Draft Prospects, Part II

If you missed Part I highlighting PGs who may be on the Knicks’ radar screen during this upcoming draft click here.

I?ll go position-by-position and highlight at most a handful of players who may be available when the Knicks select at #23. The players are listed in no particular order. Player stats and profiles come largely from draftexpress.net and nbadraft.net.

Shooting Guard

The Knicks have a number of players that play at least some time at SG, though none exclusively. Francis and Crawford play the lion’s share of minutes as undersized combo guards while Quentin Richardson is a classic swingman. All three have serious injury red-flags entering next season. So the Knicks will almost certainly consider a number of prospects, as this is the deepest position in a deep draft.

A little factoid: last season New York shot 34.6% on threes. Opponents shot 37.6%. But the raw numbers for some reason are even more dismaying to me. Opponents were +99 on 3-pt. makes (+153 on 3-pt. attempts) last season. That cannot all be attributed to the SGs but hopefully Thomas & Co. will consider prospects that can both shoot and defend the three pointer.

1. Derrick Byers (6’7″, 225#, Vanderbilt)

Byars is an intriguing prospect despite mediocre shooting numbers (57% TS, 54% eFG). Vanderbilt’s offense is, by design, very dependent on the 3-pt. shot and I thought an odd fit for his mid-range, up-tempo skill set. Byars took 47% of his attempts from behind the arc, and not surprisingly didn’t get to the FT line very often (.27 FT/FG). However, his 1.45:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, playing primarily as a SF, belies the impression that he’s gunner. NBAdraft.net compares him to Shane Battier but Byars is more of a classic swingman than an undersized PF. A more apt comparison, I think, is James Posey with better offensive potential though he’s not quite the same caliber of defender.

2. Marco Belinelli (6’6″, 190#, Italy)

Belinelli is a do-it-all combo guard with a little sizzle in his game. He looks like he can play. But everyone looks like they can play on their youtube highlight package–though admittedly throwing down a 360-degree dunk in a game got my attention. (Who even tries stuff like that other than Nate Robinson?) I don’t imagine Belinelli is on NY’s radar screen since Thomas has clearly shied away from international talent. The Knicks got fleeced pretty regularly on international players in the recent past (recall the names Weis, Trybanski, Vranes, and Lampe) and Thomas has been in no hurry to get back into that market. The key to finding international players that stick seems to be in cultivating relationships with the right people in the right leagues at the ownership level not just the executive level. New York doesn’t have those kinds of relationships. Irrespective of whether that’s entirely Thomas’ fault I’d be surprised to see him make much of an investment in an international rookie over a comparable college rookie.

3. Aaron Afflalo (6’5″, 215, UCLA)

Afflalo is one of the few SGs ready to play NBA caliber defense immediately. His athleticism is decent though not jump-out-of-the-gym overwhelming. In the halfcourt he doesn’t offer a lot of offense outside his catch and shoot game, and as we saw two straight years in the Final Four his jump shot is apt to leave him without prior notice. He still managed a 59% TS%, punctuated by many a layup at the other end of a strong defensive effort. He should be a solid enough offensive player to stay out on the floor but his bread and butter will be defense.

4. Morris Almond (6’6, 215#, Rice)

If efficient scoring from the SG position is what you are after Almond is your guy. In those categories it’s hard to fuss with what he did at Rice. He shot it well (63% TS). He shot it well from the perimeter (46% 3-pt.). He got himself to the FT line (.52 FT/FG). He improved his rebounding each season (7.9 per 40 as a senior). On the downside, it’s not clear that Almond brings anything to the table other than scoring. That makes me wonder what he can contribute playing with a center who–to put it kindly–has yet to master passing out of the double team. Almond is not himself much of a passer (0.34-to-1 assist to turnover), nor is he an adept ball handler (11% TO-r). I have no idea what kind of defender he is but suffice it to say I’ve read little commentary about his defense.

5. Rodney Stuckey (6’5″, 207#, E. Washington)

Stuckey is an athletic combo guard. NBADraftExpress.com has a TON of material on Stuckey, including a pretty extensive write-up, which is as thorough as anything I could write. They also include his stats as part of a point guard comparison. I think the odds are fairly small that he’ll be on the board at #23.

6. Daequon Cook (6’5″, 210#, Ohio State)

Cook is thought by many to be a more explosive version of Morris Almond with higher upside. Cook’s shooting numbers should hardly elicit shame (55% TS, 42% 3-pt., .21 FT/FG), especially considering that he was not the first option on offense. However, I had to slap the “caveat emptor” tag on him once I looked at his game logs. After exploding onto the scene Cook never scored more than 12 after the first week of January. He took at least 5 attempts in 22 of the 27 games he played in calendar 2007 so it’s not like he wasn’t shooting. When a kid is billed as an explosive scorer and spends virtually half the season NOT scoring I am inclined to say, “No thanks. Really. I’m trying to cut that out of my diet.”

Small Forward

Based solely on Hollinger’s PER small forward was the least productive position on the team (14.3) and the only one below the league average set at 15 (if we round SG and PF up from 14.9). It also had the largest differential from opponent’s PER of -3.7. This is one of those instances where the stats confirm what we plainly observed: SF sucked a bit more than the other positions on the team. The Knicks hope Richardson’s back will be less problematic this year and that Balkman continues to develop, but the team could clearly use some help. In this draft there appear to be more swingmen than undersized power forwards.

1. Jared Dudley (6’7″, 225#, Boston College)

I love Dudley’s game, which exists almost exclusively from the neck up. His basketball IQ is, to my mind at least, exactly what the Knicks need. Dudley was a 66% true shooter on 44% from 3-pt. range and .55 FT/FG. What I love is that he went from 16.5 ppg as a sophomore to over 19 as a senior on essentially the same number of shots per 40 (between 12 and 12.5). His gains were all on efficiency. Offensively, observation tells me his best attribute is his passing, though his meager assist-to-turnover (1:1.15) belies this observation. Previous seasons, when surrounded by more talent, his assist-to-turnover ratio was much better. On the downside Dudley is barely an NBA caliber athlete, if at all. He reminds me of Luke Walton more than any other NBA player. Like Walton, Dudley has replacement-level talent but is a perfect fit on a team where he can feed a low-post player. On a roster with no low-post player he’s not as helpful. That makes Dudley a gamble at #23. As much as I like him I’m not sure I’d take it.

2. Julian Wright (6’6″, 210, Kansas)

I find Wright very intriguing. I won’t be surprised almost no matter where he goes off the board. Wright reminds me of a taller Renaldo Balkman. Both are outstanding rebounders. Wright is a better passer and ballhandler but he’s not the same kind of finisher or shot blocker. Of course neither can hit a jump shot past 12 feet with any consistency. Wright’s strengths and weaknesses are fairly clear cut. So where he goes is a question of whether a team likes what he can do well enough to live with what he cannot. I think Wright would benefit most from sliding down the board into the 20s and going to a team that doesn’t expect him to score.

3. Thaddeus Young (6’8″, 217#, Georgia Tech)

In an earlier post on draft picks a reader had this to say:

Coming out of high school people were talking about Thaddeus Young in the same breath as Kevin Durant. By comparison he suffers mightily but if he hadn?t been so hyped, he would have been impressive. Everyone gripes about his shot, and it?s not pretty, but he actually shot 40 percent on threes so it doesn?t seem like that big a problem. He would probably be a Top 10 pick next year so if he slides to 23 – or even close, where we could trade up – he?d be a steal.

I didn’t see much Georgia Tech at all so I don’t have much observation to go on, only parts of a couple games. But Young’s statistical profile makes me think Channing Frye more than Kevin Garnett. The lefty Young did shoot 42% on his 3s this season, and without taking an inordinate number (25% of his FGAs). Yet his TS% is a pedestrian 56% because he didn’t get to the line much at all (only .19 FT/FG). What should set Young apart is his athleticism. He’s a chiseled 19-year old with room to grow but the two places athleticism should pay off are FTAs and rebounds (6.2 per 40), and they are clearly not strongsuits.

4. Wilson Chandler (6’7″, 220#, DePaul)

Reputed to have been offered a promise by the Knicks at #23, Chandler is a jumping jack out of DePaul who hasn’t been on many people’s radars until recently. I have never seen nor heard of him until last week. So I will point interested readers to this write-up on draftexpress and this on nbadraft.net. Suffice it to say there is nothing about his statistical performance in any area that makes you say, “this is the guy.” Although the same is true of Balkman he was a non-scorer at S. Carolina. Chandler by contrast is a very inefficient one (52% TS). Let’s hope this is all a smokescreen because drafting Chandler would be the very definition of asking for it.

5. Marcus Williams (6’7″, 205#, Arizona)

The sophomore campaign at Arizona was disappointing for the 6’7″ swingman largely because the team disappointed. Williams clearly regressed as a 3-pt. shooter (43.5% to 28.8%) but otherwise his numbers were almost identical to his freshman season. He is a better rebounder than generally given credit at about 8 per 40 but doesn’t get to the line as often as you’d hope (.30 FT/FG) for someone who isn’t a deadeye perimeter shooter. I’m not certain Williams has the makings of a special player but I’d be surprised if he’s not a league average or slightly better player by his second year. He’s smart, has a lot of skills, and understands how to get open and how to get his own shot.

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at Knickerblogger.net and Seahawks at FieldGulls.com. In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

16 thoughts to “Draft Prospects, Part II”

  1. Before discussing SG/SFs, what is Q’s outlook? His back was fucked before he even got to NY (his contract was uninsurable), so realistically what can be expected from him? He came back great from a horrid ’05-’06 year, but wore down and was gone indefinitely at the end. His 3 point shooting, and especially his rebounding, was excellent when he played, but can we really expect a full season out of him? Seeing as he’s signed through 2010 (yes, as in the sequel to 2001), I can only hope the answer is yes (but the realist in me sees last year as his last significant year in the league…)

  2. I think one dimensional players have a tendency to struggle mightily at the next level especially if their one dimension is something like shooting. The only guys I can think of are Rip and Allan who have had success just filling it up on the perimeter. It doesn’t bode well for guys like Almond or Cook. Afflalo can get pt with his defense but he seems to be an end of the bench type. Byars looks like the most complete prospect out of the tail end of the first round SG/SF prospects.

    Julian Wright seems to garner mixed reactions but I happen to think he’ll be great at the next level. I think the lack of a consistent jumper is OK for now.

  3. i like almond or byars. i think byars is better because of his versitlity but i think the knicks will take almond because of the comparisons to allan houston

  4. i bet zeke will take t.green if he is still available at #23 pick, and trade for rashard lewis giving up nate robinson and frye or jeffries. maybe..

  5. Frye and Nate wouldn’t work out salary wise unless Lewis took a substantial paycut. Jeffries and Frye could work, but Nate is more attractive to Seattle. If the Knicks had expiring contracts a trade for Lewis would be much easier. As it is, Crawford would probably have to be included (and the #23 too, just to make anybody even want to deal with us…)

  6. The only two that I would want (in the first round) are Young and Belinelli. All the other players seem to have serious flaws or redundancies that make me think they wouldn’t fit in. Almond is a curious possibility, but do we need another one dimentional scorer that can’t play defense? I’d rather have a solid defender that can shoot consistently rather than a great shooter that can’t do anything else.

  7. I’d be doubly leery of Almond given that he seems to be quite turnover prone as well. We need shooters, true, but even more than that we need to cut down on TOs and play better team defense. Drafting Almond might be a bit like plunging your arm into quicksand to rescue your sinking foot.

  8. I just want Rashard Lewis,but I don’t want to give up Jamal or David Lee! Isn’t he a free agent? Why do we have to sign and trade?

  9. “Belinelli is the most intriguing,”

    Sorry, I got cut off before finishing that thought. What I meant to say was Belinelli is the most intriguing but there are some questions about him. I don’t know what kind of shooter or defender he is. Of course, you’re not getting players with no question marks at #23. But for all the grief Jamal Crawford takes in this forum Belinelli looks like and reads like the Euro version of him.

    With Young, obviously the key is the upside. You look at that body combined with the fact that he’s already a decent mid-range shooter and say “we can work with this.” If there’s one nit to pick it’s that I hate it when guys have bodies out of a catalog but don’t rebound.

  10. Main9,

    The Knicks are only about $40,000,000 over the salary cap.

    Unless Lewis signs for the midlevel exception, it will take a sign and trade to get him on the Knicks.

  11. Petteri Koponen is a just turned 19 yo pure pg that needs to develop for a year or two-til Stevie and Stephon’s contracts expire. Koponen. He’s an athletic 6”5″. You all know Isaiah is going to try to top Balkman’s surprise factor. Even though Koponen is making his way up the boards, what could possibly top Isaiah drafting a white pg in terms of surprise? (Which would make it easier for him to trade Lee.)

  12. Belinelli. Forget Lewis & pursue smaller investments with similar or better results. Artest & Rasheed Wallace. Short term solution leaving the golden year of free agency still open as a plan.

  13. About Belinelli, I have heard that his jumpshot might be his greatest asset. He seems like the best prospect, espiceally because the Knicks reside in the single most internationally populated in the world. The Knicks are catching on to the foreign born players trend too late. Look at the Western conference, in terms of local talent they are level with the East, but in terms of international talent they are head and shoulders ahead of the East.

    Its no Coincidence the MVP, and the Finals MVP, and last years 1st Overall pick were all from Europe.

  14. Dave-

    As far as the European Jamal Crawford, Rudy Fernandez’s your man. A rail thin 6-5 combo guard whose favorite offensive play is to dribble around on the perimeter for 10 seconds and then throw up a fade away three pointer with a hand or two in his face.
    That said, he’s already one of the best players in the Spanish league, a better shooter and less selfish/clueless than Crawford, and definitely has NBA talent. I’m not saying the Knicks should take him at #23-although I wouldn’t be against it either-and in the long run there may be a couple better players available there, but Rudy’s already showing that he can play in the world’s second best league. If he falls to the late first/early second he very well might be another Euro guard steal for the Suns (29) or Spurs (28 & 33).

    I agree with everyone that the Knicks aren’t exactly one shooter away from contention (unless that shooter is a top 5 or 10 player in the league), as some might lead you to believe, and that said shooter might not even get many looks with the current Knicks roster. But given the corner that Isiah seems to have painted himself into, with Curry and Crawford as “franchise players,” maybe drafting (Almond) or trading for (Lewis) a dead-eye shooter isn’t such a bad move (if he’s also a good basketball player in other respects). If the guy can play significant minutes right away Isiah might be able to convince Eddy that passing is worth it because he’s gone out and gotten a dead-eye shooter just for Eddy, and maybe said shooter can replace some of Jamal’s 32% 3-pters with 40% 3-pters.

  15. I agree with Ted Nelson, in part. Isiah has constructed this Knicks team based on potential; unfulfilled potential! Crawford and Curry, his two young cornerstones, have “upside” and was part of the reason he traded 2 years of draft picks for Curry. However, these players might never realize that potential. I think their other young studs (Lee, Balkman, maybe Frye) could develop into reliable starters soon; we don’t need alot of players with upside right now.

    I think we should get a player with a proven skill, with perhaps less “upside.” We won’t get a player at pick #23 with lots of “upside” unless he also has gaping holes in his game. Go with Almond!

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