Knicks Need a Wildcat: The Case for Stanley Johnson at Number 5 Overall

The offseason is the time of year to make arguments for the sake of arguments. When cheering for one of the teams that are no longer in the running, it is imperative to keep the hopes alive for next season. And debate helps keep the embers burning.

With that being said, New York Knicks‘ fan everywhere are anxiously waiting to see what Phil Jackson and his team of executives have planned for this summer. Before Jackson can make any plans though, we have to await the results of the NBA Draft Lottery, which will take place on Thursday, June 26, at the Barclays Center.

New York has a 19.9% chance of winning the lottery and getting the first choice in the draft, which would likely result in the selection of Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns. Worst case scenario, they slip down to the number 5 overall pick.

According to reports, the Knicks have Duke Freshman Justise Winslow as their number 5 prospect. Far from a bad selection, Winslow has the makeup of an excellent player on the next level. Great frame, at 6’6 and 225 pounds with a 6’10 wingspan he could step in his first year and become one of the team’s best defenders.

Winslow may not be built like The Mountain, but he could probably pass for The Hound.

Apr 6, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Justise Winslow (12) celebrates after scoring against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half in the 2015 NCAA Men

His offensive game needs some work, he leaves quite a bit to be desired in terms of creating his own shot. He can shoot if given time to set his feet and has the size to take advantage of smaller wing players. His handles aren’t great and shooting off the dribble is not in his arsenal at this time.

I’m here to make the argument, that IF the Knicks do fall to number 5 AND decide that they want to keep the pick instead of trying to wheel and deal: Jackson and the team should consider selecting Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson over Winslow.

As impressive as Winslow’s physical stature is, Johnson’s is even better. He weighs in at 245, while standing 6’7 with a wingspan close enough to 7’0 that it puts him in the same conversation with wing players like Kawhi Leonard and Nicolas Batum who make life very difficult on the perimeter for opposing teams.

He showed us flashes of defensive brilliance during his one year in Tuscon, taking on highly-touted offensive players such as Michigan’s Caris LeVert and taking them completely out of the game. There have been questions about his motor, but except in blatantly obvious cases, that’s not something I pay much attention to.

I don’t like to judge a young dude’s work ethic unless he’s obviously not trying. Too many come out of high school having been the best guy on the court night in and night out and it just takes them a minute to realize they are going to have to outwork people to be the best at the next level. I believe in him.

Johnson, like Winslow, is going to need some time to adjust on the offensive end. His lack of ability to finish around the rim is something draft experts, like ESPN’s Chad Ford, has pointed out on multiple occasions. In 14 games Arizona played against NCAA Tournament teams, Johnson only converted 38% from the rim.

He has the power and speed to get to the rim, just doesn’t have great instincts among the trees. He draws a lot of contact though and connects on his free throws at a 74% clip. In order to help compensate for his lack of vertical ability, Johnson developed a nice floater from just inside the free throw line.

He’s not a great decision maker, and he had his worst games of the season in the NCAA Tournament. He piled up twice as many turnovers as assists in the four games the Wildcats played.

He may not be a guy that will turn around a team in his first season, but I think he will adjust quicker than Winslow because of his ability to create his own shot and he will be able to contribute on the defensive side of the ball the day he gets drafted.

Overall, I would strongly consider Stanley Johnson over Justise Winslow if the worst case scenario does play out for New York fans. Winslow will be a stud, it’s not a knock on him. I just believe that Johnson has a chance to really shine in the league. He’s one of those guys that will play better pro basketball than college basketball.

In the Triangle, he should get more space for his jumpers and the basketball gods know that the Knicks could use some help on the perimeter defensively.

This draft is a little deeper than most people give it credit for. There are more players than just the quartet of Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell that are going to play a role in the immediate future of their new teams.