The Knicks possess the 12th pick in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft and could come away with a contributor for either now or down the line (along with their 11th overall pick).
Much has been made of what the New York Knicks should do with their 11th pick in this year’s draft. Should they trade up? Down? Stay put? The top of this year’s draft is as uncertain as any we’ve seen in recent years, and not just for the Knicks.
But the Knicks also have a second-round pick they need to figure out what to do with. If history has told us anything, it’s that Brock Aller and company will likely look into some trade-back scenarios to maximize the pick’s value—that is, if they even keep the pick, which is no sure thing given how crowded the roster already looks. But if they do pick at 42, here are some potential candidates they could look at.
It’s not unreasonable to say that Caleb Houstan had the most disappointing year of any freshman in college basketball. Widely agreed upon as a lottery pick coming into the season following an incredibly successful high school career at Montverde where he won multiple national championships playing alongside the likes of Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, Moses Moody, Day’Ron Sharpe, Dariq Whitehead, and Amari Bailey. In that context, Houstan looked like the quintessential 3-and-D prospect, with his smooth jumper and good defensive instincts.
Things took a bit of a turn during last summer’s FIBA U19 run for Team Canada. Houstan led a team with lottery-lock Bennedict Mathurin in scoring, as well as being second in assists and rebounds, but he struggled to find consistency playing as “the man,” shooting just 19% from three.
Still, there was a lot of excitement for him coming into the year. Unfortunately, his season at Michigan closer resembled his time with Team Canada than it did with Montverde. Again tasked as a primary scoring option, Houstan struggled with consistency all year, posting eight games with five or fewer points, including his two final games of the year, where he scored zero and five points, respectively.
His dearth of athleticism stood out, as he gets next to no burst as a leaper on either end, and his lack of core strength makes it hard for him to quickly regain balance on pull-up shots or hard closeouts. Almost every one of his misses is short, due to the aforementioned core strength issues and some funky lower-body mechanics, though his upper-body mechanics are pristine on jumpers. At this point in his career, Houstan is a pure one-level scorer, as he’s awful around the rim and has very little in-between game—he was in the 75th percentile as a spot-up shooter compared to the ninth percentile as a pull-up shooter, per NBA.com.
Simply put, Houstan comes into the league as a one-level scorer. That’s a tough road to walk for someone who isn’t AJ Griffin-levels elite as a shooter.
But there’s still reason to think he can find a role in the NBA. Despite having a down year, Houstan shot 35.5% from three on five attempts per game and showcased some solid team defense instincts. There is evidence that given an incredibly simplified role as a team defender and spot-up shooter, Houstan will be able to provide some value. He’s a quick ball-mover and active at moving without the ball to get to his shots. If he can clean up some of the mechanics going into his catches, there’s a solid, if unspectacular, bench wing hidden in the rough.
There’s some speculation that Houstan didn’t participate in the NBA Draft Combine because he has a promise from a team, which would likely indicate a late first-round selection, but it could also be that he didn’t want to test poorly in the athletic testing and further hurt his draft stock. Either way, the range he could be selected seems to be anywhere from the late-20s to mid-50s.
Speaking of draft range: while there may not be odds available on who the Knicks will draft in the first round, there are odds on who will be the first overall pick and Jabari Smith Jr. is the favorite. The majority of sportsbooks will have those odds open and fans who are wanting to get more than just their bet on the NBA Finals this month should see what the current promo offers are. You’ll be able to view more details here for the BetMGM one. Being one of the most popular sites, they are available for a handful of states. Good thing New York is one of them.
Dom Barlow is one of my favorite sleepers in this class. At 6’10” in shoes with a 7’3″ wingspan at just 19 years old, Barlow has great size for a forward. He’s not a great vertical leaper, which causes him trouble finishing at the rim and as a shot-blocker, but he moves really fluidly in the halfcourt, runs hard in transition, and has a beautiful-looking jumper. But best of all, he’s a really, really good passer for his size and age. He seems to map the floor well both in terms of getting to open space without the ball or for finding teammates as a passer, and his passes tend to be impressively accurate.
He has a weird tendency to lose the ball easily when attacking, which he’ll need to figure out, but as far as weaknesses go, that seems like a relatively simple one to fix, given his frame, which should be conducive to packing on muscle.
He shot 36.4% from three on 2.2 attempts in only 25 minutes a game, per RealGM, and given how often his Overtime Elite teammates missed him wide open in space, it’s safe to say that with better playmakers he could have easily been shooting four attempts a game. He tends to shoot at times without much lift from his legs, but if he cleans up his lower-body mechanics, there’s no reason he can’t be a high-level shooting forward for years to come.
I also came away impressed with how he uses positioning and quick hips to mitigate his athletic deficiencies as a half-court defender. Barlow went up against both of the Thompson Twins (Amen and Ausar, both projected top-seven picks in next year’s draft, and both some of the most incredible athletes the world has ever seen) and was able to effectively contain them in isolation fairly often.
OTE was an incredibly difficult scouting experience for a lot of people, but if Barlow had gone a more traditional route and played for one of the blue bloods, we would probably be talking about him as a top-20 pick. If he’s on the board at 42, the Knicks should jump at a chance to take him, as he gives them the semi-switchable stretch big they need to round out their frontcourt rotation.
Vince Williams Jr.
If there’s one thing we know about this front office’s drafting style, it’s that they like multi-year guys they think can defend and shoot. Enter Vince Williams Jr. Though a senior, Williams is only 11 days older than sophomore top-10 pick Keegan Murray. The 6’6 lefty is a tough defender who uses his 6-foot-11 wingspan and impressive verticality instincts to make up for what he lacks as an athlete. His shot growth over his four years is also impressive—after shooting 24% from three and 68.8% from the free-throw line as a freshman, Williams transformed himself as a shooter. He shot over 79% from the line each of the last three years and has shot 39.7% from three over the last two seasons.
He’s got a bit of a weird, dare I say Michael Kidd-Gilchrist-ian body contortion in his shot at times, which makes it somewhat less versatile than you’d like, but he makes up for it by being adept at hanging and adjusting in mid-air to get the shot off over contests and while falling away.
And like Barlow, he’s a really good passer. Williams consistently made the right simple reads, as well as some more advanced passes, and his three assists per game were second-highest on the team. He’s not just a passer, he’s a playmaker.
It’s worth pointing out that while Williams is a good defender, but he’s not a great one. He’s great in passing lanes and might be this year’s best transition shot-blocker among non-centers. That’s where his timing and instincts show out the most. As an on-ball defender, he is susceptible to blow-bys by quicker guards, but he’s big enough and should be able to put on enough muscle that he mostly sticks to threes and fours at the next level, rather than guarding up to the 2 or 1 spot.
As we’ve seen over the last few years, the thing that makes a 3-and-D wing really effective is being able to do something, anything, when run off the line. That’s where the appeal of Williams comes from on offense—he’s a lock to knock down the open looks, but he can also make plays when the defense closes out hard. There’s a chance the defense doesn’t work at the next level, due entirely to his athletic limitations, but I’d bet that he carves out a role for himself.
For our last candidate, we have by far the biggest project on the list, and maybe one of the bigger projects in the whole draft. If you’re getting Frank Ntilikina and/or Kevin Knox flashbacks at the word “project,” well, I can’t say I blame you. Given their track record with guys considered projects, I’m iffy on the Knicks taking another one, but there’s also something to be said for a roster as overstuffed as this one taking a guy they can just stash in the G League for a year, allow to marinate, and see what they have next season when some of the contracts expire.
Minott is really, and I mean really raw offensive prospect. Most of his buckets came around the rim, and he only made two threes all season. Out of 33 games, he only attempted a three in 12 contests, and only attempted more than one once. But the form doesn’t look broken, and he gets it off smoothly. It will require a bunch of work, but there’s some reason for hope that he can eventually be an O.K., if very low-volume, shooter, including the fact that he shot 75.4% from the free-throw line.
He’s also got the outline of an interesting passer. He’s not making flashy reads, but he does show some good instincts and nice touch on his passes.
But the real appeal with Minott is as a defender. At 6’9″ with a 6’11.75″ wingspan, Minott moves really fluidly while showcasing some impressive quick-leaping ability and high-level defensive instincts. Minott is one of the few players in the class who really has a chance to be able to guard at least four positions eventually, especially once he packs on some more muscle.
His per-36 numbers of 16.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.6 blocks paint the picture of someone who, if developed correctly, could impact the game in a lot of different ways. He goes against the grain of what this front office has seemed to prioritize in their picks over the last few years, but it’s easy to see the appeal if you squint a bit.
There are a lot of interesting players who might be available in this range. For the sake of this piece, I gravitated towards wings and combo-forwards, as the Knicks are currently overloaded with guards and centers, but here are a few more guys I strongly considered:
- Max Christie: Like Houstan, Christie had a disappointing one-and-done year, but he’s a really good defender who should be a solid-to-above average shooter. Unlike Houstan, Christie is probably firmly a two-guard until he adds strength, so his role would probably be a little redundant with Quentin Grimes.
- Jean Montero: Montero is one of the more intriguing guards in the class, and if he’s available at 42, the value may be too good to pass on him, even for a team with Immanuel Quickley, Derrick Rose, Miles “Deuce” McBride, Rokas Jokubaitas, and (nominally) Kemba Walker on the roster already. But front offices seem skeptical, and for good reason. He’s a pretty small guard, his shot comes and goes, and though he made strides, he needs a lot of growth as a playmaker. I still think he’s worth a late first-round pick and would be surprised if he’s here this late.
- Jaylin Williams: One of the more fun second-round bigs, Williams is a bursty athlete with really high-level passing reads. He only shot 25% from three, but if you believe in the shot coming around, it’s hard to imagine him not being a multi-year pro.
- Ryan Rollins: A funky, smooth, shot-creating guard who needs to prove that the shot is better than the 31.1% he shot from three this year. Big time frame, at 6’3″ with a 6’9 wingspan.
- Gabriele Procida: was covered here by the inimitable Nick Carannante.
- Andrew Nembhard: The consensus Tyus Jones heir-apparent, Nembhard has all the makings of a career super-sub backup point guard. Any team that drafts him will value him, but how high a selection is that worth in the draft?