The NBA Draft is 17 days. Wow, that's really sneaking up on me. Must have been that whole 'Knicks actually in the playoffs' thing.
Distressed as most of us are over the departure of Donnie Walsh, who to me has been a beacon of integrity and wisdom in an otherwise vomit-inducing Knicks management universe, the good news is that Mr. Walsh and his merry band of talent evaluators will still be working for the Knicks as we lead up to draft night.
Would Donnie purposely pick the worst player available to stick it to Jim Dolan? Well, despite Dolan's rather unconventional interpretation of the Blues (rather than talking about his own, he inflicts them upon others), I know Donnie wouldn't do us like that.
They say the draft is weak this year, but I don't think so. They say that it's weak every year, and I never think so. But seriously - to me I don't see any "Can't miss" guys up at the top - but that doesn't really matter to us does it? To me, this draft looks like it's loaded with late first/early second rounders that could pan out quite nicely. I'm glad I don't really have to decide who to pick, but here's a few guys that I really would be psyched if the Knicks picked, and will likely be available. Given that several of these guys are projected to go late first round or early second round, I hope the Knicks pick up two later picks and get three of them. I'm listing these in the order in which they popped up in my head, which may indicate who I like the most, but may not. Click on their names for their DraftExpress profiles.
Darius Morris: Morris is rated far lower than guys like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight and Jimmer Fredette on the point guard depth chart. And yet, unlike those guys, Morris has an actual record of being a pass-first, get everyone else involved, even keel, keep the guys pumped type of point guard. He's also taller than all those guys. True, in recent drafts, speedy score-heavy point guard prospects have done well. But I still think it's risky to draft combo-y type of point guards. His outside shooting has gone from bad to pedestrian and that could limit him, but it never hurt Rondo and Jason Kidd. I think Morris is going to be good and that his classic point guard skills make him an ideal backup/ change of pace from a guy like Chauncey (or Toney for that matter). Nobody's a sure thing, but I think Morris is being undervalued in this draft and I'd love to see the Knicks pick him. Even with Chauncey and his veteran wiles, we still need a distributor on this squad with the weapons we have.
Reggie Jackson: Reggie has a great name for NY sports - both harkening back to Mr. October and Mark Jackson. I also think it's quite possible that Jackson's being undervalued in this draft. He wasn't highly regarded in high school but the guy's played great this year for Boston College. Based on highlights and interviews, I think Jackson's point guard leadership qualities may not be on the level of Morris', but he's still a distributor and a passer. Plus, unlike Morris, he's a very good shooter from the outside. Combine that with a Rondo-like wingspan and Jackson's looking like a guy that could be a very good NBA point guard.
Josh Selby: Selby's a guy that was rated right up there with Kyrie Irving in high school, but got suspended for some improper benefits stuff at Kansas and then hurt his foot and played pretty crappily. But there's a pretty good chance he's every bit as good as Kyrie Irving or Brandon Knight and just ran into a tough situation. The guy is crazy athletic and has mad skills, and could be available to us at 17. I still question whether the guy has the mindset and ability to be a leader on the floor as an NBA point guard (as I question Irving and Knight in that regard) but I can't quibble with taking a risk on this guy. He could be, like Dwayne Wade good.
Kenneth Faried: Rebounds. The guy does it. You will hear that he measured short at 6'6" without shoes. Don't worry about it. He's 6'7.5" with shoes and he has big hands, long arms, a good motor, and a good heart. His standing reach is right up there with the 7 footers so his short measurements help us because they lower his value. I'm not sure if the Knicks will pick him because he's a forward and he doesn't shoot from the outside, and I'm not sure if you can play him at the same time as Carmelo and Amar'e. But on the other hand, they could play him and Amar'e at the 4/5 and I think you would end up getting a lot more of those rebounds the Knicks missed last year. If the guy can learn a little 15 foot jumpshot, he'll be a great player.
Nikola Vucevic: Vucevic can't jump but he's just a hair under 7 feet with a great wingspan, and is 260 pounds of muscle. He rebounds well. Though he's not a super-mobile type of big man, he can shoot. From outside. He can hit three pointers. Think about how well that would work for the Knicks. Big men are often evaluated on their post play and Vucevic may be unspectacular. But the Knicks don't play a post game. The Knicks have two very accomplished scoring forwards but lack interior size and rebounding, and can always use outside shooters. Vucevic can potentially provide both those things from the center position.
Keith Benson: Benson played for unheralded Oakland University. He has skills and length - 7 feet tall with a great wingspan. He isn't one of those non-rebounding big men. He displays a nice array of moves in the post and can handle the ball a little. Thing is, he hasn't played much against real good competition, but when he has, he's still produced his rebounds and some points. Benson weighs less than 220 pounds, even as a college senior, so you have to wonder whether he can put on more weight and bang in the NBA. But it's a pretty good risk, if you ask me. I think Benson can find some success as a 4/5 off the bench, though he may never be a star.
Jon Leuer: Leuer is 6'11.5". He's a senior from Wisconsin that's supposed to have a good basketbal IQ. He's not thought of as athletic - and yet he blitzed other big guys on the agility drills. Though he's nearly 7 feet, his wingpan's not that great (he has a shorter standing reach than Faried) and he's a decent but not spectacular rebounder. But I think Leuer, if he were a European playing in Europe, would be a surefire first rounder. To me, his skills look about on the par of possible lottery pick Donatas Motiejunas.. except that Leuer rebounds better and hits more three pointers.
Isaiah Thomas: Don't laugh. Actually go ahead and laugh, or cry. The most unfortunately named point guard prospect possible could help the Knicks. Apparently, Thomas' dad was a Laker fan that lost a bet and as a result had to name this kid after the Isiah Thomas we all know and love (ahem). Luckily his wife insisted on a more traditional biblical spelling. In any case, Thomas is almost as short as Nate Robinson. And like Nate Robinson, he started out his college career as a shooting guard. But this year, when Washington's point guard went down, Thomas stepped in and started dishing out a whole bunch of assists. Apparently he's very good at the pick and roll and is very quick. This might be one of those guys who would be a big prospect if he were 6'1". With a second round pick, I think this is a good risk to take, and the fact that his name is Isaiah Thomas would provide lots of hilarity and comic relief.
If the Knicks can pick up another pick and get one of the small guys and one of the big guys on this list, I'll be a happy man. My favorite combo here is Morris/Vucevic. I think they can do that with their #17 pick and a late first or early second rounder. There may be highly rated guys that fall to us, like Fredette or Tristan Thompson for example, that would be hard to pass up. There may be other guys that may pan out better than these guys, but these are the guys I have a good feeling about, that I feel are being underrated. They say at 17 you should pick the best player available, but I think the Knicks need to think about what skill gaps they need to fill because they've got about 4 years of Carmelo and Amar'e in their primes and they've got to build the best team possible around them in what is likely to be a restrictive enviornment in the new CBA.
Now come on, Donnie, get us another pick!