Knicks Sleeper Prospects to Target in 2021 NBA Draft

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 15, 2021

Knicks Sleeper Prospects to Target in 2021 NBA Draft

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    After booking their first NBA playoff trip in nearly a decade, the New York Knicks may not seem as dependent on the draft as they had in recent years.

    But in order to keep the good times going in Gotham, the 'Bockers better have a productive night at the annual talent grab.

    The Knicks hold four draft picks (Nos. 19, 21, 32 and 58), and even if they don't keep all of them, they'll invest at least a few in prospects they hope can become rotation contributors already next season.

    Targeting these three sleeper prospects at No. 19 might make that happen.

Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    If the Knicks aren't keen on paying Mitchell Robinson major money—he's down to just a $1.8 million team option for next season—then Isaiah Jackson could slide into the same rim-running role.

    He isn't as polished (duh, he's 19), but his length, mobility and explosive athleticism are tailor-made for the gig. If he improves his fundamentals, he could be the kind of interior anchor who both protects the paint and comfortably defends away from the basket.

    On offense, he might be reduced to catch-ball, dunk-ball duties for now, but his long-term outlook is intriguing. He already possesses a rapid first step and shows some flashes of mid-range touch, so he could become a more self-sufficient scorer with time.

    And the fact he played his college ball at Kentucky won't hurt his chances of finding his way to New York.

Miles McBride, PG/SG, West Virginia

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Miles McBride won't scratch the franchise's long-term itch for a traditional floor general, and that's just fine.

    With Julius Randle and RJ Barrett already doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of playmaking, the Knicks might not be looking for a pass-first point guard anyway.

    McBride makes his mark with aggressive attacks, pull-up threes and ferocious on-ball defense that would quickly endear him to coach Tom Thibodeau. McBride didn't shoot a ton of threes over his two seasons at West Virginia (3.2 career attempts per game), but this past season's 41.4 percent splash rate from three suggests he could add significant quantity to his long-range game.

    "Every year, the Big 12 is guaranteed to produce at least one high-character guy who plays his tuchus off and knows what he's doing and ends up having a 10-year career, even though he wasn't drafted highly and doesn't have elite athleticism," The Athletic's John Hollinger wrote. "Last year it was Desmond Bane. This year McBride is that guy."

Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    If the Knicks are thinking long-term on draft night, taking a flier on Ziaire Williams might make a ton of sense.

    Despite being the sixth-ranked recruit in the 2020 class, per 247Sports, Williams hardly set the world on fire at Stanford. He averaged just 10.7 points per game on an anemic 37.4 percent shooting (29.1 from distance).

    But if you watch him play, you can see why he was so highly ranked in the not-too-distant past. He can create shots as a near 6'10" wing, possesses a smooth shooting stroke and pairs his length with sound instincts to create havoc at the defensive end.

    He needs seasoning, but the long-term payoff could be tremendous. There's a universe in which he becomes a go-to scorer who holds his own at the defensive end.