GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) - The New York Knicks selected Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early with the 34th pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night.
A 6-foot-7 Early averaged 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds last season as senior for Wichita State, both team highs. The Shockers won their first 35 games last season, before losing to Kentucky in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
The Knicks also took 6-foot-5 small forward Thenasis Antetokounmpo of Greece with the 51st pick. Antetokounmpo, the older brother of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, comes to the Knicks from the D-League’s Delaware Sevens. The 21-year-old averaged 12.0 points and 4.3 rebounds with the Sevens last season.
New York acquired both picks Wednesday in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Knicks also acquired French forward Louis Labeyrie, drafted 57th, from the Indiana Pacers for cash. The 6-foot-10 Labeyrie spent the past three seasons with Paris-Levallois. The 22-year-old averaged 2.3 points in six games for the French club last season.
Knicks President Phil Jackson may have shown his hand on Early a bit when he stressed the importance of defense in a news conference just prior to the start of the draft. Early was part of a Wichita State team that held opponents to 59.5 points per game last season, tied for ninth best in the NCAA.
“We’ve talked to our players about the condition they have to be in, defenses that we’re going to require,” Jackson said. “We want to be more aggressive defensively.”
The Knicks are currently projected to be over the salary cap, and are looking to Early for help that they may not be able to come by in free agency. Still, Jackson maintains that there’s a chance New York could make a splash via free agency, or future deals.
“We have many handicaps, with our salary cap being what it is,” Jackson said. “But there’s always a possibility. We’re not going to rule ourselves out of anything that could put us in a chance to do something special.”