For all the suffering the Knicks faithful has had to endure over the years, one place where New York has generally exceeded expectations is the NBA Draft.
Last year's second round pick, Mitchell Robinson, looks like the Knicks' best prospect. Taking Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth pick in 2015 was clearly the right move, despite how that relationship played out.
However, the Knicks have also had their share of busts and blunders, moments the franchise can learn from as the calendar flips to June. New York has the third overall pick, its best shot at a future star since Patrick Ewing and arguably one of the most important selections in team history. Here are some lessons they can draw from past miscues to make the right decision this time around.
Frank Ntilikina - 2017 No. 8 pick
Some would hesitate before writing Ntilikina off as a bust just yet, but he has underwhelmed thus far. His offensive production has been spotty and his injury struggles frequent. It's entirely possible he's on his way out. Looking at the names selected after Ntilikina, Donovan Mitchell was the biggest miss, who went 13th to the Denver Nuggets, while others like John Collins, Kyle Kuzma and OG Anunoby came off the board late in the first round. None of these names were obviously worthy of reaching for at the time, though, and the Knicks weren't the only team interested in Ntilikina at that selection.
The lesson for the Knicks here isn't that they necessarily did anything wrong leading up to the draft, but rather afterward. Ntilikina hasn't had a consistent role since day one; not in terms of minutes, or position, or responsibility. He's had two separate head coaches, with the latest showing little confidence in the 20-year-old. These problems are nothing new for the Knicks, known for their struggles with youth retention and development. Whomever the Knicks take this year, they should learn how to commit to them through the early struggles, maintain a strong relationship and rely upon David Fizdale's development insights to maximize their potential.
Renaldo Balkman - 2006 No. 20 pick
Balkman was selected 20th overall in the 2006 Draft, after mocks and experts at the time had him as a second rounder at best. His own college head coach even said he wasn't a surefire NBA player. The names selected after him? Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, Jordan Farmar, Paul Millsap, Leon Powe… you get the picture. New York seemed to lean Balkman's way due to his NIT performance, shining on what would be his future home arena.
This, of course, did not translate to the NBA. Balkman hung around in the league for six seasons, but only averaged four points per game and sparsely played after poor outings in his first couple of years. Balkman was an aggressive reach with much better options available. New York can avoid a similar mistake this year by not trying to outsmart itself or the rest of the league, although SNY's Ian Begley reported that some in the Knicks front office are high on Jarrett Culver - someone they could theoretically take at No. 3 over the seemingly obvious choice, RJ Barrett.
Dario Saric - 2014 No. 12 pick, Jamal Murray - 2016 No. 7 pick & Jakob Poeltl - 2016 No. 9 pick
No, the Knicks never selected these players. They could have - or even selected better ones - if not for some of the trades they made. Also on the board had the Knicks held onto those picks: Zach LaVine, Jusuf Nurkic, Domantas Sabonis and Caris LeVert. Two of those picks were abandoned in the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster, the other in the infamous Andrea Bargnani deal. History tends to repeat itself and New York could likely shop its third overall pick for Anthony Davis, or perhaps another star player.
An idea: Don't. A superteam may seem closer to New York's reach than ever before, closer than 2014 when an Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire pairing was supposed to bring the Knicks to the promised land. However, it's this type of win-now, go-for-the-gold move that has drowned this franchise over and over in previous years. Things don't turn out as expected, injuries arise, play-styles don't mesh, and you're back at square one with fewer assets than you began with. The lesson? Know how to deal with a good thing, instead of throwing it away in the hopes of something better.
Jordan Hill - 2009 No. 8 pick
The Knicks fell one spot short in the 2009 NBA Draft Lottery of being able to draft Stephen Curry, who would have been paired with Mike D'Antoni, which, yikes. This may be one of the most troubling what-if's in Knicks history. What they were left with instead only rubs salt in the wound. Hill just never materialized as a legitimate NBA player and was promptly dealt to the Houston Rockets. He was only a bad pick in hindsight, and the plethora of guys taken after him that panned out don't include many world-beaters. New York has obviously whiffed on its chance at Zion Williamson, the clear No. 1 choice in this year's draft, and there's no telling if its No. 3 pick turns out to be a bust just like Hill.
The lesson for the Knicks is sometimes things just don't pan out. The process can be airtight and by-the-book, they can pick the semi-clear best player available and give him room to grow, but in the end some players just don't turn out to be NBA-caliber. New York fans are used to expecting the worst, but sometimes it's nobody's fault.