The Knicks saw Kawhi Leonard slipping out of the top 10 and then inching closer and closer to the No. 17 pick and the war room at the MSG Training Center was buzzing. Even without Jimmermania, there was potential for this to be a big draft moment for the Knicks.
"There were other guys that could have fallen to us where I was like, 'Whoa, if he comes down, we're going to have to take him," Donnie Walsh said. "And he got taken right before, so we ended up doing what we did."
Leonard, a very athletic, hard-working forward, who could have been a tremendous asset for the Knicks to use, wound up being snatched by the Indiana Pacers at No. 15. The Pacers were thinking the same way: with Danny Granger, they didn't have a need for Leonard, but he was able to land them a player they did want in George Hill from the San Antonio Spurs.
The Knicks still had a choice between two of their main targets, Iman Shumpert and Chris Singleton and Walsh said the decision was to go with Shumpert, the 6-6 guard, because he filled an area of need in the backcourt. Singleton is more of a forward and, with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, there won't be much opportunity for Singleton.
According to multiple sources, Walsh took a poll of the Knicks' war room, of all the scouts and basketball staff, and there was a split between Shumpert and Singleton. Walsh then turned to Mike D'Antoni, who said he wanted Shumpert. That's when Walsh declared, "Shumpert is the pick" and the selection was submitted.
"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 [Singleton] can play the two, but that would be very difficult for a guy his size. Get around screens and stuff like that, but I liked him too."
[Amar'e, who continues to preach defense, was pleased with the decision, via his Twitter account: "Gr8 Pick. Welcome to the team Iman Shumpert. Can't wait to get started to become a better Defensive team. Let's go."
But Carmelo, who pushed his Baltimore protege Josh Selby, immediately signed off Twitter after the pick. Perhaps even more disappointed was Toney Douglas, and not just because the Knicks passed on drafting a fellow Florida State Seminole, but because they might have just selected his replacement. Douglas could now be dangled to acquire a backup point guard (Ramon Sessions?).]
Singleton went with the very next pick to the Washington Wizards. The Knicks left several other options on the board, such as Providence shooting guard Marshon Brooks and Lithuanian forward Donatas Motiejunas, who worked out for them on Wednesday.
And then there was Morehead State rebounding machine Kenneth Faried, who Walsh said just didn't fit the team at this point in the rebuilding process.
"I think he's a guy that if you got a full team and a team that's set up, he would be a guy that would be valuable to come off your bench and help you rebound," he said. "I don't know that we're at that point, yet . . . He could be a Dennis Rodman, but I'm not sure about that. If that was another year, and that's what we needed, then I'll go get him. But he's not going to take Amar'e Stoudemire off the center or that kind of thing."
Right. The Knicks just don't want Amar'e guarding centers anymore. That's what makes Jerome Jordan so important come training camp and why the Knicks bought a second rounder and grabbed another big body in 6-10 Josh Harrellson from Kentucky.
Though fans probably came away from this draft uninspired by a defensive-minded player as the main pick, Walsh pointed to the need to find quality role players, not high-end scorers or players who need the ball to be successful. Shumpert, he said, fills an important need.
"We've got two guys that need the ball and are going to get the ball a lot of the time, so we want people that compliment them," Walsh said. "I think in the [NBA] Finals, that's what people were talking about, having the pieces together."
The hopes for Jimmer Fredette or Klay Thompson were dashed after the three-way trade between the Bobcats, Bucks and Kings went down. The move allowed the Bobcats to grab their target, Bismack Biyombo, at No. 7 and still have a pick at No. 9 to grab a point guard, which turned out to be Kemba Walker. (So much for my mock draft, which had Kemba sliding to No. 17).
The Kings moved down to No. 10, where Fredette, who had been their main target all along, remained. Thompson then went to the Warriors at No. 11.
Walsh confirmed reports that the Knicks did try to get in on that action, but they didn't have the assets, or the willingness to take on bad contracts, to get there.
"We looked into it, but in the long run, teams really didn't want to do that, ahead of us," he said. "We had a couple of possibilities to do that, I thought, but the draft broke right for the team that was willing to do that, so they didn't do it."
Walsh certainly did a tremendous job in rebuilding the franchise with major moves, but he leaves a draft legacy behind that includes Danilo Gallinari, Jordan Hill, Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert, with all eyes now on Shumpert to see if he develops into a quality NBA player. If so, Walsh's draft performance should be commended.
But there's also a chance that Shumpert could be another Jordan Hill, who was selected in a draft that had many point guards still on the board.
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* - Walsh said the Knicks will bring Shumpert in immediately and get him working at the training center, which is important because come July 1 players may not be allowed to use the facility as a result of a lockout.
* - The contracts for Mike D'Antoni's coaching staff are all up at the end of this season, but Walsh said he expected all of them to be brought back. Keep in mind that D'Antoni is also expected to conduct a search for a defensive assistant coach, with Lawrence Frank as a potential target if he doesn't land a head coaching position.
* - Worth pointing out here that Shumpert is represented by agent Happy Walters, who also reps Amar'e Stoudemire. Walters has Shawne Williams among his clients and late this past season signed Wilson Chandler.