The Draft Outlook for the New York Knicks
*Photo via Getty Images
Before I begin painting a 4th overall rookie onto the dusty blank canvas that is the 2015-16 New York Knicks, I would like to extend a great deal of graciousness to Off the Glass, for providing me the public forum to publish my perspective and insights into the wonderful world of basketball.
The Draft Outlook for the New York Knicks
President Phil Jackson and Executive VP/GM Steve Mills have been dealt a New York Knicks team roster comparable to the employee list of “the Bobs" in Mike Judge’s 1999 box office comedy Office Space. (Ricky Ledo.. Ricky.. Le..do-si-do on outta here). The roster is basically a decent cheeseburger (Carmelo) with way too much ketchup. (Doesn’t taste like Heinz, whatsoever).
The Knick fanbase is anxiously awaiting for Phil and friends to get some napkins from Clyde’s Wine & Dine and wipe some of this excess ketchup off. Then, they will decide the four key ingredients in this potentially solid “cheeseburger”, the 2015-16 Knicks starting lineup. One of these key ingredients (barring trade) is going to be the 4th overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. The foreseeable impacts of each pick are vastly different.
Option 1: Karl-Anthony Towns
With each passing day, Karl-Anthony Towns is looking like the consensus number one overall pick, so he’s very likely not going to be a New York Knick. He’s definitely a unique player. He stands at 6‘11, has the ability to shoot from the perimeter, and has good athleticism for his size. If he was a Knick, he would likely switch off between center and power-forward, depending on if Carmelo Anthony was in the game and who the center is. Here’s the only possible way I could see the Knicks getting Towns. If Minnesota takes Jahlil Okafor at number one and Towns falls to Los Angeles, an old trade rumor may peek its’ head. Kobe Bryant has always wanted to play with Carmelo, and the feeling is mutual. Towns has actually stated that he would like to be a Knick, as he was a fan growing up in New Jersey. It’s a long-shot to happen, but don’t doubt the return of the “trade Melo” speculation. Especially, with Phil Jackson at the helm.
Option 2: Jahlil Okafor
Early this offseason, Okafor was the consensus number one pick, until questions and new players like Towns emerged onto the scene. It is without much question that Okafor has the best post moves and close-range skills in the draft class, but his defensive skills may require some fine-tuning to be a successful NBA big man. The other teams took note of Towns’ ability to score from outside and inside in a variety of different ways as well as defend, and that’s why he has the edge right now. Okafor’s free throw shooting is also abysmal.
Okafor would likely be slated as a 6-10 center in the NBA because of his excellent footwork and his skills on the glass. The Knicks desperately need a center who can put in work in close. Many thought that drafting Okafor would close the 30-year-anniversary of drafting Patrick Ewing beautifully, and usher in New York’s next great big man. Obviously not. However, not getting Okafor or Towns could be a blessing in disguise. The Knicks have other needs to address.
Option 3: D’Angelo Russell
The Ohio State freshman point guard brewed up a strong following all year long and it continues through draft season. Russell reasoned to the press in late May that he was the best player in the entire draft and it got people talking more. He’s a smart point guard, and he’s likely the best passing point guard, but it’s truly a stretch to say he’s the best overall player. Time will tell. To his credit, he put up some very solid averages of 19.3 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, and 5.0 assists per game averages in his first year of college ball. Playing devil’s advocate, Russell was a do-everything type of player for Ohio State without much help, much like Carmelo Anthony is for New York.
If the Knicks decide to draft an available D’Angelo Russell, we can expect to see him get heavy minutes early as he learns the triangle offense. Russell has been highly touted in recruiting circles for a while, who have praised his intelligence and composure, two crucial elements in a successful point guard. This makes him a very intriguing candidate for the triangle offense. While his passing ability is fairly commendable, he noticeably lacks the explosiveness to get to the rim and to the free throw line. Which leads me to option four, who didn’t have much trouble doing that in China. Option 4: Emmanuel Mudiay
Emmanuel Mudiay’s highlight tape shows that he possesses the offensive skills that the Knicks have been lacking. These skills are best summarized by an explosive, agile, athletic, play-making, natural point guard who would have a height advantage over most guards in the league, standing in at 6‘5. Mudiay has the best crossover out of probably, anyone to ever come out of the Congo, which is a vital NBA skill for a scoring guard to have. Not only can Mudiay score, he also averaged 6.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists to go along with his 18 points per game in China.
Many scouts say Mudiay is a mystery, which doesn’t make much sense to me because there’s plenty of tape of him available. He gets his own shot, he’s explosive, big and strong, a solid defender, athletic, truly seems like the real deal. Several weeks ago, Mudiay and Russell attended Champs in Times Square to basically meet fans, sign things and give interviews. To me, this is worth noting because it gives New York a chance to feel the energy they each bring. It feels like the foreshadowing that a Phil Jackson regime would generate. Also worth noting, Mudiay has also agreed to privately work out for the Knicks, Lakers, and Sixers in advance of the draft. If the Knicks want to draft a play-making guard, Mudiay should absolutely the guy.
Dark Horse/Trade Down Options:
The most currently talked about dark horse picks for the Knicks at number four are Justise Winslow, Trey Lyles, and Willie Caulie-Stein. Winslow is an athletic NBA small forward who draws comparisons to Kawhi Leonard in terms that he can do a little bit of everything. Trey Lyles seems to be your guy you can count on for a double-double. Willie Caulie-Stein may emerge as a solid rim protector in the pros. I would have no problem seeing Winslow in a Knick uniform because the bottom line is that the Knicks need an athletic playmaker who can make everyone around him better. Whoever the Knicks get, I hope he’s the secret ingredient that could turn this team around.
Before I go, I must say, I think the point guard who comes out of this draft with the most wins in the next five years will end up being Duke’s Tyus Jones. He has an incredible basketball mind. He’s not super athletic, but he is fundamentally sound, an offensive maestro, and a proven winner. The 2015 Final Four MVP will end up being a steal if he drops out of the Top 20. If I’m the Knicks and I can get a big-name asset to come along with him to New York, I make the deal.