Knicks

2020 NBA Draft: Do’s and Don’ts for the Knicks

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The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity around the real world and the world of sports. Now, if the season hadn’t been impeded like it has, the NBA scene would be erupting with heart-stopping and heart-breaking playoff moments as well as NBA Draft news and swirling rumors.

However, this break has made the NBA draft more intriguing because organizations are going to have to take unconventional routes when assessing this year’s incumbent draft hopefuls. Draft season is usually when the Knicks are talked about the most, so when other teams are actually competing for titles, the landscape can remember to laugh at us to make themselves feel better.

Jokes aside, the Knicks have some promising young players and find themselves in a position where the culture of the team can be escalated completely. We compiled a list of “Do’s” and “Do-Not’s” that the Knicks should consider when evaluating the incoming talent in comparison to the roster we already have.

The rationale on splitting up the Do’s and Do-Not’s is based on the Knicks’ potential spots within the lottery. At this point, the Knicks are in a purgatorial position where they could’ve finished with a worse enough record to be selecting within the top three, but they could just as well end up picking outside the top five.

Do’s: Draft Selection 1-3

Draft LaMelo Ball. If the Knicks somehow land the number one overall pick, I don’t think there is any reason to pick anybody not named LaMelo Ball. Anthony Edwards is a great player and could very well end up being the most successful player from this class. With that being said, having missed out on Zion last year, the Knicks would have a vacuum-sealed golden opportunity to change the culture in New York for the next decade.

There aren’t a lot of guarantees in this league, but drafting LaMelo Ball is an immediate culture shift and I’ve never seen a personality fit a city so perfectly. LaMelo Ball is also a fantastic player who averaged 17 points, seven assists, and almost eight rebounds per game for the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL. He has some shooting inconsistencies, but I value that professional experience very highly and he will continue to mold his game and become the Knicks’ franchise point guard for years.

Draft Anthony Edwards. If the Knicks have 2nd or 3rd overall pick, I would take Anthony Edwards. Edwards was an absolutely electric player for the Georgia Bulldogs. He would have an immediate impact anywhere he lands. No one else can really provide the raw talent and athleticism Edwards possesses. As much as I advocate for LaMelo Ball to be a Knick, I wouldn’t be upset in the slightest if Anthony Edwards was our starting combo guard next year. Players like James Wiseman, Cole Anthony and Killian Hayes look promising, but they have some red flags that don’t warrant using a top-three pick on them.

If Edwards and Ball are off the board for New York at No. 3, they could trade down and gain more assets in the process. This gives them more possibilities to obtain different kinds of talent while also allowing them to test the trade value for guys like Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina.

Do Not’s: Draft Selection 1-3

When it comes to the Knicks and the upcoming draft, the gameplan (on paper) seems pretty straightforward. Aim for one of the highly-touted prospects — LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Obi Toppin — and if the pick falls outside of the top three, choose a player with a high floor. This draft has been set up in a way that the Knicks can’t possibly mess it up too egregiously. At the same time, it’s the Knicks.

Do not draft a project. The biggest mistake the Knicks could make is to reach for a project player like James Wiseman, Killian Hayes or Deni Avdija. It makes sense that the Knicks would take a player with untapped potential rather than a player that might have a solid statline and accolades but limited potential. The Knicks took a gamble on Mitchell Robinson at the beginning of the second round in 2018 and that proved to be worth it. You cannot do this when you have a top-three draft pick, especially in such an underwhelming draft.

Do not take another big man. Robinson is our height and length of the future and drafting someone like Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu or even Avdija immediately creates an unnecessary and unavoidable competition for minutes.

Do not trade the pick. Yes, I know, I said that if Ball and Edwards are off the board, the Knicks should look to gain more assets. This statement still holds true. As much as I like Obi Toppin, the Knicks shouldn’t consider taking him in the top three, because he plays a position we don’t need. Instead, teams like the Cavs or Timberwolves could look to add a guy like Toppin to run the floor, be disruptive defensively and jump out of the gym.

Nonetheless, if Edwards or Ball are on the board within the top-three picks, the Knicks should have to be blown away to entertain the possibility of trading this pick. Both of these players have potential to be special in their own ways and either one can benefit New York instantly. I cannot stress enough– do not trade the pick to the Toronto Raptors. There are rumors that they are looking to move up and take LaMelo Ball. That is terrifying and straight up wrong to even think about. There are not a lot of ways that the Knicks can screw up that horribly, but as we can see from the past season, this team knows how to do just that.

Do’s: Draft Selection 4-7

If the Knicks’ pick drops outside the top three, the approach becomes a bit more fuzzy. Although this class is limited in terms of star potential, viable options remain for the Knicks. At the same time, this could also be a worst-case scenario for the Knicks because they should be looking to change their identity as an organization. If the Knicks do not get a top-three pick, I would rather be picking at six than at four or five because it doesn’t put the Knicks in a position that deters them from reaching. We know the Knicks love reaching, and often end up freefalling like Mufasa in The Lion King (too soon?).

Draft someone with a high floor. In terms of this class, the Knicks should look to select someone that can immediately help them and also has a chance to be a solid contributor for years. In other words, they should find someone that doesn’t have the highest ceiling but has a very high floor.

If Toppin is gone, I like Tyrese Haliburton out of Iowa State. Selecting Haliburton at No. 6 looks better than taking him at No. 4 or No. 5 because there will be bigger names on the board. The 6’5 sophomore point guard would be a great fit for the Knicks who lack playmaking and offensive creation at the point guard position. He averaged 15 points, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game. The biggest knock on Haliburton is his skinny frame and unusual shot form which warrants some skepticism to how his game will transition to the NBA. Nonetheless, Haliburton would be a great fit for a team looking for help on both sides of the ball and he could be a solid third option for the Knicks in year one.

Another player I wouldn’t mind looking into is Isaac Okoro, a versatile 6’6 small forward out of Auburn who has great potential to be a solid two-way player.

Explore trade options. It might also be in the Knicks’ best interest to trade the pick if it falls out of the top three. I usually do not feel comfortable advocating for the Knicks to make trades on draft night, but this might be the year. The Knicks are one of only three teams to have multiple first-round picks this year (Boston, Minnesota). The Knicks can simply say they don’t like who is left on the board and look for a team who wants to move up. If this turns out to be the case, I would hope the Knicks can move to the mid-teens area and look there.

This class is interesting because there is a plethora of project players who could slide down boards for a while. R.J. Hampton, Cole Anthony, Josh Green and Nico Mannion could definitely be available during the middle of the first round. There is also a bit of uncertainty because a lot of trade partners might not deem most of these players worthy of trading up for, especially if the pick does not cover the more coveted prospects.

In this case, this is an ideal opportunity for the Knicks to start shopping some of their players. Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. are virtually extraneous at this point. Next season is going to be a make-or-break season for Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks should test their underwhelming trade value in an equally underwhelming draft class and see what kind of return you can get for them.

A lot of teams — the Hornets and Kings for example — are bound to begin moving on from disappointing draft picks from recent years. The Knicks’ front office needs to put their shoes on and straighten their ties because they cannot afford to leave this draft empty-handed.

Do Not’s Draft Selection: 4-7

Do not gamble. The Knicks cannot gamble on a player regardless of draft position. It’s less worrisome if they reach for someone at No. 5 or No. 6 than No. 2, but at this point they should not be settling. I also do not want to be blamed for derailing another promising players career. James Wiseman, Vernon Carey, Killian Hayes and Cole Anthony can thrive, produce and be successful in certain environments, but New York is not that environment.

Falling out of the top three is a less-than-ideal situation for the Knicks to find themselves. They continue to fight and fight with the other bottom dwellers to see who can make the worst decisions and it’s hard to tell if the Knicks are winning. I love Tyrese Haliburton and think he has one of the highest floors in the class, but he’s not going to take this team to the playoffs next year. Regardless, he should be the choice before the Knicks hit the panic button and pick Wiseman, Avdija or Carey.

The Knicks are fantastic at making headlines for all the wrong reasons. They’re like a less-interesting version of The Kardashians. No one actually cares about what happens to them but it’s always hysterical to make fun of them and talk about how ridiculous they are. The difference is the Knicks don’t reap any of the financial or social benefits.

Final Thoughts

Maybe I’m just a hopeless optimist, but give the fans some hope or any indication that the team has a direction going forward. Like I said previously, the Knicks really cannot mess up this draft. Most teams are probably going to feel uneasy about drafting due to the problems the pandemic has presented and many will just take the best available player.

As comforting as that is, a lot of teams are not facing the same circumstances as the Knicks. We don’t even know who our coach is going to be next year. The fanbase has been trying to get the owner to sell the team for years. A majority of current players are going to be on different teams next year– how are they supposed to stay motivated to try for the last five games of the season? This team is set up to fail, like a really bad TV sitcom and it is maddening to think about.

All in all, the game plan should be as follows: Draft LaMelo Ball. If this doesn’t happen, I guess they’ll target Gordon Hayward or DeMar DeRozan, get a few more big men to supplant Mitchell Robinson and pretend to compete again. Go Knicks.

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About Jack Minello

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