To Change Their Destiny, The Knicks Must Add A Star: Here’s How They Do It

Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Drowning in the middle of an ocean, the Knicks find themselves with just a paddle board to find their way back to land. Amongst a robust Atlantic Division filled with talent, New York is led by Julius Randle and a minute supporting cast. Yesterday, the Brooklyn Nets acquired one of the best scorers to ever live, James Harden, teaming him up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. This could very well be, the most talented three players to ever share a uniform. Looking outside of the five boroughs, Boston owns two rising stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who play alongside 4x All-Star, Kemba Walker. The 76ers are led by Joel Embiid who is off to a MVP caliber start, along with Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. Currently the worst team in the division at 2-8 is the Toronto Raptors. Toronto will most definitely get their act together as they’re just too talented to not be near .500 at the end of the season (Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, and OG Anunoby). To compete and make a significant step on the basketball court, the Knicks must upgrade their talent tremendously. Although their competitors shouldn’t force the Knicks into putting all of their eggs into one basket, whether it be mortgaging the future to acquire a top-tier player now or tanking for another top draft pick; the Knicks must sell out to acquire a star. There are three clear ways to add a star in today’s NBA. Here I display the Knicks options to finding their future core.

The Draft

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The first opportunity to acquiring a star is going homegrown through the draft. The most appetizing option to a struggling team with oodles of draft capital, the Knicks would love to find their gem in the 2021 Draft. However, easier said than done. New York has had 8 1st Round Picks in the previous decade, most of which being top 10 picks. New York still finds themselves in a hole as their best selection of the decade, Kristaps Porzingis, was flipped for cap space and a bag of balls. To be fair, Porzingis has been injured for the majority of his tenure with the Mavericks and the deal offered the Knicks phenomenal financial flexibility. Outside of Porzingis, the jury is still out on R.J. Barrett and Obi Toppin. Other selections such as Kevin Knox (9th) and Frank Ntilikina (8th), have been disappointments. All four of these recent draft picks have shown potential, but it remains unlikely any of them will develop into a #1 option for the Knicks. Barrett has All-Star upside, but his woeful shooting to start the season (37.2% from the floor, 18.5% from three) doesn’t exactly help his case. Toppin should be a very solid NBA player, although there’s been little action to critique or admire from him, due to his calf strain. Perhaps he could turn into an All-Star someday, but buried behind the NBA’s 4th highest player in minutes played (Julius Randle), making significant strides could be difficult.

The Knicks do own their 2021 1st Round pick, amongst many other picks in the upcoming drafts. Another high draft pick could finally present the Knicks’ answer at Point Guard or be a future All-Star. I wouldn’t put money on that though, considering the Knicks long history of drafting and the newly structured lottery system. The Knicks will need some luck from ping pong balls along with hitting on a draft pick outside of Kentucky if they’re going to add a premier player in the 2021 NBA Draft. The upcoming draft class offers several players with high upside such as Jalen Suggs (PG from Gonzaga), Cade Cunningham (PG from Oklahoma State), Jalen Green (SG from G League Ignite), Jonathan Kuminga (SF from G League Ignite), and Evan Mobley (C from USC). As the Knicks learned from falling to #3 in the 2019 NBA Draft, landing a top pick is extremely difficult- landing an All-Star is even tougher. If the Knicks are going to find their star in the upcoming draft, Leon Rose will likely need to trade up to acquire them.

Free Agency

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Offering the easiest opportunity to acquire a star is signing one to a huge offer sheet in the offseason. The Knicks currently hold the smallest team payroll in the NBA and 6 of their top 7 paid players are on expiring contracts (R.J. Barrett is the outlier). Taking a look at the upcoming free agent class, their is some talent, but does anyone make sense for the Knicks? After Giannis Antetokounmpo signed his huge extension to stay in Milwaukee, the 2021 class is highlighted by Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul. Both players own player options and may elect to push their free agency to 2022. Chris Paul is set to make over a staggering $41M next season and likely will enjoy another year with the Suns. Leonard however could elect to opt out as he’s due roughly $34M and could make more on the open market or through negotiating an extension. Leonard’s decision to stay with the Clippers likely depends on how he visions their future and co-star, Paul George, after this season. The Clippers are currently 8-4 and arguably the only team given a real chance to knockoff the former champions (Los Angeles Lakers) and make it out of the Western Conference. Barring anything drastic occurring, I couldn’t see Leonard opting to join the Knicks in free agency as he is clearly ring chasing at this point in his career.

After Leonard and Paul, there is a significant drop in the talent pool. Victor Oladipo and Blake Griffin are both set to be available, but neither is considered the players they once were prior to major injuries. Griffin is clearly a shell of himself and Oladipo was recently acquired as a main piece for the Rockets in the Harden deal. It would be surprising if Houston doesn’t resign Oladipo. The Knicks are as always, still desperate for a Point Guard. Jrue Holiday and Kyle Lowry will certainly be targets for the Knicks, but unlikely signings. Holiday will be on a player option and regardless of his upcoming contractual decision, I’m sure he would like to stay in Milwaukee in efforts of winning an NBA Championship. Lowry will be 35 years old next year and that makes him a good decade off the Knicks timeline. The only studs left in the class are John Collins (restricted free agent) and Andre Drummond. Although both are special players, the Knicks currently posses Julius Randle, Obi Toppin, and Mitchell Robinson. Adding to the front court isn’t exactly a necessity for the Knicks. However, there have been rumors swirling that John Collins is unhappy with the Hawks offense led by Trae Young. This brings me to the Knicks likeliest path to acquiring a star, via a trade. Here I discuss the top candidates for the Knicks to acquire if they elect to make a splash before the trade deadline.

Trade

John Collins

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

A trade could become plausible between the Knicks and Hawks if Julius Randle agrees to sign an extension with Atlanta along with multiple assets heading to the Hawks, resulting in the Knicks adding John Collins. To make the money work, Atlanta would likely throw in Tony Snell, who’s on an expiring contract ($12M). Collins is only 23 years old and a much stronger interior defender than Julius Randle (Randle has averaged 0.3 blocks per game in both the current season and last season). Trading away the hands down best player on the Knicks could either be a bonehead move, or just selling high at the right time. As I alluded to earlier, Randle is on an expiring contract. Yes, he is only 26 years old and appears to be destined to be a 2021 All-Star. However, it has become pretty obvious that him and Toppin can’t share the floor for extended action. If Leon Rose truly loves Obi Toppin the way it’s been rumored, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t see Randle as a longterm answer for the Knicks. Adding Collins would add versatility and shooting to the Knicks as he can play at Power Forward in the starting lineup next to Mitchell Robinson, while playing plenty of minutes at Center alongside Obi Toppin. Collins currently does this while playing Power Forward next to Clint Capela and then plays minutes at Center when Capela is off the floor. Collins is currently averaging 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game (less than half of his 1.6 blocks per game last season). He is shooting an impressive 54.8% from the floor and 39.4% from three. Picking up Collins would be a major addition for the Knicks, but it would bring some uncertainty to their future front court as one of Collins/Toppin/Robinson would be responsible for anchoring the 2nd unit and likely traded for a guard in the future. I will admit, although I am a huge John Collins fan, calling him a star is a bit unwarranted and another Power Forward?? He’s not the ideal pickup for the Knicks, but his shooting, talent, and versatility would certainly be welcomed by the floundering Knicks.

Bradley Beal

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Russell Westbrook was a candidate for the Knicks to add prior to him being dealt to Washington, teaming back up with his old coach, Scott Brooks. Westbrook and the Wizards are off to a troubling 3-8 start, despite Bradley Beal leading the NBA in points per game (34.9). The Wizards inexplicably found a way to waste Beal’s career high, 60 points, in a 141-136 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers a little over a week ago. After losing their next game 116-107 Friday to the Boston Celtics, Beal claimed, “we can’t guard a parked car.” Prior to the season starting, Beal spoke out about wanting to be a Wizard. Perhaps their recent struggles are starting to make him feel differently. Beal is on the books for another three years, set to make just under $29M this season, just north of $34.5M the following season, and a little over $37M the year after that. He does own a player option for that final year. Adding a 27 year old star who’s under contract for several years, won’t come cheap. James Harden just hauled the Rockets 4 1sts, Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, and 4 1st Round pick swaps. Any deal involving the Knicks acquiring Bradley Beal would likely have to start with the Knicks offering R.J. Barrett and multiple 1sts. As they say, “you have to give a little to get a little.” Bradley Beal is the real deal, averaging 34.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Beal averaged over 30 points and 6 assists per game last season and has proven to be one of the best shooters in the NBA (has shot over 35% from three in all 9 seasons of his career). Barrett, the prized possession of the Knicks would be tough to give up, but watching Bradley Beal scorch the Garden night in and night out doesn’t sound too bad either. A core of Bradley Beal, Julius Randle, Obi Toppin, and Mitchell Robinson wouldn’t be too shabby. Given, Randle or Robinson could be involved in the deal too if it were to happen. Perhaps the likeliest offer for both sides to agree upon would be R.J. Barrett, Julius Randle, Dennis Smith Jr., 2-3 1sts, and 2 2nds. That package would be tough to swallow for Knick fans as it would mortgage a chunk of the future. The upside to the deal is the Knicks would finally have their star, several young pieces to grow with him (Toppin, Robinson, Quickley, Knox, Ntilikina), and plenty of cap space to work with. As of now, the Knicks aren’t exactly a sexy destination for free agents. Perhaps Bradley Beal could change that? Or, perhaps it would set the Knicks back another five years? The answer to that relies on which you have more faith in- Bradley Beal, Obi Toppin, and cap space or R.J. Barrett, Julius Randle, Obi Toppin off the bench, a high 2021 draft pick, and cap space.

Karl-Anthony Towns

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Lil Yachty said it best, “You need to stay up out them streets if you can’t take the heat / Cause it get cold like Minnesota, cold like Minnesota.” I like to think he was talking about the Timberwolves, rather than the weather. The Timberwolves are currently 3-8 and dating back to the 2005-06 season, they’ve had a record over .500 just one time! Queue the applause, that one season was in 2017-18 when Minnesota was being coached by Tom Thibodeau (Thibodeau was also their President of Basketball Operations). Karl-Anthony Towns is in his 6th NBA season and has only made the playoffs once. During that 2017-18 season with Thibodeau, Towns posted careers bests in FG% (54.5%), 3P% (42.1%), DREB (9.4), TOV (1.9), and Double-Doubles (68). He is one of the most prolific bigs in the league, averaging at least 18 points and 10 rebounds per game in every season he’s been in the NBA. Towns is especially great because of his ability to space the floor on offense while commanding the paint defensively. He shot 41.2% from three in 7.9 attempts per game last season, while averaging 1.2 blocks per game. In his first four games this season, Towns is averaging 22 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.8 blocks per game. He’s also shooting a slash of 46%/37.5%/96% (FG%/3P%/FT%). Towns is without question a top five Center in the league. He is also a former Kentucky Wildcat. The Timberwolves may be forced into blowing it up and looking to build around their 1st Overall Pick, Anthony Edwards. The Knicks could offer a strong package of Mitchell Robinson, their 2021 1st Round Pick, and other pieces such as Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox and more draft compensation. Mitchell Robinson is one of my favorites, but a core of Barrett, Toppin, Randle, and Towns could be too good to pass up on. Towns’ ability to shoot from three at a high clip would only open up space and enhance the play of Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett.

Zach LaVine

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Chicago Bulls may own the 4th leading scorer in the NBA, Zach LaVine, but it isn’t making much of a difference. Through the first eleven games of the season, the Chicago Bulls are 4-7 despite LaVine averaging 27.7 points per game. Chicago clearly lacks talent, owning a core of LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., and Patrick Williams. The Bulls certainly don’t posses the worst team in basketball, but they are stuck in the worst place… mediocrity. Otto Porter Jr. and his $28M come off the books this summer, but they will have to distribute his cap space in an extension to keep Lauri Markkanen. Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. have both shown to be solid pieces, but they aren’t players who move the needle for Chicago. Patrick Williams appears to have been a bit of a reach at #4, as he is only averaging 10 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, despite playing 26.5 minutes a night. Williams is an all-around player with upside, but again, he doesn’t move the needle. Chicago needs to retool and deal LaVine if they ever want to be more than a 6-8 seed in the East. Chicago hasn’t won 28 games in each of the last three seasons. Continuing to add to their draft capital and young core appears to be the smart play for them. LaVine who is 25 years old and has two years left on his deal at a team-friendly $19.5M, could haul them a serious package. Over the past two seasons and this season, LaVine has been more than a prolific scorer. He has averaged over 23 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal per game. Not only has LaVine showed he can score at will playing on or off the ball, he’s done it during the biggest moments. LaVine is 2nd in the NBA, scoring 71 4th Quarter points this season, just one point shy of the leader, Gordon Hayward. This isn’t a fluke as LaVine was 8th in the NBA last year, scoring 411 points in the 4th Quarter (in just 59 games). New York has been in dire need of a closer ever since Carmelo Anthony left the squad back in 2017. The Knicks would likely have to offer R.J. Barrett or their 2021 1st Round Pick in any offer to acquire Zach LaVine. Chicago is last in the NBA in turnovers per game (17.8) and 29th in the NBA in Defensive Rating (115.9). I’d imagine the services of Frank Ntilikina would be of interest to the Bulls. If the Knicks were lucky, they could push a package of their 2021 1st Round Pick, Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, 2 future 1sts (possibly utilizing the Mavericks’ picks they own), and a couple 2nd rounders for LaVine. More likely, the Knicks would need to offer R.J. Barrett, Frank Ntilikina, and 2 future 1sts. LaVine’s low salary would allow for the Knicks to resign Randle and still have money to spend on the open market, this offseason. Is he worth the price tag though?

What Do I Think?

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Personally, I think the easy choice is sticking to your guns. Grow the youth, resign Randle for three years (trade him if/when Toppin is ready to take his spot), and hope to hit in the 2021 Draft. Yet, I don’t believe this is the answer. Time and time again the Knicks haven’t found their star through the draft. The Knicks youngsters have shown flashes, but if we’re being honest, it’s likely none of them can be a #1 option on a high caliber basketball team (including Julius Randle). Like most Knick fans, I adore Mitchell Robinson and still have faith Barrett will find his jumper, but are they of the same planet of value in adding a player such as Bradley Beal/Zach LaVine/Karl-Anthony Towns? Of course not. I’m not giving up on the youngsters, nor have I lost faith in Leon Rose and Co. to find gems in the rough through the draft. I am simply trying to allow for my Knicks bias to take a backseat and evaluate New York’s players on the same scale as the rest of the league’s. The Knicks need a star if they’re ever going to get over this hump of being a couple players away. I hate to say it, but if dealing the 2021 1st Round Pick + R.J. Barrett or Mitchell Robinson lands them the right star, the Knicks have to do it. Let me emphasize, the right star. Rose can ill afford to swing and miss on a big trade. Rose also can ill afford to not swing the bat at all. Like always, it will be very telling and interesting to see how the Knicks attack upgrading their talent and finding their future core. Who’s my guess at who they try to pry away? Of course, the former Wildcat and New Jersey product, Karl-Anthony Towns.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Knicks & NBA Predictions

NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 16: Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks huddles with his team during a time out during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 16, 2020 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Heading into the 2020-21, 72 game season, there are a lot of mysteries that inevitably will unfold. Where will James Harden land? Will Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant finish the season strong? Can anyone beat the Lakers? And of course, oodles of Knicks questions. New York finds themself in a tricky spot, trying to build a solidified core amongst a very young roster. The only draft pick of recent years who appears to be a sure fire hit is R.J. Barrett. The Knicks will lean heavily offensively on Barrett, who should average at least 18 points per game. Mitchell Robinson has shown flashes of superb play, but has been his biggest enemy, committing too many fouls. Several Knicks appear to be on the brink of either being a solid NBA player or being worthless. Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., and Elfrid Payton all have a lot to prove. The rookies on the squad (Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley), both had impressive preseasons and appear to be primed for a productive season. Immanuel Quickley is already in the running to be a starter on opening night and if Julius Randle is traded, Obi Toppin will slide into the starting lineup as well. Both rookies have a very real chance at starting to finish the season, if not sooner. Another headline that Knicks fans will be keeping an eye on is their draft position, as the Knicks own their own draft pick next year in a highly touted draft class. Tom Thibodeau has a lot of options, but not necessarily a lot of talent when selecting his rotation. If the Knicks are going to be a .500 basketball team, R.J. Barrett will need to have a huge year, several youngsters will need to step-up, and the defense needs to be a strength. Leon Rose will have to decide which players should stay longterm and who he can bring in via trade to help the solidify the structure of their future. As Thibodeau alluded to, teams need to be aggressive in adding stars (whether it be through the draft, free agency, or trades). It is possible the Knicks have a star on the roster already (R.J. Barrett), but they certainly must add another. I’d expect rumors to be running rampant throughout the season about the Knicks’ interest in adding a premier player (such as Lonzo Ball, Zach Lavine, Victor Oladipo, Buddy Hield, Aaron Gordon, John Collins, and Karl-Anthony Towns). Barring any major changes, here is how I’d expect the season to play out…

Knicks Record

28-44 (10th in the Eastern Conference)

Knicks Rookie of the Year

Immanuel Quickley

Knicks Most Improved Player

R.J. Barrett

Knicks Most Valuable Player

R.J. Barrett

Knicks Biggest Dissapointment

Dennis Smith Jr.

Knicks Players Likeliest To Be Traded

  • Julius Randle
  • Dennis Smith Jr.
  • Alec Burks

Eastern Conference Playoff Standings

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Miami Heat
  3. Brooklyn Nets
  4. Boston Celtics
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Toronto Raptors
  7. Philadelphia 76ers
  8. Washington Wizards

Western Conference Playoff Standings

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Los Angeles Clippers
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. Portland Trail Blazers
  5. Utah Jazz
  6. Golden State Warriors
  7. Phoenix Suns
  8. New Orleans Pelicans

Eastern Conference Finals Teams

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat

Western Conference Finals Teams

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

NBA Finals Teams

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Champion

Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Finals MVP

Lebron James

NBA Rookie of the Year

LaMelo Ball/ James Wiseman

NBA Most Improved Player

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander/ Lonzo Ball

NBA Most Valuable Player

Giannis Antetokounmpo/ Stephen Curry

NBA Coach of the Year

Steve Nash/ Lloyd Pierce

What We’ve Learned Through Two

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 11: RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks looks on during a preseason game against the Detroit Pistons on December 11, 2020 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)

After playing two preseason tilts vs. the Detroit Pistons, the Knicks have found themselves at a 1-1 record. There have been promising performances by some Knicks and miserable minutes by others. It is clear Tom Thibodeau has focused mostly on defense in the few practices he was able to hold leading up to the preseason. New York held Detroit to 84 points in the opener, before slipping and allowing them to score 99 points last night. R.J. Barrett has provided the most pleasing play of any Knick thus far, which is very encouraging for the Knicks who need Barrett to elevate his play in his sophomore campaign. The Knicks have been put in a precarious position due to the league’s sped up offseason. A brand new coaching staff has had little time to implement their tutelage, meanwhile many new acquisitions haven’t had much time to gel with the rest of the roster. Despite it being so early and just a couple of preseason games vs. a subpar opponent, their is still plenty to take away from the Knicks first two games.

The Positives

R.J. Barrett has been the beacon of hope for the Knicks thus far. He’s averaging 20 points and 4.5 rebounds per game on an efficient 51.5% shooting. The most impressive part is that he’s scored so efficiently, despite shooting 11.1% from three on 4.5 attempts per game. Once Barrett gets the long ball going, he will clearly be the Knicks best option offensively.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The additions of Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel have been plusses as well. Burks is averaging 11 points per contest in just 19.1 minutes per game and owns a +5 +/- (3rd on the team). Noel leads the Knicks in +/- (+10.5), while averaging 9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and a steal per game in just 22.9 minutes of action.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Obi Toppin has displayed a very high motor, an ability to put the ball on the floor, several post moves, and his freak athleticism already. His numbers don’t reflect the ceiling he’s shown, although his shooting and defense clearly need some work. He is averaging 5.5 rebounds per game which is encouraging as his rebounding was a question heading into the draft.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Knicks defense has been very impressive under the defensive guru, Tom Thibodeau, excluding allowing a 31 point explosion by the Pistons in the 1st Quarter last night. The Knicks have held the Pistons to 91.5 points per game (84 on opening night) with a shooting line of 37.2% from the floor and 29.7% from three. The Knicks have forced 41 turnovers between the two games, led by Mitchell Robinson who has 4 steals (all in the opener).

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Negatives

The Knicks were one of the worst shooting teams across the board last season, shooting 44.7% from the floor, 33.7% from three, and 69.4% from the charity stripe. Those ranked 25th, 27th, and 30th (last) amongst the NBA in the 2019-20 regular season. Leon Rose addressed the Knicks shooting woes with the additions of Alec Burks and Austin Rivers. Rivers unfortunately has been out due to a lingering groin injury, but Burks has proven to be a nice addition already.

Despite the hot hand of Burks, who’s shooting a slash of 50%/50%/100% (FG%/3P%/FT%), the Knicks as a team are shooting an abysmal 42.5% from the field, 23.2% from deep, and 57.8% from the line. The key contributors to the Knicks inefficient shooting have been Julius Randle (40.9% on 11 attempts per game from the field and 60% on 7.5 free throws per game), Obi Toppin (27.8%/12.5%/57.1%), and Kevin Knox (25%/0%/50%). Barrett has shot a solid 51.5% from the floor and a livable 71% from the line, but is struggling from three (11.1% from three on 4.5 attempts per game). Randle’s inefficiency plagued the Knicks a lot last year between his shooting numbers (46%/27.7%/73.3%), along with averaging 3 turnovers per game. Thus far, the Knicks go-to scorer is shooting poorly once again and averaging a troubling 3.5 turnovers per game. It’s only been two games, but Randle severely needs to improve his efficiency offensively for the Knicks to scratch the surface of .500 basketball this season.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Equally troubling, Kevin Knox hasn’t made a three-point shot through two games and Mitchell Robinson has tallied an impressive 9 fouls in 41.2 minutes of action.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Another alarming statistic that the Knicks severely struggled with last season is assist to turnover ratio. The Knicks are currently averaging 21 assists to 23 turnovers per game this year (0.91 AST/TO). That’s staggeringly worse than the 1.54 AST/TO (25th in the NBA) they posted last season. Given, the Knicks shooting and turnovers can be due to rust, but it’s certainly concerning as their troubles have come against the Pistons who were 22nd in the NBA in Defensive Rating last season. Not to mention, the Pistons lost three of their top defenders from last year (John Henson, Reggie Jackson, and Christian Wood), who were their top 3 players in Defensive Rating who played over 15 minutes per game in 2019-20.

Tom Thibodeau had said he wants the corner-three to be more prevalent in the Knicks offense leading into the season. New York has only attempted 10 corner-threes in two games, while shooting them at a spectacular 50% clip. However, New York has attempted 46 threes from above the break and are shooting them at a horrible 17.4%. A few other worrying shooting statistics are- the Knicks are 1-6 (16.7%) on floaters, 21-80 (26.3%) on all jumpers, and 7-42 (16.7%) on attempts from 25-29 feet.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Now What?

The Knicks have gotten productive and poor minutes from their Point Guards. Elfrid Payton is 2nd on the team in +/- (+6), while averaging 7 points, 4.5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal per game. However, he’s committed 6 turnovers and is 0-3 from three in two games. Dennis Smith Jr. has played some of the best defense of his Knicks tenure and has averaged 2.5 assists along with a steal in just 18.6 minutes per contest. Like Payton, Smith Jr. has struggled with shooting and turnovers (20% from three and 5 turnovers). Frank Ntilikina and Immanuel Quickley both appeared to play a glimpse of Point Guard last night, but neither were offered much of an opportunity. Ntilikina has played solid defense and is 2-3 from three, but he’s averaging 4 fouls and 2.5 turnovers per contest in just 15.5 minutes of play. The Knicks desperately need at Point Guard to step-up and run the offense. They are responsible to get the Knicks top playmakers going in the spots of their liking (Barrett, Randle, Toppin, etc.).

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Excluding the Knicks questionable guard play, Randle needs to be more efficient and the Knicks need to make shots. Austin Rivers could be the answer for the Knicks at point and with their issues from three. Rivers is more of a SG, but could fit at Point Guard if he plays alongside other ball handlers such as Barrett, Burks, and Ntilikina. Whoever is at the helm of the Knicks offense, they need to create open looks for their teammates by getting into the paint and drawing the defense, while knocking down the open three when opponents dare them to shoot. The key to the Knicks success offensively lies in the hands of their Point Guard. The question remains, who is the right man for the job?

The Knicks will look to their defense to try and pickup their 2nd win of the preseason vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers at MSG, Wednesday at 7:30PM.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

What Did The Knicks Do? Grading & Reviewing The Knicks Offseason

image via the New York Knicks

The Prequal

Heading into the shortened 2020 offseason, Leon Rose and company had a bevy of decisions to make in hopes of turning around the Knicks’ downward spiraling roster. First and foremost, Rose had to decide which players on expiring deals were worth keeping. New York declined the options on Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, and Elfrid Payton. They also elected to not resign Damyean Dotson or Kenny Wooten Jr., while waiving Allonzo Trier awhile back. Rose did resign Payton to a team-friendlier deal at $4.76M for 1 year (waiving him from his previous contract cost the Knicks $1M too, yet the total still amassed to less than the $8M he would’ve been owed). Reggie Bullock was also retained as a valuable 3 & D player on a tremendously cheap contract considering his talents ($4.2M). With oodles of cap space and a decimated roster, the Knicks were positioned to be one of the biggest players in the free agent and trade markets. For the first time in forever, New York elected to utilize discipline and restraint in their efforts to rebuild the Knicks the “right way”. A subpar free agent class meshed with a murky trade market led to the Knicks valuing flexibility and assets over short-term upgrades. Rose elected to make minute moves in free agency while drafting a sure fire hit at pick #8. Here I take a look at the additions, subtractions, build of the current roster, and what’s next.

Additions (2019-20 Stats)

Alec Burks (SG/SF)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 26.6 minutes, 15 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 turnovers, & 0.9 steals per game
  • 41.8%/38.5%/88.7% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 44.1% of shot attempts were pull-ups (22.6% from 2, 21.5% from 3)
  • FG% of 43.4% on pull-ups from 2, 39.4% on pull-ups from 3
  • 11.6 FGA per game (4.6 3PA per game)
  • 23% USG%
  • Played 28.9% of his minutes at Forward

Austin Rivers (SG/PG)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 23.4 minutes, 8.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, & 0.7 steals per game
  • 42.1%/35.6%/70.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 32.3% of shot attempts are catch & shoot 3s (shooting 36.4% on them)
  • 54.2% TS%
  • 15.3% USG%
  • In 4 starts last year he shot 21.2% from 3 and averaged 2.8 turnovers per game (In 64 appearances off the bench he shot 36.7% from 3 and averaged 0.6 turnovers per game)

Immanuel Quickley (SG/PG) *Kentucky

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 33 minutes, 16.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals, & 1.6 turnovers per game
  • 41.7%/42.8%/92.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 59.5% TS%

Theo Pinson (SG/SF)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 11.1 minutes, 3.6 points, 1.7 assists, 1.6 rebounds, & 0.5 steals per game
  • 99.7 DEFRTG
  • 28.3% %STL

Myles Powell (SG) *Seton Hall

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 31.5 minutes, 21 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, & 1.2 steals per game
  • 39.8%/30.6%/79.5% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 9.2 3PA per game
  • 35.6% USG%

Jacob Evans (SG/SF)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 14.4 minutes, 4.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.4 steals, & 0.4 blocks per game
  • 33.6%/33.3%/86.2% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF/PF)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 11.2 minutes, 2.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 turnovers, & 0.1 steals per game
  • 33.3%/25%/78.6% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 99.3 DEFRTG
  • 23.5 %REB

Obi Toppin (PF) *Dayton

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 31.6 minutes, 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 1 steal, & 1.2 blocks per game
  • 63.3%/39%/70.2% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 28.1 USG%
  • 68.4 TS%
  • 14.5 TRB%

Omari Spellman (PF/C)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 18.1 minutes, 7.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.1 turnovers, 0.7 steals, & 0.5 blocks per game
  • 43.1%/39.1%/79.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 2.2 3PA per game
  • 1.3 PF per game
  • -8.5 NETRTG
  • 55.1 TS%

Nerlens Noel (C)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 18.5 minutes, 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 turnovers, 1 steal, & 1.5 blocks per game
  • 68.4%/33.3%/75.5% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 3 3PA all season
  • 71.1 TS%
  • 63.6 %BLK
  • 29.6 %STL
  • 31.5 %REB

Subtractions

Wayne Ellington (SG)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 15.5 minutes, 5.1 points, & 0.4 steals per game
  • 35.1%/35%/84.6% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Damyean Dotson (SG)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 17.4 minutes, 6.7 points, & 0.5 steals per game
  • 41.4%/36.2%/66.7% (FG&/3P%/FT%)

Allonzo Trier (SG)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 12.1 minutes, 6.5 points, 1.2 rebounds, & 1.2 assists per game
  • 48.1%/35.8%/79.1% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Maurice Harkless (SF/PF)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 23 minutes, 5.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, & 0.9 steals per game
  • 50.2%/34.7%/59.1% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Bobby Portis (PF/C)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 21.1 minutes, 10.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, & 0.5 steals per game
  • 45%/35.8%/76.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Taj Gibson (PF/C)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 16.5 minutes, 6.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, & 0.5 blocks per game
  • 58.4%/28.6%/73.2% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Kenny Wooten Jr. (PF/C) *Westchester Knicks

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
  • 24.9 minutes, 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, & 3.6 blocks per game
  • 65.1%/0%/57.8% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Depth Chart (2019-20 vs. 2020-21)

Position2019-20 Knicks2020-21 Knicks
PGElfrid Payton
Frank Ntilikina
Dennis Smith Jr.
Elfrid Payton
Frank Ntilikina
Dennis Smith Jr.
SGR.J. Barrett
Wayne Ellington
Damyean Dotson
R.J. Barrett
Alec Burks
Austin Rivers
SFReggie Bullock
Maurice Harkless
Kevin Knox II
Reggie Bullock
Kevin Knox II
PFJulius Randle
Bobby Portis
Julius Randle
Obi Toppin
Omari Spellman
CMitchell Robinson
Taj Gibson
Mitchell Robinson
Nerlens Noel
Note- PG Jared Harper, SG Immanuel Quickley, SG Theo Pinson, SG Myles Powell, SG Jacob Evans, SF Ignas Brazdeikis, & SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are all currently under contract.

Grades

FA Signings

Alec Burks (1 Year, $6M) B+

Alec Burks will likely slide in as the 6th Man and primary scorer off the bench for the Knicks. He is a versatile SG/SF who can facilitate for others while being a tremendous three point shooter. Burks’ contract can be a valuable asset for a contending team at the trade deadline via trade and has no longterm effects on the Knicks cap space. He was a very solid signing that may be flipped at the deadline for more assets, while filling a major need (shooting) for the Knicks while he’s on the roster.

Nerlens Noel (1 Year, $5M) B+

Similar to Burks, Noel fills a major void for the Knicks and does so without sacrificing much flexibility or cap space. Noel excels as an anchor and shot blocker on defense, while utilizing his size and length on offense around the rim. His rim protection will be vital, whether he’s paired alongside Randle, Toppin, or Knox at Power Forward. Noel is a safe bet, great fit, and has the Kenny Payne, Kentucky, connection. Signing him was a no brainer and I wouldn’t count out the Knicks signing him back in 2021-22.

Elfrid Payton (1 Year, $4.76M) C

The signing of Elfrid Payton independently could be considered a very savvy move. However, when considering the situation and structure of the Knicks backcourt, it is impossible to overlook the consequences of this signing. Payton has triple-double upside and on several nights last year, he was arguably the Knicks best player. His value to the Knicks is limited though. New York is in dire need of finding their Point Guard of the future. Payton obviously isn’t it. Ntilikina has some hope, although the optics of him becoming a longterm starter aren’t promising. Smith Jr. is an enigma, but it appears he’s a shell of his former self and won’t ever be the starter many projected him to be at the beginning of his career. Bringing back Payton not only limits the playing time and upside of these two Knicks, but he also doesn’t provide the teaching and leadership they could both use from a more experienced and higher touted Point Guard. Payton is also a very weak three point shooter which makes him a terrible fit alongside the Knicks’ most prized possession, R.J. Barrett. New York would’ve been better off signing a player to the likes of D.J. Augustin, Jeff Teague, or Rajon Rondo as a teacher and 1 year stopgap. If Payton shoots the three ball at a higher clip this season, this signing may pay off in the end. Either way, bringing Payton back feels like the Knicks waiving the white flag as they’re pushing off their pursuit for a longterm answer at Point Guard further into the future.

Austin Rivers (3 Years, $3.17M) B

The Knicks needed shooting and shooting the Knicks have received in Rivers. He isn’t the most polished facilitator or defender, but his ability to knockdown catch and shoot threes will significantly help the Knicks space the floor offensively. Rivers will be a nice piece off the bench when the Knicks are without a knack for scoring and need a punch from deep. He should fit quite easily with everyone on the roster due to his ability to score without dribbling the air out of the basketball too. The best part of the Rivers addition other than the added shooting (the Knicks really needed shooting), is the longterm flexibility, low salary, and unguaranteed money involved in the deal. Rivers was a quality pickup, but it will be interesting to see who he plays alongside with and how many minutes he gets per game. I vision Rivers joining Burks/Bullock off the bench with a Point Guard and two big men.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Exhibit 10) N/A

The one time 2nd overall pick has never found a way to impact the game offensively in the NBA. Kidd-Gilchrist is a very solid defender and rebounder, but his lack of a jump-shot make it very hard for coaches to put him on the floor. I’d be surprised if he makes the Knicks roster post training camp.

Theo Pinson (Two-Way) N/A

One of the top celebrators and bench fanatics of the league, Pinson is an energizer and defender. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, his offensive game just isn’t at a high enough caliber for him to play consistently in the NBA. Pinson will likely find himself spending the majority of the year in Westchester.

Players Acquired via Trade

Jacob Evans (2 Years, $2.01M) N/A

The trend of the Knicks last few roster spots are that they all defend well. Evans is a quality defender and he owns a decent jumper. Even though Thibodeau loves his defense, Evans might not be talented enough to make the team due to the Knicks crowded Guard/Wing situation.

Omari Spellman (2 Years, $1.98M) C+

Spellman was worth a flyer for the Knicks who lack shooting and depth in the front court. Kenny Payne, the big man guru, has his work cut out for him, but Spellman has the tools to become a solid bench piece if he can get in better shape and hone his skills.

Draft Picks/Undrafted Signings

Obi Toppin (4 Years, $4.86M) A

I had Obi Toppin as the 6th best player in the 2020 draft. The Brooklyn native and the New York Knicks are a match made in heaven on paper. He wants to live/play in New York, give back to the community, and turn the Knicks into a winner. What more could you want? Dunks? Well he’s also the best dunker coming out of this draft and will surely have plenty of highlights in MSG. Toppin’s offensive game has tons of upside and will be successful on day one in the NBA. Defensively, he needs to get a lot better, but he’s recognized that. He’s accepted the challenge and looks forward to improving through the coaching of Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the Knicks staff. Toppin has a real chance to win Rookie Of The Year and become a fan favorite. It’s worth noting though, actions speak louder than words. Toppin hasn’t done anything yet and Knicks fans know their’s no such thing as a sure bet. Still, Knicks fans should be excited to have this promising phenom on their squad.

Immanuel Quickley (4 Years, $2.1M) B

Shooters come at a premium in the NBA and Quickley can shoot it. He’s a quality defender and can play on or off the ball offensively. Quickley needs to become a better facilitator and work on his handle, but his shooting and defense will likely earn him a roster spot this year. In a few years, Quickley may be a very serviceable role player.

Myles Powell (Exhibit 10) N/A

The Seton Hall standout was a nice pickup for the Knicks. Powell is a prolific scorer and has infinite range. He’s not the greatest defender or facilitator, but getting him in camp and seeing what he has was a smart move by the Knicks. I don’t think he will make the NBA roster, but I could see him playing in Westchester and possibly joining the Knicks later in the year or the following season.

Current Roster B-

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

A pretty weak defensive roster, Thibodeau will rely heavily on Robinson and Noel to protect the paint. Ntilikina and Bullock appear to be destined for tons of run as well because of the roster’s construction. Their front court is balanced and talented, although it does lack some depth. New York’s issues arise in the backcourt. All of their guards tend to struggle at making the rest of their team better. Ntilikina is the best passer, but struggles at getting to the rim and breaking down defenses. Payton gets into the paint, but turns the ball over and can’t space the floor by knocking down threes. Smith Jr. struggles with turnovers, shooting, and defense as well. Rivers is a pure shooter, but not much of a facilitator. Barrett has shown the ability to play PG, but it’s clearly not his best position nor where his greatest potential lies. The Knicks desperately need one of these guards to step-up and make their teammates better. Knox’s shooting could prove to be a valuable asset and earn him much more playing time this season after the Knicks didn’t bring back Wayne Ellington, Damyean Dotson, Maurice Harkless, and Bobby Portis. Barrett, Burks, and Bullock will all likely spend time playing Small Forward, despite them all primarily being Shooting Guards. The biggest holes left on the Knicks roster are perimeter defense and facilitating. It will be very interesting to see how the minutes at Point Guard are distributed and how much Thibodeau will play defense over offense. The Knicks are currently looking like a 20-30 win team in the 2020-21, 72 game, season.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Moving forward the Knicks find themselves with minimal longterm contracts, tons of draft picks in the near future, and a solid core comprised of R.J. Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Obi Toppin. They also have several role players who could blossom into nice pieces such as Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, and Dennis Smith Jr.. Burks, Bullock, Rivers, and Noel are good role players as well. Julius Randle is a quality player, but doesn’t fit with the Knicks longterm after the Toppin selection. Despite the Knicks solid base, the NBA is a league run by stars. For the Knicks to truly turn around their franchise, they likely will need to acquire a star. R.J. Barrett has a chance to be a perennial All-Star, but he will probably become a really good #2 option on a winning team. The Knicks have the cap flexibility and assets to acquire a superstar via trade or in the 2021 offseason. A year of losing could lead to another high draft pick and give them a swing at the highly touted 2021 draft class as well. Regardless of how the Knicks look to acquire a star caliber player, they need to add an All-Star caliber player in the next year or two if they want to make the jump from acquiring assets to winning games.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

2020 NBA Draft Big Board (Top 30) Videos & Analysis

image via clutchpoints.com

First Tier

  • LaMelo Ball

Second Tier

  • James Wiseman
  • Anthony Edwards

Third Tier

  • Tyrese Haliburton
  • Isaac Okoro
  • Obi Toppin
  • Onyeka Okongwu

Fourth Tier

  • Devin Vassell
  • Deni Avdija
  • Killian Hayes
  • Kira Lewis
  • Patrick Williams

Fifth Tier

  • Saddiq Bey
  • Aaron Nesmith
  • Jalen Smith
  • Cole Anthony
  • Aleksej Pokusevski
  • Jaden McDaniels
  • Josh Green
  • Tyrese Maxey
  • RJ Hampton
  • Precious Achiuwa
  • Malachi Flynn

Sixth Tier

  • Desmond Bane
  • Leandro Bolmaro
  • Nico Mannion
  • Udoka Azubuike
  • Theo Maledon
  • Isaiah Joe
  • Tyler Bey

1. LaMelo Ball (PG, 6’6″, 180 lbs, USA)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Ball Handling With Both Hands
  • Pass Accuracy & Consistency (Even On Flashy Plays)
  • Ball Security (Doesn’t Turn The Ball Over)
  • Playmaking (Creates Open Looks For Teammates)
  • Vision
  • Basketball IQ (Passing/Cutting/Driving/Defensive Rotations)
  • Rebounding
  • Physical Tools (Tall, Long Wingspan, Quick)
  • Creating Turnovers/Steals

Weaknesses

  • Getting Through Screens
  • Jump Shot (Guide Hand Pushes The Shot)
  • Leadership
  • Motor

Player Comparisons

  • Trae Young
  • Lonzo Ball
  • Spencer Dinwiddie

Keys To Success

  • Being A Leader
  • Being Pass First
  • Respectable Three Point Shooting
  • Having A Consistent Motor On Defense

Overall

Ball is sneaky good defensively, but struggles at getting through screens and lacks effort at times. Although his motor and leadership are definitely question marks heading into the draft, LaMelo’s talent offensively goes without question. He’s slippery and tight with his handles, an elite passer with impressive vision, and can finish at the rim with ease. Showing no weakness dribbling or passing with his left, LaMelo puts defenders on skates and delivers dimes to open teammates in the blink of an eye. Ball’s inconsistent jump shot may weaken his value, led by poor mechanics and subpar shot selection, but he is a decent free-throw shooter. He makes up for his lack of a consistent mid-range jumper with a nice floater package and can create open looks for himself or others whenever he wants. LaMelo also rebounds very well for a guard and creates many turnovers with his length and IQ. LaMelo Ball is a weapon who deciphers and decimates defenses with the combination of his height, speed, and length coupled with his All-Star caliber playmaking ability. Ball will be a triple-double candidate every time he steps on the floor and is my top player in the 2020 draft class.

2. James Wiseman (C, 7’1″, 240 lbs, Memphis)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Height, Length, Athleticism
  • Footwork Offensively
  • Touch Around The Rim & From Further Out
  • Smooth Jumper For A Big (Lots Of Upside)
  • Good Free Throw Shooter
  • Finding A Body & Boxing Out
  • Crashing The Offensive Glass
  • Highlight Reel
  • Solid Handle (Lots Of Upside)

Weaknesses

  • Defending The Pick & Roll (Mostly Hedging)
  • Leaving His Feet On Defense (Leading To Fouls)
  • Not Using His Strength Down Low (Mostly Defensively)
  • Vision In The Post (Finding Cutters/Shooters)

Player Comparisons

  • Chris Bosh
  • Anthony Davis
  • Bam Adebayo
  • Mitchell Robinson

Keys To Success

  • Becoming A Defensive Anchor
  • Knocking Down a Mid-Range/Three Point Jumper Consistently
  • Running The Floor
  • Passing Out Of The Post (High & Low)

Overall

James Wiseman is equally an anomaly and an enigma. The star, Center, only played in 3 games before dropping out of Memphis after he was suspended 12 games by the NCAA. Wiseman was built to play Center in today’s NBA. Standing at 7’1″, the 240 pound athletic phenom can run like a gazelle and finish off a lob in transition with an exclamation point. Even more impressive than his stature is Wiseman’s feel around the basket. His touch translates to the foul line, wing, and three point line as well. Wiseman possesses the ability to put the ball on the deck too, making him truly unguardable. Defensively, Wiseman’s presence is felt through his strong rebounding and volleyball-like shot blocking (10.7 rebounds and 3 blocks per game). The best Center in the draft has an extremely high floor, but to reach his full potential, he must work on his pick and roll defense, use his legs instead of reaching defensively, and continue to develop his offensive tools. James Wiseman may have played just three games in college, but there is no dispute that he has a very bright future ahead of him.

3. Anthony Edwards (SG, 6’5″, 225 lbs, Georgia)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Quick, High Release, Elevates On Jump Shot
  • Upper Body Control On Shot
  • Unlimited Range
  • Tough Shot Maker (Step Backs/Contested)
  • Size/Frame
  • Explosiveness

Weaknesses

  • Shot Selection
  • Consistency
  • Playmaking
  • Loose Handle
  • Finishing At The Rim
  • Getting Beat Off The Dribble
  • Getting Over/Through Screens
  • Defensive Rotations (Off Ball Help & Looking To Switch)

Player Comparisons

  • Bradley Beal
  • Buddy Hield
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.

Keys To Success

  • Being More Than A Scorer
  • Taking Good Shots
  • Consistent Shot Making
  • Utilizing His Size & Athleticism Defensively
  • All-Around Defense

Overall

Anthony Edwards has oodles of untapped potential, but flashes of excellence don’t always translate to greatness. He can score from every inch across half court, is built like a beast, and can jump out of the building. What’s not to like? Well, Edwards has struggled in almost every facet of the game at times, drawing some serious red flags. He hasn’t created much at all for his teammates, shot the three ball at a poor percentage (29.4%), and has had many rough stretches defensively. Despite his struggles, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Edwards has all of the tools to be an NBA All-Star if he can connect the pieces to his jigsaw like game. Without a question Edwards is the purest scorer in this draft and can put up points in a hurry. Yet the question still remains, what else will Anthony Edwards provide for the team that selects him?

4. Tyrese Haliburton (PG, 6’5″, 175 lbs, Iowa State)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Shooting From Three (Spot Up Or Off The Dribble)
  • Vision & Passing
  • Finishing With His Right (Floater & Layups)
  • Free Throw Shooting
  • Off Ball Defense (Jumping Into Passing Lanes, Digging, Closing Out, & Blocking Shots)
  • Rebounding (Uses Height & Length, Superior To Most Point Guards)

Weaknesses

  • Physicality (Avoiding Contact At The Rim, Not Drawing Fouls, Stopping Drives Defensively)
  • Shot Creating (Especially Mid-Range)
  • Driving & Finishing With His Left Hand

Player Comparisons

  • Lonzo Ball
  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Jrue Holiday
  • Devin Booker

Keys To Success

  • Shooting At A High Percentage
  • Adding Strength
  • Creating Himself Open Looks Off The Dribble
  • Getting Into The Paint
  • Sticking With Quicker Guards

Overall

Shooter! Tyrese Haliburton’s game is like a balanced breakfast; he can shoot it, he can drive it, he can dish it, and he can defend. The crafty playmaker is one of the safest picks in this draft, due to his consistent shooting from three (42%). Haliburton is arguably the best three point shooter in the draft and can play point guard or shooting guard, making him an easy fit for any team. He can improve his handle and imagination off the bounce, but Haliburton’s rock solid game and steady shooting make him a sure fire hit in this weaker draft class.

5. Isaac Okoro (SF, 6’6″, 225 lbs, Auburn)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Finishing Through Contact (And 1s)
  • Driving/Finishing With Both Hands
  • Passing/Vision (Reads/Decision Making, Accuracy)
  • Athleticism (Quick, Has A Burst, Explosive Around Rim)
  • Can Guard 1-4 (Slides Feet Well Vs. Guards, Strong & Tough Vs. Forwards)
  • Instincts Defensively (Creating Turnovers & Blocking Shots)
  • Energy/Hustle
  • Rebounding (Endless Pursuit Of The Basketball On Rebounds & Loose Balls)

Weaknesses

  • Shooting (Mid-Range, Three Point, & Free Throw)
  • Fouling (A Little Too Handsy/Aggressive)
  • Turnovers

Player Comparisons

  • Andre Iguodala
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Jaylen Brown

Keys To Success

  • Consistent Shooting On Catch & Shoot Threes
  • Playmaking Off The Dribble
  • Guarding 1-4
  • Playing With A High Motor
  • Creating Turnovers

Overall

Isaac Okoro is the best defender in the draft, without question. He can guard everyone on the floor excluding the Center, generates turnovers, and blocks shots. Offensively Okoro is currently just a threat in transition and on cuts for the most part, but made steady improvements throughout his Freshman year at Auburn. Okoro shot 34.4% from three in his last 10 games and displayed and impressive ability to drive to the basket and finish with either hand. Okoro is built strong and quick and has a serious motor, leaving his finger prints all over a basketball game. If he can continue to develop offensively and break some bad habits (fouling & turnovers), Okoro can be just as good as anyone in this draft. However, if he can’t shoot the ball consistently, Okoro may just be a lockdown defender with little game on the offensive end. Either way, Okoro will be a valuable asset and I believe his work ethic will shine on the offensive side of the ball in due time.

6. Obi Toppin (PF, 6’9″, 220 lbs, Dayton)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Athleticism/Vertical
  • Highlight Reel
  • Rim Running (Transition, Rolling, & Cuts)
  • Solid Passing & Vision For A Big
  • Finishing With His Right Hand
  • Stays In Control When Driving To Basket (Not Susceptible To Charges)
  • Shot Blocking
  • Communicating Through Switches Off The Ball
  • High Basketball IQ Offensively (Feeling A Double Team, Going Back Door, Finding The Open Shooter)

Weaknesses

  • Positioning & Footwork On Defense (Stands Tall, Doesn’t Initiate Contact, Reaches, Sags Far Off Screens, Weak Help Defense, Loses The Ball While Watching Man)
  • Doesn’t Box Out Well (Gets Rebounds With Athleticism & Pursuit)
  • Falls Back On Jump Shot
  • Setting Screens (Slips/Rolls Early When It’s The Wrong Play Occasionally, Avoids Contact)
  • Lacks Multiple Post Moves (Mostly Uses A Nice Drop Step)

Player Comparisons

  • Amar’e Stoudemire
  • Blake Griffin
  • Julius Randle

Keys To Success

  • Three Point Shooting (Pick & Pop Or Catch & Shoot)
  • Being More Versatile (Ways Of Scoring Offensively & Being Able To Switch Defensively)
  • All-Around Defense
  • Drawing Fouls

Overall

A prototypical stretch four with a not so typical 7’2″ wingspan and uncanny leaping ability, Obi Toppin is an intriguing player. Toppin has tools reminiscent to Blake Griffin with his absurd vertical coupled with the ability to shoot from three and drive through the lane. There’s a lot to like about Toppin offensively… but defensively… there’s a lot to fix. He struggles in many facets on the other side of the ball, although he communicates well and has a great feel for the game. Toppin relies on his athleticism a lot on defense and while rebounding, instead of using his body to create contact and gain positioning. A highlight machine with All-Star potential, Toppin needs to sharpen his tools offensively while sewing his tears defensively to reach his full potential.

7. Onyeka Okongwu (C, 6’9″, 245 lbs, USC)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Hands (Catches Tough Passes, Passes In Traffic, & Lobs Well)
  • Finishing With Both Hands (Very Impressive/Natural With His Left)
  • Working Out Of The Post (Hooks With Either Hand, Drop Step)
  • Rim Running
  • Highlight Reel
  • Offensive Rebounding
  • Shot Blocking
  • Switching Onto Smaller Guards (Quick Feet, Versatile)

Weaknesses

  • Jump Shot Needs Work (Inconsistent, Limited Range)
  • Vision/Decision Making When Passing
  • Defensive Rebounding (Finding A Body, Being Physical)

Player Comparisons

  • Bam Adebayo
  • Hassan Whiteside
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Clint Capela

Keys To Success

  • Playing With A High Motor
  • Adding To His Offensive Repertoire (Shooting, Handle, Post Moves)
  • Boxing Out & Grabbing Defensive Rebounds
  • Being A Premier Shot Blocker

Overall

Onyeka Okongwu is the kind of player every team would love to have. He’s efficient, can switch/guard everyone, is efficient offensively, and play with electrocuting energy. His ceiling is limited due to his severe lack of range on a jumper and inability to dribble much, but his floor is very high. Okongwu is an imposing shot blocker with DeAndre Hopkins like hands. He can catch lobs/passes in bumper to bumper traffic and follow it up with nice touch, using either hand or finishing with an emphatic slam. If Okongwu can work on his shooting, passing, and defensive rebounding; he can quickly turn himself into one of the top Centers in the league.

8. Devin Vassell (SF, 6’6″, 194 lbs, Florida State)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Shooting (Three Point & Mid-Range, Quick & High Release, NBA Range, Makes On Contested Looks)
  • Poise Offensively (Doesn’t Turn The Ball Over, Isn’t Scared Of Pressure Or Shot Contests, Makes The Right Play/Pass)
  • Defensive Capabilities (Quick, Long, Strong, High Effort, Slides Well, Solid Rotations)
  • Generating Turnovers
  • Rebounding

Weaknesses

  • Creating Off The Dribble
  • Finishing At The Rim
  • Drawing Fouls
  • Poise Defensively (Over Aggressive & Falls For Fakes Sometimes)

Player Comparisons

  • Khris Middleton
  • Justin Holiday
  • Danny Green

Keys To Success

  • Consistent Shooting On Catch & Shoot Threes
  • Becoming More Capable Off The Dribble (More Then 1-3 Dribbles & A Pull-Up Jumper)
  • Staying Smart Defensively And Not Over-Pursuing
  • Adding Strength

Overall

A heady player with a steady jumper is always a good pick. Vassell is a three and D option who can guard the 2,3, or 4. His most impressive ability is to rise and knockdown mid-range and three point jumpers over defenders blanketing him. Of course his length and outstanding defense are also major positives as well. Vassell has lots of room to grow as a playmaker and shot creator offensively and can benefit from not getting over aggressive defensively. Vassell will be a very nice floor spacer in the NBA who can run in transition and hold his own defensively better than most.

9. Deni Avdija (SF, 6’9″, 215 lbs, Israel)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Basketball IQ
  • Size/Length
  • Quick, High Release On Jumper
  • Finishing At The Rim (Has A Large Repertoire In This Area)
  • Slashing/Cutting
  • Post Play (Scoring & Passing/Vision)
  • Pushing The Ball After Rebounds (Outlet Or Bringing The Ball Up)
  • Defensive Rotations/Weak Side Help
  • Slides Feet Well Against Quicker Opponents (Including Guards)

Weaknesses

  • Ball Handling
  • Driving With Left Hand
  • Consistent Jump Shot
  • Running The Offense (Not Necessary At Forward Position, But Is Limiting His Potential)
  • Has Issues Finishing Against Prominent Shot Blockers (Needs To Be More Aggressive, Create Contact With Body, And Explode To The Rim)
  • Rebounding (Lacks Physicality & Doesn’t Look To Box Out)

Player Comparisons

  • Gordon Hayward
  • Kelly Oubre Jr.
  • Mario Hezonja

Keys To Success

  • Consistent Shooting On Catch & Shoot Threes
  • Driving To The Rim
  • Playing Physical
  • Guarding 1-4

Overall

Deni Avdija is one of the most all-around prospects in the entire draft. He has solid length and athleticism with the ability to play with or without the basketball. He will fit on any team, anywhere. Avdija sports a savvy game with high basketball IQ. He is at his best when he’s slashing/cutting to the rim or driving in transition. He has also shown a nice stroke from three while displaying an ability to facilitate too. Defensively, Avdija tended to guard the opponents best player regardless of their position. There’s a lot to like with Avdija, but he also needs to grow in a lot of areas across the board. Still very young, he’s still a little weak and needs to develop more physicality/strength. Deni could also be a more polished ball handler and consistent shooter. Avdija is a very safe pick in this draft, but does appear to have a lower ceiling than the players ranked above him.

10. Killian Hayes (PG, 6’5″, 195 lbs, France)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Passing & Vision (Tremendous Accuracy- Especially On Lobs)
  • Shooting (Mid-Range, Three-Point, & Free Throw)
  • Efficient Scorer (Shoots At A High Percentage Across The Board)
  • Finishing With His Left Around The Rim (Crafty Moves Such As A Floater)
  • Playing Out Of The Pick & Roll (Shooting Or Passing, Making The Right Reads)
  • Active Hands On Defense (Forces Turnovers)
  • Moves Feet/Slides Well Defensively

Weaknesses

  • Ball Handling, Driving, Finishing, & Passing With His Right Hand
  • Being Stronger With His Dribble (Not Getting Stopped So Easily, Kept Out Of The Paint, & Slow Setting Up The Offense)
  • Picks Up Dribble Too Soon Sometimes
  • Gets Caught Out Of Position Or Too Upright At Times Defensively
  • Off Ball Defense (Late Rotations, Caught Ball Or Man Watching)

Player Comparisons

  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Goran Dragic
  • George Hill

Keys To Success

  • Getting Into The Paint
  • Having A Solid Right Hand
  • Proper Defensive Positioning

Overall

Killian Hayes is a very efficient scorer, solid passer, and has plus size/length for a point guard. He shoots at a very high percentage in every category, due in part because of his smart shot selection. Hayes is very shifty and crafty when breaking down defenses, but struggles to move the ball and get the offense set when versing top defenders. He is a great passer, but mostly only with his left hand. Hayes needs to work on his right hand dribbling, passing, and finishing to be a more versatile offensive weapon. Defensively, Hayes’ size, active hands, and quick feet are very promising. He does need to clean up his off ball defense though. Hayes is a solid point guard that won’t blow many people away in the NBA, but can be a very efficient and steady option as long as he improves his ball handling/security.

11. Kira Lewis (PG, 6’3″, 165 lbs, Alabama)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Athleticism (Speed, vertical, explosiveness)
  • High Motor
  • Playing In Transition
  • Shooting (Three Point and Free Throw)
  • Generating Turnovers
  • Rebounding For His Size
  • Passing/ Driving With Both Hands
  • On Ball Defense (slides feet well, good positioning)

Weaknesses

  • Making The Right Reads Offensively
  • Size
  • Mid-Range Jumper

Player Comparisons

  • De’Aaron Fox
  • Terry Rozier
  • Darren Collison

Keys To Success

  • Adding Strength
  • Making The Right Reads
  • Playing With A High Motor
  • Scoring/Shooting Efficiently

Overall

Speed kills! Kira Lewis is probably the fastest player in the draft and can shoot the lights out. Lewis has a lot of explosiveness and is most dangerous in transition. He uses his length and speed to generate ample turnovers, but his lack of strength makes him a liability at times on the defensive end. Offensively he can become a better playmaker/facilitator, but his ability to shoot from three and get into the paint at will, opens up opposing defenses plenty. Although Lewis will need some help from his shot blockers defensively, his speed and offensive game are much too valuable to overlook.

12. Patrick Williams (SF, 6’8″, 225 lbs, Florida State)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Strengths

  • Athleticism (Strong, Fast, High Vertical)
  • Highlight Reel
  • Great Cutter & PnR Ball Handler
  • Mid-Range Jump Shot (Rises Up, Smooth)
  • Tremendous Off Ball Defender (Rotating, Helping, Blocking Shots)
  • Free Throw Shooting

Weaknesses

  • Discipline (Falling For Shot Fakes, Taking Bad Shots, Dribbling Into Trouble)
  • Defensive Rebounding (Lacks Aggression & Doesn’t Look To Box Out Hard)
  • Passive (Doesn’t Attack/Score As Much As He Should)
  • Getting Beat Off The Dribble (Athleticism Helps Him Get Away With It vs. Lesser Athletes)
  • Jump Shot From Three (Stiff/Not Fluid)

Player Comparisons

  • Paul Millsap
  • Aaron Gordon
  • Jerami Grant

Keys To Success

  • Figuring Out What He Does Best
  • Being Aggressive Offensively
  • Consistent Shooting
  • Improving Footwork, Positioning, & Poise Defensively

Overall

One of the rawest, most versatile players in the draft, Patrick Williams is a major question mark. He’s clearly a freak of nature with freakishly impressive touch and finesse. He also doesn’t have a go-to part of his game and lacks aggression at times. He can shoot from all three levels, but it is uncertain how consistantly he can and if he can take over a game. Also a great defender, Williams sometimes gets lazy and recovers thanks to his superior athleticism. In the NBA he will need to cleanup his footwork and be more aggressive if he’s going to be a major impact player. Williams has a ton of potential, but has a long way to go to being a high caliber player. His defense alone makes him a nice addition for any team and a consistent jumper could catapult his career significantly.

13. Saddiq Bey (SF, 6’7″, 216 lbs, Villanova)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

14. Aaron Nesmith (SF, 6’7″, 215 lbs, Vanderbilt)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

15. Jalen Smith (PF, 6’10”, 225 lbs, Maryland)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

16. Cole Anthony (PG, 6’3″, 190 lbs, North Carolina)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

17. Aleksej Pokusevski (PF, 7’0″, 195 lbs, Serbia)

18. Jaden McDaniels (PF, 6’10”, 200 lbs, Washington)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

19. Josh Green (SG, 6’6″, 210 lbs, Arizona)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

20. Tyrese Maxey (PG, 6’3″, 198 lbs, Kentucky)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

21. RJ Hampton (PG, 6’5″, 192 lbs, New Zealand)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

22. Precious Achiuwa (PF, 6’9″, 234 lbs, Memphis)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

23. Malachi Flynn (PG, 6’2″, 185 lbs, San Diego State)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

24. Desmond Bane (SG, 6’6″, 217 lbs, TCU)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

25. Leandro Bolmaro (PG, 6’7″, 185 lbs, Spain)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

26. Nico Mannion (PG, 6’3″, 190 lbs, Arizona)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

27. Udoka Azubuike (C, 6’11”, 260 lbs, Kansas)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

28. Theo Maledon (PG, 6’5″, 187 lbs, France)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

29. Isaiah Joe (SG, 6’5″, 180 lbs, Arkansas)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

30. Tyler Bey (SF, 6’7″, 216 lbs, Colorado)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js