While the Knicks were unable to jump up in draft lottery, there are still a number of interesting options at the ninth pick.
Despite hopes that they might secure a top three pick in this season’s lottery, the New York Knicks failed to move up and will select ninth in June’s NBA Draft. This is not unfamiliar territory for New York: they took Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick last season, and have not had a top-three pick since they took Patrick Ewing with the first overall pick in 1985.
While the Knicks would certainly have liked to have a shot at a franchise-altering talent like DeAndre Ayton or Luka Doncic, the New York brass will settle for another building block as they continue their deliberate march to respectability. The question remains: which prospect will be available at No. 9, and which will fit the Knicks’ needs the best?
Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova University
Fresh off winning the NCAA National Championship with the Nova Wildcats, one of the most intriguing names in the 6-10 range for New York is 21-year-old forward Mikal Bridges. With Kristaps Porzingis playing power forward/center long term and Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke viewed as building blocks at the guard positions, New York will most likely look for another wing in the draft to flesh out their small forward depth.
Bridges projects to be a solid 3-and-D player, with the potential skillset of a Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. For the Wildcats, Bridges averaged 17.7 points per game and 5.3 assists in a career-high 40 games and 32.1 minutes per. Most attractive for the Knicks is his scoring efficiency: Bridges hit on 43.5% from deep and posted a 51.4% field goal percentage overall.
The Knicks have their top-3 pick hopes swatted away… but there’s Mikal Bridges pic.twitter.com/ThPQkJDB4G— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) May 16, 2018
In a league that is increasingly underscoring the importance of defensive-minded wings with a reliable three-point shot, Bridges instantly becomes one of New York’s top choices. Mikal was consistently one of the staunchest defenders in the NCAA, posting 2.4 defensive win shares and an outstanding 13.1 box plus/minus. With his 7’1” wingspan, Mikal forms an ideal pairing with Frank Ntilikina for a tandem that could lead the league in deflections.
Alongside Ntilikina (best in the NBA at defending the pick-and-roll allowing .65 points per possession) and Porzingis (led the league in blocks until his season-ending injury), Bridges could be the last piece to form an elite-level defensive lineup in the future. Another plus is Bridges’ experience under coach Jay Wright, reportedly one of the Knicks’ top choices in their most recent coaching search.
Trae Young, PG,University of Oklahoma
Though the Knicks should be approaching this draft looking for help on the wing, Trae Young’s name has been bandied about as a potential target in the draft if he is still available at No. 9. While there seems to be mutual interest between Young and the orange and blue, there are questions about how he would fit with Porzingis offensively and what his selection would mean for Ntilikina’s future role in New York.
There is no doubt that Young is incredibly gifted on the offensive end of the floor, and has no put up no end of highlight plays, but he has been a decided negative defensively. Given the gritty defensive identity that freshly minted HC David Fizdale hopes to bring to MSG, Young would certainly not fit the bill.
Offensively, Young’s numbers speak for themselves; the freshman averaged 32 points per game and 10.2 assists to become the first player in NCAA history to lead the country in assists and scoring. Though he put up big numbers, his efficiency shooting leaves a little to be desired: he hit on 42.2% of his shots from the field, and 36% from behind the arc, though he excelled at driving to the basket and drawing fouls (which would benefit the Knicks, as they ranked 28th in free throw attempts per game).
With only a 6’2” wingspan, Young doesn’t have the ideal frame for an NBA defender, so Scott Perry and Steve Mills may want to pair him with Ntilikina in the backcourt to hide him on defense. Unlike Bridges, who looks close to a finished product, the Knicks would be gambling on Young’s upside, hoping that he becomes a Steph Curry-type player.
Wendell Carter Jr., C,Duke University
If the Knicks choose to look for a big to pair with Porzingis, New York might consider Wendell Carter Jr. to give KP an interior presence to play with. Also factoring in Carter Jr.’s Knick candidacy is the front office’s decision regarding Enes Kanter. If Kanter opts out and the Knicks decide not to bring him back, drafting the Duke product becomes much more likely, even with Kyle O’Quinn most likely entering the starting lineup for New York. Though overshadowed by fellowBlue Devil Marvin Bagley, Carter Jr. was a great sidekick averaging 13.5 points per game, to go with 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.
Knicks GM Scott Perry reiterates to @alanhahn that the club is looking to draft the best player available, regardless of position. “We’ve got to get the highest level of talent that we can get on our roster and we’ll figure out all of the positions once they get in there.”— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 15, 2018
In the end, the Knicks are still at the stage in their rebuild where they can afford to just take the most talented name still left on the board. With Ntilikina’s long-term projection as a lead guard in question, it is quite possible that the Knicks will select a guard like Young or Alabama’s Collin Sexton or even Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
However, conventional thinking would dictate that New York would look to fill out their bare wing depth, which saw Tim Hardaway Jr. receiving a large share of his minutes at the small forward. In that case, the most likely candidates beside Mikal Bridges would probably fall between Michigan State’s Miles Bridges (no relation) and Kentucky’s Kevin Knox, which gives the Knicks a plethora of viable options. Luckily for the Knicks, all of these prospects have the ability to help the team immediately as well as in the future.
Edited by Emily Berman.
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- Patrick Ewing
- Mark Jackson
- Tim Hardaway Jr.
- Walt Frazier