Despite staying at the projected ninth spot in the draft, the Knicks will have the tough decision to select talent for their team—what are the strengths and weaknesses of some prospects?
New York Knicks fans had, literally, a 1.7 percent glimmer of hope that we could somehow come away with the no. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. For a brief second, imagine having to choose between Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton.
In reality, the New York Knicks own the no. 9 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Don’t let hype misguide the excitement of a top 10 pick. If Scott Perry isn’t worried about finding impactful talent, you shouldn’t be either. In a recent interview, he said he’s “confident we will be able to find a prospect who can help our team regardless of where we pick, as well as our scouting staff’s ability to maximize our draft position.” Steve Mills, team president, echoed this sentiment as well, by saying that the Knicks will be drafting the best player available—“we need talent, we need athletic players and the position will determine who we pick, but in an ideal world, we’d like to get a wing player.”
The last time that the Knicks selected ninth overall was 2003 with the selection of Michael Sweetney—and we do not need to get into that.
That said, let’s look at our options for the 2018 NBA Draft.
Mikal Bridges — SG/SF (22 years old, Junior, Villanova, 6’7”, 210 lbs, 7’1” wingspan)
What’s most intriguing about Mikal is his defensive versatility. The NBA is much different now than it was even five years ago. Teams are much “switchier” and coaches have begun to demand that players can guard multiple positions, just look at Frank Ntilikina, for example. A “tweener” used to be a negative connotation—a player who didn’t fit a position perfectly. Now, however, teams need players that have the ability and aptitude to defend multiple positions.
14 tonight for Mikal, connects from deep.
Huuuuge threat on the perimeter in transition. pic.twitter.com/sOCdFABksT
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 3, 2018
Where does Mikal Bridges fit into the equation? Fizdale could slide Mikal into the small forward position instantly and have a long, athletic team capable of guarding potentially anybody. In addition to his defense, Mikal would arrive to the NBA with a steady, mechanically-sound shooting motion and the ability to make big shots. Bridges made 51.4 percent of his field-goal attempts on 11.9 shots a game and 43.5 percent of his three-point attempts on 6.0 attempts per game (via Basketball-Reference). Facing stiffer competition and a longer three-point arc, those numbers should drop but will jumpstart the Knicks’ often lethargic offense.
Although Mikal doesn’t quite possess the upside of Miles Bridges or Kevin Knox, his maturity, NCAA-winning pedigree, shooting, and defensive versatility are all tools that any team could use. He would make for a great fit on the 2018–19 New York Knicks roster, assuming he’s available at nine.
Miles Bridges — SF/PF (20 years old, Sophomore, Michigan State, 6’7”, 230 lbs, 6’8.5” wingspan)
At this time last year, Miles Bridges was an esteemed prospect. Promising, young, and a hyper-athletic freshman from Michigan State, who opted to return for his sophomore year. This year, he put up nearly identical numbers—17.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game—in a significantly more pronounced role. So naturally, it makes sense that he’s regarded as a worse prospect this year. Truth be told, Miles is a stud. He has his flaws and isn’t as polished as Mikal, but improvements are evident in his game and not necessarily reflected in his numbers.
The addition of Miles Bridges to the Knicks roster would immediately change the perception of the Knicks. Remember how Tim Hardaway Jr. played small forward last season and would get bullied by bigger, actual small forwards? Miles is one of those Small Forwards who would bully Tim. Bridges excels in fast break opportunties and taking advantage of slower, smaller players. He will cut backdoor and slam it home. He will make those extra effort plays, snatching offensive rebounds from mid-air. He will jump out of the gym and become much better with NBA offseason programs.
Adding Miles could change New York’s identity. What he lacks in defensive versatility, Bridges makes up for in offensive versatility. He’ll bully small forwards or he’ll blow by power forwards. Next to Kristaps Porzingis, ideally at the 5, Miles makes an excellent long-term fit. In the meantime, Miles needs to refine his shot-creation and playmaking skills.
Kevin Knox — SF (18 years old, Freshman, Kentucky, 6’9”, 206 lbs, 7’0” wingspan)
The appeal to Knox is that he’s a raw, promising project. Physically, Knox has so much room to grow in terms of strength and even height. He’s still so young, and because of that, he lacks offensive and defensive strengths. Unlike Mikal and Miles, Knox would not have an immediate impact and teams across the league know that.
If the Knicks choose to go in this direction, fans have to face the music that the Knicks will not be competitive for several years. With KP out for most likely the entire 2018 season, Frank in his sophomore season, Mudiay still figuring himself out, Timmy trying to solidify himself has a go-to option, and a new head coach, selecting Kevin Knox would illustrate to fans that the front office views this Knicks roster as a complete project, which is pretty true anyway.
Knox hits the three to stick the final dagger in Alabama. pic.twitter.com/sTDpVfVNVh
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) March 10, 2018
Kentucky has a record of playing home to great one-and-done players. Knox has all the tools to become a star in the NBA, it’s just a matter of being in the right position for him to grow and develop as that player. I’m not quite sure New York with all their impatient fans and ruthless media is the best place for Knox to do that.
Collin Sexton — PG (19 years old, Freshman, Alabama, 6’2”, 184 lbs, 6’7” wingspan)
Is Collin Sexton really Eric Bledsoe? The evidence suggests no, and it’s pretty compelling. That said, their play styles are eerily similar, though I do believe that Sexton has more defensive potential. Sexton is a lead guard, not a point guard, let’s get that straight. He’s a scorer, a slasher, an aggressor, and eventually, the no. 1 option on a team.
Sexton has all the tools to become a great player in the NBA. He plays with great ferocity and loves to play through contact. He’s creative with the ball and drives into the lane. Averaging 7.6 free-throw attempts per game, that’s more than anybody on the ’17–’18 Knicks roster.
Collin Sexton is a good fit for the Knicks. If Scott Perry and Co. decide to go with best player available, and that happens to be Sexton, it wouldn’t be a bad pick. Though, with Ntilikina, Mudiay, Burke, Lee, Hardaway, and Ron Baker on the roster for next season, is a guard—a lead guard at that—really needed? Is that the best use of a draft pick for a team that has severe needs in other positions? I don’t think so. Sexton would be a fine pick, but it may not be the savviest one.
Trae Young — PG (19 years old, Freshman, Oklahoma, 6’2”, 180 lbs, 6’4” wingspan)
Can Trae Young score? Yes. Can Trae Young create offense for himself? Yes. Can Trae Young create offense for everyone else? Yes. Can Trae Young penetrate and get to the foul line? Yes. Can Trae Young play defense? Not really.
AND HERE ? COMES ? TRAE ?
Young hits thre three, in for a great ending here folks!! pic.twitter.com/YSUupa6kRm
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 17, 2018
Passing on Trae Young at no. 9 would just feel wrong. It would feel as if we’re passing up on supreme talent because it may not be the best fit. I’m not going anywhere near comparisons because that would be a waste of time. That said, the tape on Trae Young is clear—he can flat out score and create for others. With Ntilikina, Mudiay, Burke, and the other guards on the team, it’d be hard to imagine how the playing time would be split up amongst the young bloods. Trae is the type of player that should come into the NBA and have a strong role model or mentor to train with him to show him the ropes. That said, Trae should be given the freedom to grow from plentiful playing time. He just wouldn’t get that in New York unless there was some sort of shake up, such as a trade or release.
If Steve Mills and Scott Perry are serious about taking best player available and Trae Young is still available, you have to believe they’ll be taking him regardless of need and fit. Nonetheless, the Knicks will be a bit shrouded in draft mystery at the tough ninth spot. Perhaps their dream prospect will be passed over and available at no. 9. But we’ll have to wait until June 21st.