The hopes of Knicks fans were dashed on Tuesday night, when the team failed to secure a top-4 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft — meaning they will be relegated to the 11th overall selection on June 23.
Instead, the infamous ping pong balls (which give each non-playoff team a chance to move up in the draft order) fell in the Magic’s favor, as Orlando captured the first pick, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings.
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Now, New York’s front office will turn to the scouting process to find an incoming rookie to pair with their solid core of youngsters — led by 21-year-old RJ Barrett, 22-year-old Quentin Grimes and 24-year-old Obi Toppin.
So, which players will still be on the board at #11, and who could team president Leon Rose realistically look to select with their pick in the NBA Draft? Here are some possibilities:
Jalen Duren, C
Duren, a product of the Memphis Tigers, stands at 6’11” with a hyper-athletic frame that figures to make him an elite shot-blocker as he grows into his body with strength and conditioning.
At just 18 years old, Duren has much room to grow before he can be a starting-caliber player in the NBA, but he nonetheless projects as an elite defender with high upside in the interior game. The biggest downsides for the big man is his inability to shoot from the perimeter and his less-than-stellar passing game.
The biggest question-mark surrounding the potential selection of a center continues to be the precarious contract situation of Mitchell Robinson, who is set to enter unrestricted free agency in late June. If the Knicks lose Robinson to another franchise, they may look to fill the void with the addition of a new big man, and Duren would certainly fit that mold.
Bennedict Mathurin, SG
The Canadian-born 18-year-old prospect may be off the NBA Draft board by the time the Knicks are on the clock, but if he remains available, he would add an elite shooter to a team that lacks scoring from the outside.
After shooting 37.9% from the perimeter last season with the Arizona Wild Cats, Mathurin figures to come into the NBA and make a positive impact right away. He would also pair nicely with Barrett on the wing, and give New York a one-two punch that they’ve lacked on the offensive side of the ball in recent years. As an added benefit, he wouldn’t take much playing time away from the team’s other prized young players — and would slot in nicely with Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and Robinson (should he return).
Scouts will certainly be wowed by his offensive potential, but he does possess serious flaws — his ball handling skills are nothing to write home about, and his defensive game needs serious work to go up against elite wings in the NBA.
Dyson Daniels, G
A 6’6” guard out of Australia, Daniels has faced professional competition already in his career, and the 19-year-old has consistently shown his potential to man the point as a team’s primary playmaker, while also playing off the ball when needed.
His feel for the game is evident, and his athleticism portends a solid defensive career ahead of him in the states. Still, his skills overlap significantly with both Quickley and Barrett, so the team would need to deal with a logjam as their youngsters work to share the ball.
Perhaps most troublingly, the prospect lacks elite shooting, which has become increasingly necessary for a modern-day guard in the NBA, and he has at times been less-than-careful while handling the ball, which has led to many turnovers in his overseas career.
Mark Williams, C
Williams, a 7-footer from Duke, presents another interesting option for New York if they choose to bolster their front court.
The 20-year-old averaged just 11 points last season with the Blue Devils, but was a monster on the boards, with 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. If the Knicks believe that they can surround a big man with solid-enough shooting to space the floor properly, they would breathe a sigh-of-relief on the defensive side of the ball, as Williams projects to be a dominant force under the basket for years to come.
It’s not clear how well Williams would fit with Toppin, or fellow-power-forward Julius Randle (should he return to New York), but his elite frame and surefire defensive success may be simply too much for Rose and the rest of the front office to ignore.
Johnny Davis, SG
There has been significant talk among NBA insiders that 20-year-old Davis could rise on draft boards if he performs well in workouts and at the NBA Draft Combine, but he may still be available for the Knicks at #11.
The 6’5” Wisconsin Badger is a defensive nightmare for opposing wings, and figures to translate that talent immediately into productive minutes in the NBA. On the other side of the ball, he possesses solid mid-range shooting and can handle the ball well, which would make him a solid partner to Quickley and Barrett.
Still, he lacks elite outside shooting, which could pose a problem for the Knicks if Toppin and Robinson continue clogging up the lane, which could entice the front office to target a better floor-spacer. But, his hyper-athletic game, combined with his day-one defensive potential may make him too good to pass up.