It is now a full 35 years since the Knicks have moved up in the draft lottery, all the way back to when they won it and drafted Patrick Ewing. In typical fashion, the Knicks slid down to the eighth overall pick on lottery night, and in a year where there is so much diversity of opinion of the prospects available in the draft, the Knicks are now staring into the unknown.
An argument could be made for up to a dozen players, depending on who is available. Trading up or down might be prudent depending on the trade and who is available. There are no easy answers. A scenario like this is exactly why the Knicks hired Walt Perrin, who has helped run the Utah Jazz’s drafts for more than a decade. Perrin, the Knicks front office, and the scouting staff are going to earn their money in this draft.
There is going to be a good player available at the eighth spot. There will also be a lot more players that won’t pan out that could be on the Knicks board. They need to pick the right one. They cannot afford any more draft busts. It may come down to picking the type of player with the skills it values the most as it may come down to picking the best player.
Here are some of the players the Knicks could be choosing from at eight overall, not including big names like James Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu, LaMelo Ball, and Anthony Edwards:
The Point GuardsKillian Hayes: He is a guard playing in Germany that draft twitter seems to like more than NBA front offices. He is not a high-level athlete, though he has good size (6’5”), and while his three-point shooting numbers are poor, his free throw shooting and off-the-dribble shooting numbers from behind the arc indicate this three-point shooting will improve. He defends at a high level in Germany, and is a high-level passer in the pick-and-roll. There is a less than 50/50 chance he gets to the Knicks at 8.
Tyrese Haliburton: An excellent passer, spot-up shooter, and team defender, Haliburton is a below-average NBA athlete. He is long but lacks any explosion to his game, and is deficient in getting to the basket or shooting jump shots off the dribble. There’s a good chance those limitations won’t allow him to be a full-time lead ball-handler in the NBA. There is a less than 50/50 chance he is available at 8.
Kira Lewis Jr.: He might be the fastest player in the draft, and has the athleticism to create his own shot. He is not an elite playmaker yet but has shown promise in that regard. He is only 165 pounds at 6’3”, which limits his defensive upside. He shot 36 percent from behind the three point line and 80% from the free throw line. There’s an extremely high chance Lewis will be there when the Knicks pick.
Cole Anthony: A highly touted recruit, Cole Anthony had a brutal freshman season at North Carolina. Surrounded by little to no shooting, Anthony faced a crowded lane and most of the defensive attention in games he played in. He may be more of a scoring guard than a point guard, as he showed limited playmaking ability. The question is whether his .380/.348/.750 shooting is sign of his true ability or simply the result of the team around him. There’s an extremely high chance Anthony will be there when the Knicks pick.
Off-Ball GuardsDevin Vassell: Vassell is one of the best defenders in the draft that also happened to shoot over 40 percent on 3.5 three-point shots per game. At 6’6”, he can guard multiple positions man to man, and he is also one of the best team defenders in the draft. He has improved his shooting and creating his own offense off the dribble, but he lacks elite explosion. He is an extremely safe “three and D” player that could become something more. There’s a 75 percent chance he will be there when the Knicks select.
Tyrell Terry: Even though he is only 6’2” and 160 pounds, Terry profiles as more of a scorer than a point guard. He tries on defense but his size will limit his effectiveness. He is an elite pull-up jump shooter running off screens (41 percent from behind the arc) or off the dribble and has the ability to run pick and roll and get to the rim. Terry has real scoring potential but his size might limit his upside. He should be available when the Knicks select.
Tyrese Maxey: Some think he could be a point guard but his playmaking skills leave something to be desired. His shooting numbers in college (.427/.292/.833) also leave something to be desired but scouts seem to think there is a likelihood those numbers improve given his fundamentals. He plays good hardnosed defense at 6’3” on and off-ball. He is not an elite athlete and struggles to consistently create his own shot. He should be available when the Knicks select.
Aaron Nesmith: One of the best shooters in the draft at a solid 6’6” and 213 pounds, Nesmith averaged 23 points per game on .512/.522/.825 shooting at Vanderbilt. He has unlimited range and would immediately fill an important role in the NBA. He is not someone that can take defenders off the dribble or finish well at the rim due to his lack of explosive athleticism. He is a smart defender but the lack of quickness hurts him as a one on one defender. He should be available when the Knicks select.
ForwardsIsaac Okoro: A high-level defender, finisher, and decision-maker, Okoro has all the intangibles an NBA team would want. So, what’s the problem? He can’t shoot, making only 67 percent of his free throws and 29 percent of his three-point shots. He has the tools to become an effective offensive player with the ball in his hands, but there is a lot of skill improvement necessary for him to get there. Can he? There’s a 50/50 chance Okoro is there when the Knicks pick.
Deni Avdija: Avdija plays in the Israeli league, where he became the youngest player to win the league’s MVP. He shot 35 percent from behind the arc in the Israeli League, and after a hot start when the league restarted post-COVID 19, he finished the season hitting just seven of his last 35. His three-point shooting numbers are negatively impacted by the fact he often takes contested low-percentage threes for his team at the end of the shot clock. He is an excellent passer and can get to the hoop but might struggle defensively against quicker ball-handlers. If the shot can develop, which is a legitimate question due to his 59 percent free throw efficiency, he can be a perfect highly skilled stretch four or big wing. There is probably, at best, a 30 percent chance he gets to the Knicks at 8.
Saddiq Bey: A big wing at 6’8” and 216 pounds, he shot 45 percent from behind the arc last year on 5.6 attempts per game. He has the size and athleticism to guard multiple positions on defense but lacks the playmaking ability on offense to be a primary option. He is another safe player in this draft as a big three and D wing. It would be a huge upset if Bey is not available when the Knicks pick.
Patrick Williams: He is a strong, athletic team defender than can act as a versatile team-oriented glue-guy for a NBA team. He is good finishing at the rim and is a strong cutter. He still has to develop his three-point shot (32 percent on 1.7 attempts per game) and his playmaking to become a more consistent offensive player. He will be there when the Knicks select.
Obi Toppin: He might be the best combination of offensive polish and athleticism in the draft. Already 22 years old, he has the explosion and touch to finish at the rim. He can stretch the floor, shooting 39 percent on three-pointers. He makes good decisions with the ball in his hands and is an able passer. He has Amar’e Stoudemire potential offensively…and defensively, where he struggles in every aspect of the game. It is difficult to win with a power forward that cannot defend, and that’s something Toppin struggles with. How would he mix with Mitchell Robinson as a roll man on pick-and-rolls? There is a small chance he will be available at eight when the Knicks select.