The key to the Knicks’ success in the 2020 NBA Draft.
The New York Knicks will get their first chance to improve their roster this offseason in the upcoming NBA Draft. How does the new front office turn New York into an attractive place to play again? By following models of success set by the league’s top teams, starting with the draft.
Boston, Toronto and Miami are well-maintained rose gardens. New players blossom for them every year. These organizations have succeeded by having a defined culture, and each team identifies players who fit that culture.
In thinking about all of the successful organizations around the league, why would Giannis, Anthony Davis or any great free agent want to join the rag-tag bunch of misfits who call Madison Square Garden home?
We saw last offseason that even with a quality supporting cast already in place in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard jumped to the Clippers because they projected a strong culture and were able to bring in Paul George.
For the Knicks to become an attractive place to play, they need to build a strong core that will set the foundation for attracting max talent. The best way to start this process is through the draft. With intelligence and due diligence, teams can identify players who fit their culture, identity and style of play.
The draft order has been finalized, which means it is time for fans and pundits to list their favorite players with the hope they will be available when it comes time to hear, “With the # pick in the 2020 draft, Team X chooses J. ‘Lighning’ Hops.”
This year, creating a mock draft is extremely difficult because there are no clear top picks, and there was no March Madness to help with evaluations. Some of the names that appear most often are very shaky choices. Perhaps they remain at the top of most mock drafts because they have been there since Day One and no one has displaced them.
I have my own set of parameters when it comes to choosing which players have the most NBA potential: they are high motor, high basketball IQ and defensive intensity. In my view, LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards are not inviting prospects because they lack one or more of these traits. Several times in NBA history players selected within the first few picks have turned into busts compared to players chosen behind them.
The following graph shows how many failures there have been early in the draft from 2003 through 2017. Who can remember the next Larry Bird: Adam Morrison?
As you can see, picking 8th, the Knicks will still have an opportunity to get a quality player. Using the three characteristics of high motor, high basketball IQ and defensive intensity, their choice has a better chance of becoming an All-Star. If the draft is a crapshoot, these guidelines will tilt the odds in the Knicks’ favor.
"“The Texas native is not a freak athlete, or the type of player you’ll see on an ESPN highlight reel any time soon. He does not have the pedigree of a future NBA All-Star. His physical tools are fairly average, and he still needs to develop certain parts of his skill set, namely his shooting consistency from the beyond the arc, to maximize his value. However, when evaluating a player like Butler, who simply plays winning basketball, has terrific intangibles, and does all of the little things the(sic) help his team, it is important to look at what he can do before condemning him for he can’t be. Butler is a heady player who plays within a team concept. He defends, he makes the extra pass, he crashes the glass, he has a terrific basketball IQ, and his attitude is a coach’s dream.”"
Hindsight is 20-20, but history is a good teacher. A player who may become a force is Chuma Okeke, drafted last year at 16. He is still recovering from a torn ACL. He does well in all three categories. We shall see.
Now it’s time for putting some skin in the game. Here is my big board using high motor, high IQ and defensive intensity as the most heavily weighted skills. These would be the players the Knicks should target with their 8th overall pick.
- Isaac Okoro – Checks all the boxes. A hard worker who will make questions about his J disappear.
- Onyeka Okongwu – Only separated from Okoro by my having seen Okoro play against Kentucky.
- Obi Toppin – Not an elite defender, but he is far ahead of Okoro and Okongwu with great offense. Heady team player, willing passer, defends and rebounds. Excellent athlete.
- Tyrese Halliburton – Very solid player. Supposedly, he does not have the upside of other PGs, but has a very high floor.
- Devin Vassell – Again, checks all the boxes. Already an excellent shooter.
- James Wiseman – True center who is very good on both ends of the floor. Questionable IQ.
- Kira Lewis – He will be a player. His upside is very high and he already checks all the boxes.
- Killian Hayes – Another top player with IQ and defensive intensity. Excellent FT % indicates he will be a good shooter.
- Saddiq Bey – Defends and scores. His court vision (IQ) is questionable.
- Paul Reed – Another very strong defender. Has motor and IQ. Offense questionable. Possible player to scoop up at 27 if he falls.
- Patrick Williams – Very raw. Rising fast up draft boards. Will not be available at 27.
Now let’s discuss some players who could be available when the Knicks pick again at 27th, starting with point guards:
- Immanuel Quickly – Played mostly off the ball at Kentucky, Ashton Hagans played PG.
- Malachi Flynn – Checks all the boxes against lesser competition.
- Payton Pritchard – Highly-skilled PG, not a great defender.
- Ty-Shon Alexander – Very solid.
A few power forwards who could be available at 27:
- Xavier Tillman – Very good defender, solid with limited offensive range.
- Mamadi Diakite 6′ 9” – Very good defender and rebounder. Forced to become a shooter this year. Good numbers.
- Tyler Bey 6′ 8” – Athletic rebounder and defender. J is lacking.
And some wings to target at 27:
- Elijah Hughes – Played zone exclusively at ‘Cuse. Scorer.
- Nate Hinton – See this scouting report.
- Robert Woodard – excellent J.
As we get into the second round, here are some players who could be available for the Knicks with their 38th overall pick. Scottie Lewis, Ayo Dosunmu, and Aaron Henry have already withdrawn from the draft. A few of the players listed above will probably be passed over and could become available here.
- Trevlin Queen – 23 yo. Tough kid. Plus defender.
- Trent Forrest – Still developing at 22 yo. + + athlete and defender.
- Lamar Stevens – Tough kid, checks all the boxes but at lower proficiency. Lacks O.
- Jay Scrubb – Plus athlete, JUCO background, Reach; high ceiling, low floor.
The absence of overseas players is due to lack of confidence in the scouting reports, and their level of competition. Lack of intensity on defense, sloppy play and low motor skills could be due to these players being so superior to their competition. This was taken into account in the case of the JUCO player, Jay Scrubb. Killian Hayes is included because of positive reports regarding his effort and defense.
New head of college scouting Walt Perrin is to be trusted, but will Leon Rose and James Dolan listen? Hopefully, the Knicks use a solid criteria, like the one presented above, in choosing who to select in the upcoming draft.