The Knicks may be gearing up for a playoff push, but it’s not too early to be looking at the impact players in March Madness.

March is right around the corner which means you need to get your sharpies out and your brackets printed. You may be wondering what this means for you as a Knicks fan; well, it means a whole lot of basketball to watch. There is no better time for college basketball fans and there is no reason NBA fans can’t also get in on that action. Most years, fans of The Association tune in to see the top lottery picks in June’s draft dominate their respective conference tournaments leading into the big dance in late March.

That will not be the case this year as the nearly guaranteed top two picks will be playing in the G-League and the LNB Pro A league in France, respectively. Not only will Scoot Henderson and Victor Wembenyama be absent from the madness of March, but the Thompson twins will continue their trek through the Overtime Elite League as well (available on Amazon Prime). The top prospect in college basketball and potential Naismith Candidate Brandon Miller is currently muddled in a controversy that puts the rest of his season at risk, and at the very least makes it a little harder to watch.

So, without all of these potential top-five picks in college basketball in this year’s College Basketball Season, where does that leave us for March Madness? In one of the most open NCAA tournaments that we have had in years, with NBA prospects up and down the seed lines and exciting narratives intertwined throughout.

The players we have to watch do not start just on Selection Sunday, as we are currently amidst the last week of the regular season, with rivalry games and conference seeding games aplenty. There will be no lack of drama and intensity throughout the college basketball seasons as underperforming blue-bloods and overachieving mid-majors all fight for their place in the bracket. Up and down these various conference tournaments are young kids trying to prove their value in the NBA, and in a draft filled with parity from the top to the middle, there is nothing but room to climb up draft boards.

As a Knicks fan, you need to account for a couple of different variables that may impact your viewing of the prospects through your Knickerbocker lens. Before you put on your Leon Rose hat and start fantasizing about all of the potential high-end role players in this draft, let’s take a little refresher on the Knicks’ current and future draft capital:

In the 2023 draft as it currently stands, the Knicks have one draft pick. If the Wizards were to win some games and/or win their play-in games, the Knicks could theoretically receive their pick that is 1-14 protected. The Knicks traded their own first-round draft pick for Josh Hart, leaving them with just the Mavs pick which would currently convey as the 18th pick of the draft. While you should continue to root for the Wizards to win and the Mavs to lose, their draft capital is never set in stone. Throughout Leon Rose’s tenure, he has been extremely liberal with his movement on draft night moving up, down, and out of picks altogether. This has been a trademark of this front office regime that has landed players like Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes with late first-round picks acquired on draft night.

While we don’t know exactly where they will be drafting we can assume they will end up with one or two picks in the back end of the first round, so focusing on phenom Freshmen like Jarace Walker may not be the best use of your time (although Walker and his Houston Cougars are as fun to watch as anyone in college basketball). You also need to think about what the Knicks need and their roster construction as it currently stands as well as their future pieces.

Your mileage may vary on what you personally want and think the Knicks need to round out their core. You can even argue about who their core is, and if you are reading this, you probably have. I am not here to debate with you on the future of Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, or RJ Barrett. I think we talk about them enough on this site as well as the twitter dot com, so here are just some guys to enjoy in college and dream about making an impact in orange and blue.

For this conversation: I will be focusing on shooting, a skill the Knicks have been chasing for years and can always use more of. The creation ability we have seen this year brought by Jalen Brunson and All-Star Julius Randle has sparked the offense for the whole team and we have seen role players like Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley fit nicely next to those guys. There is a litany of talented shot creators and shot makers in this draft that could find their way into the Knicks’ range. So, let’s take a look at who you should be focusing on during the next month of college basketball.

Kris Murray

Let’s start with someone you might be familiar with: Iowa’s 6′ 8″ sharp shooting wing that is rising up draft boards given his performance in a bigger role. Now you may be thinking of last year’s fourth overall pick: Keegan Murray, but this is his twin brother Kris. The lefty wing has put up eerily similar numbers to his brother in the absence of the younger twin on a highly competitive Iowa Hawkeyes team that is still fighting for seeding in an uber-competitive Big 10 conference that Joe Lunardi currently predicts will have nine teams in the upcoming big dance.

The big-bodied wing is not exactly the same caliber of prospect as Keegan and that is the reason why he will not go nearly as high in the draft as his twin brother did last year. He also is a year older now and will be 23 years old before he ever plays a game in the NBA which does make a difference when looking at these prospects with the microscopic lens as we do for the draft.

So: besides the age, why would Keegan be such a vastly better prospect than Kris? Wouldn’t Keegan’s 12 ppg as a rookie on over 40% from beyond the arc on nearly six attempts per game be a pretty good selling point for his left-handed doppelganger later in the first round?

Well, Keegan was a more heliocentric player at Iowa when they played together, the numbers suggest that Kris has taken an extremely similar role. He has done so with less efficiency and overall productivity. He averages three points less per game but the rest of his averages and counting stats are very similar. The differences come from how they get their points, as Keegan had a more complete on-ball scoring game.

Only 30% of Keegan’s shot attempts in his sophomore year at Iowa came from deep, whereas Kris’ takes over 41% of his total shots from beyond the arc. He also shoots less effectively from deep than his brother who is now shooting 40/45/80 splits in Sacramento. Kris is only 34% from three but is doing so on nearly seven attempts per game on insane degrees of difficulty with defenses focusing on him at a high level. Kris is a three-level scorer but has leaned into more off-ball scoring compared to the self-creation from the perimeter. He has a deep bag of creative finishes at the rim along with improved development of movement shooting.

While the shooting splits and advanced stats are not as impressive as his brother’s, they are incredibly impressive for where he is currently being projected in the draft. He, as much as anyone on this list, is likely to blow up with high-scoring performances throughout the rest of his Big 10 season, Big 10 tournament, and March Madness. Do not be surprised if the internet is talking about Kris Murray after a 30-point game in the upcoming weeks.

The Hawkeye Junior is one of those players that will benefit from having a different role in the NBA than he does in college. He has a high usage in Iowa City but will likely be used more as an off-ball shooter at the next level. He has shown flashes of movement shooting in college that project him to be a good catch-and-shoot player. His splits show good projection to shooting in the NBA, specifically the improved free throw percentage. While his three points shooting dipped from 39% to 34% over the last year, that has come on nearly doubling attempts per game with a significant increase of defensive attention.

This usage has helped with his development as he has gotten better in all three years as a Hawkeye. This is clear in not only his counting stats but his shooting profile and usage rates. The more he has been used in college, the more he has been able to contribute. That should help him to adjust to various roles as he has been used in various ways throughout his college and will be one of the more malleable wings in the class.

On the other side of the ball, Murray brings good size and positional versatility. With a strong frame and nice length, he is a good on-ball defender that can switch on screens and defend multiple positions. He brings weak-side rim protection along with being able to guard up and down the lineup. He is averaging 8 rebounds a game, and similar to his brother is a great rebounder for his size. This versatility on both sides of the ball builds an extremely productive role player at the next level.

Kris Murray does not project to be a star at the next level, but he gives size, defensive versatility, shooting, and rebounding. That sounds like a player that helps every team in the league and would fit perfectly with what the Knicks are looking for going forward. Another wing that can defend and shoot off the catch is what the Knicks should be looking for and the 22-year-old twin should be able to come in and contribute right away.

Jordan Hawkins

As the year has gone on, Jordan Hawkins has climbed up big boards and received the majority of the attention for the UConn Huskies. Not only has Hawkins become a trendy late first-round projection, but someone attached to the Knicks on more than one mock draft.

If you were to pinpoint specific skills and sub-skills of players in this draft class, there are few more impressive individual traits than Jordan Hawkins’ off-ball shooting. The Connecticut Sophomore is shooting 39% from deep on seven and a half attempts per game. This is a player who takes 12 shots a game, meaning over 61% of his shots from the field come from beyond the arc and he is still hitting nearly 40%. He is an absolute flame thrower from deep and his 88% free throw percentage confirms the lights-out nature of his shooting ability.

Being able to shoot at the volume and proficiency is impressive enough in its own standing, but it gets more impressive the deeper you dive into it. Let’s first start with a comparison to Gradey Dick, the projected lottery pick Freshman out of Kansas that is widely considered the best shooter in the class. Dick is shooting 41% from deep, two percentage points better than the UConn Sophomore, but he is doing so on over one and a half threes fewer per game. Hawkins takes one more field goal than Dick in five fewer minutes per game but 62% of Hawkins’ shots come from deep compared to only 52% for Dick. Hawkins also is a better free throw shooter than Dick this season with nearly identical true shooting percentages.

This is not to say that Hawkins is a better prospect than Dick, as the 6′ 9″ frame the 19-year-old Kansas wing brings a frame that NBA front offices will be drooling over. Hawkins is a few inches shorter at 6′ 5″ but the 20-year-old wing has a legitimate case for being called the best shooter in the draft class and is without a doubt the best movement shooter in the draft.

The raw shooting numbers that Hawkins has is impressive enough on their own, but when you look at how he creates his shots, it completely changes the narrative around Hawkins. The degree of difficulty with which Hawkins shoots is near the top of this class especially considering how he gets to those spots. He never stops moving and is constantly running and relocating to find his shots, he has a quick trigger release that allows him to shoot with defenders in his face.

The UConn wing runs with reckless abandon in a way that creates space from pure exhaustion for defenders if nothing else. Hawkins’ fluid motion allows him to weave in and out of traffic running off screens and baseline to baseline to find the smallest openings to create his shot. He has the ability to attack a closeout or create on his own when defenders overcorrect to prevent his jumper, and his propensity for knocking down even tightly contested jumpers does warrant that much defensive attention.

UConn has had an up-and-down year this season jumping all the way to the top of the rankings before regressing to the mean near the back end of the top 20. They will be a fun team putting on show-stopping high scoring offensive performances throughout the Big East Tournament and hopefully deep into March.

The Huskies will likely be a top-four seed hoping to make a splash, and Jordan Hawkins will be no small part of that. He will get a chance to play where the neon lights are brightest as the Big East Tournament will take him to the Garden. We have seen UConn shooters get hot in that environment before and Hawkins will have a chance to get people talking.


There are not many shooters in this draft class than Jordan Hawkins, and that number dwindles when you are looking at his off-ball scoring prowess. He is an absolute flame thrower and has as versatile of a shot diet as you could hope for at the college level. He is a high-level spot-up shooter who is just as dangerous no matter how he gets to his shot and will shoot at will. He is a high-level off-ball mover and can relocate to get those shots off quickly with deadly accuracy.

The Knicks can and need to continue adding shooting, and there are few better options in the 2023 draft class than Jordan Hawkins. While the core is meshing together, outside shooting is something that is still needed on a more consistent basis. We have seen Leon Rose target shooting at the end of the first round in previous years with Quickley and Grimes, and Hawkins would be one of the best options available if he is looking to go that route once again. Not only can Hawkins shoot at an elite level but he can shoot in many different ways and do a lot without the ball in his hands, something the Knicks can certainly use.

Maxwell Lewis

Unlike most of these players who will have a chance to take their teams into the promised lands in March, Maxwell Lewis’ college basketball playing days are numbered. Whereas these other players are on teams with high pressured situations trying to compete on top-ranked teams, Lewis is on a struggling Pepperdine team with astronomically low odds at any post-season performances.

The Waves out of Malibu are just 9-21 which is good enough for last place in the Western Coast Conference. That means they will be the ten-seed matching up with the seven-seed Pacific in the completely rational and logical WCC tournament.  So while we may not have as much time to enjoy Lewis, I am sure he will be making the most of this opportunity. Who is to say that we won’t get some March magic with a Pepperdine run through the WCC?

If Pepperdine does make any noise in their Las Vegas conference tournament, Max Lewis will be the reason why. He is a dynamic shot-maker with an incredibly high offensive ceiling. The 6′ 7″ Sophomore has an absolute arsenal of dribble moves that allow him to get to his spots and get off shots. He is averaging 17 points a game on 47/35/79 shooting splits out on the Malibu beaches with a three-level scoring game that has developed over the course of the season.

Lewis is a tough shot-maker that has shown an over-reliance on taking tough shots. He is able to get to them however due to a deep bag of dribble moves and some of the more impressive shot-creation ability in this draft class. There is a level of skill that he shows in his offensive game that is extremely enticing when considering how much more room he still has to develop.

You will likely not read a profile or article about Max Lewis that fails to mention that Jalen Williams was a rising prospect in last year’s NBA draft from the same conference. Now that Jalen Williams has taken the NBA storm, that will only help the comparison and in turn, Lewis’ ever-rising draft stock.

Lewis is a different kind of prospect built mostly around his self-creation ability, but there are enough similarities given the length and athleticism both late bloomers put on display in the Western Coast Conference. One of the more appealing aspects of Lewis’ story is late to the game Cinderella story While this is a perfect allegory for March Madness, it also shows a blank slate of room to grow for the young wing.

The 20-year Sophomore is a legitimate three-level scorer, he nearly floats down the lane with a burst of athleticism and puts pressure on the rim that translates wonderfully to the NBA level. He is a 35% three-point scorer that can get to his shots in a plethora of ways, he has a mid-range game that he can get to consistently off of his dribble moves. He has good positional size to get to his spots and can use his athleticism to get off his shots.

He shows a high level of body control and creativity that allow him to finish at the rim after use of herky-jerky stop-and-go athleticism. His use of his body and athleticism are positive signs to translate to the next level because it shows his ability to score against bigger defenders. He can get by defenders in creative ways and finish around the basket with either hand.

Another area of development that Lewis added to his game after coming to school was his playmaking. He increased his assists from 1.2 to 2.8 per game and has shown the ability to make reads out of the pick-and-roll as well as off of live dribble passes. He has shown the ability to attack a closeout and this year has added the ability to pass off the drive.

While he will not be a primary playmaker at the next level, that secondary and connective passing adds another layer to an incredibly complete offensive game. Lewis has shown the ability to develop and improve on his weaknesses and that continued growth trajectory has to be enticing to front offices around the league.

The world would be rooting for Max Lewis if Pepperdine is able to get anywhere close to St. Mary’s or Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament. Even if they are unable to make magic happen, there is nothing to take away from what Max Lewis has done to improve his game and raise his draft stock throughout the year.

Knicks fans around the world would rejoice if they got a creative three-level offensive scoring threat with room to grow and expand his game. If J Dub is any example, it is clear lower-level conference players can make an immediate impact on the NBA and the Las Vegas native might be the next player to prove that.

Dariq Whitehead

Very few players have had more interesting years than Duke’s former top prospect: Dariq Whitehead. Whitehead came into the year as a consensus top-ten pick and a top-three player from his high school class from nearly every conceivable outlet. He was recovering from a foot fracture that kept him out the first two weeks only to re-injure his leg again in January. Unfortunately, Whitehead was never able to fully find his rhythm and live up to the expectations thrust upon him out of high school.

Now, that is not to say he has not shown glimpses of who he was before he landed in Durham, but there have been more questions than there are answers. Prospects like Whitehead are harder to analyze than typical prospects because while draft projections are always a crap shoot, you don’t even know how many dice you are going to have with someone like Whitehead.

The Newark native is a lights-out shooter that has started to get it going in conference play with low volume and a low usage role. Through his first 50 three-pointers in ACC play, Whitehead made an impressive 25 of them. Whitehead came into the year with a reputation as a tough shot maker that can score off the dribble. He has not found the success he had in high school yet on Jon Scheyer’s uber-talented and underperforming Duke team.

The idea of Dariq Whitehead is fascinating because he has limitless potential if he is able to get back to what he showed in high school. That is a volume scorer that can control the game off the dribble and get whatever he wants in the pick-and-roll or in the midrange. He has a range of moves to get his shots off in the mid-range including step-backs and side-step dribble moves.

He moves well away from the ball and can score in a variety of ways. Whether it is off the dribble or coming off a screen, he has a smooth stroke and can get his shot in a variety of ways. He can create in unique ways coming off screens with fluid moments going right into dribble moves to create his shots and finish at the rim. The ability that Whitehead showed with that level of shot-making and the ability to create off the dribble and finish at all three levels was extremely impressive for such a young age.

The live dribble passing has been a strength of Whitehead over the years, he is a quick decision-maker that can torture people in the passing lanes if they overcorrect to stop him off the dribble. Specifically, Whitehead works well as a pick-and-roll ball handler with the ability to hit a rolling big for an easy basket.

The playmaking ability works hand in hand with his scoring chops as he is a high IQ player and can pick apart defenses if they overreact to his on-ball dribbling. As a three-level scorer that can make reads to hit kick outs as well as rollers, he has the ability to keep the defense on their toes.

One of the last things to come back for Whitehead has been his defense. He has yet to fully get back to form with his athleticism and that has prohibited him from being the defensive dynamo he was projected to be. With a 6′ 9″ wingspan and a strong frame, he can theoretically guard multiple positions and give versatility to what defenses can do in regard to switchability.

He is a hard-nosed physical defender that uses his body well and works hard to play a physically aggressive style of defense. The physical nature of his defense parlayed with the high IQ and awareness that he possesses helps him to intervene in passing lines and create havoc on defense. He is a solid help-side defender that has the strength to help in the paint and switch onto bigger defenders.

Unlike some of these other players that may be able to contribute right away as rookies, Dariq Whitehead is more of a project. There is more of a risk that comes with a player like Whitehead whose developmental trajectory was thrown off course by injuries. The Newark native is far from a sure thing but could pay off in a big way and may be worth the risk later in the first round.

While it may depend on your draft philosophy, the upside of the hometown kid has to be enticing to the Knicks’ front office. Whitehead is as talented as nearly anyone in the draft and taking a flyer on him can prove to have a tremendous return. His skill set as a connective passer and on-ball scorer would be beneficial next to the Knicks’ young core if it pays off.

The idea of Whitehead as a two-way three-level scorer that can play both on and off-ball is a pipe dream of what the Knicks need. He is going to take work and development and may not exactly be what Tom Thibodeau is looking for, but with the right development and rehabilitation from his injury, he has one of the highest ceilings in the entire class.

Jalen Hood-Schifino

The 6’6 Indiana Freshman has been one of the hottest names around the draft community as the college basketball season has progressed. The Hoosiers have been one of the better stories in college basketball with Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino leading the way to the second seed in the Big 10. JHS was not on the radar coming into the year but has impressed people with high-level playmaking at his size along with one of the best mid-range games in college basketball.

The 19-year-old Pittsburgh native is one of the best playmakers in this class and uses his size to see over defenses and brings a flair and panache to his passing that creates highlights. He has a high IQ and really strong instincts that help him to make smart reads to probe a defense.  He is a willing passer that can find the open man when defenses collapse but if they don’t, he has a dangerous enough offensive game to make them pay.

Jalen Hood-Schifino uses athleticism but not in the traditional sense. It is not blow-by speed that allows him to thrive offensively, but instead a change of pace and control of his body that helps him to get to his spots and score around the basket and shoot from the mid-range.

One of the most impressive traits that the talented Freshman possesses is the ability to let the game come to him. He is a smart player that plays with patience as he probes defenses and almost always makes the right read. Instead of forcing shots, he takes what the defense will give him and can do so in a variety of ways. The fact that he can be trusted to make the right read in live dribble situations at his age and role on the Hoosiers is extremely impressive.

With recent scoring outbursts, JHS has started skyrocketing up draft boards, and he has a chance to continue that trajectory with high-level of play going into March. You can see where the well-deserved hype has come from, specifically with the way he has abused potential Naismith player of the year Zach Edey in both wins over in-state rival Purdue. Those games have really highlighted his IQ in how he can take advantage of a team or player’s weakness defensively.

He wears teams down with a methodical approach, attacking over and over again and making the right read every time. What makes that offense really potent is his killer mid-range game. While he can finish with both hands at the rim and has a nice lay-up and floater package, the money is the mid-range for JHS. He is attempting three mid-range shots per game which is good enough for first among all prospects and he is connecting on 44.3% of them.

His size and skill allow him to get to that shot and shoot it over smaller defenders with ease and he consistently shows the ability to make the read on when to pull that shot versus attacking or passing. The offensive versatility that JHS possesses comes from equal parts skill and smarts. He is able to control the ball and use his body control and ball handling to create space for himself to make those reads and knows how to attack and leverage that space against defenders.

He is quick in attacking with various crossovers and dribble moves but also uses hesitations well to change the pace and keep his defenders off balance. He is able to control his body and keep defenders on his hip to attack defenders closing in on him and can take advantage of any space that they give him.

The way he is able to probe and investigate into the post-defense allows his creativity to shine through with his finishing ability. He can finish at the rim or over defenders and makes it incredibly hard for drop bigs as Zach Edey can attest to. The versatility of scoring and playmaking that JHS can take advantage of defenses makes him a threat to defenses at the next level.

The three-point shooting is a question with 36% from beyond the arc but only three and a half attempts per game. However, the pure shooting stroke from midrange and the fluid mechanics help instill confidence in a good if not great outside stroke in the NBA. It will be important that he can keep defenses honest to open up his dribble-drive game to allow for his midrange game to flourish.

There are enough positive signs for what he does well offensively that the outside jump shot does not need to be lights out for him to be an effective offensive engine at the next level. While it remains to be seen if he will be a primary ball handler in the NBA, his creation ability for himself as well as for others is likely to project to the NBA.

The intelligence that Hood-Schifino shows on both sides of the ball should help comfort teams on his ability to adapt to different roles and succeed in the NBA. While he is just 19 years old, JHS brings a poise of a much older and more experienced player. He is a smart decision-maker but is able to take advantage of situations he puts himself into because of his high level of skill.

He brings great size and versatility to both sides of the ball that allows creativity with how he is used schematically. That is something that helps his “draftability” when thinking about being able to put him in multi-guard units and play off of other creators to add additional playmaking and shot-making to any lineup he is in.

While another mid-range assassin might be redundant next to Randle, Brunson, and Barrett, more creation and shot-making is something that this team can use. JHS projects to be a high-level connective playmaker that can make smart reads and high IQ plays to help create easy buckets for himself and others. That along with his shooting touch and shot-making around the basket could really help create offense for a bench unit in the Knicks’ future.

No matter where they are selecting, there will be plenty of options available to the Knicks to help add additional shooting to their core. It remains to be seen if Leon Rose will choose to select anyone in the first round on draft night this year, or if Tom Thibodeau would be willing to play that potential draft pick. However, those things don’t matter at the moment, because March is nearly upon us and we have a month straight of high-octane college basketball: we sleep in May.

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