New York Knicks drafted Kevin Knox over (among others) Mikal Bridges, it made sense to me. Obviously, it..."/> New York Knicks drafted Kevin Knox over (among others) Mikal Bridges, it made sense to me. Obviously, it..."/>

New York Knicks Draft Strategy: Target Upperclassmen

Jared Butler, NBA Draft.(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Jared Butler, NBA Draft.(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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New York Knicks
Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks are ready to compete

I’m not suggesting the Knicks should only draft old men. If they want to roll the dice on Sharife Cooper or Ziaire Williams or a young big like Jones or Sharpe, I’m in. Above all else, you need talent to win in this league, and if they identify a younger guy they believe can develop into a great player, why would anyone object?

But I am saying that a Springer/Williams/Boston Jr. haul, for example, is a bad idea. The Knicks are already super-young. They already have pre-prime building blocks, including 2-3 still on rookie contracts. They don’t need projects. They don’t need high-risk, high-reward question marks. They need guys that’ll support those aforementioned building blocks as the team looks to move from miraculous resurgence to legitimate contention.

I reject the notion that a player already of drinking age is a finished product or anything close to it. Not that it’s common, but we just saw Julius Randle take a major leap as a 27-year-old. We’ve also seen both Bridges improve significantly since the 2018 draft. So to me, using “Draft Age” as a negative (as Tankathon does) to suggest a guy can’t get better, despite basketball only now becoming his full-time job and despite only now having access to NBA coaching and resources, is absolutely ludicrous.

And for this Knicks’ team, I’ll go as far as to claim the opposite: an older player’s “Draft Age” should be viewed as a positive. The Knicks are looking to continue rising next season, but they’re also still a few years from real contention. A project might help with the latter – if everything goes right – but guys like Butler and Duarte fit both short- and long-term goals.

They can help you make an immediate jump, saving you money that would’ve gone to a similarly-skilled FA (allowing you to spend more on other needs or giving you more flexibility for trades), and they’ll be entering their physical primes while still on rookie contracts by the time you’re ready to contendThat’s a crucial part of winning  – finding controllable players that outperform their deals, enabling you to reallocate resources to build an even better nucleus.

To be clear, I love some of the underclassmen projected to be available when Rose in on the clock and support using a pick on one of them.

But we know what Thibs values. We know what this team needs. And we know they absolutely cannot afford to come out of this draft with upside projects that end up missing. This summer’s splash, if there is one, should be either in free agency or via trade. The draft should be about finding a rotation player for the present and future.

By slaughtering expectations last season, the New York Knicks took themselves out of the running for the next prodigy. Which is fine. They don’t need the next Luka (especially since the first Luka might demand…never mind).

Instead, how about the next Draymond? Is that too much to ask? Okay, the next Malcolm. The next Caris. The next Pascal. Still too much? The next Derrick White, the next Josh Hart, the next M. Bridges (either one), the next Jalen Brunson, the next Shake Milton, the next Grayson Allen (preferably more likable), the next Cam Johnson, Matisse Thybulle, Brandon Clarke, Eric Paschall, Terrence Mann, Payton Pritchard, Desmond Bane, Xavier Tillman…you get the idea.

An oldie-but-goodie. That’s what they need to keep this party going.

Next. Knicks Mock Draft 2.0: Trading up in the draft?. dark