Going for seconds is a first priority
Let's turn our focus for a minute to the NBA Draft, in which the Knicks currently hold two second round picks at 38 and 39. There have been some whispers that Donnie Walsh is actively shopping for a late first-rounder, but I believe what Walsh is doing is checking to see what the going rate would be in case he felt the urge to make a jump into the 20s just to secure a player the Knicks feel would be an immediate fit for next season.
Right now there are a few names in the conversation at the MSG Training Center, but unlike last season, when it was blatantly obvious the Knicks were in love with two guards, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry, this year, without a first round pick, there aren't any unanimous choices. Workouts can only show so much so Walsh is placing a great amount of faith in the advice of his scouting staff.
And it's pretty clear the Knicks don't want anyone knowing if there is a favorite.
My guess - and it's just a guess based on conversations and scouting reports - is that Craig Brackins from Iowa State is among the favorites. Brackins has great length (6-10, 7-foot wingspan) and can run the floor well. He has a decent mid-range game, can hit from downtown and yet also can score on the post when needed. Though some have tried to parallel his game to that of LaMarcus Aldridge, he is more often compared to former Knicks lottery pick Channing Frye, which is both good and bad. Good in the sense that Frye seemed to thrive this season as a "stretch-five" off the bench for the Phoenix Suns, who play Mike D'Antoni's system. Bad in the sense that, like Frye, Brackins can be soft and isn't an aggressive defender. Neither is Aldridge, but his perimeter touch is far more consistent than Fyre. At the college level, Brackins didn't show a great amount of consistency for a weak Iowa State team. That could be because opposing defenses had only him to focus on each night.
Still, as a second-round pick, Brackins has the skill set and the size to potentially be an immediate-impact player, which is what the Knicks are looking for in this draft. The concern, if course, is that he might not last until No. 38 and may be gone in the first round, so perhaps that explains why Walsh is considering another Toney Douglas scenario.
The explosively athletic Jordan Crawford also has some of the staff buzzing, while others aren't as high on the two-guard. Daringon Hobson, less athletic and explosive but more crafty and smart, is another one in that category. Hobson was in on Saturday for a workout.
Another player in that workout was Lance Stephenson, the Brooklyn kid from Lincoln High. Stephenson has a big, strong body and plays a power game for a shooting guard. He certainly knows how to score, but the biggest issue I see in his game - let's put aside the red flag concerns that have been made about his attitude and conditioning (I don't know the kid personally, so I can't pass judgment on either) - is that he is a ball-stopper who relies on a one-on-one game and doesn't play within a team concept. If you recall Mike D'Antoni's issues with Nate Robinson and Al Harrington, you'd have to figure that Stephenson wouldn't be a good fit in this system.
I would also expect after the draft to see the Knicks act quickly to sign to the summer league roster some players they worked out -- especially bigs such as Jeff Foote, Brian Zoubek or Hamady N'Diaye -- who may wind up undrafted. A lot of you have talked a great deal about Jarvis Varnado, the tremendous shot-blocker from Mississippi State. The feeling I get is his offensive game is so raw it is unlikely he'll be in the mix.
Though the franchise has put a lot of energy into next week, when the free agency period will begin, Walsh won't let Thursday's draft go by as an afterthought. With so many roster spots to fill and the need to fill most of them cheaply to afford at least one max contract and other big contracts to rebuild the team, the Knicks need to come away with at least one player who they feel can make the opening night roster.
* * *
The Knicks haven't had a great history of first round picks in franchise history, but they've come away with several keepers -- for various reasons -- in the second round.
Here are a few worth remembering (in value order):
1964 -- Willis Reed was selected with the eighth pick of the second round after the Knicks selected Jim "Bad News" Barnes with the first overall pick that year. Reed became "The Captain" and the centerpiece to the championship era.
1954 -- Richie Guerin was taken after Jack Turner was the Knicks' top pick. Guerin went on to become one of the most prolific scorers in franchise history.
1985 -- The Knicks won the lottery that year with Patrick Ewing, but came up with another starting player with the 47th pick in Gerald Wilkins. The younger brother of superstar Dominique, Gerald had some big scoring nights with the Knicks in the late 1980s and thrived in Rick Pitino's up-tempo system.
1967 -- After Walt Frazier was taken in the first round, the Knicks found another key member of the championship teams when Phil Jackson was selected in the second round.
1965 -- Bill Bradley was the No. 1 pick, but in the second round the Knicks found another gem in Dave Stallworth, who was eventually part of the 1971 trade that acquired Earl Monroe.
2004 -- With no first rounder that season, Isiah Thomas came up with a keeper in Trevor Ariza, who was the 43rd overall pick and showed great promise as a young player with the Knicks, but was moved in a ill-advised trade for Steve Francis. Ariza won a ring with the Lakers in 2009.
1977 -- The Bronx-born Toby Knight was the Knicks' second round pick and he went on to play five seasons in New York and averaged 12.9 points per game.
1982 -- The Knicks selected Scott Hastings at 29th overall and then midway through his rookie year used him to acquire Rory Sparrow from the Hawks. Hastings went on to have a long NBA career and earned a ring with the 1990 Pistons.
1989 -- The Knicks didn't have a first round pick, but selected Brian Quinnett from Washington State in the second round. Dick McGuire was surprised to see the 6-8 Quinnett available at the 50th pick, and on draft night predicted he'd make the team. Quinnett lasted two-plus seasons as a role player.
1998 -- The Knicks had two second-rounders this year and one of them turned into an NBA journeyman in Sean Marks, who was a 44th overall selection. Marks never played for the Knicks; he was packaged with Charles Oakley to Toronto for Marcus Camby.
1988 -- He was the human victory cigar for the Knicks. Greg Butler, drafted 37th overall, was a seldom-used center whom the Garden crowd would call for when the Knicks were putting the finishing touches on a win.
For some of the best second-round picks in NBA history, click here for Newsday's slide-show.