June 28th 2005: The New York Knicks 2005 NBA Draft – Channing Frye, Nate Robinson, David Lee
Isiah Thomas’ first draft with 1st round draft picks turned out to be quite a haul for the Knicks organization. With the 8th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, the Knicks drafted Channing Frye out of Arizona. Frye was a relatively safe selection and filled an important need for the Knicks in the frontcourt. While Andrew Bynum & Danny Granger were both on the board, neither player warranted a selection in the top 8 picks before the draft.
The Knicks acquired the 21st overall pick from the Phoenix Suns on a draft day trade. The Knicks traded Kurt Thomas and the 54th overall pick (Dijon Thompson) to the Suns for Quentin Richardson & the 21st overall pick. The Knicks used the pick to select Nate Robinson. Robinson was a supreme athlete even though listed at below 5’9. He originally played football at Washington, but focused solely on basketball beginning his sophomore season. Richardson developed into a premiere three point shooter in his lone season in Phoenix, winning the three point competition and making 226 three point shots.
The Knicks acquired the 30th overall pick earlier in the year during a trade deadline trade with the San Antonio Spurs that also netted them Malik Rose. The Knicks used the pick to draft David Lee from Florida. Lee won the SEC’s men’s basketball tournament with Florida in his final season. Lee was an athletic forward who was also ambidextrous and could rebound with dexterity.
The three rooks provided the Knicks with a good return during their tenures. Frye had a successful rookie season, earning Rookie of the Month in November and earning a selection to the NBA All Rookie First Team. He suffered a season ending injury in March which cut his season short. Lee’s minutes were sporadic throughout the season, but he had a stretch of 13 starts between December and January. He became a double double threat during that short stretch. Robinson had more exciting stretches, but also showed inconsistency and immaturity during his rookie campaign with various locker room altercations. He did hit a game-winning three pointer against the Philadelphia 76ers after Thanksgiving. Additionally, Nate won the 2006 Slam Dunk Contest.
Quentin Richardson never regained his elite three point touch in Phoenix. As we learned later in a touching piece with the Players Tribune, Richardson’s brother was shot and killed in Chicago during his first season with the Knicks. The tragedy led to a bout of anger, depression, and binge drinking. His Knicks tenure was scarred by team dysfunction, injuries, and personal tragedies.
The Knicks dealt Frye to the Trailblazer on the 2007 NBA Draft. Lee & Robinson both remained with the team near the end of their first rookie contracts. Lee became a double double machine in his sophomore season and won the Rookie/Sophomore game MVP. Under Mike D’Antoni he became an All-Star in 2010. Robinson became into a scoring threat off the bench that excited fans with occasional in-game dunks. Under D’Antoni, Nate even became a 6th man of the year candidate after he averaged 17 points/game. Unfortunately, tensions with D’Antoni and overall immaturity led to his trade during the 2010 Trade Deadline.
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