While the New York Knicks finished 2013 with 54 wins and the No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, they still have much to improve next season. With only one pick in the NBA draft next month, Glen Grunwald and Co. will need to use it wisely.
The Internet, as you'd expect, is packed with projections, predictions and mock drafts. Also predictably, not many of them agree with one another. Here are some notables.
Bleacher Report: SG Ricardo Ledo
Bleacher Report NBA lead writer Jonathan Wasserman's latest mock has the Knicks selecting Ricardo Ledo, a 6'6" shooting guard prospect out of Providence.
Ledo was declared academically ineligible this season, but, as Wasserman noted, he practiced with the the Friars all year long. His preparation video below displays his ability to play above the rim and slam down high-flying jams. He can also drain treys.
With J.R. Smith possibly exiting New York for a larger contract this offseason, the Knicks may be on the lookout for backcourt help this offseason—especially with the aging Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni as other in-house options.
Ledo seems to draw a striking resemblance to the Knicks' sixth man, for better or worse. Here was a scouting report on Ledo from his high school days, via Rivals.
Ledo is arguably the top perimeter scorer in the class. With all the tools one could want in a shooting guard, Ledo's greatest challenge is maintaining his focus and giving a consistent effort.
He seems like a viable option for the Knicks, which have several holes to fill this summer. While some may not expect his stock to be first-round level after a season on the sidelines, the team could theoretically trade back in the draft to select Ledo.
The 20-year-old has potential on the offensive end, but the win-now Knicks may be able to find a better prospect with the 24th overall pick.
Yahoo! Sports/Rotoworld: PG Shane Larkin
Steve Alexander of Rotoworld posted his updated mock draft on Yahoo! Sports earlier this month, and his Knicks selection should grab your attention.
Shane Larkin declared for the draft earlier this spring, and Alexander has him falling to the No. 24 slot for New York. With Pablo Prigioni no lock to return to the NBA and Jason Kidd a mere shell of his productive former self, the Knicks need reinforcements in the backcourt. Larkin would fill a need while generating draft-day buzz.
You likely remember Larkin's memorable sophomore season with the 'Canes—he averaged 15 points and five assists while putting up a 40-percent clip from beyond the arc and 48 percent from the field.
Larkin fits Mike Woodson's offense like a glove. He's a good three-point shooter with the ability to run an offense. In Woodson's various dual-point-guard sets, the 20-year-old would thrive. Having Kidd in the locker room for guidance wouldn't hurt, either.
The Knicks have a need at virtually every position, including the point guard spot. Larkin could be the future at that position for New York, but it will come down to how the dominoes fall on draft day. If he's available at No. 24, Larkin may be the best possible pick that Glen Grunwald can make—for the present and the future.
HoopsHype: SF Sergey Karasev
Aran Smith over at HoopsHype weighed in on this year's draft, and he has the Knicks taking the European route for a second straight season.
He predicts the team will select 6'8" Russian forward Sergey Karasev. Karasev has a strong jump shot but a limited ability to get to the rim for points. His defense is slow, but his athleticism makes up for that somewhat.
If the Knicks look to start a more traditional starting five next season—with one point guard, one shooting guard and Carmelo Anthony at the power forward—they need a true small forward. Karasev provides that and would be of good value in the late first round.
As noted in the video above, Karasev isn't Steve Novak when it comes to creating, but he doesn't have the ability to blow by a defender after more than a couple of dribbles. His prowess from the three-point line makes him an automatic fit within the Knicks offense, and he would be a solid selection at No. 24.
ESPN: C Jeff Withey
Chad Ford's Mock Draft 2.0 has the Knicks filling another need with a sound selection of Kansas center Jeff Withey.
In 2012-13, the Knicks stacked their backcourt with hardened vets in hopes to reinforce the old "No Layups" policy. After injuries derailed—and effectively ended—Rasheed Wallace's and Kurt Thomas' careers, the team was forced to acquire Kenyon Martin. Those three players are unlikely to be back in 2014, so rounding out the frontcourt should be a priority this summer. Adding Withey accomplishes that.
At 7', Withey is a shot-blocker with the awareness that prevents him from fouling often. He averaged nearly 14 points and 8.5 boards last season with the Jayhawks, but that offense is what he needs to work on in order to be an impact NBA player. Withey lacks post moves and rarely resorts to his jumper, but he is a 71-percent free-throw shooter, so he has some shooting ability.
The ideal selection to fulfill this need would likely be Gorgui Dieng from Louisville, but with his stock on the rise, it's unlikely the Knicks will be able to nab him at No. 24.
With a 7'3" wingspan, it's no wonder Withey was the dominant shot-blocker he was in college—he averaged nearly four per game over his last two seasons. But the question is whether he can develop into anything more. There's evidence that could lead you to believe he will, so a 24th overall selection can make sense here.
The Knicks will have several needs next season with the advanced age of last season's additions immediately becoming a factor. Pablo Prigioni, Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith are all question marks for 2013-14—whether due to age, health or contract—leaving a hole at nearly every position.
The Knicks will be handicapped in this draft, owning only their one first-round selection. In fact, the team will be severely restricted in the draft for the foreseeable future, making this selection much more important. Here's a breakdown of Knicks-originated draft picks they won't actually have the benefit of selecting through 2016, via RealGM.
2014 second round draft pick to Houston
New York’s 2014 second-round pick to Houston [Houston-New York, 7/11/2012]
2015 second round draft pick to Houston
New York’s 2015 second-round pick to Houston [Houston-New York, 7/11/2012]
2016 first round draft pick to Denver
Denver has the right to swap its 2016 first-round pick for New York’s 2016 first-round pick [Denver-Minnesota-New York, 2/22/2011]
2016 second round draft pick to Portland
New York’s 2016 second-round pick to Portland protected for selections 31-37 (if this pick falls within its protected range and is therefore not conveyed, then New York’s obligation to Portland will be extinguished) [New York-Portland, 7/15/2012]
Gorgui Dieng from Lousiville would be a great fit on the Knicks bench, potentially sliding over to a starting role after Tyson Chandler's contract ends. It seems, though, that Dieng's stock is becoming too expensive for the Knicks with the 24th overall pick.
Withey, although a lesser prospect, could fill this role just the same. His size would help him make an immediate impact at center, and there's reason to believe he could develop into the future at that position for New York.
The team needs help in the backcourt, too, and a point guard selection would be sound as well. Choosing Larkin, if available, would rile up the fanbase—for the better, in my opinion. Larkin displayed an ability to take over games at the college level and led his Miami squad deeper than any preseason projection could have foresaw.
Beyond Larkin, the point guard options become murkier. Isaiah Canaan of Murray State seems to fit New York's system well—he's drawn several comparisons to Raymond Felton already. Larkin would of course be the more desirable pick, but it's unlikely that 23 teams will pass over him.
All things considered, it'll be hard for the Knicks to make a wrong pick on June 27. There are many holes to fill, and a young, affordable player to fill one of them will obviously be welcomed.
Whom should the Knicks select at 24th overall?
At this stage, the most realistic and sensible prediction above would be Chad Ford's—Withey. There's not an abundance of size on the free-agent market this offseason—at least not many that would accept the team's $3 million-per-year mid-level exception—and nabbing a shot-blocking 7-footer would behoove any NBA general manager.
Of course, this could all change by next month or even next week.
Advice for Knicks fans: Worry about your team's playoff run first. It's further along than it's been in decades, and the focus should be on the Indiana Pacers, not next year's role players. And when draft day rolls around, don't overthink it. With the amount of holes New York has, any selection will be worked in accordingly.
That is, as long as the Knicks don't trade this pick away, too.
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.