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.
The Knicks got very good offensive production from their power players this season. The tandem of Eddy Curry and David Lee were both in the top 15 in true shooting %, one of only three such tandems in the league (Nash/Stoudemire and Dampier/Nowitzki were the others). Curry managed to keep himself on the court long enough to shoot his customarily high percentage while David Lee emerged as one of the league’s elite rebounders. Unfortunately, Channing Frye’s dramatic sophomore slump and Lee’s late-season injury threw a sizable monkey-wrench into the development of one of the league’s best young power threesomes. Lee’s and Frye’s names have been connected to potential blockbuster trades (read: pipedreams) for Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant. Given the low likelihood of acquiring either superstar and with the addition of free agent Randolph Morris from Kentucky the Knicks seem stocked at power forward and center. Many of the players profiled here are considered late-first or second round picks. So it seems likely that the Knicks would only be interested in a few (if any) of these players at #23. Yet we all know how quickly things can change in the NBA. The Knicks could potentially move down or pick a player at #23 for another team and trade for one of these players.
1. Josh McRoberts (6’10″, 244#, Duke)
If you can get past the fact that McRoberts didn’t quite live up to outsized expectations at Duke it is easy to like his floor game. McRoberts strikes me as a Jason Collins-type defender with more athleticism. He averaged 2.8 blocks per 40 and he did it without fouling excessively (averaging .99 blocks/foul). He blocks shots in man-to-man and on weakside rotation with good positioning and nice timing. He’s also an excellent passer from the PF position. He averaged just under 4 assists per 40 (tops among PFs) with a 1.43:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. (Keep in mind that none of his Duke teammates look like bona fide NBA prospects.) McRoberts is not a great rebounder, though not necessarily a liability in that area (9 per 40) either. He’s really not much of a scorer, just under 15 ppg on 56% TS. He doesn’t get to the line much and doesn’t shoot threes. But, if he can find his way onto a team that needs his floor game he can contribute right away.
2. Nick Fazekas (6’11″, 225#, Nevada)
If you’re looking for a perimeter-oriented big man Fazekas is the prime candidate (along with Colorado State’s Jason Smith). His calling card is his shooting, though I’ll note that Fazekas is a better rebounder than he’s typically credited for being (14.5 boards per 40, a hair under 29% of his team’s rebounds). He has those Ilgauskas-like long arms. As I mentioned, he is renowned for his shooting, especially the pick and pop. He’s a 65% true shooter but he does it almost exclusively from the perimeter (only .35 FT/FG). To his credit he’s not careless with the ball despite not being an especially good ball-handler, averaging around 2 TOs/game throughout his career. He is adept at the pick and pop, catch and shoot game. He may slide to the 2nd round mostly because he’s been on scouts’ radars long enough to have his game completely picked apart.
3. Jermareo Davidson (6’11″, 230#, Alabama)
Davidson is a Camby-lite shot-blocker and Camby-like bean pole. His 2.9 blocks per game and 1.3 blocks/foul suggest that there is something to the Camby comparison. He offers nothing on offense other than rebounds and putbacks. He could go anywhere in the 2nd round or go completely undrafted.
4. Tiago Splitter (6’11, 240#, Brazil)
There’s a boatload of stuff out already on Splitter. The only thing I’ll add is that he may have some buyout issues, though that could just be a nasty rumor.
5. Jason Smith (7′, #, Colorado State)
Although Smith is a 7-footer, offensively he is mostly a turn-and-face player in the halfcourt. He is also very athletic. He runs the floor well and can handle the ball a bit. He has range in the 15-18 foot area. Unlike Fazekas he managed to get himself to the line in college (.66 FT/FG) while shooting the same TS% (65%). Unfortunately, also unlike Fazekas, he’s turnover prone (almost 4 per 40) but a good rebounder (13 per 40).
Centers are similar to defensive tackles in football. To get a great one you have to get him early. However, you can find limited but serviceable ones later if you have an eye for talent and the patience to wait.
1. Marc Gasol (7′, 270#, Spain)
Pao’s baby brother is a big, strong, classic center. He is purported to have nice hands and a good feel but lacks athleticism, which is a huge drawback.
2. Aaron Gray (7’2″, 272#, Pittsburgh)
Aaron Gray is a decent rotation center for a team that runs a lot of halfcourt sets. He has always been a strong rebounder and isn’t turnover prone. Although he scored over 20 pts for the offensively-challenged Panthers this season his TS% is pedestrian (57%) and he doesn’t get to the line (.46 FT/FG), suggesting that he isn’t likely to develop into much more than a rotation guy.
3. Sean Williams (6’10″, 235#, Boston College)
Most observers at this point are well-aware of what Williams brings to the table. His shot-blocking numbers really are astounding: 6.3 per 40 and 1.56 per foul. For those of you who saw Williams play you recognize how these numbers may understate his defensive impact. On numerous occasions I have seen Williams switch out on screen-roll situations and block jump shots. He has been compared to Ratliff, though I think Camby is the more apt comparison because of Williams ability to play out on the floor defensively. I don’t recall seeing that from Ratliff. What is probably most surprising about Williams’ play, given the athleticism, length, and timing, is that he’s a legitimately mediocre rebounder (8.7 per 40, which was a substantial improvement over his first two seasons). Of course, since he offers little on offense other than putbacks it’s like playing 4-on-5 with Williams on the floor if he doesn’t help much on the glass. (Frankly, I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around how a player can be a truly great shot-blocker without being a great rebounder. Are there other players like this?) Williams gets the all-capsCAVEAT EMPTOR tag. He is in most respects a one-trick pony with a history of poor personal decision-making. He has considerable on-court work to put in just to be a more complete rotation player. He has the talent but to really develop in the NBA takes a fair bit of maturity. I’m not sure anyone has seen evidence of it.