As another class readies to move on to bigger and better things, let’s get primed for the 2020 NBA Draft with some pre-graduation, New York Knicks-centric superlatives.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the consensus seems to be that LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, Deni Avdija, and Patrick Williams will be gone before the Knicks pick, unless they trade up. So to keep things focused, for now, we will exclude those players for the prestigious honors below.
Without further ado, our first award of the evening…
The “PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BUST” goes to… Nope, not doing this…
These are all young men about to realize lifelong dreams, all accomplished players with potential that, if nurtured properly, can become something special. I have my preferences just like you do, but no negative energy from me today.
The “20-FOOT CEILING” Award goes to… Aleksej Pokusevski
Imagine every single draftee reaches their full potential. Who’s the star of stars? I’ll take the 7-footer who moves like a guard, handles and passes, protects the rim, and shoots it effortlessly.
Mocks have him closer to 27 than 8, but scouting reports and big boards seem to suggest, if not say outright, that he belongs in the lottery.
The “RJ’S CHOICE” Award goes to… Kira Lewis, Jr.
His skillset just seems like the perfect fit alongside the Knicks’ young cornerstone. He’s lightning quick (leading to easy looks for RJ), can play off the ball and stretch the floor (creating space for RJ), and plays defense (helping to mask an RJ deficiency).
The “F*** TEAM NEEDS, JUST ADD TALENT” Award goes to… O. Okongwu and I. Okoro (tie)
It would shock no one if both were off the board by eight. Okongwu could go as high as 3 (!!), and Okoro makes a ton of sense for Cleveland (5) and Atlanta (6).
Shooting is a priority for the Knicks, and center is not, which means neither player fills a glaring need. But the Knicks are too far from contention to worry about that, so if one does fall, it makes Leon’s first major personnel decision that much tougher.
The “THIBS’ CHOICE” Award goes to… Devin Vassell
This might be high for DV – recent mocks have him in the 10-14 range – but there’s no doubt about his fit with Tom Thibodeau. Thibs wants to play D and create corner threes; Vassell defends and shoots. Kismet.
The “KRISTAPS PORZINGIS” Award goes to… Obi Toppin
I hate naming an award for this donkey, but it’s too fitting: who’s the potential selection Knicks’ fans are most likely to boo?
To me, Obi is the clear choice. He gets no love (and plenty of hate) on #KnicksTwitter despite the fact that the guy dominated college basketball to the point where the Dayton Flyers – Dayton!! – were a March Madness 1-seed. Do you know how good you have to be to make that happen?
If Toppin is the pick, most fans will be disappointed. That kid might even cry again. But weaknesses masked by Thibs and Mitch, strengths on full display in primetime at MSG, he’d turn those boos to cheers just as fast as that fragile guy did.
The “JD POWER DEPENDABILITY” Award goes to… Tyrese Haliburton
A boring name for a boring award. For a boring player? His detractors might think so, but Haliburton’s landing here isn’t an indictment of his highlight reel; it’s simply that no matter what he becomes, his team will benefit from his presence. In that way, he’s among the most dependable – “safest” – prospects in the Top 10. His shooting, decision-making, and defense (particularly off the ball) will net positive results.
Furthermore, his character – what he can do for a locker room – makes him “bust-proof.” Haliburton himself has respectfully pushed back against the “safe” and “high-floor” labels because they suggest a low ceiling; I can’t speak on that, but I do know that if Rose values intangibles, IQ, and leadership (and efficient, albeit unorthodox shooting), he could do worse than Haliburton, who some mocks believe can go as high as 5.
The “SCOUTS’ CHOICE” Award goes to… Killian Hayes
In mocks his range is all over the place, but big boards love him. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has him #1. B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman and many more have him #2. Like every other 2020 prospect, he’s polarizing among fans, but if my timeline is any indication, his falling to 8 would break #KnicksTwitter. Though his jumper is a work in progress, he’s an NBA-ready defender and passer with a burgeoning offensive game who would quickly become a fan favorite at MSG.
Admittedly, I was skeptical of him as a Knicks’ target, but after talking with Spencer Pearlman, I’ve joined the bandwagon. If the experts love him so much, why not get on board?
The “Jayson Tatum” Award goes to… Tyrese Maxey and Tyrell Terry (tie)
Remember: the Celtics traded down to acquire Tatum, so that’s what this is about – who’s the guy the Knicks could move down to grab who eventually outperforms his draft position and makes Leon look like genius?
A year ago, Maxey was Top 10 across mocks and big boards. Then he fell with his shooting percentages, with some suggesting he could still be there in the mid-20s. Now he’s up again, with prognosticators predicting late lottery / mid-first. Regardless, he’s a guy the Knicks should absolutely consider. The Kentucky/Kenny Payne connection aside, Maxey brings a lot to the table: shot-making, versatility, defense, clutch plays. He’s going to be better than what he showed in college (something he’s suggested himself).
Terry’s a more recent riser. After putting on 20+ pounds of muscle during this extended offseason, he’s suddenly being mocked in the teens and held in even higher esteem on big boards. If you’ve seen him shoot, this makes perfect sense. Hell, it might even sound too low. Throw in a reported record-breaking basketball IQ, and you’ve got the recipe for a draft-day steal.
The “PLEASE PACKAGE 27 AND 38 TO MOVE UP” Award goes to… Isaiah Stewart
The Knicks already packaged these picks to move up to the 23rd spot, which could be part of a bigger deal or a maneuver to put them in position to select Rochester native Isaiah Stewart.
Stewart has been rising up draft boards, so if new scouting guru Walt Perrin is convinced he is the right pick to move up four spots, who am I to disagree?