a guy his size.’’

Should the Knicks have drafted Singleton and moved him in a trade? Several teams had him on their draft boards.

In fairness to Walsh, there wasn’t much time. He said the staff had prepared for the possibility of 6-7 forward Kawhi Leonard, a projected lottery pick, falling into their laps. But the Indiana Pacers took Leonard with the 15th pick. The Pacers dropped the plan to select Providence’s Marshon Brooks (who would have filled a need), snatched Leonard and flipped him to the San Antonio Spurs for George Hill.

Shumpert was not a bad pick. The athletic 6-6 combo guard certainly fills a desperate need for a perimeter defender, and his presence does give the Knicks the flexibility to shop Toney Douglas as an asset to improve the team in another area (such as a true backup point guard). But this was a night when the Knicks could have swapped No. 17 for extra picks or, perhaps, a 2012 first-rounder, which is something they currently do not own.

Draft winners

Milwaukee Bucks

General manager John Hammond was an opportunist by dealing the No. 10 pick to move down to No. 19 and shed some unwanted contracts. The Bucks came away with Long Island’s versatile Tobias Harris and also grabbed a local star in Jon Leuer (Wisconsin) in the second round. Adding Beno Udrih from Sacramento as part of the deal gives Brandon Jennings a much-needed backup point guard. The Bucks could have simply drafted Klay Thompson, who filled a desperate need for perimeter scoring. Instead, we get to see Scott Skiles attempt to coach Stephen Jackson. Awesome.

Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats happily jumped into the three-team deal with the Bucks and Kings to score a second top 10 pick (No. 7) and came away with one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, Bismack Biyombo. He’s already a tireless worker on the glass; just wait until Paul Silas and Charles Oakley get hold of him. The Bobcats also grabbed Kemba Walker at No. 9 to give them much-needed depth at point guard. Ousted Trail Blazers GM Rich Cho’s first assignment for Michael Jordan’s franchise was a major score.

San Antonio Spurs

They were looking to get into the lottery to add more youth to a veteran team and dangled Tony Parker as bait. But it cost them only Hill to land a lottery-type talent in Leonard.

Jan Vesely

That caught-on-camera kiss from his girlfriend as the Washington Wizards made the Czech star the sixth overall pick earned him serious cred around the league. Might be a good idea to put a ring on it, Jan.


Sacramento Kings

Word is the decision to take Jimmer Fredette was based on hopes that the Tim Tebow of the NBA will help the desperate Kings sell tickets (and eventually land them a new arena). That’s way too much pressure to put on an undersized, one-dimensional combo guard. Fredette has the skills to be a good NBA player, but can he emerge with former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins dominating the ball?

Toronto Raptors

With Brandon Knight, arguably the second-best point guard in the draft, available, and the Raptors’ obvious need at that position, Bryan Colangelo opted for yet another European big man in Jonas Valanciunas. He’s a talent, and his work on the offensive boards certainly will help, but his contract won’t allow him to make the jump to the NBA until 2012. Which means more waiting for Raptors fans.

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