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Patience emerges as theme surrounding latest Draft picks

Knicks, Lakers approach Draft with future -- not quick fix -- in mind

POSTED: Jun 26, 2015 4:03 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Draft Review: Kristaps Porzingis

The GameTime crew discusses the 4th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Kristaps Prozingis, selected by the New York Knicks.

— The message was clear and stretched from within the city to across the continent: Help would not be coming.

Not immediate help, at least. That's the only kind that matters to Carmelo Anthony in a neighboring borough and Kobe Bryant on the West Coast with their body clocks ticking and chances of a quick return to prominence fading.

The Knicks used the fourth choice Thursday night on Kristaps Porzingis when a lot of front offices rated him the best offensive prospect among the new rookies. The Lakers took D'Angelo Russell at No. 2 as some teams pegged him the second-best talent in all, and so there was nothing wrong with the picks. They were grounded and clear in the big-picture thinking.

But they were about patience, which became a familiar theme as the selections were called out on stage inside Barclays Center, the home of the Nets. There was probably little chance of the Spurs getting much immediate measurable impact at No. 26, help for a final push of the Tim Duncan era and maybe Manu Ginobili as well. But San Antonio made it official by taking Nikola Milutinov with the likelihood he will remain overseas for at least a season. Justise Winslow is a nice pickup for the Heat at No. 10 and a definite building block, but he might come off the bench behind Luol Deng, in case Dwyane Wade was weighing the chances of a long playoff run as part of deciding whether to re-sign in Miami.

It was most evident near the very top of the draft.

All AXEcess Interview: Kristaps Porzingis

Jared Greenberg talks with Kristaps Porzingis at the 2015 NBA Draft.

In Manhattan, Phil Jackson, playing with a lottery chip for the first time as head of basketball operations for the Knicks, no doubt was tempted to grab at a quick-fix trade rather than lead with patience. He had said before he would be. The team has been down for so long, the people of New York are particularly demanding when staring up at the rest of the world from practically the bottom of the standings. Meanwhile, Anthony is 31 years old and one season into a five-year, $124 million contract. And then Jackson took a 19-year-old, 225-pound power forward.

Most any other general manager would have done the same, even with the obligatory bad reaction from fans watching the picks in the arena and raining down boos on the stage. There are questions whether Porzingis can defend power forwards inside or rebound against anyone, but none about his potential on offense or his dedication to get stronger. Porzingis was the best prospect on the board.

He will need time, though, and the Knicks of Anthony don't have much of that left. Melo is 12 seasons and some 30,000 minutes into his career and the Knicks will need another two big summer moves plus hope at least a couple opponents in the Eastern Conference run into trouble, and that's just to make the playoffs. Winning something once there seems so unlikely in the short term.

As expected, Porzingis got the key question at Barclays Center, after he was drafted and after he was booed: How will you fit with Anthony?

Whatever theme, whatever Carmelo wants me to do, I will do that out on the court just to prove that I am worthy enough to be on the court with him ...

– Knicks Draft pick Kristaps Porzingis on All-Star Carmelo Anthony

For all his youth and lack of time in the United States -- about a month last year in Las Vegas while briefly considering entering the Draft and another three weeks there as part of prepping for staying in 2015 -- Porzingis gets it. He grew up in Latvia, but moved away from his family five years ago to play in Spain, eventually in the second-toughest league in the world. As a kid he would get up around dawn to watch The Finals on television, rooting for the Lakers of Bryant and Pau Gasol, long before he would be compared to a young Gasol by the man who coached them both. His English is very good (not to mention his Spanish as well, which won't exactly hurt his popularity in New York). Porzingis understands who Anthony is and what the name Melo means on the basketball landscape.

"I think Carmelo is a great player," Porzingis responded to the question. "He makes players around him better. Whatever theme, whatever Carmelo wants me to do, I will do that out on the court just to prove that I am worthy enough to be on the court with him, starting with the dirty jobs, just getting rebounds, getting shots, getting blocks and just running the court. We will have time to practice with each other and hopefully I will be able to fit in with Carmelo."

Draft Review: D'Angelo Russell

The GameTime crew discusses D'Angelo Russell, the 2nd pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2015 NBA Draft.

In Los Angeles, the Lakers likewise chose the future. Russell is more NBA-ready than Porzignis, even with just one season at Ohio State, and the choice at No. 2 can be questioned only in the context of a debate over whether Duke center Jahlil Okafor or Russell was the right call. Among the players in the 2015 draft, Russell was a smart move.

But Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak at the head of basketball operations could have traded No. 2 for at least one impact veteran and maybe additional prospects. Maybe even picks as well. They could have responded to a frustrated fan base and the importance of television ratings in an image-conscious organization and tranquilized everyone with a trade. Surely that might have included Bryant, 36 years old now, 37 in a couple months, and in no position to celebrate how good point guard Russell and power forward Julius Randle, the 2014 lottery choice, will be together in three seasons. The choice would not be converted into DeMarcus Cousins or anyone else who will allow the Lakers to march dramatically up the standings in the West.

That could still happen, of course, if the plan comes together and L.A. makes a big strike in free agency or with a summer trade. But on the certainty of what the roster is, not what it could become, Bryant is playing for another lottery team.

At least 37-year-old Dirk Nowitzki got a little help, because swingman Justin Anderson could become an ideal complementary player, and maybe even right away. Anderson defends and makes 3s and will make the Mavericks better as the 21st pick without a starring role. That's probably it among veterans searching for a last run, though. Wade in Miami, Duncan in San Antonio, Anthony in New York, Bryant in Los Angeles -- they did not have a good draft. Their teams may have better futures because of the events of Thursday night, but those players mostly only have a little more than the present.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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