New York Knicks
(Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News)

The New York Knicks Had a Weird 2021 NBA Draft

The New York Knicks entered the 2021 NBA Draft on a high, having just reached the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2013. After earning the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, fans were understandably excited at the direction of the franchise after seeing them mired in mediocrity (or worse) for so long. The 2021 NBA Draft provided an immediate opportunity for the Knicks front office to build on their recent success.

New York Knicks Had a Really Puzzling Draft

If I’m a Knicks fan, there’s no way I’m excited with how the draft played out. Their draft strategy was absolutely puzzling and did not inspire confidence at all. New York entered the draft with the No. 19 and No. 21 overall picks, which were pretty respectable assets in a deep draft class. Rather than use those assets, they punted on both of them. New York traded the No. 19 pick to the Hornets in return for a heavily-protected future first-round pick. There were still a ton of high-upside options on the board at No. 19 for New York to build with, and they decided they didn’t want any of them. No Kai Jones, Jalen Johnson, Usman Garuba, Sharife Cooper, Bones Hyland, or anyone like that. What was Scott Perry thinking?

Then, the Knicks traded back from No. 21 to No. 25 overall. At this point, Houston guard Quentin Grimes was their target and they had a good feeling they would get him at 25th overall, hence the trade back. In a vacuum, trading back to get your guy plus a little extra compensation is a solid move. In context, this was really questionable. The optics of trading two first-round picks in a loaded draft class are never good. I didn’t hate the Grimes pick itself, but it was maybe a little early for him to come off the board. I would have felt much better about Bones Hyland in terms of projectable prospects.

The second round picks for the Knicks were pretty ho-hum overall. Miles McBride at No. 36 was their best pick of the entire draft. Rokas Jokubaitis will be a draft-and-stash considering that he just signed with FC Barcelona for five years. They took Jericho Sims with No. 58 overall, which was a decent pick at the back half of the draft.

The Knicks Were Losers In My Book

At the end of the draft, Knicks Twitter was a little too optimistic for my taste:

I have no issue with fans being optimistic about their teams. That’s what being a fan is all about. However, this draft was not a resounding win for the New York Knicks in any sense. Let’s not forget that this is a team that finished one loss out of the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. They did not solidify themselves as a true contender in the Eastern Conference, and that really showed in their 4-1 series loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

I’m still not quite sure why the Knicks didn’t package No. 19, No. 21, and a player to move up and snag James Bouknight or Moses Moody outside of the top 10. Trading up is way more encouraging of a move than trading back because it implies that your franchise knows exactly what it wants. Moving back in this draft class exuded a passivity that I don’t think Knicks fans should be happy with.

At the end of the day, the New York Knicks had a real chance to build off their 2020-21 season with a solid showing in the NBA Draft, and I really don’t think they did that. Free agency is a different story, and I think the Knicks made better moves in that area. New York wound up being one of my 2021 NBA Draft Losers for their weird and uninspiring draft strategy.


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