Prospects Knicks Fans Should Watch in March Madness 2021

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 18, 2021

Prospects Knicks Fans Should Watch in March Madness 2021

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The New York Knicks are positioned to make their first NBA playoff appearance since 2013.

    That's a reason to celebrate. It's not a reason to forget about the future of this franchise.

    All due respect to everything Julius Randle, Tom Thibodeau and Co. are getting done this season, but the best basketball lies ahead for the 'Bockers. Between RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin, this team is building toward a brighter tomorrow.

    The Knicks have a chance to further brighten it at the 2021 draft. Twice. They're slated to have a pair of first-round picks—their own and the Dallas Mavericks'—which should land between the mid-teens and low 20s. There are a lot of intriguing talents in that range.

    Three of them are about to take center stage at the 2021 men's NCAA Tournament, and Knicks fans should pay attention for a possible glance at their future.

Greg Brown, SF/PF, Texas

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Given the progress made by this organization, the Knicks might be willing to give up some potential for relative certainty. The other two prospects we'll highlight fit that bill.

    But this nucleus is young enough to justify swinging big at a sky-high ceiling, especially when the Knicks could be making two picks in the same range. If Greg Brown slips out of the lottery, he might have the highest upside of anyone who does.

    He'll walk into the league with dunk-contest bounce. He offers both flexibility on defense and activity on the glass. Get him and the young Knicks motoring out into the open court together and highlights are bound to happen. If he improves as a shooter, he could be a three-and-D wing with elite athleticism and explosive transition finishing.

    He's really rough around the edges right now, and his lack of polish shows through the stat sheet. The first numbers that jump off the page are far from flattering: 60 turnovers against just 10 assists. Saying that, there are risks with every prospect, but few of them come close to matching Brown's physical tools.

    The bouncy forward and the third-seeded Longhorns start their tournament Saturday against 14th-seeded Abilene Christian (9:50 p.m. ET on truTV).

Ayo Dosunmu, SG, Illinois

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    A five-star recruit in 2018, Ayo Dosunmu could've bolted to the big leagues after each of the past two seasons. But his decision to stick around helped him garner major recognition (including first-team AP All-America honors) and boost his draft stock while positioning the Illini for a possible championship run.

    Shooting has long been a swing skill for the athletic scoring guard, and this season he made major strides in that department. All levels of his 48.8/38.8/78.2 shooting slash are career-bests. Same goes for his 20.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists.

    He does a lot of things well and is exceptional in a few areas (like transition attacking, breaking down defenders off the dribble and playing team defense). He wouldn't be the marquee star in Madison Square Garden, but he'd be a great third guard to share the backcourt with Barrett and Quickley.

    Dosunmu and the top-seeded Illini start their championship quest Friday against 16th-seeded Drexel (1:15 p.m. ET on TBS).

Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    If the Knicks are in the market for plug-and-play role players, Davion Mitchell should make their short list of best available options.

    He's as good as it gets in college basketball when it comes to on-ball defense. As B/R's Jonathan Wasserman noted recently, "Opposing players are turning the ball over a ridiculous 27.6 percent of the time when guarded by Mitchell."

    A shut-down perimeter defender could be a great addition to New York's young core, and it could make Mitchell a quick favorite of Thibodeau. But that's not all Mitchell brings to the hardwood. He has really perked up this season as a playmaker (5.4 assists) and floor-spacer (2.3 threes at a 46.2 percent clip).

    Mitchell and the top-seeded Bears get their tournament underway Friday against 16th-seeded Hartford (3:30 p.m. ET on truTV).