The Knicks have three top-40 picks in this year’s draft, and Nick Carannante breaks down the top players they should be looking at.

The NBA draft’s final outlook is starting to take shape, as this week saw players decide whether to return to school or remain in the draft. That distinction could be massive when looking at the end of the first round and who may be available in that range. One difference this year’s class presents compared to a typical year is the greatness in range for each prospect.

This class has a bad reputation for a lack of stars at the top, but it nearly makes up for that with the depth that it provides. That is where it becomes a little tricky because those players may have a more extended draft range due to how individual teams value them. Especially in a class filled with potential role players, mileage may vary on how valuable each individual skillset may be.

So, that brings us to the New York Knickerbockers. The Knicks have three picks in the top 40 fresh off of their playoff defeat to the Indiana Pacers. What you think they should be doing this summer depends on what you believe they need to do with their roster in a macro sense. There are decisions to be made about current free agents and what other directions to go with their veteran players.

While there could be bigger moves that impact the immediate need in the draft, the conventional knowledge would dictate a need for a backup point guard or a backup big man with the potential loss of Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency,

With both picks 24 and 25 in tow, I would not be surprised to see Leon Rose wheeling and dealing, whether it be moving up, down, or both. However, if those picks are both selected for the Knickerbockers, let’s look at some of the options that might be available to them. Most major media outlets logically have the Knicks taking one older, ready-to-contribute prospect and one younger, potentially higher-ceiling player.

So, we are going to look at those options you may be seeing in those mock drafts and those that you may not be familiar with. These are the ten names that the Knicks can and should target over the next month as they prepare for the NBA draft.

Carlton “Bub” Carrington – Pittsburgh

The 18-year-old guard is one of the youngest players in the 2024 draft class and that is one reason that he has risen up draft boards. The biggest selling point for the freshman from Pittsburgh is his pull-up shooting ability. While he only shot 32% from three on 6 attempts per game, he is a certified tough-shot maker and projects to be a much better shooter than that at the next level.

His ability to get to his shot at the mid-range or three-point level coming off a screen is as high as an individual skill as anyone in this draft class. He has a bag of creative dribble moves and step-backs to get into those shots comfortably. He also has shown high-level passing flashes that help project him as an on-ball playmaker. The creation ability out of the pick and roll is a really intriguing selling point for a young player who showed a lot of growth throughout his season and has only shown the baseline of what he could be going forward.

There are questions about his defense but he tested well at the combine with a long 6’8 wingspan on his 6’3 frame and he has spent much of his predraft process talking about his ability to be a solid and smart team defender. Looking at what the Knicks lacked this year in the playoffs, a dynamic playmaker would really help with someone able to get their own shot or create for others with or without Jalen Brunson on the court as they were really missing that without Julius Randle out.

2. Jaylon Tyson – California

Versatility is the name of the game in the modern NBA and few prospects in this year’s draft class represent that better than Jaylon Tyson.

Tyson is one of the more difficult evaluations due to his role in college and how that scales down into the NBA. He had an extremely high usage at Cal, where he was asked to do everything, which led to an extremely productive All Pac-12 season where he averaged 20 points, seven rebounds, and four assists per game.

He does not project to be a high-usage on-ball player at the next level, but he has shown three-level scoring ability with creativity that should help him be able to score in the NBA. While he does a little bit of everything, catch-and-shoot threes will be very important for his off-ball role. The 36% from three and 80% from the charity stripe he shot in his junior season are consistent with his three years in college basketball which projects well when looking at his shooting ability.

The three-point shooting is one aspect of his scoring but it is far from his only way to put the ball in the hoop; in college, he was able to use his size to post up smaller guards where he could score with either hand with great touch around the basket. He is a good athlete who is able to finish at the rim and get to the basket using very creative dribble moves. He was in a complex role at Cal where he was put in a point guard position with the ball in his hand for most of the offense, his ball-handling ability allowed him to thrive in that position as he as a hefty arsenal of creative dribble moves.

His deceleration and body control help him to get to his spots as a driver where he has a good floater game to supplement his pull-up ability off the dribble. That scoring ability at the college level opened up the passing for him, as he is a really accurate passer who was able to thread the needle and pass through tight windows to set his teammates up, specifically on cutters. He does not project to be a primary ball handler in the NBA, but he could be a connective passer and secondary playmaker who helps move the ball and makes high-level passes when given advantageous situations or after attacking a closeout.

Defensively, the 6’6 guard has good positional size and length which allows him to be a switchable defender guarding multiple positions. He is a smart team defender with good hands and was able to get in passing lanes to get deflections and steals, as well as help with weakside rim protection as a shot blocker. Jaylon Tyson does a lot of good stuff on a basketball floor and is going to make an NBA team very happy with high-level effort and contributions on both sides of the ball.

3. Tyler Kolek – Marquette

The Marquette guard is someone I wrote about many times throughout the year as he was one of the more impactful players in college basketball and a major reason that Marquette was a 2-seed this year. He was a maestro in the pick and roll, running Shaka Smart’s super-efficient offense and setting Big East assist records on any given night.

The concerns with Kolek are tied heavily to his physical limitations, which were not helped by his Combine testing. We knew he was small, but the 6’1.25 height and 6’2.75 wingspan did not do him any favors in that area, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Kolek is a really smart defender and works hard to be a disruptor, but it is hard to imagine a guard of his size would not be targeted on switches at the NBA level.

The big sell for Kolek however, is simply in his playmaking ability for others. He is an extremely high-level facilitator and game manager, a style of point guard rarely seen anymore. The lefty guard is able to probe in and out of the defense and set himself up for passes at tough angles and tight spots to show off his high-level passing ability. You can make a case that Kolek is the best pure passer in the class, and he loves to play with pace and set up his teammates for easy buckets.

As a scorer, he is a little more aggressive than you may expect for a table-setting small guard. He has a killer first step and is able to beat his man to the basket where he is an exquisite below-the-rim finisher. He is extremely crafty at the basket and will fit into many other stereotypes of a white guard scoring at the basket, but he does have a creative arsenal of finishing moves. What really allowed Kolek to be so effective for Marquette however was that shooting ability. Kolek shot 39% on 4 attempts a game this year but proved to defenses on more than one occasion that they could not go under on a pick and roll or he would make them pay. Given his size, shooting will be super important for the lefty guard, but his ability to shoot off of catch-and-shoot opportunities shows that he may be able to play with other guards as well. This is what makes him an interesting option for the Knicks as a hard-nosed guard who can run the second unit and create for his teammates.

4. DaRon Holmes II – Dayton

There are a lot of big men in this class who are intriguing prospects. You could argue that the center position is the most loaded position group of anything in the draft, with up to six bigs that may go in the first round, which is way up from the two who went in 2023’s much more celebrated draft class.

The five non-Donovan Clingan big men all bring different things to the table and each have an argument to be the second-ranked big in the class. Holmes’ case is built around his versatility and his ability to do a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball. The Dayton Flyer is a really good athlete and above-the-rim finisher who will finish plays with explosive dunks at the basket.

He is extremely effective in a pick-and-roll because he sets good screens and is a strong finisher at the rim when the ball gets to him, but he is not just a rim running big. At Dayton, he was used as an offensive hub for everything they did which allowed him to show off a lot of his passing chops. He forced passes at times that were not there, but he showed the ability to make high-level reads in the short roll or as a post-passer.

In college, he was not only used as a roll man but also loved to pick and pop as well. He shot 39% on 3 attempts per game in his junior season but only shot 31% the year prior on very few attempts and was even less his freshman year. As a 71% free throw shooter who showed growth in all three seasons at all levels of his shooting, I do believe the shot will be good and allow him to space a little bit. Defensively, he is a high-level shot blocker who is extremely active on that side of the floor. He is a good athlete and is able to switch out onto the perimeter to guard guards effectively and should project to be able to be a versatile big defensively, although he still needs to put on strength to be able to guard in the post. He offers a lot of different options on both sides of the ball and would give the Knicks some lineup versatility as a backup big man that would be able to contribute right away.

5. Ryan Dunn – Virginia

To say there are some causes for concern with Ryan Dunn’s offense would be an understatement, but the defense more than does enough to make him an intriguing prospect. The player you are most often going to see compared to the Virginia wing is Herb Jones, and while Dunn was not nearly where Herb was at Alabama on offense, he may even be a better defensive prospect which is saying something.

The major issue for Dunn will be if he is able to provide enough offense to be able to be on the court; if he is, he will be a high-level defender from day one. Dunn’s defense is arguably the best skill on one side of the ball of any player in this class, and nobody would be surprised if he becomes an all-defense kind of player in no time.

It is almost hard to describe the sort of impact that he had on defense in college, both as a team defender and as an individual stopper. He is a brilliant defender who knows his angles in a way where it almost seems as if he is controlling where the offensive player is trying to go on a given possession. He is a great athlete and super long, measuring with an outstanding 7’2.5 wingspan, and is able to cover a lot of ground and block shots at the basket as well as on the perimeter.

He is a very smart team defender who is able to blow up pick and rolls as well as switch onto anyone given his strength and IQ defensively. While Victor Wembenyama was the first rookie to ever make all-defense, I would not say that would be an impossible task for Ryan Dunn to make an all-defense team immediately if he were able to get enough time next year.

However, the offensive limitations may make that easier said than done. He is a smart cutter who does not try to do too much but also does not try to do a lot at all. In his two years at Virginia, he only attempted 51 threes and only made 12 of them putting him at 23% for his career at very low volume. He is a great athlete, an aggressive dunker who will try to put anyone on a poster in transition or off a cut. His finishing ability would be his best offensive skill at this time on offense along with offensive rebounding, but he was still only able to contribute 8 points a game for Virginia, albeit that was for an inefficient and low-scoring Virginia team that struggled mightily to score this year. So you would hope given a better offensive context, he would be able to find a better role.

His scoring numbers are not remarkably low in comparison to recent defensive-stopper prospects such as Matisse Thybulle or Herb Jones who were both around 10/11 points at their peak, but they were both in the 30s from 3 and at least in the 70s from the free throw line. Ryan Dunn shot 20% from three this season and only 53% from the line, which would be more than enough of a reason to question if the shooting will ever be at an NBA level. However, if you are to hope that with an NBA developmental system and shooting coach, you can help get that offense to a passable level, the defense is ready immediately and he would be a Tom Thibodeau dream prospect just working like crazy and defending everybody in front of him for 40 minutes a game.

6. Kel’el Ware – Indiana

Of the six big men who will likely be selected in the first round, none are more divisive than Kel’el Ware. It is hard to discuss Ware without discussing the context which he played where he was a highly-ranked recruit who struggled a lot in his freshman year at Oregon before transferring to Indiana and having a more friendly role in his sophomore season.

A friend of mine described his evaluation of Ware as “he should have went to Texas” and I think that is an apt description of the big man’s ability. The comparison you will see the most for the sophomore big is Myles Turner, but you may also see parts of Jarrett Allen, Jaxson Hayes, Mo Bamba, or even Jericho Sims when watching Ware play. The uber-athletic Texas big is an archetype that we have seen consistently over the last decade or so, and Ware is the next guy in that lineage even if he never stepped foot in Austin.

Ware is an insanely bouncy big man who will try to dunk on anybody and try to send shots into the stands on defense. Both of those are very aggressive and can be good or bad on a given play, but the athleticism is very real given how high he can get at his size. The swing skill for Ware will be his shooting which is the selling point for him as a big if you believe in him as a high-level prospect. He shot 42% from three on only 1.5 attempts per game and only shot 63% on free throws so there is some debate on how real that ability is. His shot looks pretty and he has good touch from inside the arc so it is fair to say that shot will not only translate but improve as he moves into the association. Similarly to Myles Turner who started shooting more, a few years into his career, there would be hope that Ware would get more comfortable and become more of a spacing threat as he gets older. He would bring another layer to the Knicks offense as a different look in the second unit as a shooter, while still being able to protect the rim on defense.

7. Yves Missi – Baylor

While players like Ware and Holmes are tantalizing prospects due to their versatile skill sets and the allure of a floor-spacing big man who can knock down threes.

Yves Missi is nothing like that, and that is okay. Missi did not attempt a three-point shot in his one season at Baylor, and he barely shot anything outside of the paint, or anything that you would even classify as a shot. He showed absolutely no ability to shoot at any level away from the rim, and he is still being considered a mid-first-round prospect, so what does that say about his at-rim ability?

Missi is a freak athlete who is extremely, extremely explosive on both sides of the ball. Missi measured at 6’10.5 with a 7’2 wingspan and also showed a 38.5″ max vert which was near the top of all prospects. The Cameroonian big man has only been playing basketball for a few years, so when looking at that growth trajectory, there is plenty of room for him to grow and continue to build upon.

The selling point for Missi as a prospect is the defense; he has great instincts but can be a little aggressive going for blocks and steals and bites on pump fakes. However, he does that because he knows he has the ability to block basically any shot. He is a great shot blocker as a help defender, but can also switch out to the perimeter and guard guards. After he gets a block or a steal, he runs the floor well and wants to finish with authority. Offensively, his skills are limited but his role at the next level would be clear, set hard screens roll to the rim, and finish any pass or lob thrown to him. His other skill that is sure to translate is his rebounding, he is an incredible offensive rebounder who is able to get put-backs and keep possessions alive. While Missi may be more limited in offensive role, he is young and raw, and his athleticism and physique made him a safe bet to be able to contribute. Clint Capela is the name you will see most often comparing Missi to, and that role is something that would be able to help the Knicks’ second unit.

8. Zach Edey – Purdue

Enough has been written about Edey’s historic performance in college basketball, and I wrote about him enough during the Purdue tournament run, that we do not need to relitigate the discourse about his dominance, foul drawing, or losing matchup with Donovan Clingan. If you would like to read into the empty gym shooting drills that Edey has participated in during the pre-draft process or the commentary from Edey about him adding shooting to his game. You could also break down his agility drills or other athletic testing to decide if you think he will be able to play in the perimeter.

Ultimately, we know who Zach Edey is and he has shown us plenty over his four years in West Lafayette. In his junior and senior Naismith award-winning seasons, Edey averaged 23.75 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. There are questions about what the 7’4 big man will look like in the NBA, and that remains to be seen because we have seen very few players of that size. The Canadian center just completed one of the most dominant and efficient seasons in college basketball history built around unbelievable touch and a set of post moves he can rely on. There are questions about what Edey will look like on defense, or what it looks like when there is not a heliocentric offense built around his presence in the post. However, there are no questions on if he will be able to score, he will. If the Knicks want to take the risk on the notorious big man, they will get a bench big man who will almost definitively be able to come in and contribute in the regular season next year.

9. Kyshawn George – Miami

The Swiss wing is an interesting case study of draft philosophy. George is one of the younger prospects in the class, and was not supposed to be a one-and-done prospect. Based on that framing, you may assume that he had such a productive freshman season that he rose up draft boards and had no choice but to declare.

That is not the case, however. There was not much production from the Miami wing but there is a lot of reason for projection. He only averaged seven points a game coming off the bench for the Hurricanes but he did shoot 40% on 4.2 attempts per game from beyond the arc. He grew up as a point guard in Europe before hitting a late growth spurt, giving him good playmaking ability as he is a willing and able passer. However, he does lack athleticism and burst hurting his ability to create separation and get his shots off. Defensively, he is long and there is potential for something, but right now, there is good effort. George is raw and would be a little more of a project but he is long with a good jump shot and some potential for more creation ability.

10. Tyler Smith – G League Ignite

Tyler Smith is another interesting case study coming from the newly defunct G League Ignite program. He is another highly theoretical player with impressive upside if you believe in the potential. Tyler Smith is long and athletic with an impressive 7’1 wingspan for his 6′ 9″ frame and a smooth-looking jump shot.

There is a lot of potential that comes from that sentence alone, and there is a reason he is being considered as a first-round draft pick. In his season with the Ignite this year, Smith averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds on 36% from three on nearly four attempts per game. The counting stats were not bad, but there are other questions about the jump shot. He is a stand-still jump shooter who can get his shot off over smaller defenders but struggles off of movement and did not show much ability to shoot off of the dribble.

The Ignite did not give him a ton of opportunities to show his skill or put him in the best context to succeed. If the shot diet was more diverse this year, there would be more belief in the jump shot, but the free throw percentage was sub 70% and the three-point shot prior to the ignite when playing for Overtime Elite was always in the low 30s. If that shot is real and consistent, you have a very interesting base of a long and athletic big that can space the floor.

If not, there are more questions, but he is still an explosive athlete who can finish at the rim. He will try to dunk everything in sight, and when he gets going, he can put on an impressive scoring outburst at any point. Defensively, there are some tools there, as you would have from a long athletic forward, but he has a lot to show that he knows how to defend without being completely out of position. Defense was a major concern for Smith this season but on a team that went 2-32, there is at least some contextual excuse. Smith does not look like he will be ready to contribute immediately and may spend more time in the G League, but the hope would be in the right system, he would be able to develop into an impactful role player given the upside that comes with his natural talent.

The Knicks do not only hold picks 24 and 25 but also pick 38. There is a world where somebody falls that they consider in the first to be there in the second round, but there are other potential role players that will likely be able to contribute from those picks.

Other Guys To Watch:

Dillon Jones- Weber State

Ajay Mitchell- UC Santa Barbara

Jonathan Mogbo- San Francisco

Harrison Ingram- North Carolina

Oso Ighodaro- Marquette

The Knicks are in an interesting position considering they are in a place to continue contending and have to use those picks to try to be better now. However, they are also armed with 3 fairly valuable picks in an attempt to restock the now fairly bare cabinets of young players in the organization.

After recent trades of former top draft picks, second-round picks Deuce McBride, Jericho Sims and (if he ever comes over) Rokas Jokubaitis are the only Knicks draft picks still on the roster from the Leon Rose era. The Knicks have built a contender from smart trades and good free agent signings, but now have the opportunity to continue improving themselves. Those picks have value as trade assets and I would not be surprised to see them moved, but the Knicks also have the chance to go get players that can contribute now or develop long-term. The greatest weapon for the Knicks going into this draft is versatility, they are not tied down to any positional need, or developmental expectation. It is on this front office to consider all of the options and go find the combination of picks to come out of draft night better than they started.