Evaluating Scott Perry's draft record
News came out Friday morning from the New York Post's Marc Berman that incumbent (but more than likely not permanent) Knicks general manager Scott Perry would be staying on through the draft, despite the team's hiring of Brock Aller this week in a strategy role.
Perry's contract as GM runs through June 30, which could be right after the draft's scheduled June 25 date, but more than likely will not be, considering the NBA is still mulling its options to at least fit in a 2020 postseason sometime this summer.
So, with a new president in place in Leon Rose, is the presence of Perry at the draft something to be worried about for Knicks fans? It's understandable to want a clean start considering Rose came in to replace Steve Mills and — presumably — turn everything on its head, but when looking back at Perry's draft record in front offices where he's had a heavy say in personnel decisions, perhaps it's alright to let him run this draft for the Knicks — even if it ends up being the last thing he does for the team.
Starting with most recently and working back, here's all of the picks and undrafted free agent finds that Perry front offices have made in his time as a high-level basketball executive:
RJ Barrett (2019 Round 1, Pick 3): Barrett had an up-and-down rookie season, but the general consensus is that the Knicks did the right thing by not overthinking it and taking the guy who was generally agreed-upon universally as the third-best prospect in the 2019 class behind Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. Barrett started the 2019-20 season strong and tailed off mightily in the middle of the season, a common occurrence with rookies entering the NBA and suddenly staring down an 82-game schedule after years of playing 30-ish game slates in high school and college. After an ankle sprain kept him out for nine games towards the end of the season, however, Barrett posted 17.1 points per game on 43.9% shooting over the last 12 games of the season, as well as 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He's absolutely a project in many ways — his outside shooting, especially, needs to come up going forward — but Barrett appears to be a fully defensible pick, and maybe even a future star.
Hit or miss: Hit.
Ignas Brazdeikis (2019 Round 2, Pick 47): The Knicks traded some cash to Sacramento on draft night to move up eight spots and nab Brazdeikis, a move that was mostly lauded at the time. It's difficult to really say whether this pick was a hit or miss yet because Brazdeikis played all of 53 minutes this season, but he really showed out in the G League, posting averages of 20.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 60.3% true shooting for the Westchester Knicks this year. It's reasonable to assume that, had the final 16 games of the season been played, Brazdeikis would have gotten some NBA minutes.
Hit or miss: Incomplete, but on the surface it looks good.
Kenny Wooten (2019 undrafted free agent): Wooten has yet to suit up for the Knicks, but posted averages of 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game with Westchester this season. He's also a human pogo stick. If nothing else, he seems like a smaller version of Mitchell Robinson, but time will tell how he fares in the NBA, presumably as a two-way player for the Knicks next year (he has a second-year option that should be picked up).
Hit or miss: Incomplete.
Kevin Knox (2018 Round 1, Pick 9): Knox has certainly been polarizing as a prospect to this point in his career: some see a lanky kid whose body is filling out that occasionally flashes elite scoring ability, while others see a total bust who has shot 36.7% from the field his first two seasons and often looks lost on the court. His development curve has been strange, to say the least. As a rookie, Knox was granted seemingly unlimited minutes under David Fizdale and allowed to make mistakes, which he did plenty. As a sophomore, he saw the biggest drop-off in playing time and usage of any player from the 2018 class, per The Athletic's Mike Vorkunov. Still, Knox isn't even 21 years old yet, and he started to show some flashes towards the end of the year passing the ball and on defense, which don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet. There's no denying, though, that the Knicks missed out by taking Knox over Mikal or Miles Bridges, their other two targets in that class.
Hit or miss: Miss, for now, but really an incomplete.
Mitchell Robinson (2018 Round 2, Pick 36): Robinson was obviously a home run, proving to be one of the best big men in a class that was stacked with them, featuring Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter all going in the top 10 picks. It could be argued that Robinson was far and away the best value pick of the entire 2018 class, and maybe one of the biggest steals in recent draft memory — it's an imperfect stat, but Robinson is second in the 2018 class in win shares to Luka Doncic (per Basketball-Reference), and first in win shares per 48 minutes. He also set the NBA single-season record for field goal percentage this year (74.2%) and has averaged a robust 2.2 blocks per game despite only averaging 21.8 minutes per contest over his first two seasons.
Hit or miss: Home freaking run.
Allonzo Trier (2018 undrafted free agent): Trier was certainly a revelation his rookie year, shooting a fairly robust 56.4% true shooting, which he managed to best this year with a 62% mark in limited minutes. Trier is a microwave scorer and not a great defender, but certainly a better find than your average undrafted free agent.
Hit or miss: Hit, relative to expectations for an undrafted free agent.
As far as the rest of Perry's career, I'll break it down by year, again moving backwards. First, Perry was the vice president of basketball operations for the Sacramento Kings during the 2017 draft, a brief three-month stint before he became the GM of the Knicks.
2017 — Drafted De'Aaron Fox with Round 1, Pick 5; Traded Round 1, Pick 10 (Zach Collins) for Round 1, Pick 15 (Justin Jackson) and Round 1, Pick 20 (Harry Giles); Drafted Frank Mason with Round 2, Pick 34
This draft was pretty great overall, and it stands to reason that Perry had a good amount of input since his previous team (Orlando) had a number of picks in this draft in the same range that Sacramento wound up picking. Fox is a cornerstone piece for the Kings now, and the Knicks even kicked the tires on swapping Kristaps Porzingis for Fox before being rebuffed and ultimately sending KP to Dallas. Trading the No. 10 pick to get two other stabs at the top 20 was smart, and while Jackson has proven to just be a so-so pro, Giles has put up solid backup big man numbers for two years, despite inexplicably having his third-year option declined (perhaps making him an interesting free agent target for the Knicks this offseason). The Giles pick (a top high school big man coming off of a season plagued by extenuating circumstances — in this case, injuries) served as a measure of foreshadowing for the Robinson pick the next year. Taking Mason in the second round was a good risk, too: despite being undersized, he came into the league having just averaged over 20 points and five assists on good efficiency as a senior at Kansas, drawing comparisons to Isaiah Thomas.
Hit or miss: Definitely hit.
Secondly, here are the results from Perry's tenure with the Orlando Magic, where he served as vice president and assistant general manager for the 2012 through 2016 drafts.
2016 — Traded Round 1, Pick 11 (Domantas Sabonis) and Round 2, Pick 47 (Jake Layman); Drafted Stephen Zimmerman with Round 2, Pick 41
This draft was, in general, a big-time yikes. The trade package that Orlando sent out for a diminishing Serge Ibaka in this draft (Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to Sabonis) was basically used a year later to acquire Paul George from Indiana. Both Oladipo and Sabonis have made All-Star teams in Indiana since then. Layman has proved to be a decent enough NBA bench player, while Zimmerman, quite frankly, stinks. This was a horrendous draft for the Magic, and a cautionary tale for the Knicks if they have any big plans of "making a splash" during the draft this year.
Hit or miss: Enormous miss.
2015 — Drafted Mario Hezonja with Round 1, Pick 5 and Tyler Harvey with Round 2, Pick 51
Hezonja, at the time, seemed like a good pick. The 2015 draft turned out to be extremely top-heavy, with some good players shaking out in the middle of the first round (Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre, Terry Rozier) but the top 10 being pretty bad outside of Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Kristaps Porzingis. Perry of course famously took another shot on Hezonja with the Knicks, which also was resoundingly "meh." Harvey never played a minute in the NBA.
Hit or miss: Can't really fault him for the Hezonja pick, but a miss nonetheless.
2014 — Drafted Aaron Gordon with Round 1, Pick 4; Traded up from Round 1, Pick 12 (Dario Saric) to Round 1, Pick 10 (Elfrid Payton)
If there was a "mediocre" option in this pass-fail exercise, that's what this draft would probably get. Gordon drew comparisons to sort of an undersized, not-as-good Blake Griffin, and that's basically what he has become, playing a key role on a few Magic teams that have made the playoffs as low seeds recently. However, he's on the second year of his second contract — a four-year, $76 million extension he signed in 2018 — and doesn't seem to be much of a needle-mover. Knicks fans are more than familiar with Payton, but before he landed in NY he was shipped to Phoenix from Orlando for a second-round pick — after Orlando gave up Saric, a second-rounder that would become Richaun Holmes and Philadelphia's own 2017 pick back from the Andrew Bynum/Dwight Howard trade (which would become De'Aaron Fox). Not the greatest investment.
Hit or miss: Gordon is good, but not great. Miss.
2013 — Drafted Victor Oladipo with Round 1, Pick 2 and Romero Osby with Round 2, Pick 51
As far as just the drafting in this one goes, Oladipo was a home run pick... just not for the Magic. Oladipo wound up as the only lottery pick in this draft to make an All-Star team (two times, although he missed the second with injury), albeit for his third team, the Indiana Pacers. Regardless of whose decision it was to include Oladipo in the package for Ibaka in 2016, however, this was the best decision in the lottery in 2013. Osby never played a game in the NBA.
Hit or miss: On the back of Oladipo, a hit, even if his time with the Magic was cut short.
2012 — Drafted Andrew Nicholson with Round 1, Pick 19 and Kyle O'Quinn with Round 2, Pick 49
At the time of this draft, Dwight Howard was still technically a member of the Magic, despite publicly being on the outs with the team. After an appearance in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed the year before, Perry's first draft with the Magic gave him the Nos. 19 and 49 picks. Nicholson wound up having a pretty crummy NBA career, flaming out after five seasons, while quality players like Evan Fournier (now a Magic himself, heh), Jared Sullinger and Festus Ezeli went after him in the first round. That's not even touching the second round, where Draymond Green, Khris Middleton, Jae Crowder, Tomas Satoransky and Mike Scott filled out maybe one of the best second rounds ever. With that said, the Magic did well taking O'Quinn at 49 — he's still a good role player in the NBA to this day, and was the last player with any real NBA career to speak of taken in this draft.
Hit or miss: O'Quinn was a relative hit, but Nicholson was a pretty big miss. Tie goes to the first rounder. Miss.
So there you have it. All of Scott Perry's draft decisions he's had an active say in, lined up. Between the individual Knicks picks and the drafts prior to his time in New York, my scorecard reads 5-5-2 (hits-misses-incomplete). Hitting .500 in the draft is actually pretty solid, considering that out of 60 players drafted every season, typically half or less become role players, and even less than that become legitimate stars. (Also, two of the "misses" were pretty close calls in the Hezonja and Gordon drafts.)
Even though the Mills-Perry regime was short-lived and pretty disastrous, the draft was not a sore spot. There could be worse things than letting Perry work this draft, and maybe even stay on in a scouting role with the team going forward.