Contrary to popular belief, the NBA Draft’s second round still very much exists. It is a unique, far away land after pick thirty when many have turned off the draft. It’s a place where longshot dreams and career defining moments take place. Unknowns emerge, underdogs have their day and G-League rosters for the upcoming season are filled.
Most importantly, the Knicks do have a second round pick once again this season — No. 42 overall — and it’s a big chance to improve a roster that really needs it.
If history is anything to consider, it has been a very mixed bag for the Knicks as far as quality of players coming from their second round picks. The odd selection of Andy Rautins in 2010 and the whiff of Cleanthony Early in 2014 come to mind. On the other hand, the selections of Landry Fields in 2010 and Mitchell Robinson in 2018 were somewhat more successful for the Knicks. Last year’s second-round trio of Jericho Sims, Miles McBride and Rokas Jokubaitis certainly look promising.
It’s worth taking a look at players who could be on the Knicks radar in the second round and could get a chance to make an impact on the team. For all we know, the front office might just have another trick up their sleeve.
Here are five second round draft prospects who the Knicks could consider with pick No. 42 to potentially bolster the roster or at least fight for a spot on it.
Michael Foster Jr. (G League) Power Forward
Let’s start with a player not many have even seen play live until recently. Michael Foster Jr. decided to skip college and play for the G League Ignite. Foster’s numbers in his first professional season were pretty impressive as the 6’9” prospect averaged 14.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.
Originally from Milwaukee, Wis., Foster Jr. was originally a top-10 NBA prospect in high school before falling into potential second round status. He has also received some very interesting NBA player comparisons.
NBA G League Ignite head coach Jason Hart, when speaking to Jeff Goodman of The Field of 68 Media Network, called Foster Jr. a “right-handed Julius Randle.”
During the same interview, Hart broke down Foster Jr.’s game referencing his strong perimeter ability and his great impact working in transition.
Hart also compared Foster Jr. to Boston Celtics standout and former Tennessee Volunteer star Grant Williams in the way he could transition and find his place in the league.
Nathan Grubel of noceilingsnba.com even went as far as to say Foster Jr. could be the hidden gem in this year’s NBA Draft.
The hype is strong with this one.
From seeing Foster Jr. at the NBA combine, he appears to be a solid three-point shooter and great athlete but does need to adjust defensively in the paint to be able to deal with the physicality only the NBA can provide.
Trevor Keels (Duke) PG/SG
The Knicks really need a point guard.
However, there is also a very good chance they will not take one in the first round which means that Trevor Keels out of Duke could be an intriguing option in the second round. A combo guard originally from Clinton, Md., Keels led Duke to the Final Four last season and an ACC regular season title as a freshman.
The 6’4” guard averaged 11.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game last season, but saved some of his best performances for the latter stages of a long college campaign.
Keels shot just under 42 percent from the field last season but did struggle from the free throw line shooting just 67 percent.
There are some people who are down on Keels including Travis Branham of 247sports who gave the prospect a “D” grade among players who were making “high-profile stay-or-go announcements” earlier this month. Branham added that Keels will likely spend most of next season in the G-League.
The biggest knock on Keels has been his inconsistency and poor physical testing at the combine, but despite some reports of scouts suggesting he should return to Duke he is going to chase his NBA dream in this year’s draft.
Will the Mecca be in his future? Only time will tell.
Julian Champagnie (St. John’s) SF
Speaking of Madison Square Garden, we stay local for this next prospect. Brooklyn, N.Y. native and St. John’s alum Julian Champagnie is up next. Champagnie graced the Garden floor many times with the Red Storm during the Big East Conference regular season and conference tournament during his stint in Queens.
Last season, the 6’8” junior racked up 19.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in an always physical Big East Conference. It’s even more impressive considering he was coming after an impressive sophomore year where is averaged 19.8 points per game.
The biggest positive when looking at Champagnie’s game is ability to score from all three levels on the floor. His inside scoring, mid-range game and outside shooting are all very strong on the whole. One slight knock against him is the fact that Champagnie’s three point shooting percentage dropped from 38 percent as a sophomore to just 33.7 percent as a junior while his average attempts were almost identical.
The Knicks certainly needs some scoring and could look within their own city to help remedy the issue.
Justin Lewis (Marquette) SF/PF
Staying in the Big East, we turn to another garden dweller in Justin Lewis who played at MSG this past season at times with Marquette.
The 6’7” forward averaged 16.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game while shooting 44 percent from the field for the Golden Eagles under Coach Shaka Smart. This was a massive jump from his freshman season when he only averaged 7.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting just under 42 percent from the field.
Lewis at one point this season was seen as a conference player of the year candidate and was extremely versatile on the offensive end of the floor. He is also a great shooter for his size and seems to be trending upward at a very important time of his basketball life.
Another great attribute many see in Lewis is his fluidity and body control on the court. This skill can be rare for a player who just turned twenty years old back in April. His length has also made him a great on-ball defender, especially on the perimeter.
For a while now, many have compared him to another former Marquette star Jae Crowder who plays for the Phoenix Suns. If Lewis works on his consistency and can stay healthy, he might just reach those heights in the NBA as well.
Christian Koloko (Arizona) C
With rumors continuing to swirl on Mitchell Robinson’s future with the Knicks, it might be worth considering a replacement for him. Fittingly, the second round might be the perfect place to do it.
Christian Koloko is coming off of a very promising junior season with Arizona as he helped lead the program to one of its best seasons in recent times. A campaign that saw the Wildcats reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017.
Koloko’s role grew with the Wildcats each season he was with the program leading up to the 2021-22 season where he averaged 12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. The nearly 7’1” center also shot 63.5 percent from the field and a very impressive 73.5 percent from the free throw line.
If the Knicks find the need to place Robinson, Koloko’s athleticism, efficiency and upside could be just what the doctor ordered to fill that place on the roster. It’s just a question of whether he makes it to 42.
Now we wait...
All told, the second round has some really strong prospects in this year’s draft. The Knicks have some good options to choose from to help address some needs or add talent to the team. It will be up to the front office and Coach Tom Thibodeau to pick the right players that can get this team back to the playoffs.
Our job will be to try and stay up past our bed times to see who the Knicks select before falling asleep and having to check again on social media the next morning to remember who they actually picked.
Just another perk of the NBA Draft’s second round.