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Know The Prospect: Miles McBride

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Not Miles McBridge.

Morehead State v West Virginia Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/2021 Getty Images

My least favorite Knick in recent years was Arron Afflalo. Not because of his game, though his one year in New York was less memorable for anything on the court than his late-season beef with Kurt Rambis over being benched for Sasha Vujacic (just writing that sentences makes me wanna put away all the sharp objects near me). No, I didn’t like Afflalo because I hated typing his name.

I want “Arron” to be “Aron,” for some reason, and I literally have to s-l-o-w my brain waves to a crawl to spell “Afflalo” Something about the two Fs followed by an L doesn’t sit right with me. Like playing the piano, when I type I like to everything to be smooth and fast so I can get into a roll, a zone. “Afflalo” is basically a big tar pit right in the middle of the Autobahn. Which brings us to Miles McBride.

Every time I type his name, my brain tells my hands it’s actually “Miles McBridge.” And yet I’m not bothered by this the way I am Afflalo, possibly because as a lifelong fan of alliteration, particularly double-M names (who’da thunk it?!), I’m already ready to admit McBride to the Malik Monk/Markieff Morris/Marcus Morris/Monte Morris (no relation)/Mike Miller/Moses Malone/Moses Moody (soon)/Mo Mahoney Club (shout-out to @_HugLyfe_ for bringing Mahoney to my attention). Possibly because McBride seems a better fit for the Knicks than Afflalo ever was. More importantly, McBride seems a better fit than anyone who attended last year’s Knicks Point Guard Masquerade Ball.

McBride’s standing height is a pedestrian 6’2”, but a wingspan a smidge under 6’9” and the biggest hands of any point guard in the draft are intriguing inalienable intangibles. He played the point as well as off-guard in college and is rumored to go anywhere from the middle of the 1st round to early in the 2nd. A lot of our KTP series spotlights offense over defense, usually because the player being spotlighted is far more advanced on the offensive end. Some players really don’t have a defensive highlight reel to speak of at all. Not McBride. Here he is besting consensus top-pick Cade Cunningham twice. In a row.

Anyone can have a lucky sequence, though, right? Kevin Love’s defense on Steph Curry one time was enough to help Cleveland win a championship. That’s the thing with McBride, though — clips that would be another player’s career highlight are just one in a series of defensive showstoppers for him. Here he plays suffocating D for 26 seconds.

How often do you see a point guard alter one shot at the rim, then block another — all on the same possession?

In this sequence McBride manages to defend both ends of a 2-on-1, hedging just enough toward the dribbler to make them throw the lob, then back-tracking and breaking it up.

McBride ranked fourth in the Big 12 in steal percentage and 12th in block percentage last year. His defensive skills are more advanced at this point than his offensive skills, but this is not an Elfrid Payton type of player — i.e. one whose defensive value is invisible to both the naked eye and any analytic lens while also being a human hernia holding back the offense. McBride ranked in the 92nd percentile shooting off the catch in 2020 and 50th off the dribble.

Don’t know how often McBride will encounter smaller guards he can pick on in the post, but the ability is there. Maybe that has less to do with size than personality; despite his great height and length, Frank Ntilikina has taken fewer fadeaways four years into his career than McBride does in this one clip.

McBride doesn’t project as an elite playmaker. Someone like Sharife Cooper is more likely to pressure the rim or make a great pass. But with McBride’s jumper and setting on auto-attack mode, he’s able to find teammates when they’re open. They may not always come through, but at the NBA-level this is a tailor-made pick-and-pop opportunity.

From his freshman to sophomore seasons, McBride’s assist percentage rose from 17% to 29% while his turnover rate fell from 12% to 11%. He’s an aggressive player but not one who’s out of control; here it’s his patience and willingness to syncopate that creates the assist.

Another concern with McBride is that in addition to his subpar-by-NBA-standards height, he’s also an average athlete by professional standards. Only 21% of his shots came at the rim; he made 60% of them, not an elite number. Even when he hits the game-winner in the clip below, look at hard McBride has to work just to get the shot off.

Yahoo’s David Vertsberger did such a good job crystallizing the concerns regarding McBride that I’ma just share what he wrote in June:

“McBride’s play-type leans more towards scorer and secondary playmaker, things every team needs but ideally from players of different builds. At 6-foot-2, McBride is built to play point guard, and while he shouldn’t be too costly mismatched on the defensive end, he’s far from your traditional one. He listed his pick-and-roll game as an area for improvement, as he’ll surely be running plenty in the league, and can’t continually look to score each time. His average assist numbers aren’t backed by any reads or passes that inspire awe.

It’s perfectly fine if McBride is primarily a scorer at the next level, but we’ll need to see some more refinement first. His shorter build leaves less room for error, and he’s not winning any easy points with his athleticism. McBride has decent hops, speed and shiftiness, which can all look mediocre in the face of NBA explosiveness. His short-range pull-up looks good, but we need to see more of his in-between floaters, countermoves and shiftiness to tell how effective he’ll be.”

The early word was McBride only worked out for two teams, the Knicks and the Celtics, though recent word linked him at a Laker workout, too. With Marcus Smart one of Boston’s few tradeable assets, perhaps they’d look to land McBride as insurance in case they do move Smart. They’re not identical players — Smart is two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier — but McBride’s aggressiveness and ability to shoot could make such a trade more palatable to the Celtics.

I’m not sure how much the concerns over how “true” a point guard McBride is really matter as far as the Knicks. The team already has an offensive hub in point forward Julius Randle. If he’s drafted by New York, there’s less pressure on McBride to jump in and make the offense go than there will be for, say, a Jalen Suggs or a James Bouknight being drafted with a top-5 pick. If McBride can shoot about league average from the field and from deep, that alone would upgrade the Knicks’ biggest position of weakness last year. Undoubtedly Payton’s mental file after years defending NBA players gives him insights McBride doesn’t have yet, but if Deuce, as he’s known, can help the team as a backup guard who facilitates with the second unit and busts people up on the defensive end. In a few years he could be a two-way starter or a presence off the bench. I only pray five years from now we remember him for something more than wanting to spell McBride “McBridge.”