Up until 4:15 EST yesterday, we had very little motivation to jump on the internet and scout possible Knicks draft prospects. Mainly because the Knicks had no picks. We figured that if Phil somehow grabbed one, WeI’d just scout whoever they took after the fact. But then boom! The Knicks traded with Dallas and acquired not one, but TWO DRAFT PICKS. TWO PICKS. IT’S LIKE CHRISTMAS IN JUNE AND MY BIRTHDAY AND FINDING A TWENTY DOLLAR BILL IN AN OLD PAIR OF JEANS.
I was/am excited, but then realized that I had no idea who might be available at nos. 34 and 51 beyond a few names – Patric Young, Walter Tavares, Nick Johnson, Cleanthony Early (they should take this guy solely for his ironic name). But as a casual, at best, observer of college basketball, I didn’t really even know anything about the guys I sort of knew something about. I imagine that some of you reading this are in the same situation. Don’t worry, I’ve gone through and identified a handful of prospects that I think the Knicks might or might not target. Additionally, I watched some YouTube clips, read some scouting reports and compiled my own scorching #HotTakes about each of these prospects. So now I’m kind of not totally in the dark with these guys. Come out of the shadows, Knickerbloggeristas, and join me…
Two guys the “Bockers will have to move into the first round to have a chance at:
PJ Hairston, SG North Carolina
It’s pretty much a guarantee that Hairston won’t be there when the Knicks pick at 34. Chad Ford has him as the 18th best prospect in the draft, while Draft Express ranks him 20th and Jay Bilas ranks him 23rd. A 6’5 shooting guard that dominated the D-League this past season after being dismissed from North Carolina for eligibility violations, Hairston is strong enough to guard threes and is a good outside shooter. Right now, I’d say he’s more complete of a player than Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks level of interest in Hairston has reportedly been “very, very high.”
My take on this is that Phil likes Hairston as a prospect, but also wants to make changes to the current crop of two guards at the Knicks disposal. JR Smith isn’t a bad basketball player, but I don’t think Phil wants to put up with his, let’s say, “abrasive” behavioral patterns. I don’t particularly like Hardaway in the triangle, or in general (I realize I may not be in the majority in this regard), and could see him used as trade bait for a team to also take on Smith, as was the case yesterday, when Chandler was the carrot to bear the punishment of receiving Felton, the stick. Shumpert can play in the triangle, but he’s a restricted free agent after this season and there have been rumors he’s out of here for more than a year So from that perspective, it makes sense that the Knicks might be targeting a shooting guard in the draft.
Hairston obviously comes with some off-court baggage, and Draft Express also cites inconsistent effort as one of his major weaknesses. But the talent is there. He’s strong defensively and has upside there. He can’t create much off the dribble, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue as a role player in the triangle. Hairston is a strong outside shooter both in spot-up situations and coming off screens. He can definitely be a useful player shooting threes and playing defense.
Kyle Anderson SF/PF, UCLA
Anderson is another guy that won’t be there at 34, but who’d be a good fit on the Knicks. I’m an unabashed Arizona Wildcat fan, so admittedly I loathe UCLA. Anderson played his best game of the season against the ‘Cats in the Pac-12 Championship, scoring 21 points, grabbing 15 boards and dishing out five assists. He was the best player on the floor in a game that featured a likely top-10 pick in Aaron Gordon and Pac-12 player of the year Nick Johnson. I was incredibly impressed, though I’d been a fan of Anderson’s long before that. He’s a throwback, an outlier in this era of smaller, quicker point guards. He won’t play point guard in the NBA, but playing it in college will help him in a league moving to a more European style of play.
You can see a scenario where he’ll end up being the next Boris Diaw: a versatile point forward that can run an offense or play a key role as secondary facilitator. The triangle offense always has use for tall dudes who can pass. The Knicks are going to be a heavy user of post-ups and Anderson would slide right in as a high-post operator. His question marks are mostly centered around his athletic ability, namely his quickness. He shot 48% from three last season, but there are also concerns about just how good of a shooter he really is. Regardless, his point forward ability would make him really useful to the Knicks. If they somehow work their way into the first round and grabbed Anderson, I’d be elated. I’m willing to overlook the fact that he went to UCLA, because I’m that good a guy.
Given that the Knicks had no picks until yesterday, there hasn’t been much out there about who they might be targeting. I’m going to write about some guys that, given their projected value by Draft Express, ESPN, etc, should be taken in that 30-51 range.
Patric Young, PF/C Florida
I don’t like Patric Young for the Knicks. He’s 6’9 and a bull defensively, but he doesn’t do much on offense other than set good screens. He can’t shoot and doesn’t have much of a post-game. He’s a strong defender, but not a great rebounder. A team like the Spurs can maybe turn him into a useful player. They can use his strong screen setting skills to open up space for Ginobili or whoever to operate in the pick and roll. The triangle historically creates most pick and roll opportunities from pinch post action, but you wouldn’t really want Young operating at the elbow on the weak-side because he can’t shoot. I don’t see where he fits in offensively. Having said that, good defenders typically stick around for a few years in the league. The Knicks will be lousy next year anyways. Maybe they take a flyer on him. I like other guys more though.
Cleanthony Early, SF Wichita State
Early is intriguing to me. I don’t love him for the Knicks because I question his effectiveness playing in a half-court offense. At 6’7, he’s a tweener, which wouldn’t bother me as much on a team that played smaller lineups and ran a bunch. However, he does have some experience as a low post scorer. While he’s not advanced at it, he’s done it and has a decent face up game as well. Assuming he’s playing small forward in some healthily sized Knicks lineups, he could be a decent scorer out of the low-post against other NBA threes. He also has some playmaking abilities on defense because of his athleticism. He’s 23, which is seen as a limit on his upside. I like him as a prospect that can come in and be a contributor right away, but I’d feel better about him on the Knicks if there was a strong veteran core in place. He seems like a good Spurs pick to me (although I guess everybody is. Seriously, if the Spurs drafted you or me, everyone would still say something to the effect of, “Oh that crafty Pop/RC! Always thinking outside the box!” etc.).
Glenn Robinson III, SF Michigan
I defer to the always-informative and -pretty Bryan Gibberman when it comes to evaluating Michigan players. I asked him about Robinson III last night.
Me: Do you like Glenn Robinson?
Bryan: NEGATIVE Me: What’s wrong with him?
Bryan: Dribbling, defense, rebounding, passing.
Me: New York probably shouldn’t draft this guy.
Walter Tavares, C Cape Verde
Don’t worry, I googled Cape Verde for you because I didn’t know what or where it was either. It’s not something they stuff enchiladas with, rather it’s an island country in the Atlantic Ocean. From Wikipedia:
Cape Verde, officially the Republic of Cape Verde, is an island country spanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. Located 570 kilometres (350 miles) off the coast of Western Africa, the islands cover a combined area of slightly over 4,000 square kilometres (1,500 sq mi). Three (Sal, Boa Vista and Maio) are fairly flat, sandy and dry; the others generally rockier with more vegetation. Historically, the name “Cape Verde” has been used in English for the archipelago and, since independence, for the country. In 2013, the Cape Verdean government determined that the Portuguese designation “Cabo Verde” would henceforth be used for official purposes, such as at the United Nations, even in English contexts.
So there you go. As for Tavares, he’s a really interesting prospect. He stands 7’2 with massive hands and a 7’10 wingspan. That alone makes him intriguing, but he also possesses some useful skills. He’s a strong rebounder and is active on defense. Tavares isn’t a plodder, like say Kendrick Perkins. He doesn’t move gracefully like Embiid, but he’s not a dope either. Draft Express’ scouting video of him has footage of him being an effective roll guy in the screen and roll, showcasing his ability to move efficiently. He’s also a 74% free throw shooter, which is encouraging for a guy who didn’t touch a basketball until he was 17. He’s definitely a long-term project, which probably rules him out for the Knicks.
While I think they’d be fine to draft him and stash him for a few years–he just signed a three-year deal with Gran Canaria–they probably want somebody who is closer to contributing. Even if Tavares came over this season or next, he wouldn’t have much of an impact. He needs a lot of time. Having said that, Phil did wonders for Andrew Bynum, a young, raw seven-footer and might be open to taking on the Tavares project as well. Tavares won’t become the scorer Bynum was in his prime, but he has the potential to be better defensively.
Spencer Dinwiddie G, Colorado
In the book 11 Rings, Phil Jackson talks about how he liked having big guards to counteract the league’s movement towards smaller, quicker ones. Spencer Dinwiddie is a 6’6 point guard from Colorado that can play both the one and two. He tore his ACL in January which obviously has hurt his draft stock immensely. But assuming he comes back close to where he was pre-injury, Dinwiddie could provide a good return on investment for whichever team is patient enough to grab him. In Draft Express’ preseason scouting video for Dinwiddie, they list his four strengths as:
Scoring Instincts Creating for Others Defensive Potential Versatility
Sounds pretty good, right? They listed his biggest weakness as athleticism, and a torn ACL obviously won’t help that. He’s a risk in that regard; he just might not be athletic enough to survive in the league. With modern medicine being where it’s at, ACL injuries have become far less catastrophic than they used to be. But with cases like Derrick Rose’s, we see that there is still a ways to go. In twenty years, ACL injuries will probably carry far less long term risk than they currently do now, but we’re not there yet. Chad Ford says in his mock draft 9.0 that teams are looking at Dinwiddie at the end of the first round and that he’s probably not getting past Philadelphia at 39. He’d be a fine value pick for the Knicks at 34 and would be of use to them in the triangle. It’s just a matter of whether or not they’re willing to roll the dice.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, F Greece
Well, older brother. Like Tavares, he’s a project. He’s super athletic, has good length, and plays with a lot of energy. Because of these aforementioned traits, he has big upside as a wing defender. However, his offensive game is totally raw. He can’t shoot and scouts think he’s lacking in basketball IQ. He needs more time to develop. Not even close to warranting consideration at 34, but I’d be fine with the Knicks grabbing him at 51.
Nick Johnson, G Arizona
Johnson could be an option for the Knicks at 51 if they wanted to try and turn him into a triangle point guard. He’s really undersized for a two guard, which is why he’ll drop so far. However, he’s very athletic, can shoot with three point range and is a strong defender. If they think he’s smart enough to eventually get the offense down, I could see them trying him at the point. Then again, we’ve seen what happens when you try to cram a SG peg into a PG hole. You know, like Shump.
Aaron Craft, G Ohio State
Please don’t draft this guy.
CJ Fair, F Syracuse
He’s the guy who got called for the charge at the end of that Duke game where Boeheim lost his freaking mind. That was pretty great.
Jordan Bachynski, C Arizona State
He’s big and white and plays center. Phil likes the big white guy we already have playing center. Maybe he takes another one. Who knows?
Christiano Felicio, F/C Minas
There are going to be a bunch of dirty jokes made about this dude’s last name if the gets drafted. Or there might not be. I think I have problems.
World Cup! Woo!
Bogdan Bogdanovic, G Partizan
I feel like this guy has been a prospect in every draft since 2002.
There are some notable names in the late 2nd round/undrafted player category, like: Markel Brown, G Oklahoma State, James Michael McAdoo, PF North Carolina, Dwight Powell PF, Stanford, Scottie Wilbekin G, Florida, Keith Appling G, Michigan State, Jahii Carson G, Arizona State, and should the Knickerbockers decide to take anyone of them to the big barn dance, we’ll have all kinds of thoughts, but this lil’ primer is already long enough.
Well there you have it. Now you sort of know some things about a few of the prospects the Knicks might take in the draft tonight. It’s virtually impossible to predict what they’re going to do, but it should be fun nonetheless. The Knicks have actually had some relevant second round picks the past few years, so the draft is definitely worth paying attention to. And it’s Phil’s first draft obviously, so that’ll be cool to see how he approaches it. In my “expert” opinion, he’ll be looking to add players who are good at basketball. Maybe he’ll just re-draft Andy Rautins. Actually, I really hope he re-drafts Andy Rautins. GO KNICKS!