The 2012-13 Knicks won the team's first division title since the 1993-94 season but fell short in the postseason, losing in the second round of the playoffs. But they're further from a championship than their second place standing in the Eastern Conference suggests.
A while back I wrote about why the Knicks must get Carmelo Anthony real help. I suggested that they find guys who can spread the ball around more and are more efficient scorers than what the team currently has.
For a team that has over $76 million on the books this upcoming season, a big free agent signing isn't likely to happen. The best way for the Knicks to improve? Making the right moves on draft night.
The Knicks' flexibility may be limited by the fact that they only have one pick, but at least it's in the first round. That hasn't always been the case in recent years, as MSG's Alan Hahn noted:
So who should they target with the 24th pick in the draft? According to Charlie Widdoes of KnicksNow.com, guard Iman Shumpert would like to see fellow Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Glen Rice Jr. come to Madison Square Garden:
Rice Jr. averaged 13 PPG on 49 percent shooting, including 38.5 percent from three-point range, with the D-league's Rio Grande Valley Vipers last season. New York, which attempted the most threes in the league last season, would never turn down another long distance shooter.
CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reported that Ricky Ledo had has best workout with the Knicks:
Ledo can certainly fill up the basket, and could be a sneaky pick late in the first round with teams potentially unsure what to expect from the guard who was deemed ineligible to play at Providence this season.
SNY's Adam Zagoria was impressed with Isaiah Canaan, especially with the interview he had at his Knicks workout:
Canaan is one prospect who can both score and bring up the ball as a point guard if necessary. That's a pressing need for the Knicks with Jason Kidd retiring and Pablo Prigioni considering a return to Argentina, as Metro New York's Tony Williams reported (along with a jab at Manu Ginobili):
One prospect who seems to be an increasingly interesting target for the Knicks is Nate Wolters. According to Bleacher Report's Justin Bedi, Knicks fans should buy the potential of the team drafting the South Dakota State product. Slam Magazine also had New York taking Wolters in a recent mock draft, citing his versatility as an important factor for the Knicks:
The Knicks would gladly welcome the South Dakota State product's ability to both score (22.3 PPG last season) and dish it (5.8 APG).
Another reason the Knicks could use more perimeter scoring? They could be losing their current options. J.R. Smith, the team's second leading scorer last season, will opt for free agency instead of his player option with the team, according to Newsday:
Knicks blogger Jonah Kaner reiterated the Suns' interest in Smith, but added that the Knicks are eyeing their former second round pick from last year's draft, Kostas Papanikolaou:
Papanikolaou would be a sufficient replacement for Copeland should the Knicks lose him, as Papanikolaou could arguably provide just as much scoring with better defense.
According to the New York Post's Marc Berman, the Portland Trailblazers offered the Greek forward and the 39th overall pick for New York's 24th pick. While the Knicks may not be willing to give up their first-round pick, Berman notes that in this year's relatively weak draft, the difference between 24 and 39 may be negligible.
All signs point to the Knicks walking away from the 2013 NBA draft with a perimeter scorer. Whether it comes via their own pick or a trade remains to be seen. Perhaps the trade with Portland is the Knicks' best option. Like Berman said, while this year's draft class has received criticism for being weak at the top, the depth in the middle is still somewhat solid. Even if the Knicks miss out on guys like Rice Jr., Ledo, Canaan and Wolters, there will be plenty of shooters to take later on (guys like Tony Snell and Allen Crabbe come to mind).
At that point, though, the Knicks would be wise to temper their expectations of a second round pick. This draft has been called weak for a reason. The Knicks could find role player, but it's unlikely they will discover a long-term solution in this year's draft.