Who will the Knicks draft? A look at NYK’s Options


The Knicks have the 4th pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. That is, if they don’t trade down. Who will the Knicks be introducing as their newest addition? Here’s a breakdown of the candidates to be the newest New York Knick:


Jahlil Okafor

The Breakdown: 6-11 275 lb Center, Freshman out of Duke, 7-5 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Potential to be a dominant low-post scorer. Has the size, strength, and the moves. Very skilled. Decent out to mid-range but not beyond. Smart, unselfish.

Weaknesses: Motor can be a concern. Doesn’t project as a top defender although he could be if he were committed. Not very quick. Should be a better rebounder.

Why the Knicks would draft him: This is one of the guys Phil Jackson really wants. After the Knicks slipped in the lottery, he lamented the fact that they would probably end up having to take a guard or a wing, when they had planned on taking a big. Okafor and Karl Towns were those bigs. Okafor could provide the Knicks the franchise center they haven’t had since Patrick Ewing, and would add an entirely new dimension to the Melo-Centric offense. This is a guy the Knicks could build around.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Simple… he probably won’t be on the board. The Timberwolves will almost certainly take Karl Towns at #1. After that, it’s probably Okafor to the Lakers. If the Lakers decide to pass, they could trade down to a team that wants Okafor, or they could let the Sixers have a crack at him. If the Sixers pass as well, and don’t trade the pick to a team that wants Okafor, the Knicks would have a shot at the Duke center. That’s a lot of “ifs.”

Chances he’s a Knick: 5% (99% if he’s on the board)

DeAngelo Russell

The Breakdown: 6-5 193 lb Point Guard, Freshman out of Ohio State, 6-10 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Terrific scorer. Quick, coordinated, can get to the rim. Great shooter. Lefty. Good distributor.

Weaknesses: Defense is fine but not great. Not a terrific finisher once he gets to the basket, could improve. Skinny.

Why the Knicks would draft him: Russell is another guy who has a chance to be a true franchise player. This is a point guard’s league, and the Knicks will need a star at that position if they want to contend. Russell could be that guy. If he’s on the board, he’ll almost certainly be the most talented guy there. This would be a terrific pick for the Knicks.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Like Okafor, Russell probably won’t be on the board— the Duke and OSU stars are the two main casualties of the Knicks’ lottery disaster. The Sixers are likely to take Russell, and the Lakers are even giving him a look at #2. If the two bigs go 1 and 2, and the Sixers take Kristaps Porzingis or trade the pick to a team that wants him, the Knicks would have the chance to take Russell. If he is on the board, Phil will likely select him, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the role of the point guard is de-emphasized in Jackson’s precious “Triangle.”

Chances he’s a Knick: 15% (80% if he’s on the board).


Emmanuel Mudiay

The Breakdown: 6-5, 196 lb Point Guard, spent 2014-15 in China, 6-9 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Phenomenal athlete. Big for a point guard. Can sneak or muscle his way to the basket. Good finisher. Good defender. Good rebounder. Good in transition.

Weaknesses: Turnover prone in China. Mediocre shooter from the perimeter.

Why the Knicks would draft him: Mudiay is likely to be the best player available when the Knicks make their pick, with Towns, Okafor, and Russell likely to go 1-2-3. Mudiay has star upside at the crucial PG position, and would provide the Knicks a guy who could penetrate on offense and stay in front of the other team’s star guards on defense. If Phil Jackson stays at #4 and makes the right call, without overthinking himself, this is the likely pick.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Again, the Triangle doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on the point guard, and there might not be room in the system for a PG who isn’t a good shooter (although shooting can be coached). Phil’s comments in the media make it sound like he’s not enamored with Mudiay, although that could be a smoke screen.

Chances he’s a Knick: 30% (45% if he’s on the board)


Kristaps Porzingis

The Breakdown: 7-2, 230 lb Power Forward from Europe (Latvia). 7-4 wingspan, 19 years old.

Strengths: Big and versatile. Good ball-handler, good shooter who can shoot over defenders and can hit the three. Athletic, very quick for his size. Can guard multiple positions. Good shot-blocker. Massive upside.

Weaknesses: A bit of an unknown. Needs to add a lot of muscle. Low floor. Not skilled in the post. Unlikely to make a big impact right away.

Why the Knicks would draft him: Porzingis might have the biggest upside in the draft. He has the skills of a small forward and the height of a center. He might have the most upside in the draft. And he’ll probably be on the board. Porzingis might be a good Triangle fit— the system calls for versatility.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Porzingis might also be the riskiest player in this draft. That star potential comes with a caveat: he’s expected to need a couple years before he’s ready to be a major contributor to an NBA team. Porzingis isn’t very strong, and would fit better in the Triangle if he were a post threat (which can be taught, but how long would that take?) Carmelo Anthony is 31, so the Knicks might not want to draft a guy who will make them wait. Of course, the Knicks might not have the option to take Porzingis, and they’re probably even hoping they don’t. The Sixers and Lakers have taken a look at him, as have teams who might trade up in front of New York (such as Orlando). Phil Jackson is probably hoping that a team ahead of him takes Porzingis and causes Okafor or Russell to drop… or overpays the Knicks to move up to #4 for the Latvian.

Chances he’s a Knick: 15% at #4 (20% if he’s on the board), 5% if the Knicks trade down,


Justise Winslow

The Breakdown: 6-6, 222 lb Small Forward, Freshman from Duke. 6-10 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Terrific athlete. Terrific motor. Might be the best defender in the draft. Good rebounder, good footwork. Composed. Has 3-point range (but not consistency). Can get to the rim and finish.

Weaknesses: Not one of the draft’s top scorers. Inconsistent with his jumper. Doesn’t shoot well off the dribble— mostly a catch-and-shoot threat. Short for a small forward.

Why the Knicks would draft him: If their top targets are off the board, Winslow could be a good pick for the Knicks and will almost certainly be on the board. Carmelo Anthony isn’t going to be locking down the other team’s star forward— Winslow could be that guy. If he can improve his jumper and become a true offensive threat, he could be one of the best all-around players in the league some day.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Phil might want somebody who is a safer bet on offense, especially if he’s not going to be anchoring a defense in the post. Winslow is 6-6 in shoes, which is a bit small for a small forward, and even smaller for one who, offensively, would be looking to do most of his damage around the hoop. Again, there isn’t much room in the Triangle for guys who don’t shoot the ball well. Other teams appear to like this guy more than the Knicks do— a team might trade up for our pick to get him

Chances he’s a Knick: 15% at #4, 5% if the Knicks trade down.


Willie Cauley-Stein

The Breakdown: 7-1, 242 lb Center. Junior out of Kentucky. 7-3 wingspan, 21 years old.

Strengths: Best defensive big man in the draft. Can guard multiple positions. Athletic, tough. Great shot-blocker. Quick for his size. Three years of college experience.

Weaknesses: Very small offensive-skill set— mostly just dunks and layups, in the Tyson Chandler mold. Motor isn’t an issue but isn’t as high as those of guys like Winslow. Should be a better rebounder. Could be stronger.

Why the Knicks would draft him: Phil seems to like this guy, who could be the Knicks’ new Tyson Chandler (before Chandler quit on the team). This is a guy who can anchor a defense, and any offensive skills he develops would just be icing on the cake. “Trill” Willie will definitely be on the board when the Knicks pick. He’s probably a reach at #4, but the Knicks could trade down a few spots and still get him— another plus.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Again, he’s raw on offense, and the Knicks might be looking for scorers. He’s a reach at four, so assuming the Knicks don’t want to take him there, they might not trade down for him, and if they do trade down, they might trade down too far and lose him to another team— unless they find a team offering a deal they like with a pick high enough that Phil is confident he could still draft WCS.

Chances he’s a Knick: 5% at #4, 45% if the Knicks trade down.


Trey Lyles

The Breakdown: 6-10, 242 lb Power Forward, Freshman out of Kentucky, 7-2 wingspan, 19 years old

Strengths: Good offensive big man. Can score inside (but not a great post player) can shoot from mid-range and even from 3, can handle the ball, good passer, smart, coordinated.

Weaknesses: Not a good defender. Not very strong, or fast.

Why the Knicks would draft him: The Knicks have taken a look at Lyles at #4, but it seems unthinkable that they’d take him that high. Lyles is a more likely candidate if the team trades down, as he has great versatility on offense.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Do the Knicks want another big man who doesn’t play good defense and isn’t strong enough to bang around in the post? They certainly shouldn’t at #4. If they can trade down, add more assets in a deal, and still land Lyles somewhere around #10, he might make sense. But he seems like a bit of a reach from a logical standpoint, although he is talented.

Chances he’s a Knick: 0% at #4, 15% if the Knicks trade down.


Frank Kaminsky

The Breakdown: 7-1, 231 lb Center. Senior out of Wisconsin. 6-11 wingspan, 22 years old

Strengths: Tall, skilled, can score from anywhere— has good moves in the post, great range. Can handle the ball. Dominant in college. Smart, composed.

Weaknesses: Not very athletic. Not very strong. Tiny wingspan (less than his height), question mark defensively.

Why the Knicks would draft him: The Knicks would only draft Kaminsky if they trade down, he is not a viable pick at #4 unless Phil wants to embarrass himself. Kaminsky should help the offense— if he’s a bust, he’ll at least be able to shoot over defenders, and he could be a big-time scorer if he pans out. Frank The Tank could also be a good triangle fit, and Phil will find his 4 years of college experience appealing. Worth noting: Kaminsky isn’t projected to go in the top 10, so the Knicks could trade down pretty far if they want him, which would net them a bigger return.

Why the Knicks won’t draft him: Every year there’s an elite college scorer who hasn’t fooled anybody into thinking he’ll be an NBA star— Jimmer Fredette, Tyler Hansbrough, Doug McDermott… Kaminsky is that guy this year. The Knicks should be looking to get a future face-of-the-franchise in this draft, and Kaminsky wouldn’t be consistent with that goal.

Chances he’s a Knick: 0% at #4, 15% if the Knicks trade down.

Other: The Knicks almost certainly won’t take somebody other than the guys I have listed at #4, but if they trade down, there’s certainly some room for Phil to get creative.

The NBA is a crazy place, so the Knicks could go in a number of unforeseen directions. But these are the most likely candidates to be selected by New York in Thursday’s draft. Tickets to the Draft can be purchased here

-Tommy Rothman


1 thought on “Who will the Knicks draft? A look at NYK’s Options

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