2022 Lottery Simulation and NBA Mock Draft: Who Would Knicks Take No. 1?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 9, 2022

2022 Lottery Simulation and NBA Mock Draft: Who Would Knicks Take No. 1?

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Projected to pick No. 11 before the 2022 NBA draft lottery, the New York Knicks have a 2 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick. Winning it would be the break they've been waiting for, and a timely one, with the team suddenly caught between competing and rebuilding.

    The Knicks have picked in the top four just twice since selecting Patrick Ewing in 1985. And in those two drafts, they still managed to miss out on Zion Williamson and Ja Morant in 2019 and Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015.

    Despite the team's promising young group with RJ Barrett (21 years old), Immanuel Quickley (22), Obi Toppin (24), Quentin Grimes (22), Deuce McBride (21) and Cam Reddish (22), the front office still needs to be in best-player-available mode come draft night. Julius Randle's value is unclear, Mitchell Robinson will be unrestricted and Evan Fournier just put up the lowest field-goal percentage of his career.

    Randle's regression was ultimately a huge blow, although it was arguably his outlier 2020-21 season that led to some unrealistic expectations and questionable contracts for Fournier, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Derrick Rose.

    Whether the Knicks pick first or 11th, president Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry shouldn't be thinking about fit or position. The team needs to continue stockpiling assets, and it will have a great opportunity to add a potential star with the first pick. It shouldn't matter to New York if he happens to play the same position as the team's highest-paid player.

    This is part 1 of a five-part series of mock drafts with a different team winning the lottery each edition, courtesy of Tankathon. Part 2: Portland Trail Blazers; Part 3: New Orleans Pelicans; Part 4: Washington Wizards; Part 5: Oklahoma City Thunder.

1. New York Knicks: Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF, Freshman)

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Knicks defying the odds and winning the lottery would result in some interesting debate around Leon Rose's table. Julius Randle would be in the center of it given his perceived plummeting trade value, coach Tom Thibodeau's reluctance to use him as a center and the fact that the consensus top-three picks project best as power forwards.

    Rose will surely bait and welcome trade calls from teams that are considering shopping a star who they're uncertain will re-sign long term. The Knicks also figure to think about moving down for Jaden Ivey or Shaedon Sharpe, guards who fit the roster cleaner than the draft's Big Three of Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren. Ivey would give the roster an explosive ball-handler to put more pressure on defenses, while Sharpe may have wild-card star potential fueled by bounce and shot-making that would complement RJ Barrett on the wing.

    Sticking at No. 1 is still the most realistic outcome. Banchero makes the least sense for New York given his redundant mid-range scoring skill set with Randle's, plus similar defensive question marks as a non-rim-protecting big. On paper, Holmgren fits better because of his defense and shot-blocking next to Randle.

    But Smith has seemingly become the more preferable prospect among scouts, and he'd likely have the edge with New York for both his elite shooting and defensive potential. At baseline, he projects as the league's highest-caliber type of three-and-D player. Though that label may sound limiting, he's a full year younger than Holmgren, giving him more time to continue building on the self-creation (75 isolation points) and passing flashes.

    At 6'10", Smith just buried 79 threes and 42 pull-ups, unmatched numbers from previous prospects his size and age. His fit next to Randle isn't clunky enough for the Knicks to hesitate if they believe Auburn's freshman was the No. 1 prospect. While there are reasons to suggest they can coexist, Smith could also make Rose more willing to trade Randle, even if it's for lower-profile players. Re-signing Robinson would then become a priority, as he'd be a near-textbook frontcourt partner for the more perimeter-oriented Smith, who's not as athletic or impactful defending the paint.

    It's also possible that winning the lottery or jumping into the top three immediately triggers Rose to shop Randle. And if that's the strategy, the best fit between Smith, Banchero and Holmgren wouldn't matter.

    At this point, predicting who the Knicks like most is guesswork. But between the amount of steam Smith has gained as the draft's top prospect, his floor and ceiling, and his fit next to Randle, he's the sensible projection for the Knicks if they win the lottery.

2. Portland Trail Blazers: Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    After finishing with the NBA's second-worst defense, the Portland Trail Blazers would favor Chet Holmgren over Paolo Banchero. 

    With Holmgren protecting the rim, Gonzaga held opponents to just 44.4 percent shooting around the basket, tied for the lowest in the country, per Synergy Sports. The 7-footer who averaged 3.7 blocks would immediately help change Portland's identity with one of the most impactful combinations of length, mobility and instincts for defense we've seen from a draft prospect.

    But Holmgren would also give Damian Lillard an easy-bucket finisher and three-point shooter for extra shot-making and spacing. Portland could view him as interchangeable between the 4 and 5 for an underwhelming frontcourt and roster that ranked in the bottom five at both ends of the floor. 

3. Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Unless the Houston Rockets view Jaden Ivey as a primary ball-handler next to Jalen Green, odds are they take one of the forwards at No. 3. In this scenario, it would be Paolo Banchero with Christian Wood entering the final year of his contract.

    Houston could start Banchero with Wood to give the lineup a pair of scoring bigs. The Rockets could also picture Banchero—a grab-and-go ball-handler with wing-like playmaking ability and three-point range—as a long-term fit next to Alperen Sengun.

    Between Banchero's creation, three-level shot-making and plus-passing, and Green's potential to one day climb the NBA scoring leaderboard, the Rockets would have two cornerstones to run the offense through. The 6'10", 250-pound 19-year-old also looks like the class' most NBA-ready rookie.

4. Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey (Purdue, SG, Sophomore)

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    If the Detroit Pistons land at No. 4, general manager Troy Weaver figures to be active in trying to trade into the top three. Ideally, the franchise comes away with one of Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero to give Cade Cunningham a frontcourt star to play off.

    But Jaden Ivey's explosiveness would still work well next to Cunningham, the more advanced creator and passer. Detroit would be a good spot for Ivey, who can focus on playing to his athletic strengths and providing secondary playmaking.

    He'd give the Pistons lineup another gear of burst compared to Cunningham. And while Ivey would put needed pressure on defenses in transition and off ball screens and drives, he made a significant jump this year with his handle and shot-making. 

    Detroit's identity would be built around a backcourt that suddenly offers a complete, dangerous mix of speed and skill.

5. Orlando Magic: Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Shaedon Sharpe feels poised to trend during the predraft process when he'll finally be able to showcase his athleticism and shooting after sitting out all season. At No. 5, the Orlando Magic should see too much upside compared to almost 22-year-old Keegan Murray and AJ Griffin, who lacks explosiveness and creativity. 

    The Magic should view the 6'6" Sharpe as interchangeable between both wing positions, so there wouldn't be a problem with him fitting between Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner if Cole Anthony is running point. 

    He's oozing with scoring potential fueled by self-creation, confident shot-making and quickness/bounce for baskets at the rim. 

Late Lottery

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    6. Oklahoma City Thunder: AJ Griffin (Duke, SF, Freshman)

    In need of more scoring and shooting from the forward spots, the Thunder have likely been scouting Griffin closely all season. With an outstanding 6'6", 222-pound physical profile, he also just put together one of the most impressive shot-making displays for a freshman, demonstrating special accuracy in drilling jumpers off spot-ups, screens and pull-ups.

    7. Indiana Pacers: Keegan Murray (Iowa, PF, Sophomore)

    A 23.5-point scorer and improved shooter, Murray can give the Pacers an immediate upgrade at power forward. Malcolm Brogdon and Tyrese Haliburton would love his motor running the floor and knack for making shots off cuts, screens, spot-ups, rolls to the rim and offensive boards.

    8. Sacramento Kings: Johnny Davis (Wisconsin, SG, Sophomore)

    After drafting Davion Mitchell, the Kings could add more toughness with Davis, who also took a big jump this year as a shot-creator. He'd give the wing a needed three-level scorer between De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. 

    9. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers): Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG/SF, Sophomore)

    New Orleans would be an ideal landing spot for Mathurin to play to his strengths as a catch-and-shoot weapon and transition scorer. He wouldn't have to worry about creating as much in a lineup with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. 

    10. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Sochan (Baylor, PF, Freshman)

    Versatility and defense are behind Sochan's rise into the lottery. With a surplus of guards and wings, the Spurs could grab one of the draft's most unique forwards who guards three sets of positions, can make open threes, passes, scores off the ball and attacks defenders off the bounce. 

    11. Washington Wizards: Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite, PG/SG, 2003)

    Though Daniels isn't a classic point guard, he'd still give the Wizards a needed playmaker, as well as a defensive disruptor with his unique 6'8" size for a guard. Two-way playmaking would be his signature next to Bradley Beal, though for a teenager, he's flashed enough offense off drives, post-ups and perimeter shot-making for the Wizards to detect more scoring potential.

    12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman)

    Duren makes sense for a Thunder team that's missing a defensive anchor to build with. Between his 7'5" wingspan and hops for rim protection, he should also see plenty of easy-basket opportunities alongside playmakers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey.

    13. Charlotte Hornets: Mark Williams (Duke, C, Sophomore)

    The Hornets could use a rim protector, and Williams' 7'7" wingspan would help immediately give the lineup an extra needed layer of interior defense. Offensively, he'll play to his strengths as a finisher with LaMelo Ball, though flashes of open-floor agility, post play and touch suggest he can eventually bring more than just dunking.

    14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Malaki Branham (Ohio State, SG, Freshman)

    The Cavaliers are suddenly deep and should be in best-player-available mode at No. 14, where Branham stands out as a trending prospect. It's unclear how the team views Collin Sexton and Caris LeVert, and Branham's scoring efficiency at Ohio State may look enticing enough in a vacuum regardless.

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