Knicks' Way Too Early 2021 NBA Draft Big Board

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 8, 2021

Knicks' Way Too Early 2021 NBA Draft Big Board

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The front-page story of the New York Knicks' 2020-21 season revolves around Julius Randle's All-Star ascension and coach Tom Thibodeau's impact.

    Turn to page two, though, and you'll find encouraging reports about RJ Barrett's development and Immanuel Quickley's impressive rookie campaign.

    New York's young nucleus is growing—even if Obi Toppin's search for an NBA niche has no end in sight—and it has an opportunity to keep expanding at the 2021 draft.

    The Knicks are in line to make four selections, including two in the opening round (theirs and the Dallas Mavericks'). With both first-rounders likely landing near its midpoint, let's examine their top three prospects in that draft range.

1. James Bouknight, SG, UConn

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    David Butler II/Associated Press

    It's possible this proves wishful thinking, as James Bouknight might hear his name called well before the Knicks are on the clock. But there are enough moving parts beyond this draft class' top five that it's impossible the smooth scoring guard could fall into their laps.

    New York's decision-makers might trip over one another while racing to the podium if that happens.

    The Knicks need offense in the worst kind of way. Only two teams average fewer points than their 105.0, and just nine have been less efficient at that end. Bouknight packs the scoring punch needed to elevate those rankings.

    The 6'5" Brooklyn native is a scoring threat at all three levels. He averaged better than 21 points per 40 minutes across two seasons with the Huskies, and he had seven 20-point outings in 15 games this season, including a brilliant 40-point performance against a Creighton team that ranked 32nd nationally in defensive efficiency, per

2. Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    If Corey Kispert is still on the board when the Knicks make their first selection, they'll have a hard time passing him by.

    He can make a convincing argument as the best shooter in this draft, and that's where New York needs some help. Despite splashing threes at the ninth-highest clip (37.7 percent), the Knicks lack three-point volume (11.0 makes per game, 24th). The issue could worsen this offseason, as two of their top snipers, Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock, are headed to unrestricted free agency.

    Kispert would help cushion the blow if one or both depart. His three-point shot increased in quantity and quality across all four of his seasons at Gonzaga, cresting with 2.8 makes per game on 44.0 percent shooting this past season.

    He also offers enough as a defender and finisher that even though shooting will be the skill that gets him on New York's radar, he should be more than a one-dimensional specialist.

3. Josh Giddey, PG, Adelaide 36ers

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    Before Randle emerged as the Knicks' top shot-creator this season, he reportedly rubbed some teammates the wrong way last season with "not distributing the ball quickly enough and overdribbling," per Marc Berman of the New York Post.

    While Randle has clearly improved, his ascension hardly means the Knicks' search for a primary playmaker are finished.

    That's what could get Josh Giddey on the radar. He has point-forward size, but he's really just a 6'8" point guard. Get him to Gotham, and he could be the lead guard who solves this club's offensive puzzle and brings all the pieces together.

    "NBA teams will be valuing his knack for running offense and playmaking, which seem likely to translate based on his unique positional size, control off the dribble, passing instincts and an obvious feel for the game," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote.