The Knicks Wall presents our favorite players slotted around the team’s draft lottery range, featuring Collin Sexton, Miles Bridges & more.
It’s about that time. The regular season is rapidly approaching the home stretch. The fork in the road for every team is also approaching, and as of this writing, the Knicks are not sure which direction to go. Their record (23–28) has them in NBA purgatory. Kristaps Porzingis wants the playoffs. A large number of Knicks fans want the lottery. What happens at the deadline will paint a clearer picture as to which road the team plans to follow.
That long-winded intro brings us to The Knicks Wall’s Draft Board. Before we proceed let’s lay a few ground rules:
- This board reflects where the Knicks sit at the moment. Obviously Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley III are at the top of every draft board, but are they falling outside the top three? Nope.
- The season still has 31 games left. A lot can change in those 31 games, including the Knicks’ projected draft slot. The draft board will reflect those changes.
- Prospects are ranked on talent first and foremost. We will cover how they fit within the team of course, but the Knicks are still in a rebuild–the only thing these guys should fit are a Knick uniform as of now.
Pretty simple, right? Cool, let’s get started.
Current Record: 23–28, 10th in Eastern Conference
Projected Draft Pick: 12th overall
Biggest Needs: Wing and Guard Depth
The top of the board goes to the guard from Alabama. A lot of casual college basketball fans may not know the name. I’ll be honest, it’s tough not to fall into an endless YouTube rabbit hole watching Sexton’s highlight reels.
For the people who live normal lives, you probably were introduced to Sexton when he faced off with Trae Young. In his national debut he gave a proper introduction, not afraid of the matchup against the odds-on favorite for National Player of the Year:
I would say he’s a diamond in the rough, but he should be a household name by June. If Alabama makes the tournament, then I expect his stock to rise, but hopefully this is another Donovan Mitchell case. Sexton checks every box you need in a point guard for today’s NBA. He has the size (6’3″), wingspan (7’0″), and the scoring threat. Per 100 possessions, he averages 35.6 points with an offensive rating of 112.6 and defensive rating of 102.8 When you watch him, you can see a little bit of Russell Westbrook in him (to give a generous comparison).
The first thing that reminded me of Russ was his explosiveness up the floor. Watch him force the steal here and then slam it down with authority in transition:
Another trait he seems to share with Westbrook is his insatiable competitiveness. He put together one of his most efficient games of the season and didn’t let the big matchup force him to play hero ball. He also guarded Young from the jump but did not play out of his game.
I think Sexton would be a perfect fit alongside the Knicks core. He compliments Ntilikina’s game nicely. After watching Frankie enough, I believe his destiny is more of an Avery Bradley type. Sexton and Frankie could fit similar to how OKC had Harden and Westbrook—Frankie runs the offense while Sexton gets buckets.
The one concern, however, I have in terms of fit is where that leaves Tim Hardaway Jr. in the grand scheme. Sexton would likely start out as a bench guy, but at some point Frankie, THJ, and Sexton would have to share the floor. If Hardaway Jr. can bump up to the three, then there is nothing to worry about (he has found minutes there in 2017–18 but presents unfavorable matchups with players like Kevin Durant). If not, then maybe the Knicks focus their attention at a wing first. If I were Scott Perry and this talent is still on the board, I take him and worry about the fit later.
(Also, one bonus for taking him that has nothing to do with hoops, the last name. He can be called the Heartbreak Kid and MSG can play Shawn Michaels’ music every time he kills an opponent. I don’t know about you guys but I’m sold.)
How crazy is it that not one Kentucky kid is projected to be selected in the first five picks this year? It feels like Coach Cal churns out monster prospects like Future churns out mixtapes. Despite their lack of a top-tier prospect, there is little doubt that Kevin Knox will be first Wildcat off the board. The only issue is his stock is rising after he gave West Virginia a 34-piece. He was projected as low as 14 on some mocks but has now risen to 10, which will likely place him out of the Knicks range for now.
However, if he is on the board there are a lot of reasons to pick Knox. First and foremost, there is a crater-sized hole at small forward right now. Bless Lance Thomas’ heart, but he is no starter. Courtney Lee has done a great job as well, but his natural position is shooting guard. In Knox the team can fill that glaring hole on the wing with a guy some have likened to Paul George.
At 6’9″, Knox can be interchangeable at forward. He can play the three when Porzingis is at the four and can easily bump up if Porzingis slides to the five. He has played the three at Kentucky mostly due to how abnormally large this year’s Wildcats are. Knox is typically the first option on offense and after his eruption in West Virginia you can see why. He did a ton of damage against the Mountaineers in transition, punishing them for on the back end:
He also showed off his range from deep, sporting a quick release and confident jumper:
After watching that you have to wonder how he’s not top five. He looks like someone worthy of the Paul George comparison; he attacked relentlessly from every spot on the floor. But to bring the reins back, this was just one game. It did flash his potential, but he still has a knack for tossing up bad shots and might be better suited at the four.
If He Who Must Not Be Named were still running the show, Mikal Bridges is probably at the top of the board. Unlike the rest of these potential prospects, Bridges is in his third year at Villanova. His learning curve shouldn’t be as steep as the 19-year-olds as he has had more time to find his game. In terms of fit, I believe Bridges can be the starting small forward from day one.
Bridges can slot right into the young core that the Knicks have put together. His ability on the catch-and-shoot makes him an ideal target to place in the corner for drive-and-kicks, especially when defenses collapse on KP down low:
He may not be a “star,” but considering the Knicks will likely choose outside the top ten, Bridges is a huge get. He’s the 3-and-D guy the team has desperately needed. With three years of college under his belt it’s realistic to assume he can start from day one. The great thing about him is how he has gotten incrementally better each year at Villanova. He played sparingly during his freshman season but is now the best perimeter defender on his team, one of the premier defenders in the nation, and a knockdown three-point shooter.
Forward, Michigan State
Let’s stick with the Bridges but go to the more notable one. Miles Bridges would have likely been a first round pick last season. He chose to return to Michigan State, and the good news is he hasn’t made a bad choice. His scoring has gone up a smidge from 16.9 per game to 17.6. The biggest improvement, though, has come at the free-throw line, where he drastically improved from 68.5 percent his freshman year to a sterling 90.6 percent this season.
He is at his best off the ball when he can cut to the basket, or in his case, above the basket:
His three-point shot isn’t lights out, but it is serviceable enough at 36.2 percent that you cannot forget about him on the perimeter. When he chooses to drive, which he does quite often, it opens up opportunities to find a shooter outside, draw a foul, or get the finish.
In terms of where he fits with the Knicks, his position in the NBA is the biggest question right now. When I watched his highlights, I saw a little Michael Beasley in him, but at 6’7″ he might be too small for the four. Similar to Mikal Bridges, Miles would be someone that can start right away. His ability to drive to the rim would be a welcome sight. Hardaway Jr. and Frankie do not drive a ton, so the lane will be open for Miles to do what he pleases.
Always love when a hometown kid returns home. That is exactly what can happen if Queens native Hamidou Diallo is selected by the Knicks. Birthplace aside, there is plenty to like from Diallo.
He was projected to go in the second round if he entered last year’s draft despite not playing a single game at Kentucky (he enrolled in UK early which made him eligible for 2017 Draft). The reason? His freakish athleticism that played a large role in him being a five-star recruit. Over the summer, Diallo was able to add to that freakish athleticism by developing a jumper that has had scouts pumping the brakes on him.
His jumper is certainly improved, but it is still not something that can be relied on. A selection of Diallo is the truest form of an investment. His ability to get to and above the rack will allow him to play with the big boys:
How he continues to build on his game will decide how good his career actually goes.
For the Knicks he would be a bench guy who would provide energy and potentially give the Knicks their first dunk contest entry since Nate Robinson. Right now, the bench is barren of athletic guards that can infuse energy. Throw Diallo into that mix, and that bench unit could be a nice pick-me-up for the starters. He would likely share the floor with Trey Burke (who is signed to an nonguaranteed deal for next season), which works out well given Burke’s long range prowess. At UK, Dillo’s activity has not been an issue. He can jump through the roof and uses those bunnies not just for highlight dunks, but to jump passes. The further down the draft the Knicks pick, the more valuable a selection of Diallo becomes.
Other Notable Names
Robert Williams, Forward, Texas A&M – In a draft loaded at forwards, there is a staunch possibility that Williams slips. He returned for sophomore season at Texas A&M, and has improved his rebounding to complement his shot blocking prowess. He would fit alongside Porzingis similar to Enes Kanter more than a Beasley or Kyle O’Quinn.
Trae Young, Guard, Oklahoma – The heat check potential alone might cause an earthquake at MSG. I don’t see Steph Curry 2.0, but I do see a point guard with excellent vision and in-the-gym range to quote broadcaster Clark Kellogg.
Luka Doncic, Forward, Real Madrid – Given the Knicks’ penchant to take Euro prospects, it stinks that Luka will be out of the Knicks’ range. From the highlights, he looks like a prodigy that can do whatever he pleases on the floor.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Center/Forward, Michigan State – Closest to Knicks’ range. Jackson Jr. is an absolute monster center and probably the best player at Michigan State right now. Slot him next to Porzingis and scoring down low will be an achievement for opponents.
Michael Porter Jr., Forward, Missouri – Not much to talk about here. The talent has generational potential. If he is somehow on the board due to injury concerns take him and live with whatever that brings.
Quick shout out to Frankie Vision, the go-to for YouTube highlights.