The New York front office hopes to find another budding star to pair with Porzingis & Co. Who should they look to in the upcoming draft?
The New York Knicks (24-36) are in dire straits coming out of the All-Star break and the front office appears to be conceding the rest of the season, judging by their recent moves (or lack thereof). This season had the possibility to be a successful one for New York if everything went right, but very little has. Rose has been decent and the young Euros (plus Kyle O’Quinn) have impressed, but that is where the positives end for the Knicks.
One of the few successes of Phil Jackson’s tenure has been his protection of the team’s draft picks, so New York will have a first rounder, as well as a couple of second round picks in the upcoming draft.
As their 2016-17 season careens off the rails, a yearly tradition for Phil Jackson’s Knicks, the team now looks to their future. With a high pick in a loaded draft, New York will look to build a championship core around Kristaps Porzingis, but who fits best for the team?
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Potential First Round Selections:
Malik Monk (PG/SG, 6’3” 200 lbs., Kentucky)
At the time of this writing, the New York Knicks would hover around the seventh or eighth selection in the lottery. New York will most likely not receive a top-three pick (although it’s possible…), so that essentially rules out top prospects like Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Despite probably missing out on the cream of the crop, the Knicks would be wise to address their long term guard situation in this draft, making Kentucky’s Malik Monk the team’s ideal target.
For the Wildcats, Monk has flashed impressive athleticism and scoring potential, scoring 21.7 points per game on 46.9% shooting from the field, including 41.6% from deep. He has All-Star and franchise cornerstone potential, but most mock drafts also have Monk coming off the board within the top five picks. If the Knicks have a shot at Monk, they will need to move up their pick (not unlikely given their penchant for heartbreaking losses) or teams ahead of the Knicks will need to look past Monk to fulfill a different need.
Frank Ntilikina (PG, 6’5” 190 lbs., France)
Many mock drafts have the Knicks drafting Frenchman Frank Ntilikina with their seventh/eighth pick, so this could be regarded as their “safe” choice. While he might not be the ‘swing-for-the-fences’ pick that Malik Monk might be, Ntilikina possesses many of the intangibles that could make him a jack-of-all-trades for New York.
Ntilikina burst onto the scene in 2016 when he led France to the gold medal in the FIBA U18 European Championships, and was named MVP. Ntilikina averaged 15.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 50% from the field, despite playing with the flu. Reports on the guard paint him as a willing defender and excellent passer, with a high basketball IQ. Stats on the 18-year-old prospect do not tell the whole story, as he plays a backup role with his current team in Strasbourg. He is the tallest of these prospects, and Jackson is known for his love of tall guards and their fit in his Godforsaken Triangle offense. In all likelihood, the Frenchman will make the best fit in the orange and blue, and it will be fun listening to Walt Frazier pronouncing his name on a regular basis.
De’Aaron Fox (PG, 6’3” 175 lbs., Kentucky)
Another guard from the Wildcats provides the Knicks with an interesting alternative to Monk or Ntilikina, in the person of De’Aaron Fox. In many ways, Fox seems like a middle ground between Monk and Ntilikina, with some scoring punch as well as an aptitude for passing and defense. At Kentucky, Fox averages 15.4 points per contest, 4.2 boards, 5.2 assists and 1.5 steals on 46.2% shooting. One area he struggles in is three-point shooting, as he is currently shooting 18.9% from long range. Some prospect lists actually feature Fox over Monk and Ntilikina, but he should figure as the third choice in Phil Jackson’s mind based on roster composition and long term potential.
Luckily for New York, the 2017 Draft is shaping up to be one of the deepest in recent memory. The front office should look to pair young bigs Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez with a solid point guard with their lottery pick, and use their second rounders to add forward depth (or intriguing draft night trades for a rotation piece). If the Knicks miss out on these prospects, they could look further down the list for players like Kansas players Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, or look to develop their young PGs in Ron Baker and Chasson Randle.
However, Monk, Ntilikina, or Fox seem the most likely candidates to land in New York based on talent and need, and hopefully these draft picks can add to a young core with long-term vision to compete in the near future. Now Jackson will wrestle with the question: which prospect fits best with what the Knicks are building? Misfiring on their top-10 pick could result in a drastic setback for the franchise, so Jackson must ponder his options carefully.
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