Written by Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
For a team that was shut out altogether from the 2014 NBA Draft just 48 hours ago, the New York Knicks made quite a splash. President Phil Jackson was said to be coveting picks in this draft, and wanted in. He was able to do that after swinging a trade with the Dallas Mavericks that saw Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler shipped to Dallas for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, and Wayne Ellington and two second-round draft picks. Jackson and the Knicks made the most of those draft picks, selecting Cleanthony Early 34th and Thanasis Antetokounmpo 51st. Jackson did not stop there, as he also purchased the 57th pick from the Indiana Pacers and selected French center Louis Labeyrie.
The catch of this draft is obviously Early. Early, the four-year collegiate player who played his last two seasons with the Wichita State Shockers, slid in the draft to the Knicks benefit. He was pegged by many analysts to be a shoe-in for the first round, going anywhere from late in the lottery or the early 20’s.
Early is a versatile scorer, who can fill it up from the interior and perimeter. He has an improving three-point shot, which will expand his offensive game even more if he is a threat from long range. He is also a strong rebounder, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Early also made a statement when it mattered most, playing for a Shockers team that lost only once this past season. He had a monster game against the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament, pouring in a season-high 31 as he 12-17 from the field.
Early showed good athleticism at the NBA Combine, registering a 40 inch-vertical leap during drills. That was one inch higher than Aaron Gordon, who is said to have all-world athleticism.
Early does have some things to work on, namely his ball handling. He could struggle at first getting to the rim with his shaky handles, which is one of the reasons he fell in the draft.
Even with that, he is a player that could help the Knicks right away, with or without Carmelo Anthony. He will add much needed depth behind Anthony if he decides to re-sign, but if he leaves Early will have a great opportunity to grow with plenty of minutes and shots being available. He will have a chip on his shoulder and will look to prove all of the teams that passed him over wrong.
With their second pick of the night, the Knicks selected the brother of Milwaukee Bucks’ 2013 first round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka The Greek Freak. While Thanasis does not have the same ceiling as his brother, he is a strong wing player that is NBA ready defensively.
Standing 6-feet-6 inches tall, Thanasis is super athletic, using that to his advantage defensively. He showcased that athleticism on multiple occasions in the NBA D-League last season for the Philadelphia 87ers. He has a massive wing span of seven-feet, which enables him to finish well at the rim when couple with the athleticism he possesses.
He needs to improve his jump shot and offense overall, but defense right now is his calling card. Second round picks have an uphill battle making NBA rosters, but when you have the defensive intensity such as Antetokounmpo teams will notice, especially one as starved for defense as the Knicks. Outside of Iman Shumpert, there are not many players you would say are defensive gifted on this roster. It will be what helps him get noticed by the coaching staff and make the roster this coming season.
As for Labeyrie, there is no much to be said. There is a chance he will never make an appearance in the NBA. Last season, playing for Paris-Levallois, the 6-foot-10 inch Frenchman averaged 2.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 12.8 minutes per game. Nothing to really get excited about here.
The Knicks had a successful draft, especially judging from where they stood as recently as Wednesday morning. It is fair to say that Jackson has made a splash thus far in his first offseason in the front office, as he continues to change the culture in New York. The Knicks are finally beginning to stockpile some useful assets, and you should expect that to continue. The Knicks are loaded currently on the wings and in the backcourt, making more moves by Jackson expected. Things are finally looking bright for the Knicks after so many years of poor executive decisions being made, and Jackson is the driving force.