Several members of the Knicks organization, including general manager Steve Mills, will be in Chicago this week for the NBA draft combine. Mills & Co. will have a chance to interview and watch prospects as they prepare for the draft in late June – one of the most important nights in Phil Jackson’s presidency.
The Knicks will find out exactly where they pick on Tuesday night when the NBA holds its draft lottery. Based on probability, New York is most likely to pick seventh on June 22. The Knicks also have two second-round picks.
Members of the organization have been scouting players in the draft for months; there are a few players that those members have become fond of: French guard Frank Ntilikina and Kentucky guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, among others. Also, just like the rest of the NBA, members of the organization are also enamored by Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson.
The player the Knicks end up selecting will depend on how the pingpong balls bounce Tuesday.
Whom should they select? That’s up for debate.
In preparation for the draft combine, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla and Jeff Goodman answered questions about prospects on a conference call Tuesday. Here is their assessment of some players on the Knicks’ radar:
Frank Ntilikina: “Well, the broader view here is there’s likely to be five point guards drafted in the first 10. It’s going to be interesting. And most likely because of the fact that people don’t know him like they know the four college kids, he’s going to go fifth,” Fraschilla said. “And what I love about him — and by the way, I think he’s going to be able to show you — I hate to say this because I’m not a fan of the triangle, I think in the modern NBA the spacing doesn’t work as well as it did in the old days, but he’s a triangle kind of player, simply because he’s not really a 1, and he’s not really a 2. He’s a guard.
“He can make decisions well. He shoots it well. He’s athletic. He could be a good defender. And you’re also looking at a kid who’s still 18 years old. His long-term potential as an NBA player is very good. I watched him last summer at the Jordan Gym in New York City, and he made 27 out of 30 NBA 3s. I think people who didn’t know him early on — the obligatory line when you don’t know somebody is, he’s a really good athlete, but he’s not a great shooter, and he’s dispelling that this year in France, shooting over 40 percent from the international 3. He doesn’t have the polish of a Fultz or Ball or the speed and athleticism or raw athleticism of Fox or Smith, but he has the look and feel of an NBA guard when he grows up.”
De’Aaron Fox: “I just would say quickly that obviously De’Aaron Fox’s speed and athleticism, given the way the NBA game is at the moment — that’s going to trump the fact that he has to continue to improve his shot,” Fraschilla said. “But I’m sure Jeff has talked to the same type of scouts who say, you cannot, in this modern NBA, teach his speed and athleticism, and unlike some of the non-shooting point guards in the league that are — actually hurt their team, he is probably — you could safely compare him to a young John Wall because of the same attributes. But it’ll help him — it’s not in his DNA to be a great shooter, because he’s never had to be, but it certainly helps him in his NBA future down the road if he continues to figure out a way to make some shots, but the speed and athleticism will get him drafted, obviously, in the top five or six.
Added Goodman: “I think he’s only helped by his character, too. I mean, high-character kid, shined when it mattered in the NCAA tournament, for the most part. I think you’re looking at a guy who’s certainly going to go in the top 10 and could go as high as 5.”
Malik Monk: “I wish he was 6-5 and not 6-3 with an average swing span, because for me the poster child for Malik Monk is what Jamal Crawford has done in his career. I think Malik, once he settles into his NBA career, is going to be a scorer off the bench,” Fraschilla said. “I know he probably wouldn’t want to hear that, but he is a — he is still a volume shooter. He had the ultimate green light in high school. He had a green light at Kentucky. It actually hurt them at times. He can put the ball in the basket. There’s no doubt about it. But the fact that he’s undersized, with a below-average wingspan for the position, he is going to have to become what I call a technician. He is really going to have to work on NBA footwork, creating space and separation. It’s all there for him because when you draft these guys nowadays, for the most part, they’re NBA Silly Putty. You get to mold them with your coaching staff. You know, I like him. His NBA future to me is a lead off-the-bench scorer.”
Added Goodman: “I think with Malik Monk, it’s not being a volume guy. You know, being able to handle picking your spots in the NBA a little bit because who knows where he’s going to go and how many shots he’s going to get. He had a long leash in a sense for Kentucky because they needed him to score the ball, so I think it’s going to be different for him, most likely, in the NBA, he’s not going to come in and get 20 shots every game. So I think for him, it’s just going to be consistency with his effort and with his production.”
Lastly, given his expressed disdain for the triangle and the Knicks’ emphasis of the offense, Fraschilla was asked whether he thought Fox or Monk was a better fit in the triangle: “I think you have to have a certain type of versatility and skill level to play in the triangle. De’Aaron is going to be able to fit most systems because of his speed,” he said. “I mean, it just doesn’t make sense to walk the ball up the court in the modern NBA into a half-court triangle set, so he’s going to be able to adjust. But you do have to have a certain type of versatility in my opinion to play in the pure triangle because everybody is interchangeable; you have to play multiple positions within the triangle, and that would cater to Frank’s versatility versus De’Aaron’s speed in the NBA game. But again, if you’re not running in the NBA and trying to get easy baskets, you’re probably not a playoff team.”