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The Knicks interviewed multiple potential lottery picks at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago

Might New York trade up to get into the lottery?

2021 NBA Draft Combine
The Knicks brass.
Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The Knicks might not be in the lottery this year, but Leon Rose and his front office friends are still doing due diligence on the incoming rookie class, having taken part in this week’s draft combine, including interviewing some players who would currently be out of New York’s reach.

The actual draft will take place July 29, and the Knicks are currently loaded with two first round picks (19 and 21) and two second round selections (32 and 58). This week, all the upcoming neophytes got their measurements taken, did some jumping and met with team brasses in Chicago. The Knicks had Rose, Scott Perry and Tom Thibodeau in attendance.

Let’s take a look at who that trio talked to, as we try to figure out what the Knicks are going to do with all their picks.

James Bouknight, UConn Combo Guard

Bouknight, 6’5” and 20-years-old, is coming off a sophomore year at UConn in which he averaged aout 19 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists on 46% from the field and 35% from three. He’s widely expected to be drafted pretty high, perhaps even in the top 10. Thus, the Knicks would likely need to trade up in order to snag the Brooklyn native.

There’s no guarantee that will happen, but the Knicks certainly have the draft capital to potentially trade their way into the lottery, and they did meet with Bouknight this week, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“Being from New York, playing basketball growing up in New York, playing at the Garden, it would be a dream come true,” Bouknight said Thursday on a Zoom call from Chicago. “I don’t even know how to explain that feeling. Going to New York would be fun — hit everyone up I grew up with. That would be like an accomplishment for me. I definitely told them I’m from New York. They kind of already knew.”

Scottie Barnes, Florida State Forward

Barnes, 6’8” without shoes and 19-years-old, was named ACC Freshman of the Year following a debut college season in which he averaged 10 points (50% from the field), 4 boards, and 1.5 steals in 24 games.

He had an exceptional combine.

Widely expected to be drafted in the top 10, Barnes interviewed with a bunch of teams, not just the Knicks, which would have to trade up in order to nab him.

Jalen Johnson, Duke (Kind of) Forward

Johnson, a 6’9” small forward who is still 19-years-old, is another guy who is not expected to be around by the time the Knicks are on the clock.

He brings with him a bit of controversy, as Johnson surprisingly announced in February that he would be ditching Duke in the middle of the season in order to focus on the upcoming NBA draft. Can you really blame him? Duke pays zero dollars, while the NBA pays millions.

In 13 games with the Blue Devils, Johnson posted 11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assist, 1 block and 1 steal, while shooting 52% from the field and 44% from the deep. Again, though, if the Knicks are going to grab him, not only will they need to figure out a trade, they could be competing with a whole bunch of other teams that are interested in Johnson.


The Knicks also met with a laundry list of additional lads, with SNY’s Ian Begley noting that they held court with the likes of Stanford’s Ziaire Williams, Baylor’s Jared Butler, Virginia’s Trey Murphy III, Tennessee’s Jaden Springer, Alabama’s Josh Primo, and Iowa’s Luke Garza.

If the Knicks choose not to trade their picks, they’d be potentially adding four rookies to a roster that is already quite young and has lots of holes since many of last year’s players are free agents. The idea that the Knicks will look to combine a few of their picks to trade up in the draft seems to make sense, but they’re not the only team eyeing an earlier slot.

Regardless, it’s nice to see that the current front office remains focused on the task at hand, which is running the Knicks. For Rose, Perry and Thibs, the offseason doesn’t provide for months of vacation. It simply means that actual Knicks games aren’t taking place. They’re still working.