Mathematically speaking, the Knicks slipping to the fourth pick in Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery was the most likely outcome.
That won’t make it any harder to swallow for frustrated fans who preferred to watch the Final Four over late-season Knicks action, dreaming of Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor wearing blue and orange this fall.
If it’s any consolation, this is a rare year that offers as many as four players with top-two talent. That being the case, here’s how the top of the June 25 draft figures to shape up at this point:
Towns goes first to the Timberwolves.
Okafor goes second to the Lakers.
Ohio State combo guard D’Angelo Russell goes third to the 76ers.
That brings us to the Knicks who, if they take the remaining top-four prospect, will select Emmanuel Mudiay.
If the name is unfamiliar, you’re forgiven. The 19-year-old point guard, who was forced to flee the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo as a young child and grew up in Texas, spent last season playing professionally in China on a one-year, $1.2 million deal.
The No. 2 ranked player in the high school class of 2014 by Rivals.com — three spots ahead of Towns and behind only Okafor — previously had committed to play for former Knicks coach Larry Brown at SMU. A year ago, Mudiay was projected as a potential top pick in this year’s draft.
A year out of the spotlight cooled Mudiay’s stock some. An injury that limited him to 12 games didn’t help. But as an 18-year-old playing against grown men, he posted averages of 18 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists. For frame of reference, ex-Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury averaged 18.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 51 games as a 38-year-old in the same league.
Just as Marbury wouldn’t step into today’s NBA and be a starter, neither would a teenage Mudiay. Point guards don’t develop overnight, but one as big — 6-5, 200 pounds — and athletic as Mudiay fits the prototype of today’s floor general. Give him a few years, and Mudiay should assert himself the first All-Star at the position for the Knicks since Mark Jackson in 1989.
Jose Calderon remains under contract with the Knicks for two more years, which would give Mudiay time to grow in the triangle offense. With these two in tow, the Knicks can use their boatloads of cap space on acquiring frontcourt talent and a starting shooting guard.
And here’s some food for thought: Chris Paul (2005), Mike Conley (2007) and Russell Westbrook (2008) were all picked No. 4 overall. What position do they play? Point guard.
Stay positive, Knicks fans. Maybe “4” is the magic number.