The NBA Draft is just over 24 hours away and, as of right now, the New York Knicks do not have a pick in the draft.
However, that could all change.
The Knicks traded their own first-round pick to the Trail Blazers for Josh Hart, and none of the picks from the Mavericks, Wizards, or Pistons were conveyed in 2023 due to protections. However, earlier in the offseason, we covered the ways that New York could move back into the draft rather than sit it out for the second year in a row.
One of the scenarios we said was most likely was that the Knicks would look to trade Obi Toppin for a first-round pick: “To me, this is the most likely option. Toppin is buried in his version of the Knicks with Julius Randle in town. If the Knicks don’t want to extend Toppin then this is the time to trade him.”
On Tuesday, Steve Popper of Newsday reported that both the Knicks and Toppin felt like the forward needed a fresh start somewhere else, making it seem like there is a strong chance the Dayton product will be shipped out before the start of Thursday nights draft, likely to allow the Knicks to move into the first round.
That possibility was only furthered when Ian Begley reported that Obi Toppin got into a heated argument with head coach Tom Thibodeau after Game 4 against the Miami Heat. While Toppin’s anger with Thibodeau is understandable given his lack of playing time over the years, the two having to be separated doesn’t bode well for the forward’s future with the Knicks.
Immediately, many people have gone back to connecting the dots with the Indiana Pacers, who were close to a deal for Toppin at the NBA trade deadline. The Pacers have two first-round picks in the 2023 NBA Draft – No. 7, and No. 26 – and already traded the 29th pick to Denver for future picks, so they would need to be open to sending pick 26 to New York for Toppin.
If New York does trade into the end of the first round, who are some players that could be a fit?
The Knicks need perimeter defense and floor spacing. If they move Toppin to acquire this pick then Josh Hart will be the only bench wing for New York, and he’s only 6’5,” so the Knicks’ ideal target would be a forward who can defend wings on the perimeter and also knock down shots from deep.
Kris Murray – F, Iowa
Murray, the brother of Kings lottery pick Keegan, averaged 20.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. While his 33.5% shooting from deep was down from the 38.7% mark he had in 2021-22, he also increased his three-point shooting from 3.2 attempts per game to 6.8 so the shooting numbers aren’t bad given the volume. shot at a solid clip from the field and from deep for his volume. He brings solid defensive value as a 6’8″ wing who can do a bit of everything.
Brice Sensabaugh – F, Ohio State
Sensabaugh is 6’6″ and doesn’t have the athleticism to create his own looks as much as you’d like to see, but he is a knockdown perimeter shooter and crafty midrange scorer who shot 40.5% from deep this year. He also has an array of post-ups, pull-ups, and tough-angle shots that allow him to score in a number of ways. He doesn’t defend the perimeter better as well as the Knicks might hope for, but he is a dead-eye shooter who can certainly get buckets off of the bench.
Maxwell Lewis – F, Pepperdine
Lewis is another forward who has some work to do on the defensive end but can knock down shots from deep, hitting 34.8% during this season at Pepperdine. Working in Lewis’ favor is that he’s 6’7″ with a 7’0″ wingspan and brings an intensity on the defensive end which enables him to guard small/quick forwards as well as lankier ones. He can also break defenders down off of the dribble, which gives his offensive game some upside.
Jett Howard – F, Michigan
When your father is almost a two-decade NBA veteran, it’s no surprise that you have a high basketball IQ. However, Jett Howard, son of Juwan Howard, also shot 36.8% from deep ay Michigan. Teams appear to be worried about his lack of rebounding and his inconsistent effort on defense, but the ability to do those things is there, so he might just need to be pushed by somebody like Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Ben Sheppard – SG, Belmont
Sheppard is listed as a guard, but he’s 6’6″ so he does the have ability to guard wings on the perimeter and he was a disruptive defender for Belmont while also hitting 41% from beyond the arc on six attempts a game this season. At the NBA Draft Combine, Sheppard was 84th percentile or better among all participants since 2000 for shuttle run, lane agility (10.88 seconds), and three-quarter sprint (3.17 seconds), which means he’s a pretty agile wing prospect. He also has solid playmaking ability as a secondary facilitator and pick-and-roll ballhandler, which is something the Knicks need far more of.
Noah Clowney – F, Alabama
Clowney might not be an ideal fit because his value to the Knicks is based on his projectable skillset and not the one he currently possesses. Clowney is 6’10” with a 7’3″ wingspan, plays defense at a really high level, and rebounds, which are skills the Knicks need. He also has good shooting mechanics but hit just 28.3% from deep while taking over four 3-point attempts per game. However, the mechanics make many scouts think he will develop into a good shooter and become a stretch-four that can protect the rim. But can the Knicks wait for that to happen?
Brandin Podziemski – G, Santa Clara
Podziemski might not be an ideal fit because he’s just 6’4,” and we also have him projected to go 19th to the Warriors in our mock draft, but he deserves to be mentioned because he’s a knockdown 3-point shooter, who hit 43% on 5.8 attempts per game. He can create his own shot and help bring up the ball and has a 39-inch max vertical leap, which shows his strong athleticism.