10:51 am Jun. 29, 2012
It was a night of mixed emotions for the New York Knicks on Thursday.
In an N.B.A. Draft short on stars but long on potential rotation members, the Knicks elected to use their 48th overall pick on Kostas Papanikolaou, a Greek prospect who cannot, contractually, come to the N.B.A. this coming season. For a team with plenty of needs, this choice was greeted rudely by the fans in attendance at the draft in Newark's Prudential Center, and means the team did not use one of its few avenues to bolster next season's roster.
Still, many of the players who could have helped the Knicks at 48 ultimately went undrafted, while news of a settlement between the players' association and the N.B.A. over the case affecting free agency for Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak should clear the way for the Knicks to move forward with both players.
In Papanikolaou, the Knicks acquired a player who is beloved by many scouts, who think he can turn into a forward like Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs or Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies. Between Papanikolaou and Georgios Printezis, another Greek forward whose rights came to the Knicks in the deal that landed them Tyson Chandler, the Knicks clearly think they have a future in Greek talent.
But Printezis can, at least, come help immediately. Papanikolaou cannot be brought to the Knicks this coming season. His contract has a $1 million buyout for the 2013-14 season. If the Knicks want to wait until he is free to come, it will be 2014-15.
For a team with Amar'e Stoudemire under contract for another three years, Tyson Chandler for another three years, and Carmelo Anthony for another four years, time is of the essence. A developing Papanikolaou, even if he becomes what the most optimistic observers would project him, probably is more of a guy Anthony and Stoudemire hand the Knicks off to rather than the support they'll need to contend for a championship.
One bit of good news is that several players the Knicks could have chosen at 48 did not get picked by any N.B.A. team, making them free agents. Hollis Thompson, the Georgetown forward with plus shooting from the perimeter, and Scott Machado, one of the best point guards in college basketball last season for Iona, are now undrafted free agents, as Jeremy Lin was two years ago.
The Knicks now in position to pick them both up, add them to their Summer League team and essentially give them extended tryouts under the guidance of Knicks coaches with no further commitment. And Thompson and Machado might see a special opportunity with the Knicks, given the team's unsettled nature and clear roster needs.
Adding players this way, along with the found money that a positive result of the Lin/Novak arbitration provides, will help the Knicks this upcoming season.
That takes much of the sting out of the lack of immediate payoff from the Papanikolaou pick.