The NBA Draft is finally upon us and the Knicks have big decisions to make. Whoever is chosen in the lottery holds the keys to when the Knicks will once again contend for a postseason berth.
Today is the day. After weeks of smokescreens, rumors, withheld medical information, and Twitter banter, the 2018 NBA Draft has finally arrived. Scott Perry and Steve Mills have vetted as many possible candidates as possible, as they did during the Knicks’ head coaching search. The team has been linked with just about every player in the lottery, and with this year’s draft expected to be an enigma after the first pick, there is no telling who the Knicks will be weighing once the team is on the clock.
No matter who the pick ends up being, chances are that you will talk yourself into accepting it—unless it’s Collin Sexton—but the focus tonight should be how this pick fits into the future plans. Whatever direction they decide to go will give us an E.T.A. on the Knicks’ leap back to relevance.
Do they go with the high-floor, pro-ready player to intend on being active next postseason? Do they invest in a project pick and throw away the upcoming year once again? Will they stick to their plan of taking the best player available? Let’s take a look.
Trust the Process: Kevin Knox, Michael Porter Jr., Zhaire Smith
This remains the most interesting scenario but would require the most to break right for a franchise that seems to have a continuous dark cloud hovering above. These are the project picks. Kevin Knox can definitely evolve into a smooth assassin for all the reasons mentioned in his TKW U breakdown. It won’t happen overnight, but a year’s worth of development could pay dividends down the road much like with Frank Ntilikina.
The same goes for fellow 19-year-old, Zhaire Smith. He is damn near at the top of the draft in the athleticism department, and with a year or two of development, he could end up being the final piece to a defensive juggernaut. His only issue, rather the issue with using such a high selection on him, is his experience. The energy is there, but Smith is towards the tail end of the lottery in terms of polish. He’s still finding his natural position which will take time, it’s just a matter of how much time.
Finally we have Michael Porter Jr., the most polarizing player of the draft. He has managed to keep his name in the news one way or another, being linked to every team in the lottery due to clouded injury concern. The skepticism is warranted, but I’m bullish on taking him if he falls to nine. The back issues are obviously a red flag and his recent hip injury did not help, but I still think his talent is worth a roll of the dice.
If the plan is to suck next year, why not have Porter on a similar regimen as Joel Embiid? Keep a strict minutes restriction and hold him out of back to backs—he played just 53 minutes at Missouri! MPJ is going to have to play himself back to peak performance and the Knicks have nothing but time. Keep Kristaps out, lose a lot, and maybe R.J. Barrett or Cam Reddish fall into your lap next year.
Okay, that might be more of a coke-dream. But Michael Porter Jr. showing the world why he was supposed to be the first overall pick? That is something worth taking a risk on in the right situation. As is giving Knox or Zhaire a season or two to find their natural position.
Shifting the Timeline Forward: Wendell Carter Jr., Mikal and Miles Bridges, Trae Young
If you see any of these names pop up on the bottom of your television screen, breathe a massive sigh of relief. The Knicks selecting any one of these players would be a win. All have high floors, with the exception of Oklahoma’s Trae Young, who possesses the highest ceiling of the bunch. Most importantly, however, is that they all appear to be ready to start from day one.
With the exception of Trae there is not a whole lot of flair. However they do each fill a need and add to a core that is growing increasingly attractive to prospective free agents. Home run picks are nice but sometimes a base hit is all that’s needed.
LOL Knicks: Collin Sexton, Lonnie Walker IV
This has nothing to do with the players and everything to do with the Knicks. Lonnie Walker could end up being a damn good player, as could Collin Sexton. But guards with their skillsets is simply not where the Knicks are weakest. The wing depth is desolate. God bless Lance Thomas, but chief, I hate to break it to you. If he’s your starter or first wing off the bench, your team sucks.
Sexton has been linked with the Knicks more so than Walker has, but the sentiment remains. The Knicks already have Emmanuel Mudiay to try and fix, why clog the point guard position further? In the case for Walker is adding another shooting guard really more important than finding a frontline wing? I’ll answer that for you, it’s not. If either of these guys are taken just expect those jokes to fly.
“Ass in the Jackpot”: Luka Doncic, Mo Bamba
Until about 24 hours ago the thought of trading up in the draft was nothing more than fantasy booking. Then Ian Begley dropped a Begley Bomb (working title). With over 10,000 rumors and smokescreens this draft season, whether you believe the Knicks have a real interest in trading up for Bamba—seemingly out of the blue—one thing that has universally understood. The point of entry to the top five in the draft is the Memphis Grizzlies. Their desire to dispose of Chandler Parsons’ contract, coupled with the fact that no one wants to go, leaves them as the Knicks’ logical trade partner.
In the event the team is able to snag the fourth pick tonight, I’m not convinced Bamba will be the pick. There interestingly has been no mention of Luka Doncic to the Knicks, but a lot of chatter about Luka falling down the board. If he’s sitting there at four it’s a foregone conclusion. A move for Bamba or Luka Doncic does not just accelerate the rebuild. It is a shot of NOS to the finish line. A core of Porzingis, Frank, and Bamba or Luka is the team’s big three and suddenly free agents put the Knicks back on their radar.
In order to acquire the fourth pick, major assets will be on the move. That puts an NYC-sized bullseye on Perry and Mills. I don’t believe a roster gut à la Carmelo trade would have to happen, but some young talent would have to be on the move. Then there is the question of how many and which draft picks would be attached. Emptying the asset chest is okay if you get the guy you dreamed of. Making that move and missing would be the classic “two steps forward, one step back” that Knicks fans have grown too accustomed to.
So remember, whoever we end up choosing you will love. Just know by the end of the night you will have a better understanding of where the team is and plans to be in the near future. In the meantime get those final hot takes in, defend your favorite prospect to the death, and light a prayer candle in hopes of Luka Doncic falling to the Knicks.