Sport

Revisiting the Knicks’ 2009 draft: Was there a backup plan to land Stephen Curry?

Stephen Curry wanted to be drafted by the Knicks, to play in Mike D’Antoni’s system in the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Curry’s father, Dell, and agent Jeff Austin both wanted Stephen in New York and called up Larry Riley, then the Warriors GM, trying to pressure him not to draft the young Curry.

It didn’t work. The fact Knicks president Donnie Walsh wanted Curry so badly just confirmed to the Warriors they were doing the right thing, Riley told Marc Berman of the New York Post this week.

“The truth is I respected Donnie Walsh a great deal,” Riley said. “Their interest in Steph reaffirmed what we already believed.”

Looking back at that draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves (and GM David Kahn) had the No. 5 and 6 picks in the 2009 NBA Draft and used them both on point guards — Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio and fast-rising Jonny Flynn. The Warriors were poised to take Curry at No. 7.

Did the Knicks’ Walsh do enough to try and trade up to get Curry, to leapfrog the Warriors and get one of those Timberwolves picks? It depends upon who you ask, and the Post’s Berman talked to a lot of people.

“I really wanted Stephen in that draft, and when I realized that Golden State was going to take him, I tried to trade up to take him,” Walsh said. “But I could not get the pick I needed so I looked elsewhere and tried to fill a need. Stephen was the guy and he obviously would have made a huge difference.”

However, one source familiar with the situation said Walsh never contacted Minnesota, which held picks No. 5 and 6. Another league source says when Golden State selected Curry, a “huge collective groan” emerged from the Knicks’ war room, which indicated the Knicks were calling Golden State’s bluff.

“It didn’t seem Donnie was prepared for any other scenario,” a former Knicks scout said. “We all love Donnie, but he didn’t seem to have a backup plan and it was a mad scramble to finalize [No. 8 pick Jordan] Hill.”

Jordan Hill played 24 games for the Knicks before he was traded in a salary dump.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s easy to look back and say Walsh should have done anything to get the future two-time NBA MVP and three-time champion who set the culture for the Warriors. At the time of the 2009 NBA Draft, there were questions about Curry’s ability to play the point at the NBA level (he had only done it for one season at Davidson), and he was seen more as a shooter, certainly not a franchise savior. He was behind guys like Blake Griffin and James Harden in that draft for a reason.

But did Walsh do enough to move up? Would Curry have developed into the player we know in New York, where likely his coach and the front office above him would have changed several times?

It’s all a what if, just a painful one for Knicks fans.