Despite finishing with the 7th worst record, the Knicks don’t have a pick in the draft due to some horrible trades. How can they still add value?
Unbelievably, the Knicks are missing not just their first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but their second round pick as well, leaving them devoid of any draft capital whatsoever for the draft on June 23.
The first round pick was first traded to the Denver Nuggets in the form of a pick swap stemming from that Carmelo Anthony trade. As if that wasn’t bad enough, in 2013, the Knicks traded that already-swapped pick to the Toronto Raptors for Andrea Bargnani in a move many in the industry still refer to as marching orders passed down from meddling owner James Dolan. This move signalled one of the last acts of the Glen Grunwald era, as he was reassigned in 2013, with Steve Mills taking the reins.
To add insult to injury, the Knicks also traded their 2016 second round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012 as part of a deal including Raymond Felton and Kurt Thomas; that pick is now owned by the Houston Rockets.
Despite the utter lack of foresight and a procession of myopic moves executed by the Knicks’ front office, they are still (somehow) not without options. This is largely due to the myriad options available to all NBA teams around draft time; the ability to buy into the draft if a willing partner reveals themselves, or to make a trade in which draft capital assets flow in.
The Knicks look to be in a prime position to buy a second round or even late first round selection — they are in the largest market of any NBA team, and are owned by James Dolan, of CableVision wealth and JD and the Straight Shot renown, who has been wont to spend heavily at his own whim.
In terms of other assets, teams are always looking to offload contracts or take flyers on bench players in exchange for second round picks. While the Knicks are hardly in a position to take on salary, there are many trades they should be exploring, including those revolving around Arron Afflalo (should he opt in to his contract), Kyle O’Quinn, Lou Amundson, and even Robin Lopez. The Knicks have exactly $10.5 million in cap space before considering Afflalo’s and William’s player options — they could have as much as $23.5 million should both opt out — not enough for two max contracts but enough for one and another sizeable contract.
It is imperative for the Knicks’ future and talent level that they find a way into the draft, and they know it. A potentially more interesting discussion revolves around who they would take with such acquired selections, although this is a very difficult task without knowing where they will be picking.
Therefore, lottery and mid-first round prospects have been left out of this analysis. Back-end of the first round and second round will be the zone of focus, as it should be for the New York Knicks, and is a spot where this draft is particularly strong compared to other classes and this draft’s relatively weak lottery.
Without further ado, the top five selections the Knicks should be looking at from the aforementioned 25-40 pick range include:
1. Damion Lee: Louisville, Senior
The Knicks’ top option is also their most attainable. With many pegging Lee to slip out of the draft altogether, it is possible for the Knicks to make a steal without even having to trade into the draft. Lee emerged as a do-it-all wing scorer and defensive presence at Drexel, while also starting at point guard, despite being a 6’6’’ wing. He averaged 36.3% on three-pointers in his final two collegiate seasons on over six attempts per game; his shot will translate. He averaged 1.5 steals both years and led Louisville’s defensive-minded scheme. The scandal revolving around Louisville, where Lee transferred for his senior year, and their subsequent tournament ban probably has Lee off a lot of NBA radars right now.
2. Ben Bentil: Providence, Sophomore
Bentil excels at creating and making shots, but as opposed to being much of a scorer/wing, Bentil is much more solid all around and projects more as a small big, in the Draymond Green mold. Bentil could be the perfect fit with a soft touch to pair with Porzingis in the front-court, as he won’t be tasked with defending the rim but still excels on both ends (and can cover for Anthony’s defensive limitations).
3. DeAndre Bembry: St. Joseph’s, Junior
The inclusion of Bembry is meant to address the Knicks’ need of a second scorer to pair with Carmelo Anthony, which in turn will allow Porzingis more time to focus on defense and let the offense come to him naturally in the flow of the game. Bembry was outstanding in the NCAA Tournament, but that may have inflated his draft stock some.
4. Michael Gbinije: Syracuse, Senior
Gbnije’s pro appeal gained a lot of steam during a brilliant NCAA Tournament in which he captained his team to a Final Four, despite many believing Syracuse shouldn’t have made the tournament at all. Gbinije looks the part of a Penny Hardaway-esque NBA point guard — he can drive, he can kick, he can defend, he has great court vision, and he stands tall at 6’7’’. His shooting needs work, but he could be the perfect tall point guard and homegrown talent to pair with Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis going forward.
5. Thon Maker: Australia, N/A
No one knows what to think of this kid. Some see Kevin Durant or Kevin Garnett; others wonder if he will ever be able to hold down a rotation spot. This volatility and his age has Maker pegged to go anywhere from 15 to 35 — which could lead to him being an interesting flyer to take for the Knicks. Although there is significant skill overlap with Kristaps Porzingis, it is not hard to envision a terrifying frontcourt of two seven-foot behemoths that can flit around the three-point arc, cross people up, block shots, and defend the rim on the other end of the floor.
DeJounte Murray: Washington, Freshman
Although Murray will likely go too high (projected to go 10th in ESPN’s latest Mock Draft), many believe that he could slip to the back end of the first round, in which case the Knicks should aggressively pursue trade opportunities. Murray could be a steal with star potential at the end of the first.
The Knicks have room to grow. But they need an alpha dog, defensive-minded point guard comfortable setting up the triangle and setting the tone, in addition to a wing player they can slot on the other team’s best players. Once those two most glaring holes are filled around Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, the road to contention is much much shorter.
The Draft Order and Team Needs
1. Philadelphia 76ers
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston Celtics (From Brooklyn)
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. New Orleans Pelicans
7. Denver Nuggets (From New York)
8. Sacramento Kings
9. Toronto Raptors (From Denver)
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Orlando Magic
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns (From Washington)
14. Chicago Bulls
15. Denver Nuggets (From Houston)
16. Boston Celtics (From Dallas)
17. Memphis Grizzlies
18. Detroit Pistons
19. Denver Nuggets (From Portland)
20. Indiana Pacers
21. Atlanta Hawks
22. Charlotte Hornets
23. Boston Celtics
24. Philadelphia 76ers (From Miami)
25. Los Angeles Clippers
26. Philadelphia 76ers (From Oklahoma City)
27. Toronto Raptors
28. Phoenix Suns (From Cleveland)
29. San Antonio Spurs
30. Golden State Warriors
37. Houston Rockets (From New York)
46. Dallas Mavericks
55. Brooklyn Nets (From Los Angeles)
No Picks: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards
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