The city of New York is yearning for a winner. Their beloved Knicks have missed the playoffs for four consecutive years, and have advanced past the first round just once since 2000. Countless bad contracts and 11 head coach failures have made up the turn of the century for the Knicks, but it’s been the draft where the pain has been worst. Fans of the team watched Steph Curry go one pick before Jordan Hill in 2009. In 2008, the Knicks got Danilo Gallinari immediately after Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love were taken off the board. And the team selected Michael Sweetney in a lottery that consisted of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Needless to say, the draft has been unkind over the past couple of decades, but the Knicks have a chance to reverse their fortunes holding the 8th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Phil Jackson has been under constant fire for his questionable decision making as the headman for the Knicks. He relieved some of the tension with the excellent pick of Kristaps Porzingis in 2015, giving some optimism for the dormant franchise. The young Latvian can’t do it alone though, and Jackson has a chance to pair Porzingis with a quality running mate with this talented pool of players.
This current Knicks roster is far from the “Super Team” that point guard Derrick Rose dubbed them entering the season. Outside of Porzingis, there is really no position on the floor that is set in stone as it currently stands. Carmelo Anthony essentially has a foot out the door – whether he likes it or not – and the rest of the roster is filled with expendable journeyman. The nice thing about Poringis is that he’s versatile -- meaning the Knicks could essentially draft any player regardless of their position.
With this in mind, the Knicks could go any number of ways being completely dependent on how the first few picks unfold. Rose’s future with the Knicks remains in doubt, leading one to believe the point guard position could be a primary target. In all likelihood, Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox will be off the board by the time the Knicks are on the clock, narrowing the focus to North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. and France’s Frank Ntilikina.
Smith Jr. had a terrific individual year for a below-average NC State squad this past year. The explosive guard is a terror in the open court -- as he's able to finish off plays with thunderous slams. He’s more of a modern-era type guard – not completely a point guard or a shooting guard. He can score, shoot the three and boasts an incredible 48-inch vertical leap.
Ntilikina, on the other hand, has more traditional point guard skills. He’s got great size at 6’5”, and is a far more advanced floor general that can create for his teammates. If the Knicks are set on continuing the triangle offense, Ntilikina would seemingly fit better in that type of scheme. He also projects to be one of the better defensive prospects due to his long frame and athleticism.
Outside of the point guard prospects, the players that are presumably high on the Knicks draft board will be likely taken by the time it's their turn. They’d love to grab one of the top wings – Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum – but don’t have a whole lot of assets to move up in the lottery. Malik Monk could be an interesting pick as another sharpshooter to pair with the outside threat of Porzingis. Ditto goes for Lauri Markkanen, but the defensive liability of having Porzingis and Markkanen on the floor could be tough to overcome.
Not moving up through the Draft Lottery really put a strain on the Knicks options. Thankfully, they still have a couple of solid point guards to mull over, and will likely have their choice of either one.
THE VERDICT: Knicks stand pat in the draft because they don’t really have much of a choice, and draft France’s Frank Ntilikina to helm their offensive attack.