TOK Roundtable – Grading Phil Jackson


In a matter of days, the Knicks went from being an afterthought of the 2014 NBA Draft to acquiring three picks. Phil Jackson was able to trade away a beaten up center and one of the worst point guards in the league last season in exchange for the youth, making it seem like, for the first time in forever, the organization has something real positive going. Sounds like an A+, right? Find out what the TOK staff thinks here:

Kevin Smith - Despite the rash of fans who became Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo experts overnight, I’m still a little skeptical of what they contribute in the near term for the Knicks. Admittedly, this is mostly because I’m unfamiliar with the college game, but in general, hitting on a second rounder isn’t as easy as everyone made it out to be.

Still, Phil deserves all of the praise in the world just for having the Knicks in position to select anyone. In a TOK Roundtable in early May,  I explained that his offseason priority should be to get involved in the draft, and in getting three picks, he did the unthinkable. Plus, he got rid of a center that got paid $13 million last year but played like he should be getting five, and at the same time, dished off a starting point guard who couldn’t defend his position in a point guard driven league. To me, the trade was way better than the draft, but cumulatively, I’ll give him a B.

Aaron Jacobs - By no stretch of the imagination am I an NBA Draft expert, but after doing some research on the players the New York Knicks selected in the 2014 NBA Draft, I like what Phil Jackson is doing.

With the 34th pick he took 23-year-old small-forward Cleanthony Early, and while drafting someone who’s not a freshman or sophomore may raise some eyebrows, I think it’s the right direction. Early is an above average athlete, with skill and size to play the small forward position in the NBA, despite being considered a “tweener” by most experts. His jump shot has gotten better every year he has played, but his biggest knocks seem to be that he has a flat jumper, isn’t a great passer and he gets beat off the dribble far too often. He interviews very well and seems to love the game of basketball. With some fine tuning he could be a solid role player in the NBA. Considering he was slotted as a mid-to-late first rounder, he’s a great value pick.

With the 51st pick the Knicks selected Thanasis Antetokounmpo (thanks to Google for the copy and paste with the spelling of his name). Phil selected another wing player, and brother of Giannis Antetokounmpo aka the “Greek Freak” on the Milwaukee Bucks. Thanasis has a great deal of skill in his own right and like his brother, oozes with athleticism. He is undersized for the small-forward position (a tad over 6’5″), but makes up for that a seven-foot wingspan. He played for the D-League last season (Delaware 87ers), where his defensive instincts were on full display and he is projected to eventually be a solid attacking wing at the NBA level if his offensive game progresses.

Finally the Knicks purchased the 57th pick from the Indiana Pacers and selected Louis Labeyrie. Digging up information on this kid is tough. He’s a bit of an unknown, but he hails from France and is a 6-10 power forward/center. He probably won’t even come to the U.S. to play basketball for a few seasons, so it’s a wait and see pick. Overall I would grade this draft a B+ because the Knicks now have so many wing players on the roster. It seems like Phil is going to be developing guys on the Knicks new farm team, the Westchester Knicks, for the future. This draft could move to an A- grade if the Knicks are able to sign significant undrafted free agents.

Dave Nowinski – Action Jackson! Phil has shown this week that he has the potential to be a competent GM. He was able to trade Raymond Felton and get a solid Jose Calderon in return. Also, he was able to clear cap space for 2015 by including Tyson Chandler in the trade. This move signals that Phil will be building the Knicks roster around the triangle offense.

The Cleanthony Early draft pick was a great value pick. Early was a leader for Withcta State, and is a quality all around talent. Phil clearly did his homework by making this pick. Phil also has to praised for getting the Knicks into the draft. By securing a an early second round pick, Phil might have found a diamond in the rough.


What grade would you give Phil Jackson in his first draft as president of the Knicks? Let us know in the comment section below!             

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