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The 36th Pick: Who Should the Knicks Look at in the Second Round?

Photo: Bailey Carlin/TKW Illustration

In two days, Knicks fans will have a sparkly new lottery pick to complain about. But they also have a second-round pick, no. 36, left over from the ‘Melo trade, which also presents an interesting choice for Scott Perry.

The 36th pick doesn’t have an awe-inspiring history. Outside of 2017 PROY (Placeholder Rookie of the Year) Malcolm Brogdon, Omer Asik and Ersan Ilyasova are the best players to be selected at the slot in the last 20-plus years. That’s… not great, Bob. But don’t let the sad history fool you—there is considerable value to be had at that pick, especially in a draft class generally thought to be loaded with fringe first-round level talent deep into the second round.

If we look at the recent history of the 34-38 range, we can get a better understanding of the talent level usually available. This range is populated with many players who never have, and likely never will, play meaningful minutes. But since 2014, it also has yielded guys like Richaun Holmes, Spencer Dinwiddie, ex-Knickerbocker Willy Hernangómez, Tyler Ulis, Pat McCaw, the aforementioned Brogdon, and other role players like Frank Mason, Semi Ojeleye, and Jordan Bell.

So who are some options for the Knicks at 36? I’m glad you asked! I won’t pretend to know exactly who will be there—the draft always has its twists and turns, with players rising unexpectedly or falling tragically. We’re going to break it into three different tiers and look at three guys that fall into each category:

 

  1. Players once thought to be second rounders that have risen up draft boards.
  2. Players widely agreed to be around the general mid-30s range.
  3. Players slated for the back half of the second round who could hold sleeper value.

 

Alright, let’s get to it!

(Disclaimer: since space is limited, I’m not including guys like Grayson Allen, Hamidou Diallo, or Donte DiVincenzo, who have been discussed to death at this point).


Tier 1: Just Out of Reach—Or Are They?

Elie Okobo: Okobo is one of my favorite guys in the draft. The greatest tragedy of this year’s pre-draft process is the 6’3″ French guard, who will likely parlay a strong run in the French Pro A League’s playoffs, including a 44-point explosion against former NCAA folk hero Aaron Craft, into a late-first-round selection. He’s more of a natural scorer than a distributor, but he’s big, plays gritty defense, and is an above-average athlete and shooter. What more could you want?

Anfernee Simons: The 19-year-old is entering the NBA with no college experience, which makes him a bit of a mystery man. But Simons is a 6’3″ point guard who can score from all levels, has a 40 inch vertical, and a herky-jerky shot creation similar to what we expected from Markelle Fultz. He’s very raw, very skinny, and his stock is all over the place, but either he or Okobo would make an interesting backcourt pairing with Franky Smokes.

Josh Okogie: An athletic monster, Okogie is slightly undersized for a wing (6’4″), but makes up for it with a seven-foot wingspan, great defensive instincts, and an ugly, but effective jumper. He overlaps with guys like Lee, Dotson, and Baker but holds a ton of potential.

Tier 2: The Goldilocks Range

Melvin Frazier: The Knicks could continue to round out their wing rotation with the almost-22-year-old from Tulane. The 6’6″ small forward is a hounding, tenacious defender; an explosive athlete who bumped his 27 percent three-point shot as a freshman up to a respectable 39 percent clip on three attempts per game his junior year. He’s not much of an off the dribble shooter, but he’s managed to improve his assist average each year, going from 0.7 to 1.5 to 2.9 (per Sports Reference). Frazier is also an above-average pick-and-roll facilitator for his position.

Moritz Wagner: Another Michigan guy that can hang out with Timmy and Trey, and another European stretch big to hang out with KP! Mo shot 39 percent from three the last two seasons. He’s 6’11.5″ with a seven-foot wingspan, but he doesn’t parlay that size into great rebounding skills. He also definitely isn’t anchoring a defense, but Wagner could make for some funky pairings with the Unicorn in a five-out hybrid bench unit. He gives off Frank Kaminsky vibes.

Kenrich Williams: A 3-and-D senior from TCU, Williams is a smart, dedicated defender that has turned himself into an impressive shooter and passer. A classic brains over brawn upperclassmen, he should be able to contribute from day one, although Williams isn’t young or athletic enough to have major upside.

Tier 3: Safety Schools

Bruce Brown: Last year, Brown was considered a lock for the first round, but largely disappointed before having season-ending foot surgery. A true jack of all trades, master of none, Brown is a multi-positional defender with above-average rebounding and distribution skills but worrisome shooting. He could become an impact player, but needs to lock himself in a gym and work on his three-point shot all summer.

Jarred Vanderbilt: One of the best rebounders in the draft and a genuine grab-and-push threat off a defensive board, injury concerns and a Ben Simmons–esque lack of shooting (0.0 percent from three on 0.1 attempts per game in the 14 games he was able to play this season at Kentucky) present major red flags. He could eventually become a five-position lockdown defender in the mold of Draymond Green–lite (or, perhaps more realistically, Lamar Odom–type) secondary distributor. He could also very well be out of the league in two years.

Isaac Bonga: A super young (still 18 years old) draft and stash guy, Bonga is a point-wing who is genuinely smooth with the ball in his hands. At 6’9″ with a reported wingspan of just a hair under seven-foot, he’s not overly long, but Bonga offers a high ceiling as a versatile defender. His three-point percentages seem to oscillate from mid-20’s to mid-30’s, but he shot 90 percent from the free-throw line for most of this year, hinting at the promise of better shooting from distance given time and the right coaching. This dude is all potential but will require a massive amount of dedication and work to reach it.

This is nowhere near a complete list. As is the case every year, some prospect considered to be a first-round lock will probably drop, and even if they don’t, there are plenty of other interesting guys like Rawle Alkins, Jalen Brunson, or Kevin Hervey for the Knicks to look at. The second round has become a great way for teams to stock up on bench wings (guys like Wes Iwundu, Dillon Brooks, Sterling Brown, Josh Richardson, Norman Powell, Pat Connaughton, and Cedi Osman have all played major minutes for their respective teams, and that’s just from the past three drafts), which should hold appeal for a team desperate for wings taller than 6-6. This selection shouldn’t be overlooked by Perry and company seeking to retool New York’s roster.

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