In a draft that is light on elite talent, it could be argued that the New York Knicks will struggle to find an impact player with the 17th overall selection. Due to last season’s trade which brought Carmelo Anthony to New York, however, the Knicks are very short on depth at virtually every position.
Because of the Knicks’ relatively thin roster, whomever they select in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft will be expected to become a member of the team’s rotation and essentially contribute immediately.
The Knicks shouldn’t expect to get a superstar out of this draft, but there are certainly a number of prospects who should make for very important role players on a contending team. While the Knicks could stand to add fresh bodies to their roster in general, their best bet is to focus on picking up a true center and/or a perimeter defender.
Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense was mostly effective for the Knicks last season, but as was the case when D’Antoni coached in Phoenix, defense was a significant issue. On the interior, Amare Stoudemire was relied upon to be a defensive presence, but that simply isn’t his game, while Chauncey Billups and Carmelo failed to lock down the perimeter.
With the lack of depth in terms of true centers in this draft, there is no guarantee that the Knicks will be able to grab one deserving of the 17th pick. If that is the case, the Knicks could also afford to add a little more diversity to their offense in the form of an interior player who can draw double teams away from Stoudemire.
Although the Knicks’ mid-level exception will be their best friend in adding a significant role player to their already impressive core, whomever they take with the 17th pick could be a key piece to New York’s championship puzzle in the future.
Here are the top five prospects that would be perfect fits for the Knicks in the 2011 NBA Draft.
As it currently stands, the Knicks have absolutely nobody signed to a contract next season to backup Carmelo Anthony. With that in mind, UCLA wingman Tyler Honeycutt would fill a couple of needs for the Knicks. Not only can he serve as a backup to Carmelo, but he also has the potential to become a top-notch perimeter defender capable of being on the floor with Carmelo at the same time.
At 6 feet 8 inches tall, Honeycutt possesses the length needed to guard the NBA’s biggest and most athletic wing players. His long arms also make him an elite shot blocker at his position as evidenced by his 2.1 blocks per game during his sophomore season. His lateral quickness should allow him to stay in front of good offensive players at the next level as well.
Even though defense is considered to be Honeycutt’s strong suit, his athletic ability also makes him a solid fit for the Knicks on the offensive end. Not only is Honeycutt a fantastic leaper, but he can also get up and down the floor in a flash, which is something that would serve him well in New York’s breakneck offense. With a decent jumper, Honeycutt could also have the ability to take some attention away from Carmelo and Stoudemire, and open up scoring opportunities for them.
For most of the same reasons that Tyler Honeycutt would be a sensible fit for the Knicks, Florida State wing Chris Singleton would be as well. The main difference between the two, however, is that Singleton may very well be the best perimeter defender in the entire draft.
Singleton is a freak physically, and at 6 feet 9 inches and 230 lbs., he may have the ability to guard four different positions at the next level. As good as Honeycutt can be defensively, he may never be considered more than a poor man’s Chris Singleton, which should tell you how much potential Singleton possesses. He is an all-around defender who can effectively block shots, clog passing lanes and rebound the basketball, especially on the offensive end.
Singleton is also a more dangerous offensive threat than Honeycutt. At his size and with his superior leaping ability, Singleton is absolutely deadly in transition, which is where the Knicks’ offense thrives the most. In addition to that, Singleton is a good shooter who has the ability hit from beyond the arc on a fairly consistent basis. Singleton seems perfectly tailored to the Knicks’ needs on the perimeter.
With Ronny Turiaf among others set to enter free agency, the Knicks have a glaring need for a post presence. Obviously, nabbing a center should be New York’s top priority, but with so few good ones in this particular draft, it may have to compromise.
One area in which the Knicks struggled at times last season was rebounding. Creating second-chance opportunities on offense and preventing them on defense can be integral to a team’s success. With that in mind, the Knicks would do well to select the draft’s best rebounder, Morehead State power forward Kenneth Faried. Although Faried lacks ideal size, his tenacity on the boards makes him the type of player that any team would be happy to have.
The main issue with drafting Faried would be that it would relegate Stoudemire to playing center, but Faried’s blue-collar style of play would improve the Knicks’ interior game regardless. Faried also possesses the rare ability to close down passing lanes as a power forward as evidenced by his conference-leading 2.3 steals per game last season. His offensive game is very one-dimensional as he can only be counted on to score around the rim, but his rebounding mastery almost rules that deficiency moot.
While Kenneth Faried is certainly a superior rebounder, the all-around game that Kansas power forward Markieff Morris brings to the table makes him a slightly better fit for the Knicks. Averaging 8.3 rebounds per game in just 24 minutes per contest last season, Morris would still be able to contribute effectively to New York’s rebounding woes.
At 6 feet 10 inches and 241 lbs., Morris possesses ideal size at his position that makes him difficult to push out of the painted area. He has a solid if unspectacular repertoire of moves around the rim that allows him to score on a consistent basis. Perhaps the best feature of Morris’ game is his ability to hit the mid-range and three-point jump shots with great regularity.
The Knicks don’t currently have a big who is able to make opposing defenses pay for leaving them open from long range. If Morris’ shot translates to the NBA as it projects to, he can quickly become Amare Stoudemire’s best friend. Morris’ shot should force opposing post players out of the paint and to the perimeter, opening more space for Stoudemire to operate inside.
With perhaps only three true centers worthy of a first-round selection in the draft, that particular position will undoubtedly be at a premium. With that in mind, if Bismack Biyombo, a native of the Congo Republic currently playing in Spain, is available with the 17th pick, the Knicks would be crazy to pass on him.
With Biyombo’s stock rising dramatically over the past few weeks due to his massive wingspan of 7 feet 7 inches and defensive acumen, there’s no guarantee that he’ll still be on the board when New York picks. Something that could push him down the draft a bit, however, is his complete lack of polish on the offensive end. Aside from put backs after offensive rebounds, Biyombo really hasn’t yet developed into a significant presence on offense.
A lack of offensive ability shouldn’t scare the Knicks off, though, as they have much more pressing needs defensively. Biyombo would completely change the way opposing offenses play against the Knicks. This past season, teams had no reservations feeding the ball inside or driving to the painted area due to the Knicks’ lack of an imposing presence inside. Even if they didn’t score the basketball, there was always the potential that Stoudemire could get into foul trouble.
At this point, Biyombo’s success on either end of the floor is based purely on his athletic ability. By all accounts, his fundamentals need a great deal of work. Because of the Knicks’ defensive shortcomings, they would likely gamble on Biyombo’s raw ability without hesitation provided he falls to them.