The TKW writers give their thoughts on a few key draft questions and pitch who they think the Knicks eventually take at nine.
The New York Knicks are between a rock and a hard place with their lottery-predicted position at no. 9 in the 2018 NBA Draft. Presumably, the franchise is on the outside looking in at the top-level prospects who will most likely be selected before New York is on the clock. However, draftniks say there should still be a bevy of solid prospects available for teams towards the end of the lottery grouping. Players such as Miles and Mikal Bridges, Collin Sexton, and Wendell Carter Jr. may be available for the Knicks at nine—and hey, maybe the ‘Bockers, under new leadership, will have a bona fide development program to turn their next lottery rookie into a legitimate role player, or something more.
With that said, let’s turn to The Knicks Wall writers, who will answer some draft-related questions and pitch their thoughts on tonight’s annual spectacle.
Assuming both Bridges are available at nine for the Knicks, who do you pick—Miles or Mikal?
Aaron Summers: There’s no wrong answer to this question for me. Both Miles and Mikal would fill the need for a wing and fit the criteria of what the team is looking to build with—guys that want to come in and take pride on the defensive end. I think both will be able to play equally well on defense, given their abilities to switch on multiple positions. One thing that David Fizdale did say, is that he wanted “long and tough” players with a high basketball I.Q. to help spearhead a much-needed culture change. For that reason—along with his shooting ability—I think Mikal is the better fit right now for this team. While I wouldn’t mind Miles at all, and actually think he’s the Bridges with the higher upside, I just think Mikal is the better fit for this particular team.
Clay Kaledin: The draft represents a test of faith for beleaguered Knicks fans—faith in the Mills/Perry front-office partnership, Fizdale’s ability to develop talent, and the overall shift in culture allegedly taking place within the franchise. Picking Miles with the ninth pick makes the statement that the Knicks themselves think they can get the reset right. Selecting Miles at nine ensures the talents of a switchable frontcourt player—perfect for a Knicks team that will feature a certain Latvian sliding between the 4 and the 5—who has shown steady improvement throughout his young career. It also makes a statement that the Knicks believe they can build a defense-first culture, and in turn, help mold an unpolished defender like Miles. Not to mention Miles certainly has the higher ceiling out of the two Bridges, and I trust that Fizdale and co. can help him reach that ceiling.
Harley Geffner: Everyone seems to be making the point that Miles has the higher ceiling than Mikal, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Mikal has shown steady improvement in each of his four years at Villanova and, though he is still lanky, take a peek at some pictures of him coming out of high school. I expect Mikal to put on some real mass with an NBA training regimen and, yes, I expect him to keep improving, despite his age (guys, seriously, just because he’s 21 doesn’t mean his ceiling is capped). People have stereotyped him as this 3-and-D archetype that every team covets, but Mikal did show some flashes of inside play to complement his superior outside shot. This gives me hope that he can one day become a multi-faceted offensive option, rather than just a guy you plug into lineups who hangs outside the three-point line. Miles was already an offensive option since he commanded the MSU offense, but a lot of his moves only worked because he was able to overpower his college defender. That won’t work as well at the next level, so I’m taking Mikal.
James Woodruff: As a very vocal fan of Trey “Iverson” Burke, I ended the season as an anti-guard drafting strategist. Given that the current roster has previously played with three guards anyway, I didn’t think it was necessary to add one more mouth to feed. I won’t cite how it’s a wing-centric league, as much as this team desperately needs depth at the small forward spot. However, I try to be flexible in my thoughts with the Knicks. Especially since we have a blank slate that will be without its main star all season.
Jared Hamburg: I keep going back and forth—one day I want Miles, and the next, Mikal. It’s not really a question of fit, because they both fill the vacant hole at small forward. Versatility and tenacity are two hot words right now for both the Knicks’ front office and David Fizdale. I truly believe that both Miles and Mikal can play equally good defense—having a long wingspan does not inherently mean you’ll be good at offense or defense. It comes down to offense here, and how I envision this Knicks team playing. For this team at this time, my money is on Miles. Best case scenario: Miles can play 2-5 on offense, and play solid defense from day one. If he reaches his ceiling, he could legitimately transform the Knicks’ offense. Worst case scenario: his jumper doesn’t improve, and he gets physically dominated by the NBA game, making him Derrick Williams 2.0.
Jonathan Macri: It’s a floor vs. ceiling question, with a sprinkling of “what do you value?” If NY feels like it needs a guy to help establish a defense that operates on a string as the bedrock of everything they do, not to mention to set a certain tone of professionalism and high I.Q. basketball, Mikal is the guy. If it’s purely about the highest upside with a player who, if he hits, can generate offense rather than simply facilitate it, its Miles. For this team at this time, my money is on Mikal. Worst case scenario: you’re getting a dude who could have played 35 minutes a night for any playoff team this year, and who you want on the floor in the last five minutes of a big game. I can live with that.
Tim Kohut: For me, this is a no brainer—Mikal all day. I get that a lot of people like Miles’ ceiling, but I think, for this Knicks roster, Mikal is the better fit. He can plug and play for day one, and his skill set is exactly what the Knicks need from their three man—a versatile defender and a guy who can knock down threes on offense. Unlike Miles, he has an NBA-ready jumper, and I think that bodes well for the free-flowing style Fizdale wants to play on offense. My dream scenario for when KP returns from injury would be a starting five of Ntilikina, Hardaway Jr., Bridges, Lance Thomas and Porzingis. It’s a long, athletic lineup that can switch on a whim, and has the length to get in disrupt passing lanes and create turnovers—something Coach Fiz himself stressed in his introductory presser. While Mikal’s ceiling might not be as high as Miles, 3-and-D guys are currently in vogue, which I think makes Mikal’s value at no. 9 even more attractive. And it also can’t hurt to bring in a guy that just won an NCAA Championship—especially when you’re attempting to implement a winning culture from the ground up.
Tyler Marko: I’ve been easily swayed by arguments from proponents of both. My instinct the last few years has been to take the younger player with the higher upside. But it comes down to one question: do you believe that Fizdale’s staff will be able to properly develop Miles? If so, I think it has to be him. That’s not to say I’m against Mikal—his length and experience in college could be invaluable to Fizdale in his plans to embrace a position-less style. However, I can’t help but feel like he would be better suited for a team that’s further along in their rebuild. It reminds me a bit of the debate around the New York Giants in this NFL draft—do you take the guy who’s ready to contribute, like a Mikal Bridges or Saquon Barkley? Or do you take the guy with the upside who might not be ready right away, like Miles or any of the first-round quarterbacks? I personally didn’t like the Barkley pick, but if the Knicks select Mikal, I certainly wouldn’t be upset. I’m just trying to roll with the punches here.
The Knicks have been heavily featured in mock drafts to select Collin Sexton or Trae Young, two lead guards. Is selecting a point guard at no. 9 foolish, and can you talk yourself into one of Sexton or Young?
Aaron: To be honest, I’m just not a fan of nabbing either. Drafting a point guard just doesn’t make much sense if you ask me. If I did have to choose between the two, I’d choose Trae Young. But if I had to choose between Young, and who is going to be available at other positions, I’m going with the field. Right now, I think the need at other positions is more important than the best player available at point guard.
Clay: I would hope that the Knicks put enough stock in their young backcourt players to look beyond the guards available on draft day. If Fizdale is serious about investing in Dotson and Mudiay (and Frank at the point! please!), bringing in yet another young guard to fight for minutes doesn’t make much sense. That being said, if has to be a guard I want Trae Young. Even if the undersized 19-year-old never pans out as a superstar, a shooter of his caliber can find a way to be a valuable piece on a winning team. A Ntilikina-Young backcourt makes a bit of sense on paper, with Frank’s length and defensive ability mitigating Young’s obvious shortcomings. Adding Trae could add a whole new dimension to the Knicks. I’m not sure how Sexton has the same effect.
Harley: Trae Young is one of the rare cases in which I believe the jump to the NBA will actually be beneficial to his game. His extremely long range will benefit from NBA spacing, and if he hits a few 30-footers (which he is definitely capable of) in the first 15 games of the season, defenses will have to start game-planning around him. This would, in turn, unlock a lot more options for other Knicks. He may be the only prospect in this draft who would be able to step in and immediately create extra space for KP to work with (other than Doncic). That alone should be valuable enough to talk ourselves into Young. His defensive limitations are definitely an issue, and not consistent with the culture Fiz and our front office is trying to build, but what better way to introduce a bad perimeter defender to the league than to play him next to one of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Ntilikina. If we were to draft a point guard, it’s got to be Young. Hard pass on Collin.
James: For whatever reason, a lot of pundits are in favor of the Knicks drafting a point guard. I can’t tell if it’s perhaps they have little faith in Frank or, like some of us, believe he should be playing the 2. Whatever the case, Trae Young has been the guy that has changed my mind. A few weeks ago, I was firm with my position: keep Trae Young out of New York. I just don’t believe he’s a generational point guard—and neither is Collin Sexton. To be honest, this class doesn’t have a single guard that I think will be a top 10 player five years from now. But true to Knicks fandom, I’ve been talking myself into the impending draft-night decision. And the more you think about all of the different scenarios related to free agency this summer and next, the more drafting Young at no. 9 becomes a fair Plan B.
Jared: I’m a firm believer in always selecting best player available. If Trae Young is there, I’d think about it, but I’d resist the temptation. Collin Sexton makes no sense—just, no. Regardless of what you think of Frank, Trey, Tim, or even signing Kyrie in 2019, it would be foolish to select a point guard at no. 9. They just aren’t the best players available.
Macri: As sexy as Sexton is (see what I did there?), he’s just not a fit for this roster. If he ever becomes the shooter and/or distributor that his notorious work ethic portends, he’s still a guy that needs the ball to be successful. Turning the keys of your offense over to an inefficient player who can’t function without the ball can set your franchise back years. If NY is going to draft a small guard (Sexton is actually shorter than Young), it should be the kid who defenses will have to game plan around from the moment he puts on an NBA jersey, is a natural passer, and sees things on the court that no one else does. If you like Sexton, ask yourself: is there any reason to prefer him to Trae other than his legendary competitiveness? I thought so.
Tim: I’m not a fan of the Knicks going point guard here, but if they truly think one of those players is of the “best player available” mold, then I guess I’d be O.K. with it. However, I think I speak for all Knicks fans here—let’s at least see Frank play some extended minutes as the lead guard before entertaining the idea of drafting another one. When he and KP were on the floor together in limited minutes, the two thrived, yet Jeff Hornacek seemed very hesitant to continue that pairing. Fizdale, presumably, will not do the same once Porzingis returns from injury. But back to Sexton and Young, if I had to choose one, I’d—without a doubt—go for Young. He’s the better shooter, and if Steph Curry’s game is any sort of indication, he could still thrive in an equal-opportunity offense the Knicks will most likely employ, unlike Sexton, who needs the ball in his hands at all times to be successful.
Tyler: The Knicks need a wing, but if they don’t like any of the ones who are there at nine, I could talk myself into Trae Young much easier than I can Sexton. Young’s shooting ability would be welcomed, and he and Frank Ntilikina’s skill sets have very little overlap, which could make them ideal backcourt mates. Let Frank lock down the other team’s main playmaker, while Young can take that role for the Knicks on offense. Young’s absolute best case scenario is Steph-esque—just imagine how fun that could be. I’m not in love with any prospects past the top five or so, that’s why I’m not opposed to the Knicks doing what has the potential to be the most fun.
Who’s the one guy you’re hoping could fall to the Knicks at nine, and who do you think the Knicks end up selecting?
Aaron: There are a few guys like DeAndre Ayton or Mo Bamba that I’d love to have, but they obviously won’t be there at no. 9. In a perfect world for me, Michael Porter Jr. drops to nine and we take him. I understand the injury questions, especially with his back, which is always a serious concern. But under the right tutelage, he has a legit chance to be a star, and his fluidity on the court would be a great fit with the direction Fizdale wants to take this team. Realistically, though, I think the Knicks get Mikal Bridges. If he’s there (which he should be), he does and has exactly what NYK is looking for.
Clay: I dream only of Doncic—there’s no way he falls to nine, but if the Kings and Hawks really screw this up and Luka falls out of the top three I want Mills and Perry making serious offers. A player I could actually see falling to the Knicks is Porter Jr., especially in the wake of his cancelled workout in Chicago last week. MPJ is a huge gamble given his health issues, but for a team that’s primed to win 25 games next season, I think his obvious talent makes it worth a shot. As stated above, I’m a Miles guy, but I think the Knicks wind up with Mikal when all is said and done. I’d be more than happy with Mikal—he’s a winner who’s a perfect fit for a team looking to build around length and defense.
Harley: I, for one, am praying that Michael Porter Jr. doesn’t drop to nine. He seems like the exact type of player who is fated to don a Knicks uniform for exactly three years in which he plays in a combined 55 games, averaging eight points and four boards on 39 percent shooting from the field. His upside is tantalizing, but the work ethic and character questions are just as legitimate as the injury ones. He’s a poor man’s Rudy Gay, and Rudy Gay is already a poor man’s Rudy Gay. What I am hoping for is that Doncic falls to four, and we do everything in our power to trade up with Memphis to take the man who will run the Knicks franchise next to his young European counterparts. I think the Knicks ultimately end up with one of the Bridges though. I’d be more than happy with either.
Jared: Mo Bamba—he’s going to transform the game. He is a transcendent talent. I’d still pick Ayton at no. 1, but I think Bamba is one-of-a-kind and has the potential to change the game the second he gets on the court. I’d love for him to fall to the Knicks, though it’s not going to happen. That said, I went to the Big East Tournament, and I focused almost solely on Mikal Bridges. Mills, Perry, and Dolan were also watching Mikal play at MSG. The reality is that Mikal lived up to the hype—and contributed on both sides of the floor. While I truly believe that the Knicks’ front office has no idea who they’re picking just yet, I think they’ll land on Mikal—someone I’d definitely be excited about. While I’d consider Kevin Knox and Miles, Mikal has a winning pedigree, maturity, a deep-ball game, and the physical attributes that the Knicks are supposedly looking for.
James: One of the biggest arguments that have swayed me is Trae Young’s potential as sidekick with Frank Ntilikina. The rook is getting swole this summer. People came for my neck a few months ago when I said he could easily move to the 2 or 3 and yet, here we are. That option is looking very possible with a new physique, and the option of drafting a point guard who has no issue shooting the rock. Having Trae Young as the primary ball handler and scorer, coupled with Frank’s hopeful leap in confidence offensively, will create a formidable 1-2 punch in the backcourt. Expectations must be tempered, however, because Trae Young is no Stephen Curry. But even if we get a poor man’s Curry from Trae Young, I’ll be happy.
Macri: Same answer for both, and it’s someone who I never would have thought I’d be saying this about a few months ago: Wendell Carter Jr. I’ve been a proud captain of the “build around KP” ship for a while now and thus dismissed Carter. Two big men? In this era of switch everything, pace-and-space basketball? No way. But then I watched the playoffs and observed how games were won with smart players making smart plays—guys who could move purposefully with and without the ball. A split second was often the difference between a successful defensive stand and a disaster. Carter is the type of big who you can run an offense through. He’d only further unlock KP’s game, not hinder it. Does he need to get a tad quicker with his perimeter D? Yes. But if that’s all that I have to worry about, I’m taking the plunge.
Tim: While I think a Mo Bamba and KP tandem could give the Knicks a modernized version of the Rocket’s twin-tower frontcourt pairing of Hakeem the Dream and Ralph Sampson, if Luka Doncic falls to number four, (which is entirely possible) I’d try to put together a package for the Grizzlies’ pick and take on Chandler Parsons’ albatross of a contract. In this case, both Joakim Noah’s and Parsons’ contracts will be off the books after 2020, freeing the Knicks up to get a marquee free agent to add to an enticing European-trio of KP, Doncic, and Frankie Smokes. Some slick maneuvering could make this scenario a lot more doable than most people think, and I think the Knicks would be foolish to not at least explore an avenue to acquire the Slovenian dime-dropper.
Tyler: I’ve been infatuated with my Slovenian son for over a year, and I’m not going to let a little thing like near impossibility stop me now. Some mock drafts have had Doncic falling as far as five to Dallas, but that’s just a stone’s throw from nine, right? Luka’s only time in America has been spent in Santa Barbara, California, but thanks to How I Met Your Mother, New York is the city he’s next most familiar with. Do you really think he wants to play in Sacramento, Dallas, or Orlando? No, Luka, pull a Kobe. Use the leverage that no other player in this draft has, and threaten to stay in Spain for another year if anyone but the Knicks want to draft you. Force your way to New York, and come play next to your friend Kristaps. Doncic would fill the Knicks’ needs for playmaking, shooting, and a wing player. The 19-year-old has already proved himself on the biggest stage in Europe, so lets make it happen on the biggest stage on Earth. Please.