Knicks' Complete 2021 NBA Draft Preview, Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 26, 2021

Knicks' Complete 2021 NBA Draft Preview, Predictions

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    The New York Knicks had a 2020-21 season worth celebrating.

    In one year's time, they made the leap from Eastern Conference afterthought to its No. 4 seed.

    But the NBA's accelerated calendar for the 2021 offseason leaves no time for celebration. That's just as well, since the 'Bockers should already be busy identifying ways to further their climb up the league's ladder.

    Their first crack at that improvement comes Thursday night during the 2021 NBA draft. Let's break down everything on the line for the 'Bockers.

Draft Assets and Team Needs

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    The Knicks have four draft picks at their disposal and probably don't have room (or desire) for four rookies on next season's roster. That puts them on the short list of teams likeliest to make a deal Thursday night, whether that's climbing up the board, trading draft capital for established talent or even moving current selections for future assets.

    Without a deal, though, New York will be selecting at Nos. 19, 21, 32 and 58.

    The Knicks could be in the market for two starters with point guard and small forward looming as obvious positions to upgrade. But they could take their draft search a number of different directions depending on how they view their incumbents.

    If they don't want to give Mitchell Robinson an extension, then center becomes an option. If they're uncertain about paying Julius Randle's next contract or didn't see enough out of Obi Toppin, they could even snag a power forward.

    They'll have options. Let's examine how experts think they'll use them.

Expert Mock Projections

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    As sort of a nod to New York's flexibility on draft night, there isn't much in the way of consensus from the mock draft community.

    Saying that, the one name that surfaces most is Virginia three-and-D forward Trey Murphy III.

    Both B/R's Jonathan Wasserman and's Jeremy Woo have Murphy landing in New York at No. 19, while The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor has the Knicks snatching up Murphy two picks later. Wasserman and Woo are also in lockstep at No. 21, where both mocked Kentucky big man Isaiah Jackson.

    The Athletic's Sam Vecenie, meanwhile, has New York taking Real Madrid's defensive-minded big man Usman Garuba 19th and Tennessee lead guard Jaden Springer 21st. O'Connor went with Auburn point guard Sharife Cooper in the 19th spot.

    Moving to the second round—which O'Connor didn't mock—Vecenie had Oklahoma scoring guard Austin Reaves 32nd and Iowa center Luka Garza 58th. Wasserman went Arizona State swingman Josh Christopher at No. 32 and Colorado point guard McKinley Wright IV at No. 58. Finally, Woo slotted West Virginia guard Miles McBride at 32 and Serbian center Filip Petrusev 58th.

Draft Predictions

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    The draw to Murphy is obvious. He is equal parts three-point splasher and versatile defender, which is about as coveted as skill combos get for modern role-playing forwards.

    But Murphy's stock has spiked to the point he might be off the board before the Knicks make their first pick.

    So, we'll instead start out predictions with Cooper at No. 19, with New York flocking to his scoring (20.2 points per game) and playmaking (8.1 assists) blend and banking on the coaching staff improving his shooting and defense. We will echo Wasserman and Woo with Jackson at No. 21, as Robinson's injury history might make the Knicks wary of a long-term extension.

    The second round is a real crapshoot, especially since the Knicks could move both of their picks. Without a trade, though, let's mock Houston sharpshooter Quentin Grimes at No. 32 and Michigan State swingman Aaron Henry at No. 58.