The Knicks have a bounty of draft picks cached, but not all draft picks are created the same, and the time to move them may be now.
Draft picks are theoretical – until they are not. You have teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz that are stockpiling more draft picks than canned goods in a prepper’s underground bunker. In some cases, those picks seem eternal, like three teams will singlehandedly draft an entire class at some point in the not-so-distant future.
However, one thing is almost always true in the world of sports: a draft pick is always at its most valuable before it is drafted. The idea of a draft pick is an optimistic outlook that can become any player in the world, and that player can always reach their maximum outcome and could possibly take your team to the promised land. That guy might be your franchise guy… until he is drafted and he is not going to be that guy.
Take it from me: someone who spends way too much time thinking about the draft and just finished my first thirty-player big board for the 2024 NBA draft class. These guys are so much fun to think about, and they are so much fun to project, and the value is endless – until it ends.
The Knicks are a great example of holding onto these valuable picks and valuable young players until they are no longer that young and no longer valuable and now they are on the Pacers in return for two second-round picks.
You will not find a bigger proponent of the NBA draft than me and my next article will probably be about draft prospects you haven’t yet heard of. However, there is a real conversation to be had about value in regard to draft picks as trade assets.
There are diminishing returns on the value of any draft capital the closer you get to the draft. If it is years away, that pick could be the number one pick, even if it probably won’t be. Once the pick is determined, there is less variance of what it could be, and that variance goes down even more once a player is wearing the team’s hat.
I am certainly not one to diminish the importance of young players and will keep writing about Deuce McBride and even Rokas Jokubaitis until I am blue in the face. These players were second-round picks who I wholeheartedly believe can be valuable contributors to the New York Knicks; however, their value to other teams is significantly less, if at all.
Striking while the iron is hot is a concept that is not unique to the New York Knickerbockers. You can look at any team in professional sports and a talking head media member will happily discuss their “championship window”. As I am sure you have seen, the Knicks in January of 1994 are playing their best basketball in any month since 1994.
The conversation is more nuanced when a team is good, there are vibes and roles that are more protected, but the stakes are simultaneously higher. Might it be worth it to try to upgrade a position of need if that could help in the postseason? Most people would argue that the answer is yes, even if the risk is fairly great regarding future assets.
That brings us to this year: the Knicks are really good and made a massive and largely successful move to bring in OG Anunoby, and they did it without giving up a single first-round draft pick. That puts them in a very precarious situation going forward, a situation most franchises would kill to be in.
They are competing right now, but have a loaded arsenal of assets to make a move in the future. That stockpile of draft picks is mostly talked about as the potential for a superstar move; a Joel Embiid move, a Donovan Mitchell move, a trade that moves the needle.
When on Twitter debating the merit of which superstar to trade for with this cornucopia of draft picks, stop and consider the value of the draft picks. The value of those picks exists in a vacuum as trade assets and outside of a vacuum as actual tangible assets. We forget that sometimes, since in a Woj Bomb: all picks are created equal. We look at the amount of picks attached in a trade, but not the protections on them or the quality of the specific draft class.
The Knicks have their own draft picks, which hopefully do not hold a lot of value going forward, and they have heavily protected fake first-round draft picks that never held much value, and they have a lightly protected first from Milwaukee next year that could have value depending on what happens with Doc Rivers’ team.
I say all of this to say that while I am the last person to ever root for or enjoy trading draft picks, the Knicks need to consider trading their 2024 draft picks at the deadline. The 2024 draft is unfavorably compared to the 2013 draft class by even the brightest of optimists. There are plenty of potential role players to discover, and this front office staff has had success in drafting talent in the late first and early second. However, is the value of those picks going to outweigh their value as trade assets? Absolutely not.
The Knicks can hope to find a diamond in the rough in a weak draft class, and if they do, I will chronicle every step of the way. The other option would be to trade a very unlikely high-variance outcome draft pick for a player to help contribute this year. That feels like something that needs to be considered heavily. Even if it does take a little out of the arsenal for a potential Joel Embiid trade that may never happen, it must be considered seriously.
The Mavericks’ pick this year currently sits at the 18th spot, and the Knicks’ own pick is currently 24th overall and rising. Right now, those picks could theoretically increase in value, but once the season is over, they will stagnate, and once they are drafted, it is a crapshoot how they turn out. The limitless potential of a draft pick becomes a little more limited once it has a name. It is not impossible that a guy like Dalton Knecht or Tyrese Proctor could have value if taken by the Knicks.
However, they are fairly one-dimensional prospects who may struggle to get playing time on Thibs’ highly competitive roster. This could mean they are less appealing to a team whose star eventually demands a trade. We have seen what it looks like before when the Knicks are holding onto young assets more valuable to themselves than to other teams, and the result is Donovan Mitchell in Cleveland.
Leon Rose and Co. avoided some gun-shy accusations by making their big move for OG Anunoby and did so while keeping the cabinet stocked for the future. That makes the next few months particularly important for them to navigate, with a lot of directions for them to take.
Making a big move in the future has always been the pathway determined by the fans, but it is far from the only choice. Leon has shown the ability to navigate the draft to maximize his picks on draft night, but also to kick the can down the road to accumulate more assets, those are both viable options outside of drafting someone on draft night.
However, making a move now with a weak draft class, even if it is a smaller move, has to be considered. The Knicks Wall resident draftnik is how I am often referred to, and that is a badge that I wear with pride. So, while I will not stop looking at potential draft and stash options (there are a lot in this class) and discuss the benefits of Daron Holmes II as a potential late first big, it must be acknowledged that if the Knicks are going to get the most value out of these draft picks, they must do so soon.