The Knicks entered draft night with little intention of filling their roster with rookies and even if they eventually selected four of them, the two who figure to break through — Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride — arrived with a background that shows that they could fit in with what coach Tom Thibodeau is demanding.
Grimes, a 6-5 guard, was taken at No. 25 overall after he went from a highly touted recruit at Kansas to remaking himself under Kelvin Sampson at the University of Houston. And McBride, a 6-2 guard who fell to No. 34 early in the second round, pointed to his practices under Bob Huggins at West Virginia and a willingness to take on any defensive challenge.
They're rookies, but they are Thibodeau-type rookies.
"Leading up to the draft when I had my workouts with them I felt like it was a great fit," Grimes said. "I know coach Thibs is a tough, hard-nosed coach, and then coming from coach Sampson who's also a tough, hard-nosed coach. I felt it would kind of be like a match made in heaven, that he's going to be on you, but they're building something special in New York and I definitely wanted to be a part of it . . . They made it to the playoffs, and I feel like in years to come, they're going to be getting closer to even a Finals appearance for sure."
While Grimes talks the talk, he has made it this far with a game built on skill and finesse. He pointed to his shooting as the skill that will translate immediately to the NBA.
But McBride already is the sort of player who warms the heart of NBA coaches like Thibodeau. While McBride shot 41.4% last season from beyond the arc, Thibodeau might like his defensive numbers better. He averaged 1.9 steals per game, but also was renowned for taking charges and for being — a description he was on board with — a pest.
"I definitely think my defense is going to get me on the floor the fastest," McBride said. "Obviously, there are facets of my offensive game that can continue to improve. I think my offensive game is one of the best in the draft and as a rookie. But obviously it’s a whole other level coming into the NBA. So I think defense and playing with instincts is going to help me the most."
If the Knicks are entering a win-now phase, McBride, who was a highly rated quarterback at Moeller High School in Cincinnati before following in the footsteps of his father, who played basketball for Xavier, and his grandfather, who was a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, is on board.
"I feel like I have a winning DNA," he said. "Throughout high school and college I’ve just always won. That’s the main thing I want to bring to the Knicks is that winning DNA. They made the playoffs this year and just continue to drive upwards. During all that winning, a lot of teams are going to be regretting not picking me."