the sports section

Knicks Boxed In As NBA Draft Arrives

One month ago, when the NBA Draft Lottery revealed that the Knicks would have the No. 8 pick in tonight’s draft, the smart money was on Davidson wunderkind guard Stephen Curry. Knicks marketers lusted after him, Curry openly lobbied to come here, and circumstances appeared to line up for a player whom most agree is perfect for coach Mike D’Antoni’s system.

But then Curry started impressing every other team in workouts, and now, the odds that he’ll fall to the Knicks are extremely small. If Curry, Ricky Rubio, or Tyreke Evans are available to the Knicks, they’ll take them. But it’s highly unlikely any of them will be. According to ESPN’s Chad Ford, the Knicks believe tonight’s draft is seven players deep; their pick is eighth. Of course.

So if none of those seven players (Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, Jordan Hill, James Harden, Curry, Rubio, and Evans) are left, who are the Knicks likely to end up with? The top three candidates, in order:

1. Jrue Holiday. The 18-year-old point guard from UCLA needs to work on his jump shot, but his defense, floor awareness, and size suggest he’s far more ready to play immediately than your average 18-year-old rookie point guard. The issue with Holiday, other than his ridiculous first name, is that even though his potential is vast, he hasn’t actually shown anything yet. Down the stretch of his lone season with UCLA, he was terrible. And if you’re going to play for D’Antoni, you need to shoot.

2. Gerald Henderson. The Knicks are reportedly high on Henderson, a six foot three shooting guard who would become the first Duke Blue Devil ever to be drafted by the Knicks since Vince Taylor in 1982. Henderson wins plaudits for his maturity and a workout that blew the Knicks away, but he can’t play the point and didn’t exactly set the ACC on fire while at Duke.

3. Brandon Jennings. If it hadn’t been for David Stern’s pesky (and probably illegal) age-limit rule, Jennings would have been a lottery pick last year. Instead, after a dreadful year playing in Italy, his stock has fallen so far he’d almost be a stretch at the eighth pick. But if you’re drafting for potential, keep in mind that one year sitting on the bench in Europe shouldn’t destroy all of it.

There’s still a possibility the Knicks will try to trade up for Rubio or Curry, but that might be complicated by another trade. If the Daily News’ sources can be believed, the Knicks are covering their bases and bringing in an infamous Draft flop from the past. They report that the Knicks are about to trade Quentin Richardson to the Memphis Grizzlies for Darko Milicic, best known for being drafted between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Darko isn’t a terrible player (just as fellow bust Shawn Bradley wasn’t truly awful), but he’s anything but a franchise changer. Of course, most people in the draft aren’t franchise changers. And that’s why no matter who the Knicks pick, they still have a long, hard road ahead of them.

But at least they’re not the Nets, who are seriously considering drafting North Carolina’s spastic Tyler Hansbrough with the eleventh pick. If the Knicks do that tonight, someone might burn the Garden down.

Knicks Boxed In As NBA Draft Arrives