5 Prospects New York Knicks Should Target Following NBA Draft Lottery
There wasn't a great chance they were going to move up in the draft. According to Tankathon.com, they had just an 18.3 percent chance of getting a ball drawn. On the other hand, there was a mere 29.4 percent chance they'd move down.
And yet, the Sacramento Kings had their ball drawn, thereby leapfrogging the Knicks. Factor in that New York lost the coin toss with the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier to see which of the teams with identical records would go first, and the team tied for the sixth-worst record ended up with the No. 8 pick.
The Knicks' two biggest needs are a starting point guard and a wing. The need for the latter will be even greater if they trade Carmelo Anthony.
If they get a point guard, the primary objective should be a smart, versatile player who can run the offense. If they get a wing, they should look for someone who can score first and play stout defense second.
Let's take a look at the top prospects who might be available at No. 8 and who the Knicks should hope falls into the slot. The slides are ordered with a trade prospect, two wing prospects (in order of fit and preference) and then two point guard prospects.
5. D'Angelo Russell, PG
We're going to cheat a little on this one. D'Angelo Russell isn't going to be on the board, but because of the lottery results, there's a very good chance he's going to be available.
The Los Angeles Lakers got the second pick, which means that they will end up, in all likelihood, with Lonzo Ball. Ball's father, LaVar Ball, told LakersNation.com: "That's all we working out for is the Lakers. Just the Lakers. There's nobody else that we need to work out for."
If the Lakers do take Ball, incumbent youngster D'Angelo Russell could become expendable. A package including the No. 8 pick and a protected first-rounder for next season would probably be enough to entice them.
Russell's rookie season with the Lakers was a disaster, as he clashed with former coach Byron Scott and didn't fit well with Kobe Bryant. But with a more fluid system this season, he improved a lot. His versatility would work well in the triangle, and he already has a couple of years of seasoning under his belt.
Last season, his scoring went from 13.2 points to 15.6 points, and he went from 3.3 assists to 4.8 assists. He clearly improved under Luke Walton's system, showing what he could do as the primary ballhandler and playmaker.
According to NBA.com. he's a 37.4 percent three-point shooter on catch-and-and shoots, which demonstrates an ability to paly off the ball as well as with it, and you have a nice fit in the triangle. Depending on the price, this may be the best option the Knicks have.
4. Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
It's hard to draw a bead on where Malik Monk will go in the draft, but Sports Illustrated's 76ers" target="_blank">Jeremey Woo has him going to the Knicks. Monk has flaws and might be a bit of a one-trick pony, but when that trick is getting buckets, it boosts you up the draft board.
Woo argues: "It would be pretty hard for the Knicks to pass on Monk's starry upside in this scenario. He's one of the best pure shooters in the draft and presents a ton of possibilities despite measurables that leave a bit to be desired. If Melo's headed out of town, New York will need someone else to score the ball and would be justified in turning to Monk in hopes that he evolves into a lethal one-two punch alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Monk won't be ready from day one, but would make an electrifying fit in the Garden if all breaks correctly."
Monk averaged 19.8 points shooting 49.7 percent from two and 39.7 percent from deep last year, so he definitely is a scorer.
Monk could be a defensive liability, though there is room for improvement there, according to Mike Schmitz and Matt Kamalsky of DraftExpress.com:
"Playing with wavering intensity and improvable discipline, Monk is capable of applying ball pressure and held his own for the most part this season, but makes some mistakes allowing slower players to get to spots against him off the bounce, isn't very disruptive, and offers little value on the glass. His ability to get stronger and stay dialed in will be key to his ability to guard both guard spots, as he seems better suited to defend the point guard spot given his physical tools."
So the Knicks would either need to be confident in their ability to develop him on both ends or look to a second wing as a three-and-D guy who could pair with him.
Fortunately for the Knicks, they have such a guy in Lance Thomas, who is a terrific on-ball defender and shot 44.7 percent from deep last year. If the Knicks have the right guy running the team, Thomas could be a decent fit next to Monk
The other issue here is that, as a shooter, Monk is more Klay Thompson than Stephen Curry in that he is at his best when someone else sets him up. He's not the first choice as a primary ball-handler.
If the Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony and don't have a point guard, who is that going to be? Monk, Thomas and Porzingis can be terrific at stretching the court together, but the Knicks would need a willing passer who can break down defenses off the dribble.
3. Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State
If the Knicks take the wing route, Jonathan Isaac might be the way to go. Maxwell Ogdon of DailyKnicks.com thinks Isaac may have the highest ceiling of the top 10 prospects, stipulating: "Isaac's primary appeal is his physical profile as a near 6'11" small forward with a 7'1" wingspan and a near 9'1" standing reach. He put those physical gifts to use on the defensive end of the floor during his freshman season at Florida State.
"Isaac also has a solid outside shot, rebounds well on both ends of the floor, and is capable of creating off the bounce—both for himself and for others."
He averaged 12.0 points, 7.8 boards, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks last year for Florida State. That kind of versatility and length next to Kristaps Porzingis has to be just a little bit intriguing.
What would be particularly intriguing is if the Knicks want to go small and line their forwards up at the 4 and 5.
If the Knicks take him, though, a big question remains: Who is going to run the offense? While Isaac is versatile, he's not a primary ball-handler. They'd still have to get a starting point guard either in free agency or by trade.
That's not to say they shouldn't do it, but if they do, they need to have a reasonable plan in place.
2. Dennis Smith, PG, North Carolina State
Dennis Smith seems to be the guy with the greatest distance between his ceiling and his floor. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford has the Knicks taking him, explaining:
"In some drafts, Smith would be a top-three pick. He's super athletic, he can score from anywhere on the floor and he's an above-average playmaker. His team was terrible last season and that hurt his stock, but he has the tools NBA teams are looking for in a modern point guard."
And Jourdan Canil from HashtagBasketball.com points out that Smith could be the playmaking point guard the Knicks have been looking for for a very long time:
"The Knicks had a washed-up Steve Francis for a short period of time. They also had a post-prime Derrick Rose this year, which while it wasn't great on many levels, you cannot doubt that on offense he was fun to watch. Smith has a little bit of Francis about him. He's got the bounce, he is perhaps the second-best shot creator in this draft and his assist rate should be fine at the next level. Smith isn't the perfect prospect, but he's got a good chance to become a lower level all-star point guard. If the Knicks can get that at pick 8, that's a huge success next to Porzingis."
All that sounds great, and the idea of Smith and Porzingis running the high pick-and-roll together seems great—and it would be if it worked. There are, however, two issues to be concerned about here.
First, Smith also has some liabilities, including the occasional disappearing act, which makes you wonder how he would handle the extra pressure of playing in the Big Apple.
Second, running a modern style, high pick-and-roll makes perfect sense for the Knicks, but will they do it? And if they won’t, can Smith thrive in a pick-and-roll offense?
There’s a good chance Smith becomes a star, but his chances are better if he’s playing somewhere else unless team president Phil Jackson is willing to adjust his thinking on the offense.
1. Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
If Frank Ntilikina is there when the Knicks are on the clock, they should snatch him up, and they seem to have the same idea.
"Knicks general manager Steve Mills jetted to France to catch 18-year-old point guard Frank Ntilikina play Tuesday night (May 2) for Strasbourg in a French League match against Nanterre," per Marc Berman of the New York Post.
According to Mike Schmitz and Bogdan Karaicic of Draft Express:
"Ntilkina's 31-point outburst against Lithuania in the finals reminded NBA scouts why the Belgian-born Strasbourg product is considered a lottery-level prospect in the 2017 draft. The long-armed, versatile guard was tremendous defensively and answered a lot of questions about his outside shot, scoring a ridiculous 1.727 points per possession (22 attempts) on pull-up jumpers, far and away the best mark in the tournament."
That sums up a lot of what is so intriguing about this prospect to the Knicks.
He can handle the ball and create shots. At 6'5" with an estimated 7'0" wingspan, he’s ridiculously long for a 1, and according to Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, he can guard three positions because of it.
He’s smart and will be able to adapt to the triangle well. And he shows up in big games.
In essence, his upside makes him the perfect pick.
If there’s a player whom the Knicks can pair with Porzingis for the future, Ntilikina is it.