Somewhere today, Isiah Thomas gave New York Knicks owner James Dolan a huge just like this. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the news of Isiah Thomas being hired by the New York Knicks as a “part-time consultant” with the organization, you’re going to read and hear a lot of moralizing about what a despicable move this is by Knicks owner James Dolan — who remained close friends with Isiah in spite of the $11.6 million he cost the organization from a sexual harassment lawsuit brought on by a former Knicks employee. There should be no question that this hiring shows extremely poor judgment on Dolan’s part, but that’s nothing new for him and the Knicks. Just when I thought that organization couldn’t become a bigger joke than they already have been over the past six seasons, they prove me wrong with this move.

What really amazes me about Isiah Thomas (besides the fact that he apparently has more lives than a video game character with cheat codes) is that he has fooled Dolan and a surprising number of NBA fans into believing that he’s some kind of scouting genius that is a huge asset to any team if he’s only used as a talent evaluator with no actual power to make personnel decisions. When you actually look at his track record, his last truly great move with the Knicks was drafting David Lee with the 30th overall pick in the 2005 draft. Let’s review his drafting history as the Knicks’ GM.

Year Pick Player Who he could have drafted
2007 23rd Wilson Chandler Rudy Fernandez (24th), Aaron Brooks (26th), Carl Landry (31st)
2006 20th Renaldo Balkman Rajon Rondo (21st), Daniel Gibson (42nd), Paul Millsap (47th)
2006 29th Mardy Collins Gibson, Millsap
2005 8th Channing Frye Andrew Bynum (10th), Danny Granger (17th)
2005 21st Nate Robinson (from Phoenix) Jarrett Jack (22nd), Jason Maxiell (26th)
2005 30th David Lee N/A – great pick
2004 43rd Trevor Ariza N/A – great pick

I see two great late draft picks early in Isiah Thomas’ tenure and three awful picks — including the last two selections at the end of his reign of error. For a former point guard, he sure doesn’t seem all that effective at recognizing point guard talent. Some Knicks fans believe that Thomas would have drafted Brandon Jennings instead of Jordan Hill in the 2009 draft if he was still the GM. Considering that he passed over Rajon Rondo and Aaron Brooks with his last two picks, I wouldn’t be so sure of that.

This is the “great talent evaluator” so many people heap praise upon? I don’t see it. The scouting staff of the Spurs and Rockets are the gold standard for talent evaluation right now, in my opinion — and as far as I know, they don’t have any employees with Isiah’s deplorable character.

Forget about what you think of Isiah Thomas as a person — he’s not even that good of a scout. So why did the Knicks hire him again? There’s only one explanation I can come up with: James Dolan is out of his ever-lovin’ mind. Somewhere, a Knicks fan reads that last sentence and responds, “Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.”

Comments (12)

  1. Let’s not forget Isiah wasn’t responsible for the David Lee pick. It was Suhr who pushed for Lee.

  2. far be it for me to defend Isaih, but if you were to look at the draft history of any GM you would find similar missteps and missed opportunities.

    Note that granger and Rondo were chosen 17th and 21st respectively, which means at least 16 other teams also passed them up. Clearly Rondo is among the best to come out of his draft class, along with Roy, Aldridge and Gay, however would he be as good a player as he is now if not for the top notch tutelage he received under so many hall of famers and excellent support staff of the Celtics, plus the great coaching of Doc Rivers?

    Don’t be so hasty to judge him a poor talent evaluator when it isn’t so cut and dry simple.

  3. If you don’t want to defend Isiah, then don’t defend him. He also signed Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Steve Francis, Jarred Jeffries, and is being credited with helping to sign Amare to $100m when he could have kept a cheaper and healthier Lee…….no we go on? Please. Save the defense for someone who is worthy.

  4. well before the disaster came i thought eddy curry and ZBo will make that previous new york team better coz eddy and zach were doing great in chi town and portland. it was like a gamble for isiah, a huge gamble.

  5. This is a pretty sad mythbusting attempt. Beyond the silly “but he didn’t draft the best player in hindsight!” logic, the fact is that most players drafted 20-30 are WORTHLESS. To get very useful parts like Balkman and Robinson is impressive.

    It’s weird really, he spent a fortune bringing in overrated scorers, but at the draft he showed an eye for players with a more complete game.

  6. WIth the exception of Mardy Collins and maybe Renaldo Balkman, all of those picks are still relevant NBA players and were worth taking at those picks. I don’t blame him for Channing Frye either, because he did get Nate Rob and D-Lee in the same draft which is NICE looking at it now.

  7. Yeah not buying this, I think those picks were still pretty good. He’s not a bad talent evaluator at all, better than most I would say.

  8. Do we know if Isiah Thomas is a bad “talent evaluator”? In his days as Knicks GM, he never really cared about the draft. In 2006, he believed in a backcourt combo of Marbury and Francis, why should he have drafted someone like Rondo? We all know Zeke is nuts. He builds teams around an unstable core of players and then drafts workhorses to complement that core. In the beginning of the 2005-2006 season, the Knicks’ SFs were Quentin Richardson and Trevor Ariza. That’s because Isiah ranked them higher than Danny Granger. He sees the world unlike any of us. It’s frightening. I don’t care if he’s not a scouting genius. He doesn’t deserve a job with an NBA team because, obviously, he has no grasp of reality.

  9. I don’t understand how this is even a story. Everyone knew that Isiah Thomas kept in contact with Dolan and the Knicks after his tenure as a GM. This is just giving him an ‘official title’ as a ‘part-time consultant.’ Multiple sources and sources with knowledge of the situation say that Thomas was part of the reason why Amar’e signed with the Knicks. Doesn’t hurt that he’s good friends with Dell Demps.

    As Russ Bengtson puts it: “Hey Isiah, should we sign this guy?” “Yes, absolutely.” *covers phone* “DON’T FUCKING SIGN HIM!” *uncovers phone* “Thanks a lot, Zeke!”

  10. It became clear long ago that Isiah has more strings pulling for him than Johnny Fontane.

  11. So he’s a bad talent evaluator because he wasn’t always able to pick out the absolute gem? Nobody is going to go 7/7, the fact that the other players fell so far means that other GMs were also unable to see something worth a pick.

    As far as his good moves being a result of other people pushing him to do it, if you believe that, you have to also keep in mind that his “bad moves” also had people’s support… its not like he went against the entire franchise on those decisions.

  12. All of those players are still in the league…..what about the raptor picks, not bad.

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