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REPORT: The top 10 of the NBA Draft is starting to take shape

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The Knicks might not get the guy you think!

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now about a week and a half away from the NBA Draft (finally!) and ESPN’s draft expert Jonathan Givony decided to drop a league intel draft bomb today.

First off, any dreams you might have of LaMelo Ball realistically falling to the Knicks at the eighth pick... well, maybe temper your expectations:

Unless a surprise trade completely disrupts the top of the draft, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman are likely to make up the top three in some order, according to conversations with multiple team executives, scouts and agents. Most NBA front offices are operating under the assumption that Ball is going No. 1 — either to the Minnesota Timberwolves or a team that trades up to select him.

Honestly, that’s expected. It’s fun to dream of a world where there are enough failed interviews and tactical maneuverings available to get Ball to the Knicks, but in reality, he’s one of the top talents in this draft, and some team won’t let him dip that far.

Moving along, though, there’s a bit of a surprise about how things might shake down for the Knicks at pick No. 8:

After those three, the second tier includes Deni Avdija, Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, Tyrese Haliburton, Onyeka Okongwu and Patrick Williams. Those players appear likely to make up picks Nos. 4-9 in some order.

Just doing quick math, you can figure that it’s probably going to go something like: Bulls and Cavs take 2 of Deni/Okoro/Obi, Hawks take whoever’s left over of those three, then it gets to the Pistons... and they’re being linked to PatWill now, but have also been linked to Hali in the past. That then means the Knicks probably end up with their choice of Okongwu or Hali/PatWill, barring any trades (which is a huge “if”).

But why wouldn’t the Knicks just take Killian Hayes in that spot, a draft Twitter and Knicks fan darling? Well, apparently he, along with oft-rumored target Devin Vassell, are among those that Givony thinks will for sure go in the 10-20 range:

There is far less consensus around the league after that top nine. Devin Vassell, Killian Hayes, Aaron Nesmith, Tyrese Maxey, Precious Achiuwa, RJ Hampton, Kira Lewis and Saddiq Bey are the most likely to land among teams in the top 20.

Aleksej Pokusevski, Cole Anthony, Jalen Smith and Josh Green could also go that high, though their draft ranges appear to be a bit wider.

And finally, here’s the last nugget to chew on before I draw whatever final(ish) conclusion from this article:

With the exception of the New York Knicks at No. 27, picks Nos. 21-30 include most of the best teams in the NBA, which will likely alter teams’ decision-making here. Older prospects ready to play a role immediately will be at a premium, along with multipositional wings, backup point guards or centers, and potentially some international prospects willing to be stashed to conserve roster spots.

Upperclassmen such as Malachi Flynn, Desmond Bane, Jordan Nwora and Xavier Tillman have seen their stock rise in recent weeks for those reasons, positioning themselves firmly in this range due to their plug-and-play nature. The fact that players will have only one month to go from hearing their name called to stepping on the floor for a regular-season game could very well change how teams value late first-rounders.

So here’s my educated guesses about all this:

  • The Knicks might be in a situation where they have two of the most NBA-ready lotto picks available to them at pick No. 8: Haliburton and Okongwu. Based off their workouts and ties to Hayes, Kira Lewis Jr., Vassell, Tyrese Maxey, etc., it seems reasonable that they’ll try to trade down and get another asset this year or next with a team that’s just outside the top 10 looking in and still end up with one of the guys they like more anyway. Think Sacramento, Phoenix, Boston, San Antonio (if they’re not ready to full rebuild just yet, even if they should be), maybe even Orlando, etc.
  • Because of the win-now nature of so many of the teams from 20-30, and probably a renewed vigor towards anything being possible in the league after the demise of the Warriors dynasty and a seemingly wide-open NBA, a lot of the teams in that range are going to go after plug-and-play upperclassmen to help push them closer to a title. That could mean some of the more high-upside guys that need development like Cole Anthony or Aleksej Pokusevski could slip to pick 27, or at least somewhere like pick 24-25 where it would be possible for the Knicks to package picks 27 and 38 to go get them.

It’s also possible that all the stuff in this report was merely fed to Givony to give off whatever vibes the various teams want to give off, but he’s a pretty well-connected dude and probably has heard from multiple people from each organization to come to his conclusions. The only thing Knicks-wise that seems pretty certain is that nobody knows anything about what the Knicks want to do.

Nov. 18, here we come!