Happy Draft Week, y’all! The New York Knicks have receded into the background as the teams with higher picks wheel and deal, but soon enough they will have to make their choice with the No. 8 overall pick. Given the talent likely to be available in that range, and New York’s utter lack of quality guards, the choice among Knicks fans and draftniks alike usually boils down to three names: Malik Monk, Dennis Smith Jr., and Frank Ntilikina.
Sure, there’s always a chance another big name drops to the Knicks for some reason, and there’s also the terrifying possibility that Phil Jackson will have some sort of triangle-related breakdown and reach for the likes of Luke Kennard or Justin Jackson, but in all probability the pick will come down to the lanky gunner from Kentucky, the mercurial point guard from NC State, and the long-limbed Frenchman.
Who should New York pick? I don’t know about y’all, but I’m stumped. Even Smith, who didn’t really float my boat at first, would make sense. I gathered the P&T team and asked them to choose their preferred guard.
I like Malik Monk because the jumper is wetter than water itself. He's a better defender than he's given credit for and neither Ntilikina nor DSJ have a particular skill we KNOW will be NBA-ready. Monk is the best bucket-getter in the draft, hands down. Also, I love the idea of renaming the Garden "The Monastery."
I like Monk 'cuz his strengths seem the most compatible and most immediate with Kristaps' strengths going forward. Imagine the horror they'd unleash on pick-and-rolls, and in transition. Imagine the Knicks in a halfcourt set with multiple dudes who can shoot. Of these three prospects, only one's shown 50/40/80. Give. Also, I've always wanted to name a son "Malik" and the wife isn't having that, so this is vicarious for me.
Look, I'm not going to lose sleep if the Knicks pick any of Ntilikina, Monk or Smith—I see the appeal in all of them. But Dennis Smith Jr. is my guy. His numbers are strikingly similar to Markelle Fultz, who the Sixers are on the verge of giving up the farm for (a small farm, but I digress). The character concerns are valid, but wasn't Phil Jackson brought here to establish "a culture" or whatever? Picking Smith is the ultimate put up or shut up as far as that narrative goes. Take the guy with the most talent and figure out the rest later.
My head says Malik Monk, but my heart says Frank Ntilikina. At 18, Ntilikina certainly has room to grow, but the Knicks can afford to give him that room: Kristaps Porzingis is still somehow only 21! Playing in France, Frank has shown flashes of defensive potential and 3-point range. Working with an NBA coaching staff should give Ntilikina a great shot at turning said potential into reality. And who could ignore that ridiculous wingspan, assuming the rumors are true? Frank Ntilikina is a pick much more aimed at the future than the present, but that's where the Knicks should be looking regardless.
Picture a guy whose shooting ability is quite possibly the best individual talent of any player available in the draft. His athleticism is also NBA-ready. While he isn't the most aggressive seeking, absorbing and overtaking contact, that shouldn't be enough to take away from his offensive elephantiasis. Obviously his shot is the key to the rest of his arsenal, but he is a sly and springy cutter that can hurt your defense without being anywhere near the ball. Triangles love that stuff. Switching ends, that same bouncy activity should help him find his way into passing lanes as he picks up the NBA game. He should certainly be able to move laterally quick enough to cut off or direct opposing drivers. If you desire this player, you might miss out on some hungry dire wolf defense but you'll love all those sopping wet buckets. I'm also not convinced that he can't make a decent living screeching around pick and rolls and either finding himself open or finding a 7'3" mobile warhead. Melo-haters be warned, he smiles through adversity. I love me some Malik Monk.
After quite a bit of deliberation, I have to go with Frank Ntilikina here. I'm staying far away from Dennis Smith cuz character concerns may as well be the Knicks motto at this point, and I'm sick of it. Of course, neither Monk nor Frank will be the primary ball handler the Knicks need so badly. So, with that in mind, I'd like to bolster the other area in which we've been lacking for twenty years -- defense. Ntilikina projects to be a top level defender at the point of attack, and has the length to be very switchable relative to other point guards. He's only 18, he can shoot, and he's got more length than one of those flailing arm things you see at a used car lot (cliche analogy idgaf). He also provides lineup flexibility, as he can play off ball and defend multiple positions. Plug in a primary ball handler at any position, and Ntilikina can stay on the floor. In lieu of getting a primary ball handler, this is the next best thing.
OK, no more stalling...I choose Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks straight-up do not care about defense—we learned as much when they traded away Robin Lopez and promoted Kurt Rambis to defensive assistant. They’re never going to have a coherent defensive scheme, and will continue to pretend the three-point line isn’t a concern on either side of the ball. The only hope for New York’s D over the next two years is the Hustle & Length Plan: deploy all the longest arms and let them do their thing. Frank’s not the cagiest defender yet, but his passion might actually inspire some of his teammates. At the very least it’ll make me smile.