The time has come once again for the NBA draft and, due to the pandemic, this year’s draft is taking place a bit later than normal. Yet once again, the Knicks find themselves in the position of desperately needing young talent.
Last year’s season was cut short when the pandemic hit the country and as a result the Knicks, who were in the midst of another dismal season, qualified for the lottery. They didn’t land as high as the previous year when they selected R.J. Barrett with the third overall pick, but they still have a pretty favorable position by falling into the top 10 at pick number eight.
I’ve outlined three players that I like for the Knicks at that number 8 pick and three that I do not like. This is taking into account that some of the top prospects (James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball) will likely not be available when they are making their pick. (Although in my opinion, missing out on LaMelo Ball could be a real blessing in disguise)
Don’t Like: Onyeka Okongwu C – USC
A player who shows a decent amount of upside as a paint-presence big man, but the fact that they already have Mitchell Robinson would probably make the pick redundant, should they choose Okongwu. He looks like he’ll be a fine center/power forward in today’s NBA but he doesn’t really check many of the boxes of what they need. He would give them some depth in their big-man dept but he doesn’t project as a 3-point shooter so he won’t help them spread the floor. Last year they ranked in the bottom five for three point percentage, so drafting someone like Okongwu won’t help them much in that department.
Like: Obi Toppin F – Dayton
Toppin is expected to go in the top 5 or potentially even a top three pick, but there’s a small chance some of the other teams might pass on him. I think if he falls to 8, the Knicks should jump. He could fit perfectly into their lineup at the 4, and even play some 3 and maybe even at 2 due to his versatility. There is a lot to like about this guy; Obi’s a highly intelligent, highly versatile player who has improved a lot in college. He almost looks tailor-made for today’s NBA with his ability to play multiple positions and shoot effectively from beyond the arc. I think he would fit really well with Barrett and Robinson due to his outside shooting, versatility and athleticism. Not to mention he’s a NYC native which I know has not worked out in the past for some, but I’d be happy if this is who they ended up with.
Don’t Like: Killian Hayes G – France
I’m gun-shy on French PGs now because the last one they picked hasn’t exactly turned out that well. Hayes is intriguing, standing at 6’5″ and 195 pounds with the potential clearly there. I fear that he’d be too difficult of a project for them though. I don’t think he would mesh well with Barrett either due to him needing the ball in his hands to be effective. I’ve heard multiple sources question his athleticism which is alarming. You can’t just teach someone to be faster, sure the game can slow down for players as one grows into the next level but this guy just has too many red flags for me. I haven’t even mentioned his 3 point shooting being a weakness as well. Their first french PG has an issue with a lack of athleticism too, and I think it limits him and will continue to do so for his career – they don’t need another guy with the same issue.
Like: Kira Lewis Jr. G – Alabama
This is a player who could be available a few picks after theirs, but I’d grab him at 8 if they really like him. You don’t want to trade down and miss out on who you’re trading down for. Lewis Jr. is a speedster. He reminds me of De’Aaron Fox when he came out of Kentucky a few years ago and just like Fox, the upside is hard to miss. Speed and athleticism are probably the best assets for a guard in today’s game and Lewis has plenty of those. His quickness should instantly translate to the pro game and help him create space in the NBA for himself and others. He even looks to be a better 3 point shooter than De’Aaron Fox was coming out. It should be noted that Lewis Jr. will need to develop some more weight and strength on him. He is only coming into the league at 165 pounds and he’s going to get pushed around a bit. But I think he’d be a good player for their new coach, Tom Thibodeau, to help develop.
Don’t Like: Isaac Okoro F – Auburn
I know “tweener” isn’t a word that gets thrown around a lot anymore, because the NBA has become so position-less and fluid in it’s style of play now, but Isaac Okoro screams “tweener” to me. He’s a great leaper, but not a good rebounder. Can shoot the three, but doesn’t project as the best wing defender. His skill set just seems to fit into that older mold of “tweener” Is he a 3? Not unless he gets a lot better on defense. Is he a 2 guard? Well maybe, but they already have the guy for that position. Is he a small-ball power forward? Not unless he gets better as a rebounder. The guy just seems to have too many holes, I don’t trust their organization to develop him.
Like: Florida State Forwards (Patrick Williams/Devin Vassel) F – Florida State)
I had trouble picking between these two guys because they both really seem to fit into the direction the Knicks are going. They’re both 3 and D type of prospects who look like they can play well off the ball and fit into the Knicks future plans.
Let’s start with the safer pick, in my opinion: Vassell. He’s a classic “3 and D” guy, who the Knicks are lacking, so he would help them on defense and add to their three-point shooting. He showed a lot on defense in college, so that’s a plus, even if he doesn’t really add much to their offense besides some three-point shooting. I think he’ll still be able to help out on both sides of the floor immediately. He could even develop into a more functional player offensively.
Patrick Williams is the other forward from FSU that I’d like them to take. He is more of a project but has shown some terrific instincts on BOTH sides of the ball. A lot of people think he is the best two-way prospect in the draft. He is less developed as a three point shooter than Vassell and would probably impact the team less early on. Potentially he could turn out as the better of the two players due to his upside. He’s a 6’8 guy with a 7 foot wing-span and could pair nicely as a defensive tandem with Robinson.
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