Hey, friends, I have an idea: let's all talk about the New York Knicks basketball team! Did you know they have a pick in this summer's draft...and a high one, at that? It's true!
Despite the fact that the draft order has yet to be decided by the lottery, the big sites are already rolling out their mocks using the order in which teams finished the regular season. That puts the Knicks at No. 2.
Of course, the actual odds of the Knicks winding up in the No. 2 spot are precisely 18.8 percent -- far from likely. But this all makes sense, particularly if you consider Karl-Anthony Towns to be the crown jewel of this draft. Basic draft etiquette requires that the Knicks pick one spot too late to get the eventual star of the draft. If that player is to be Towns, and Towns goes No. 1 as expected, then the Knicks are all but assured the No. 2 pick. IT ALL MAKES SENSE!
And who do the draftniks have falling to the Knicks at No. 2. The answer may surprise you.
The Knicks still get their man at No. 2 in Okafor, a perfect fit for what they want to do for a multitude of reasons. First, his post ability and passing skill for a big man will fit the triangle splendidly. Second, the Knicks seem hellbent on contending as soon as possible, and Okafor is the more ready of the two players. The readiness is an important factor here. Knicks fans will be expecting this player to become the savior of the franchise along with Carmelo Anthony. Neither of these guys are ready to play on defense in the NBA, but at least Okafor knows how to stay out of foul trouble, which should help him make an early impact in order to get the fan base behind him. And in New York, that legitimately matters.
As for the old "Knicks fans expect to compete immediately" trope, I mean we've heard it a million times before. Carmelo Anthony certainly expects to compete immediately; we can only hope that they aren't drafting based on what keeps Melo happy. And I don't really agree that Okafor is more "ready." He's more ready to dominate in the post, but not much else. His defensive footwork is pretty bad -- a correctable flaw, but one that will take time.
On the plus side, Okafor's ability to stay out of foul trouble is a very good, underrated check mark in his favor, especially for a Knicks team that finished 29th in opponent free-throw rate.
Chad Ford (ESPN Insider) went a less conventional route, mocking point guard Emmanuel Mudiay to New York at No. 2:
There's going to be a lot of debate in New York about this pick. Towns will be the obvious choice for them if they get the No. 1 pick. If they fall where the odds say they will, at No. 2, there's a very tough choice to make among Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell and Mudiay. They need help everywhere, so need can't really factor into the equation. Here's why I would take Mudiay -- I think he's the one player with the swagger to handle the bright lights and criticism that inevitably come with playing in New York. He is confident beyond his years, plays in attack mode all the time and while he'll make mistakes, I think he's the one kid Phil Jackson could build around. The other options are intriguing. They need size, but I think an Okafor-Carmelo Anthony front line will be too porous defensively. They also need shooting and Russell provides that, but he too can be soft on defense and the Knicks have plenty of that. Toughness, grit and athleticism is what this team needs, and I think Mudiay is the best fit.
Once you cut through all the "the one player with the swagger to handle the bright lights" bullshit, there are a few points worth considering. I think we all would agree that the Knicks do indeed need a healthy upgrade in toughness, grit and athleticism. I'd be fascinated if they actually picked Mudiay over the likes of Russell and especially Okafor. He might be a better talent than both, but he's a true pick-and-roll point guard who needs to work on his jumper. Would they run more pick-and-roll to play to his strengths (YAY) or would they try to force him into a role for which he is ill-suited (BOO)?
Ford had some fairly harsh words on Okafor, who he has dropping all the way to No. 4:
I'm not down on Okafor. And in fact, if this were the 2005 NBA draft instead of the 2015 one, I think he'd go No. 1. He's the most offensively polished big man I've scouted in years. But I do think there are legitimate concerns about fit with Okafor. His lack of defense, his lack of elite athleticism and his poor free throw shooting are all major red flags for teams that are emphasizing smaller, quicker athletes who can protect the rim in the NBA.
These are all valid points, and that is why I'm a bit scared of drafting the Duke big. By playing Okafor at center and Melo at small forward, the Knicks could end up an outmoded clunker in today's sleeker, faster NBA.
Let us end on a hopeful note from CBS's Gary Parrish, who has the Knicks taking...Towns!
The way Towns performed in the final month of the season was enough to make him a reasonable alternative to Okafor for the top overall spot. Ultimately, it'll come down to which team actually picks first. But, no matter the order of the lottery, I can't see this one-and-done star dropping any lower than second.
God bless you, Gary Parrish. You're my only friend.