Roundtable: 2017 Knicks Pre-Draft Discussion

The player taken well before the Knicks’ #8 pick that will be a bust…

KURYLO: I’m going to go with De’Aaron Fox. I like his defense, but he just strikes me as a bit inconsistent and his outside shooting is a red flag. Fox’s ability to drive and throw alley-oops hints at a game that is more style than substance, and I’m concerned what will happen against more athletic and more skilled opponents. Point guards that can’t run an offense usually transition to shooting guard, but what happens when that player can’t shoot either?

I’ll throw a second one in the mix: Jayson Tatum. Supposedly he’s a tweener forward, a good iso scorer with passing issues, and questionable defensive desire. Been there, done that. I’ll pass.

FISHER-COHEN: I don’t love this question since I don’t think it should be much of a consideration for bad teams. Upside matters way more than floor due to the max individual salary since solid role players tend to get paid something around if not more than their value after four years. You could get the same production from a free agent at similar dollars. I’ll go with Fox though since he’s the only one with a flaw that could damn his career if he doesn’t address it. The jumper-less guards who succeed at the NBA level tend to be otherworldly athletes, which Fox is not.

GIBBERMAN: I’ll go with Jayson Tatum. I don’t see him being elite at anything. For his offense to truly take off his handle or shooting needs to get significantly better. His ability to be able to contain dribble penetrating wings is also a concern. He’s not nearly the offensive prospect Carmelo Anthony was, but might require some of the same limitations in team building without the elite level offense (in his prime).

CROCKETT: It’s been a few years since I’ve spent much time on college hoops, but Tatum seems the most bustalicious of the top 8 or so picks. My reasoning is admittedly flimsy. I find it weird that the story on him really hasn’t gotten any more sophisticated or nuanced since the end of the college season. Fox’s story, by contrast, has had the standard arc: post-NCAA tournament bump that has settled into the standard “Some people love him. Some people hate him” thing that we do with literally every PG. DSJ’s story has the same ending but comes from the opposite direction. The consistency of language in describing Tatum is Manchurian Candidate-like, which scares me. It’s like no one is looking closely at him.

The player you really fear the Knicks will take at #8…

KURYLO: … is Malik Monk. He doesn’t rate well on two of Ed Weiland metrics (2P% is under 50%, and RSB is only 4.9) so you wonder why his athleticism isn’t translating to on the court production in other areas? And while there are optimistic visions of Steph, Curry bested Monk in both of those categories by a wide margin. So the likelihood that Malik has a similar growth spurt when he hits the pros is nil.

The last thing this team needs is a big man scorer that doesn’t rebound or play defense. Lauri Markkanen would be a mistake, partially because he’d be teamed with Porzingis (and perhaps ‘Melo too) and the pair do not complement each other. Honestly I’m not big with taking one way players, unless they can *really* make a difference on offense. And Markkanen doesn’t strike me as that guy.

FISHER-COHEN: I wish I could add some diversity to the responses here, but I agree with Mike. Monk is a true one-dimensional player as well as being undersized and lacking in length. The problem with the Curry comparison — which is what people seem to fall back on when defending Monk — is it basically translates to, “If Monk improves at a rate that virtually no other player improves, he will be great.” Yes, Curry stayed two more years, and if Monk stayed two more years and showed the same level of improvement Curry did, he’d be a much better prospect.

GIBBERMAN: I understand the concerns about Monk, but I do think there’s a more well-rounded player in there than we’ve probably seen. It’s happened before with Kentucky players and Cal’s very stringent usage of them at the collegiate level. If they take Markkanen I’ll flip.

CROCKETT: I’m an Arizona alum but Markkanen’s defense frightens me. I didn’t see that much of Monk, but got the impression that he’s a rich man’s Courtney Lee — with a chance to be Rip Hamilton — that will produce exactly what you can reasonably expect from an 8th pick. Somehow that production for Minnesota or Dallas would be totally OK, but for NY it would always be seen as an unforgivable reach.

The player you hope falls to #8…

KURYLO: I have to go with Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac. He’s 6-10, rebounds, was an efficient scorer (62% ts%), hit 34.8% from downtown, and is only a freshman. Much like Zinger, he still has the ability to fill-out his body. Isaac seems pegged to go 6th so it’s not impossible for him to drop to 8. A blogger can hope, right?

FISHER-COHEN: For metagame reasons, I’ll go with Fox. I don’t think the triangle is a solution or a problem except insofar as Jackson has used the lack of it as an explanation for all his failures. It is a red herring that distracts fans, the media and Phil himself from the simple truth that the Knicks lack talent and aren’t investing near enough in their future to address that deficit. As an aggressive, quick, ball dominant guard, Fox doesn’t fit the traditional triangle and could give Hornacek an out… a way to prove the effectiveness of his more uptempo, guard-oriented style. As an unselfish player with strong court vision, he has the potential to help KP realize his potential as well.

GIBBERMAN: Damn it, Mike stole mine. I’d love to see what Issac and KP could do together at PF and C, it’d be awesome to watch.

CROCKETT: Lonzo, duh.

The player taken after the #8 that will be better than the Knicks’ pick…

KURYLO: I’ll go out on a 7 foot limb and say Zach Collins. He had the 10th highest 2P% and 7th highest shot block rate in college basketball last year. That’s impressive for a 19 year old. On the other hand, Collins was foul prone and didn’t play a lot of minutes. So essentially he’s got a high ceiling and low floor. He’s certainly not a sure fire guy like Myles Turner, but he has potential.

FISHER-COHEN: Collins or Mitchell. Since Mike’s covered Collins, I’ll take Mitchell, who has gotten a lot of comparisons to Patrick Beverley, despite being an inch taller and 30 lbs heavier with a 4’ wider wingspan, and few to Avery Bradley who is the same height and a similar wingspan and also quite a lot lighter. Mitchell isn’t great going to the rim, and maybe he never will be, but if he can continue to improve his shooting as he did between his first and second year at Louisville, like Bradley, he may be able to be an excellent starter anyway.

GIBBERMAN: There’s some injury concerns, but I’m still going to go with OG Anunoby. His steal and block rate numbers are better than Kawhi Leonard’s in college. He’s a legitimate freak, it’s just a question of how far along the offense, specifically his shot improve.

CROCKETT: It’ll be Frank. We will pass on him. Dallas will take him and he’ll become Nic Batum but a real PG. (Feeling hella cynical at the moment.) Side note: Zach Collins has been similarly Manchurian Candidate-like, same as Tatum. I’ve been expecting him to vault up mock drafts to the point of being overvalued. Nothing really. What am I missing? What’s not to like?

Realistically, who should the Knicks take at #8?

KURYLO: Dennis Smith Jr. If you’re still not convinced about Smith over Monk, consider this. A critical consideration when scouting amateurs is looking at their level of athleticism. Often those AAAA players (good enough to dominate the minor leagues but not the pros) lack the ability to compete at that increased level of physical ability. That is, someone can be quick enough to blow by college defenders, but not fast enough to do the same maneuver against the pros.

So a good litmus test to translate college stats to the professional level is by looking at *how* athletic a player is. With that in mind, look at the following two stat lines (per/40 min) & tell me which player is the better physical specimen:

3.1 2.9 1.2 0.6 2.4 24.8 0.32
5.2 7.1 2.2 0.5 2.4 20.8 0.48

The second player (Smith) has a higher rate of rebounds, steals, and free throw rate, by a considerable margin. Based on those numbers, the only reason to take the first player (Monk) is the points. And if you’ve noticed, this franchise has failed year after year by overrating scoring (Rose, Bargnani, T-Mac, Francis, Curry, etc. etc. etc. ).

Last note, look at those assist numbers. If you’ve been a Knicks fan for as long as I have, there is a running theme in our team’s history of not having a legit point guard. In the 80s, the team traded both Mark Jackson & Rod Strickland. In the 90s we turned to a QB and were thrilled to get a Nets one year wonder. (And forgot to play Blackman in the Finals.) In the 00s it was Stephon Marbury for ~$87M in between Howard Eisley & Chris Duhon. As for this decade, who was the Knicks best PG? Prigioni? Felton? Lin? Rose? Calderon?

See my point? Maybe in 2010 we can look back and clearly say Dennis Smith Jr.?

FISHER-COHEN: Of the players with a decent chance of being available, the only players I’d consider are Zach Collins, Smith Jr., and Ntilikina. If KP wasn’t here, I’d take Collins. His numbers are great, and he’s got the kind of all around game that would allow him to complement whatever pieces we add in the future. Collins shares too many strengths and weaknesses with KP though… It’s hard to see them thriving together. That leaves Smith Jr. and Ntilikina. I don’t love Ntilikina, but while the Spurs and Warriors are good case studies in favor of analytics, they’re also good case studies in favor of drafting smart, humble players. Smith has some character issues, and while those don’t always carry over to the pros, since I didn’t get to sit in on the interviews with him or watch his reaction to dashiki-clad Clarence Gaines’ oddball questions, I can’t judge for myself. Without that information, I have to pick Ntilikina.

CROCKETT: Full on shoulder shrug. I’m open. I’d like to think that at #8 a team should be looking to walk away with a good player with limited upside more than the most (high variance) potential. But I have no idea what this FO will do.

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