In what he warns (!) is his last column for several weeks, the New York Post’s Peter Vescey does the unthinkable Friday morning….he defends Isiah Thomas. Or specifically, Zeke’s much maligned draft pick at no. 20 over, Renaldo Balkman.

How can I knock Isiah Thomas’ selection of Renaldo Balkman at No. 20 after recently singling out the 6-8 South Carolina spiraling hank of hair (and UCLA’s Jordan Farmar) for their recital in Orlando’s pre-draft camp? I’m also down with Mardy Collins at No. 29.

Let’s face it, nobody who was available to the Knicks this late in the proceedings, including Marcus Williams, has any chance of starting. So, it makes sense Thomas’ focus was on defense and role players.

Projected as a lottery pick last year, the 6-6 Temple product had a relatively mediocre senior season. Due to scouts’ emphasis on lighting-quick guards, Collins’ stock plummeted. Obviously, he’s not without weaknesses, but in the experienced view of Jim Clibanoff, President of ClibHoops Scouting Services (subscribed to by 16 teams), a leading independent evaluator of professional prospects, who has seen Collins play roughly 18 times, accentuates the following:

“There are a lot of things he is not – not a great shooter, not too quick, not too fast, not too athletic. Even with all those negative attributes, he has great poise and savvy and his knowledge of the game is top-notch for a college player. He plays the game as if he is an extension of a coach and it often seems as if he has the demeanor of an NBA veteran. Recognizes mismatches extremely well, rarely forces anything in the flow of a game and keeps his turnovers to a minimum.”

Isiah, all smiles on “SportsCenter” this morning, claimed that Balkman received a glowing recommendation from Florida’s Billy Donovan. Balkman’s Gamecocks, Zeke reminded the doubters, beat Florida twice last season. And Balkman a combined 22 points in those two contests. OK, I’m sold!