Though the New York Knicks still have more than half of their games to play, assessing future needs and future prospects is something looked at all season long. What could be the Knicks greatest draft needs, while only 34 games into the season?
If there is one thing New York Knicks’ fans can enjoy during a losing season, it is the NBA Draft, especially after the NBA has changed their lottery odds. This new draft reform will diminish the ability for a team to tank for their desired draft pick.
So before you start complaining about the wins and the decreasing chances for Zion Williamson, understand the new draft odds.
Yes, the Knicks are currently the fifth worst team in the NBA, but they still have a better chance now at the number one pick than they did in past seasons.
Regardless if the Knicks had the worst record or the third worst record to end the season, we still need to assess all options, and not look at the “tank for Zion” approach to solve all problems.
For some, this draft class is ranked relatively weak after the projected top three picks hailing from Duke: Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cameron Reddish. But there are many other options outside of those three that have the potential to be exceptional players in this league, at one point or another.
The only issue may be the abundance of projects in the lottery outside the Duke big three, but Knicks’ fans know all too well what projects can look like in their first season. From Kristaps Porzingis to Frank Ntilikina, projects can either surprise or keep steady expectations.
With all talks about projects aside, this draft class is very thin with lottery-centered point guards. For where the Knicks are projected to pick in the top five, their options are limited to one point guard prospect so far.
The sophomore point guard out of Murray State has been stuffing the staff sheet this year and has shown huge improvements from his freshman season. His ability to distribute the ball, along with his improving jumpsuit and ability to penetrate the defense make him an exceptional candidate for the Knicks.
Ja Morant is projected to be drafted at the seven slot, according to NBADraft.net and Tommy Beer at Forbes. It is still a long ways away from a better overall consensus, but I expect the Murray State guard’s stock to stay around the five to ten range.
His season has been incredible, to say the least, but let us look at the overall picture. If drafted before the 14th pick, Morant will become Murray State’s highest drafted player since Cameron Payne in 2014, who may arguably be that school’s best player today, aside from maybe Isaiah Canaan.
Another concern is his overall level of competition faced at Murray State. With an overall strength of schedule of .4148 according to CBSSports.com, Murray State has not had a hard schedule by any means and is ranked 318th overall for strength of schedule.
He is still a polarizing prospect in all regards, but his size is another factor that needs to be brought up. At 6-foot-3 and 175 lbs. Morant will need to take some time to transition into the NBA physically. Even when he does though, his defensive capabilities, which is highly rated at Murray State with a defensive rating of 79.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions), will take a hit going up against the bigger and faster guards in today’s NBA.
A big factor for the Knicks to take a shot on Morant, will be how free agency turns out with contracts looming for Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke, as well as this free agency’s pool of point guards highlighted with Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.