NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Knicks spent the first of their three second-round picks in Thursday’s NBA Draft on Cleanthony Early, a forward who propelled Wichita State to an undefeated regular season.
The 6-foot-7 Early averaged 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game his senior year with the Shockers, both team highs. A Middletown, New York, native, Early played at Pine Bush High School and Sullivan County Community College.
“Early’s versatile offensive game is a plus, but he has to adapt to the small forward spot,” CBS Sports college basketball writer Jeff Borzello wrote in Early’s draft bio.
Up until this week, it appeared the Knicks would not have any draft picks. But the team picked up two second-rounders when it traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas. New York also picked up big man Samuel Dalembert, point guard Jose Calderon and guards Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington in the deal.
The Knicks then made a draft-night trade with Indiana for the 57th overall pick.
Knicks President Phil Jackson may have shown his hand on Early a bit when he stressed the importance of defense in a news conference just prior to the start of the draft. Early was part of a Wichita State team that held opponents to 59.5 points per game last season, tied for ninth best in the NCAA.
“We’ve talked to our players about the condition they have to be in, defenses that we’re going to require,” Jackson said. “We want to be more aggressive defensively.”
The Knicks are currently projected to be over the salary cap, and are looking to Early for help that they may not be able to come by in free agency. Still, Jackson maintains that there’s a chance New York could make a splash via free agency, or future deals.
“We have many handicaps, with our salary cap being what it is,” Jackson said. “But there’s always a possibility. We’re not going to rule ourselves out of anything that could put us in a chance to do something special.”
With their second pick, the 51st overall, the Knicks selected Thanasis Antetokounmpo, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Greece. He is the brother of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was a first-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013.
“He’s not an offensive player at all and he’s older than his brother,” CBS Sports NBA writer Zach Harper wrote of Thanasis. “I wouldn’t expect him to come in and make fun plays like Giannis. Defensively though, he could be a great role player, maybe in the Luc Richard Mbah a Moute type of role.”
Thanasis played in the NBA Development League last season, averaging 12 points and 4.3 rebounds per game for the Delaware 87ers.
With the 57th pick, New York landed Louis Labeyrie, a 6-foot-10 power forward from France.
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