The 2018 NBA Draft Lottery was held on May 15th and as a Knicks fan you could only pray that the NYK garnered some luck and would move up from the #9 position in the lottery. Well, as most things go for the Knicks, luck was not it, as the Knicks remained at #9. Staying put at #9 isn’t the worst either because they just so easily could’ve slipped to later than 9. So while the night was hopefully going to go a lot better, it could’ve been a lot worse for the Knicks.
Now that the stage is set and the Knicks are officially picking ninth, lets take a look at a few prospects who many people believe could be available when the Knicks pick and how they’d fit in with the future. The Knicks’ most pressing need is a small forward, who can not only score, but within time be able to lock down the other teams best offensive player. They have a plethora of young guards on the roster. Frank Ntilikina was the #7 overall pick in the 2017 draft out of France. Emmanuel Mudiay , the former #7 overall pick out of China, was picked up at the trade deadline from Denver in a three team deal also involving Dallas. Trey Burke was called up from the Knicks G-League team in January and provided a real spark off the bench on a rather lackluster team with his scoring and passing numbers. Amongst all three of those young guys, Burke looked the best to me, although his defense lacked, his offensive output surely outweighs Ntilikina’s lack of offense/stingy defense. Ntilikina was drafted as a point guard but towards the end of the season you might think that Ntilikina is better off at the 2 spot with his top notch defense and developing offensive game. Time will surely tell what happens with these guys but I’m not opposed to bringing back all three, or at the least, Burke and Ntilikina.
The Knicks could use another big man to develop and maneuver around in the initial 3-4 month absence that Kristaps Porzingis will face this upcoming season and for KP to have another young bruiser down low with him. Enes Kanter has been a nice scoring threat and locker room presence but he has not panned out as a former #3 overall pick for Utah. Kanter plays nonexistent defense and has a hefty $18.6 million player option for next season, which reports are saying he may turn down in hopes of signing a long term deal. If that’s the case, a long term deal isn’t happening in New York. The Knicks have to begin suiting up to pay Porzingis as he enters year 4 of his rookie deal and they’re already paying Joakim Noah an absurd amount to stay home and watch the games. So there’s no need to sink more big money in an underachieving player, especially another big man. Luckily this draft has a solid handful of big men at the top of the draft.
Knicks GM Scott Perry has come out and said that the Knicks will go BPA (best player available) on draft night, which isn’t a bad decision anyway. Most people will be looking for a 3-AND-D wing player but no one should hold their breath when it comes to the Knicks. The Knicks could somewhat shock us all and take another point guard for all we know. As of know there’s only two big time point guards expected to go high in the draft and they’re Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. Sexton is more a traditional PG, while Young is very similar in style to (gulp!) Steph Curry, in that he can score from all over, isn’t afraid to throw up 25-40 shots (most of them 3’s just like Curry), and he can pass the ball really well for someone who is a primary scorer/shooter. Am I saying that Young will be the next Curry? No I’m not but this kid has a lot of potential and after seeing the type of player that Steph Curry has become, some teams will be hesitant to pass on Young if the opportunity arises.
Let’s take a look at a few players that may be available when the Knicks pick 9th and that make sense for the roster:
Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova:
Bridges is a little different compared to most NBA draft prospects as he actually completed three seasons of college ball. He also did so at one of the most prestigious schools in the country and won two titles there. The kid is already a winner and leader. He’s the consensus best 3-and-D guy in this draft. He’s the exact type of player the Knicks need and are looking for. The Knicks have a few young guards (Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke, and Emmanuel Mudiay) that will get further tested to see if they can hold the reigns down in NY as the lead guard next to Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks didn’t and don’t have a concrete small forward waiting in the wings to take over once Carmelo Anthony was traded. Taking Bridges would allow for the defense to get even better as it showed improvements as last season ended. Defense is Bridges’ top calling card right now in my opinion but the offense should come around as well and Bridges should at least be able to knock down spot up 3’s off passes to start his career. Bridges is a starter from day one prospect who should make an impact from day one and get even better as he grows.
Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma:
Trae Young reminds a lot of people, myself included, of Steph Curry. The reason being is that Young can pull up from anywhere on the court and make shots with his great range. He lit the college basketball world on fire in the first half of the season, bombing away 3’s and showing off incredible court vision with incredible passes and finding open teammates. Young led NCAA in scoring with 27 ppg and assists with 8.7 apg. He hit a rough patch as he faced conference opponents a second time and they figured out how to defend him but there is room for improvement. You can never have too many guards, as the Knicks have shown, and the Knicks missed out on Steph Curry by one pick in 2009 when Golden State selected him at #7 as the Knicks sat with the #8 pick that year. It’ll be tough to pass up on someone like Young when you see what Steph Curry has done in the NBA and the similarities in his and Young’s games. Young isn’t nearly as polished as Curry coming out of college but he did make a huge statement anyway with his play this season. The Knicks could very much use a scoring guard like Young as Ntilikina seems to be more of a defensive minded guard who will drive to the basket. Trey Burke can shoot it but he’s more effective as a sixth man off the bench. Mudiay isn’t much of a scorer either but he isn’t a shooter when he does score, so Young would definitely bring a different element to the offense in the backcourt. Defense is where Young would be a liability and he has to bulk up more to deal with the rigors of the NBA game. If Young continues to play/shoot the way he did at Oklahoma, he is sure to light the NBA world on fire.
Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri:
Michael Porter Jr., (MPG), is a wildcard in this draft. His only collegiate season was wiped away after back surgery in November. He returned in time for March Madness but wasn’t his old self and could be seen trying to get back into his old rhythm on the court. MPG was a top recruit out of high school and was a McDonald’s All American. Before this past season began, MPG was a heavy favorite to be the #1 pick in this draft but with the back injury and MPG postponing workouts because of back spasms, teams are weary about spending a high pick on him. Before the back injury, Porter displayed a nice shot and court vision. He’s the type who can play as a point forward with his scoring ability and vision. Teams are going to dive deep into his medical records and have to be comfortable with spending a high pick on him. I believe MPG’s ceiling is going #2 to Sacramento (apparently the Kings love MPG) and his floor is Philadelphia at #10. The Knicks’ biggest need is a small forward so it’ll be interesting to see what they do if Porter Jr., slips to #9.
Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas: Bamba made a huge impact in college basketball in 2017-2018. He stands at 7’1 and has a 7’10 wingspan (NBA record at the combine). His defense was great at Texas as he blocked 3.7 shots per game. He’s a menace on defense and near the rim. His offensive game is developing as he has the potential to be a consistent perimeter shooter and elite finisher around the rim. If you draft Bamba, you’re getting all defense at first but over time you hope he develops his offensive game and he becomes a complete player. Having Bamba at the 5 and Kristaps Porzingis (when he returns from his torn ACL) at the 4 is a scary young front court rim protecting duo. That’ll open up the game for the guards to slash and dash as well. Unfortunately though, I don’t think Bamba drops past the Chicago Bulls at pick #7. Also, have you seen this kid in interviews? He’s a very humble and intelligent person, so I’m confident in him and hopefully he has a positive career wherever he winds up.
Hopeful but don’t expect to slip to #9:
Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Slovenia