Knicks' Ideal 2021 NBA Mock Draft

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 8, 2021

Knicks' Ideal 2021 NBA Mock Draft

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    An expectation-shattering season opened a wealth of possibilities for the New York Knicks.

    They have roughly $50 million in cap space to throw around, the NBA's glamour market to sell and an intriguing roster that just led a charge to the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed.

    The itch for an instant-gratification free agent is real, and if the right player comes along, it could make sense to scratch it. In terms of long-term growth and stability, though, New York might make its most significant additions at the draft.

    The Knicks have four picks to play with (Nos. 19, 21, 32 and 58), and while they could put one or more into trades, we have mapped out the ideal prospect to pluck from each selection spot.

No. 19: James Bouknight, SG, UConn

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    David Butler II/Associated Press

    This might be as far as James Bouknight can fall, but Knicks fans would be thrilled if it happened.

    While their need for a floor general is well-documented, they arguably have an even greater need for a scorer. They can get playmaking out of Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. As they learned in the playoffs, though, finding another shot-maker when Randle can't get it going is a real challenge for this roster. Derrick Rose, a 32-year-old with major injury issues in his past, actually paced the club in playoff points per game.

    Bouknight is a walking bucket. He can shake defenders and score from every level. His 32.0 career three-point percentage left something to be desired, but his form and 80.2 percent success rate at the stripe give reasons for optimism. He also has some untapped playmaking potential that could surface once he has more help around him than he did with the Huskies.

    As an added bonus, he's a Brooklyn native who would welcome a return to the Empire State.

    "Being from New York, playing basketball growing up in New York, playing at the Garden, it would be a dream come true," Bouknight told reporters.

No. 21: Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    If the Knicks keep both of their first-round picks, they can afford to take a risk here on whoever they think has the most potential.

    Perhaps that's a player like Duke's Jalen Johnson, who could slip after leaving the Blue Devils after only 13 games. Maybe it's Kentucky center Isaiah Jackson, who could offer an alternative to paying big bucks to oft-injured Mitchell Robinson. If Bouknight isn't the pick at No. 19, maybe New York chases a similar fire-baller in LSU's Cameron Thomas.

    But Auburn's Sharife Cooper could be fascinating for the 'Bockers. If he hits, he could be the floor general this franchise has needed for years.

    He pairs dizzying handles with good vision and a better feel for the game to form a compelling lead guard package. He can routinely carve up defenses out of the pick-and-roll, which should make him a strong fit for two-man work with Randle. Cooper is undersized and unproven as a shooter, but his long-term potential is enormous.

No. 32: Trey Murphy III, SF, Virginia

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    Ethan Hyman/Associated Press

    Come draft night, this could prove impossible as Trey Murphy III's draft stock is already rising.

    "Scouts could see Murphy rise into the top 20 with his convincing shooting stroke for a 6'9", switchable defender," B/R's Jonathan Wasserman reported.

    Murphy's skill set should be easy to sell. He can bury catch-and-shoot threes and defend multiple positions. That's what just about every team wants from its role-playing wings in the modern NBA.

    Saying that, though, he is a 21-year-old who averaged only 11.0 points per game across three college seasons—the first two of which he spent at Rice—so it doesn't seem impossible he could get to the top of the second round.

No. 58: Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    This would make for a disappointing draft night for Charles Bassey, who can be found in the first round of some mock drafts. But that's hardly a consensus opinion. Both The Athletic's Sam Vecenie (47th) and's Jeremy Woo (42nd) have Bassey falling outside of the top 40.

    Should Bassey keep falling into the 50s, the Knicks should be glad to stop his skid. Between Robinson's injury woes and the team's ability to withstand its absence, they might not be eager to throw major money his way.

    Bassey could eventually emerge as a viable replacement. He has size, a great motor and some flashes of outside shooting that might allow him to grow beyond the normal rim-runner limits.