In his first big night to shape the New York Knicks roster as team president, Leon Rose and his front office staff ultimately went with what they knew with their two first round picks in Wednesday’s NBA Draft.
It started Wednesday morning with Rose trading up towards the bottom of the first round, sending the 27th and 38th picks to the Utah Jazz for the 23rd pick, adding that to the 8th overall selection. The buzz all day was that New York would try to trade for the 5th or 6th pick in order to take Naismith College Player of the Year Obi Toppin, represented by Creative Artists Agency, where Rose was head of basketball before he departed for the Knicks job in March.
No trade ended up materializing, and the board fell perfectly for New York to take Toppin, a 6-foot-8, Brooklyn-born forward from Dayton who athletically reminds observers of Kenyon Martin and even former Knick Amare Stoudemire. He averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Flyers on 63.3% shooting and 39% from three, though there are questions about his defensive game. In a statement, Rose said he was quite pleased with the pick, not having to trade up for someone the team seemingly really wanted.
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Though a dynamic offensive player and a strong scorer, the Knicks still had a glaring hole at point guard, which they could’ve addressed with the 23rd pick. But Rose deftly traded that to the Minnesota Timberwolves for picks 25 and 33. For those counting at home, dealing 27 and 38 for 25 and 33 is some good business.
New York did take a point guard with that 25th pick, but perhaps not one fans may have had in mind. It was Immanuel Quickley, a 6-foot-3 floor-spacing quality shooter from the University of Kentucky, whose assistant coach with the Wildcats, Kenny Payne is now an assistant under head coach Tom Thibodeau with the Knicks. Again, they took someone New York was familiar with, someone who shot 42.8% from three and 92.3% from the line. But Quickley was generally projected as a second round pick, one New York had towards the top of the round at 33.
But the Knicks ended up trading out of that pick, sending it to the Los Angeles Clippers for the Detroit Pistons’ 2023 second round pick. Rose and New York ended up drafting players it was comfortable and familiar with, even if in Quickley’s case it was someone the team may have reached for.
Now Rose and the Knicks move on to free agency, where they have several important decisions to make with team options on Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock. Perhaps they go after a point guard like Toronto’s Fred VanVleet in free agency to add to RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox, but the position is still one of need for the team in an Atlantic Division stacked with Brooklyn, Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia.
For Rose’s first big night on the job, he seemingly stayed within his comfort zone. We’ll see if those choices pay dividends in the future.