When the Knicks dropped to two spots to No. 8 in the 2020 NBA Draft, it opened up an array of possibilities for the front office. Considering how even the talent is up and down the 2020 Draft, the Knicks will have their choice of many different players when their turn comes to pick a player. But that’s not their only option.
With seven picks in the next two drafts, and multiple first-round picks in three of the next four drafts (not in 2022), the Knicks have the collateral to move up in the draft if they decide it’s prudent. There’s no way the franchise can roster seven players in the next two drafts, so consolidating some of those assets will be essential.
However, 2020 is not the year to do it. There is too much uncertainty throughout the draft class to justify spending valuable future assets to move up far enough up to select a player with more promise than whomever may be available at No. 8.
Moving from eighth all the way to the first or second overall pick would require assets the Knicks are not in a position to trade. The conversation would start with an unprotected future draft pick, and that is where the conversation should end.
LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards seem to be the consensus top two players in the draft, and if the Knicks value one of those players, or even someone like Deni Avdija, they would have to move into the top two or three to draft them. All three of those players, and all players in the draft for that matter, have too many flaws to warrant dealing a future pick that could yield a star.
If there was ever a draft where the player selected eighth, or even 12th or 15th, could be the best player in the draft, it’s this one. Might Ball and Edwards be more likely to become stars? Sure. But the difference in the likelihood is not large enough to warrant the price it would take to move that far up.
In addition to the price in draft picks, it is likely the Warriors and Timberwolves, the owners of the top two picks, would prefer NBA-ready talent. The Knicks do not have the type of players, spare Mitchell Robinson, who might interest the Warriors.
Picking eighth, the Knicks will have the chance to draft a player amongst the group of Killian Hayes, Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassell, Obi Toppin, Tyrese Haliburton, and others. Would anyone be that surprised if one or more of those players ended up being better than Ball or Edwards? They shouldn’t, not in this draft.
The eventual best player from this class is probably not going to be the player that is most polished right now. Instead, it will be the player with the most athletic upside, one that has great work ethic and is selected by the right team to develop him the optimal way.
It’s why the Knicks, even though they already own so many draft picks, should consider trading down. If they move down into the lower portion of the lottery, they would still likely have the opportunity to draft players like Cole Anthony, Patrick Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Aleksej Pokusevski, RJ Hampton, Kira Lewis Jr., or Tyrese Maxey.
If a move down could yield another pick or a player that could help compliment the young players already on the roster, it is a move the Knicks should consider. If they obtain another draft pick, they could package it with their other two picks in the 2020 draft to move back up into the mid-to-late-teens to draft another player they may have targeted.
If they acquire a pick in a future draft, it would give the Knicks more ammunition to move up in what is supposed to be a much stronger 2021 draft. Draft analysts believe there could be a half-dozen or more players in next year’s class that could be the first overall pick in 2020. Acquiring more picks in 2021, which could be the first draft to have high school players made eligible again, could have a big impact in future years.
There is a chance that Walt Perrin, Leon Rose, or someone in the Knicks’ scouting department falls in love with a player and is convinced he will become a star. If they truly believe that, they should pick the player. But in this draft class, it seems unlikely; instead, they should maximize the pick’s value, even if it means sliding down in the draft and delaying gratification for another year or two.
As painful as it may be, the Knicks need to continue to be prudent and patient. They are still at the beginning of their rebuilding process and need to maximize every asset. When the time is right, they can cash those future picks in for something that will truly make a difference. The nature of this year’s class makes the chances it happens in this year on draft night slim to none.
Don’t trade up. The price won’t be worth the prize.
Follow John Schmeelk on Twitter: @Schmeelk