Knicks Will Get a Look at What Might Have Been

Jennings could have been a Knick on draft night

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    The big news in advance of Friday night's Knicks game is the change to the starting lineup that sees Nate Robinson moving into the first team at point guard.

    Chris Duhon's reign of error has come to an end and now the team will cross its fingers and hope that Good Nate's energy and scoring outweigh Bad Nate's turnovers and selfishness in a last-ditch effort to rejoin the playoff race.

    And it's fitting that the first game of this experiment comes against the Milwaukee Bucks and their rookie point guard Brandon Jennings.

    Jennings has cooled off a bit since dropping 55 points on the Warriors in his seventh NBA game, but he's still scoring more than 17 a night and dishing six-plus assists to lead a Bucks team that enters Friday night's game with a better record than the Knicks. Even if Jordan Hill was something more than an occasional contributor, that would be enough to make you wonder if Donnie Walsh didn't whiff badly on draft night.

    There's no question that Jennings was a boom or bust prospect. By skipping college and going to Italy, Jennings gave up a chance to play a lot for the experience of living as a professional athlete. It limited the amount of scouting that teams could do and, if you're under the delusion that college sports is a benefit to all players, raised the always nebulous questions about character that teams love to chew on.

    It's hard to argue that the Knicks weren't in a spot where such a risky proposition wasn't the right call, however. Their entire team-building philosophy is based on players who might not ever wear Knicks uniforms, none of whom are point guards and none of whom are going to help the team win a single game this season. Hill plays a position where the Knicks are deep and, more importantly, where the NBA is deep. The same isn't true of talented point guards.

    That's the biggest failing here. Walsh's intense focus on clearing cap has affected the shorter term goals of the franchise over the last two years. Adding a promising point guard, whatever the risk, should have been a priority and Walsh whiffed on it. 

    Admittedly, there's a lot of hindsight at play here. Not many people was ripping the Knicks for passing on Jennings that night and it won't much matter if the Knicks land the caliber of players they hope to land in free agency. It's pretty clear they made a mistake, though, if only because they had to know that Jennings's worst case scenario wasn't going to hurt them any more than Duhon.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.