There’s not much to shout about this season regarding the Knicks — at least not in a positive manner. But at the very least, they have their first-round pick for once.
Too many times over the last few seasons, the Knicks (27-43) mortgaged their future by jettisoning valuable — and likely high draft picks — for quick fixes and ill-fated trades.
The team currently possesses the seventh-worst record in the league, meaning they’ll likely be in prime position to nab an impact player. And if Carmelo Anthony is moved prior to the June 22 draft, New York could be in the position of garnering another first-round pick. Anthony, of course, has that no-trade clause, but judging by his recent comments during this West Coast trip, he may be ready to remove that clause.
Anthony has noted he’s done a lot of “soul-searching,” recently and has expressed remorse about missing the postseason for a fourth-straight season after making it in each of his first 10 seasons. It’s the Knicks’ third-straight campaign that has featured them out of the playoff race by mid-March, so life in orange and blue is certainly weighing on him. Like the other also-rans, the Knicks are (hopefully) utilizing the 2017 NCAA Tournament as a tool for evaluating prospects. This upcoming draft is supposed to be the deepest in recent memory, featuring guys who are likely destined for stardom, down to top-notch rotational players that make up the backbone of any great roster.
Metro takes a look at some of the more realistic names that could become a Knick on draft night.
1. Lonzo Ball, 6-foot-6 point guard, UCLA
He’s obviously the crown jewel of this draft, and the Knicks would have to stun the basketball world by winning the lottery, but this is a city of big dreams. If New York was to win the No. 1 pick, team president Phil Jackson would immediately select the versatile Ball. His unselfishness, Jason Kidd-like court vision, efficiency and raw physical abilities have taken the college world by storm. The freshman has averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.9 steals per game, while knocking down an average of 2.3 triples per — all in a tireless 35 minutes an outing. Regardless of Jackson’s antiquated triangle offense, Ball would shine in any offense.
2. Markelle Fultz, 6-foot-4 point guard, Washington
Fultz is the other West Coast freshman point guard that everyone raves about — except he languished on a 10-win Huskies squad. Though no real fault of his own, Fultz checks every box that NBA teams look for in a point guard. His 6-foot-8 wingspan makes him ideal in a Jackson system, as he’s a very good shot blocker for a guard and is improving his 3-point efficiency. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.
3. Josh Jackson, 6-foot-8 small forward, Kansas
He’s been one of the best players on No. 1 seeded Kansas and hasn’t disappointed in big spots. His game is comparable to Golden State Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala in that he can be disruptive defending forwards and guards alike. He’s also a gifted passer, fills the running lanes effectively and is as competitive as any player remaining in the tournament. His biggest weaknesses are his jumper and free-throw shooting (56 percent), but he checks out everywhere else. He’s averaging assis16.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
4. Sindarius Thornwell, 6-foot-5 shooting guard, South Carolina
Thornwell, the 2017 SEC Player of the Year, has seen his stock rise way up during the tournament. Once seen as a mid-first round pick, he could sneak into the lottery after the way he and the Gamecocks dismantled No. 2 Duke in the second half. Thornwell is averaging 27.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two steals per game in the tournament and looking like a sure-fire high pick after showing he can compete against a roster full of NBA hopefuls. Thornwell has drawn comparisons to Courtney Lee for his two-way doggedness. He averaged 21.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game this season.
5. De’Aaron Fox, 6-foot-4 point guard, Kentucky
The smooth and explosive lefty freshman is making everyone take notice with his tournament play so far. His stock is soaring with each Wildcats victory due to his ability to not shy away from the big stage despite his age (19). His NBA comparison is a taller, more explosive Brandon Jennings — pre-Achilles injury — although Fox doesn’t like to venture out to the 3-point line as much. The fact he averages 16.4 points per game despite no real threat from the outside is a marvel. The slashing Fox can get to the rim against almost anyone.
6. Dennis Smith Jr., 6-foot-2 point guard, North Carolina State
The freshman Smith might be the most athletic point guard in college basketball considering his highlight reel dunks this season — and that’s even with him coming off an ACL injury just 12 months ago. He’s currently a poor man’s Steve Francis who does a lot of little things well, and takes nothing off the table when on the floor. He averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game and will only get better and stronger as the knee becomes 100 percent.
7. Dwayne Bacon, 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Florida State
A real draft sleeper. Bacon and his No. 3 seeded Seminoles didn’t make it out of the Round of 32, but that wasn’t through any fault of his own, as he notched 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal on 50 percent shooting in defeat. He averaged 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals per game in 29 minutes an outing during the season in the ACC, showing he can play against high-caliber players. Bacon’s jump shot is still somewhat erratic, but he’s an explosive athlete and could be there late in the first round (via an Anthony trade) or at the top of the second round.