The New York Knicks are guaranteed a top-five pick in this year’s NBA Draft which will be held on June 25, 2015. Derek Fisher and his squad finished with the second worst record this season which gives the Knicks a 19.9% chance to land the 1st overall pick. The final order of the draft will be decided at draft lottery which is scheduled for May 19, 2015.
This article will be broken into three sections; analysis of the Knicks top prospects, news about the draft and a breakdown of the news.
Height: 6’11 Weight: 270 lbs Wingspan: 7’5
At 6’11 and 275 lbs Okafor is most definitely an NBA ready center. Okafor’s biggest strength is his low-post offense. His nimbleness and agility allow him to be so extremely successful down low. The Duke product has a terrific feel in the post, he is able to sense where his defender is and then react and make the correct play. He has the size to establish deep post-position, and the strength to move players around inside the paint once he catches the ball, showing an incredibly rare combination of power, quickness and finesse. Okafor has a tremendous spin move and his body control to finish is second to none. The big man also has a nice shot fake and he gets fouled on 18% of his post-possessions.
For a 19-year-old Okafor is a terrific passer. When he’s double teamed Okafor is more than happy to give the ball up. He has the ability to pass up and over the defense as well as hitting an open teammate on the perimeter or a fellow big-man cutting to the rim. Okafor has a high basketball IQ and there’s certainly potential that it can still grow. He is also a very good scorer without the ball, when a guard penetrates Okafor has the sense to get to the right spot. He’s great rolling to rim on a pick-and-roll as well as cutting to the basket. For his size Okafor is a solid ball handler which allows him to create shots off the dribble.
Okafor is also a terrific offensive rebounder, he pulls down 4.6 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes. Okafor’s size and IQ allows for him to get front position to either get the board of draw a loose ball foul.
Okaror’s glaring weakness is his shooting ability. He gets to the line frequently but he leaves far too many points at the line, Okafor shot just 51% from there. Unlike the modern day big man Okafor is unable to step out and shoot the 15 footer. He has absolutely no touch on his jump shot. As he is young he still has plenty of time to develop a decent looking jumper.
Another one of Okafor’s biggest weaknesses is his defense – you could even say he doesn’t play it at all. Okafor is far too nonchalant on the defensive end, he jogs back and is downright lazy at times. Okafor gives deep post-up position far to frequently and he isn’t aggressive enough looking to body his man when he receives the ball. Okafor is also a poor pick-and-roll defender, he goes to far under screens in attempt to give himself a cushion so he doesn’t get burnt but it allows the opposition guard to take wide open mid range jump shots. Okafor’s awareness and ability to not react on the fly is also poor.
He may be a great offensive rebounder but he’s poor on the defensive glass, pulling down six defensive boards per 40 minutes. Okafor often doesn’t pay attention when a shot goes up and he fails to locate his man and to then box him out. Duke gave up many second chance points due to this and he provided no rim protection whatsoever. People have said that just rests on the defensive end.
Height: 6’11 Weight: 250 lbs Wingspan: 7’3
Towns has great physical attributes which make him NBA ready. He may not blow you out of the water with his speed and explosiveness but Towns is quite mobile and coordinated for someone of his size. He also runs the floor well and shows nice agility. Towns has also shown great versatility on both ends of the court and he also has the ability to either play power forward or center in the NBA. Towns is a solid low-post player, he gets great position and he can finish with a hook with either hand. Towns can also face up and hit a jumpshot. He also has the ability to effectively operate out of the high post as well. Towns also comes with a solid jump shooting game – he can stretch the floor. He can catch and shoot off penetration, knock down a mid range jumper on a pick-and-pop and Towns has a surprisingly good turnaround jump shot.
The Dominican also has potential to deepen his range due to his nice mechanics and he also already shoots 82% from the line. Towns will enter the NBA as a weapon in the pick-and-roll, he sets solid screens and has good hands but Towns is also great at finishing through contact – sometimes. For a big man Towns has a nice handle and he’s able to play point-forward on the break and in the half court he can create space for himself and others. Towns can also be used as a facilitator at the top of the key, he can hit shooters and make a nice bounce pass through the defense to a big man at the rim.
Where Towns separates himself from others is on the defensive end. He has the size and strength to defend centers effectively, but also the length and mobility to contain most 4s, giving him terrific positional versatility. Towns also has terrific timing as a shot blocker with 4.4 per 40 minutes. He also has the ability to switch out on guards and hold his own. Towns has the size and agility to be a factor on the boards pulling down 14 per 40 minutes.
Towns still has weaknesses on the defensive end, he is overly aggressive and he bites on most pump fakes but Towns also struggles with hand-checking. He often leaves his hand(s) on his opponent on the perimeter which leads him to him committing 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes. Towns can also be found to be flat footed at times and on those kind of nights he struggles to contain his opponent.
The New Jersey native isn’t the most explosive player going around. He often needs time and space to finish his shots but his size, length and touch can make up for this. It’ll be interesting to see how he transitions into the NBA.
Towns struggles with consistency, he fouled out six times during the year and was a complete non-factor in a number of games. He struggles to go out there each and every night with the same aggressive mindset. Towns physicality has been questioned, especially when fighting for post position, finishing through contact and when rebounds are ripped away from him.
Height: 6’5 Weight: 175 lbs Wingspan: 6’9
Russell, at age 19, is already an advanced offensive player. He scored 19.3 points per game on 45% shooting from the field and 41% from behind the arc. Russell also did this despite being the focal point of every defense he was up against. The 19-year-old also shot 44% on shots off the dribble and 39% when flat footed. Russell is almost impossible to contain in pick-and-roll situations in large part due to his ability to operate at different speeds; he can be silky smooth or he can dribble right by you. Russell is a dead-eye from behind the ark and his floor vision is second to none – it’s arguably the best part of his game right now. He has great creativity and skill for such a young prospect.
He’s extremely unselfish, not afraid to throw the ball ahead in transition to ignite the offense. He often sees plays developing before they actually materialize in the half-court. Russell moves the ball quickly and calmly within the offense and he takes what the defense gives him. Russell can penetrate the defense and can make passes every which way but he’s also not afraid to shoot the basketball. When you watch Russell you’d think that he has eyes in the back of his head, he sees almost everything that happens around him. Russell has the upmost confidence in his ability which should help his transition into the NBA.
Russell’s size and length allows him to contribute on the boards, pulling down 6.7 boards per 40 minutes. If given time those attributes will allow Russell to develop into a better all-round defender. He may have a relaxed demeanour on the defensive end but his anticipation and instincts allow him to get into the passing lanes and reek havoc on that end.
Russell may be silky smooth but he lacks explosiveness, he doesn’t have a quick first step and he also struggles to elevate which leads to him struggling to finish close to the rim. Russell may have a hard adjustment period in the NBA as he’ll be going against bigger, stronger and quicker guards.
Russell also had issues adjusting against to the teams who knew his tendencies and hot-spots – he had an 11% drop from the field and a 13% drop from three point range against teams .500 or above. As good as he is offensively the Kentucky native has a poor off hand. Russell tends to stay away from using his right hand when dribbling and unlike many guards in today’s game he can’t use both hands to shoot a floater or finish at the rim.
Russell has trouble playing consistently on the defensive end and he has far too many lapses. He has average lateral quickness which means he’s a so-so perimeter defender. When playing off the ball Russell tends to take a nap and gets beaten back door. Russell also has a tendency to go for the ‘hero play’ to often – leaving his man and over committing going for a steal.
Height: 6’5 Weight: 200 lbs Wingspan: 6’8
Mudiay possess great physical tools, he has great speed, explosiveness and he’s incredibly strong and well-built. He also has great size for his position. Mudiay is perhaps at his best in the open court, his speed and quickness allow him to get ahead of the pack and he uses his monstrous vertical leap to sky high above the rim to throw one down. Mudiay is also a very good ball handler, he can create for himself and others by penetrating. It helps that he has a tremendous first step and his strength enables him to bowl over oppositions guards and Mudiay is able to finish with authority at the rim. The native of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a great playmaker. He is able to hit a shooter running off a screen or a big man rolling to the basket. Mudiay is able to penetrate with ease and he’s more than happy to dish off the ball to a wide open shooter on the perimeter or to a big man uncontested at the rim. Mudiay has flashes of incredible brilliance.
Mudiay is a frequent visitor to the free throw line, he’s not afraid to go inside and bang with the tall trees. He does not only get to the line but he also creates or draws many fouls away from the hoop. Mudiay is able to hang the ball out and draw the opponents hands before ripping across with a crossover. He is a great all-round athlete and Mudiay is able to use his physical gifts to stay in front of his opponent and draw charges. He’s not afraid at all to put his body on the line.
Mudiay and his athleticism make him a pretty good perimeter defender and he’s relentless on this end of the floor. He’s very active defensivel, Mudiay regularly pokes balls loose, knocks the ball away and gets in the passing lanes. For his size and position Mudiay is an excellent rebounder.
Mudiay definitely has room to improve on the offensive end of the court, he currently lacks polish as a facilitator and scorer. To begin with Mudiay is not a threat from behind the three point line let alone from 15 feet out. He may get to the foul line regularly but Mudiay shoots just 60% from the line. He isn’t afraid to take jump shots but it can and most likely will drive a coach mad. The 19-year-old has to put in work on his mechanics as he currently tends to shoot the ball on the way down. Mudiay certainly loves to share the ball but he turns the ball over far too often.
Mudiay’s game is moulded for a high paced style of basketball and he needs to become better in the half-court. He’s a better playmaker and scorer in the open floor compared to when playing a slower paced game. Mudiay also struggles to play the same way on a consistent basis and he often plays in spurts. When he’s forced to play to play within a half-court set he has a tendency to over dribble and this is where Mudiay becomes completely turnover prone. It’s at these times when he forces the play rather than taking what the defense gives him
Size: 6’7 Weight: 229 lbs Wingspan: 6’9
Winslow’s best attribute heading into the NBA is clearly his defense – it’s been his calling card since he was 16. Very few power forwards overpower him inside the paint, while he’s quick and agile enough to stay in front of guards on the perimeter, giving him tremendous versatility on this end of the floor. Winslow also has very good lateral movement and footwork which is very impressive for someone of his age. On the defensive end Winslow is also very focused and aware, he is also quite physical, tough and very competitive. Not only is the 19-year-old a talented on-ball defender he’s an even better team defender, Winslow makes the right rotations, he closes out on shooters and digs in down low. He averages 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per 40 minutes. Winslow is also a great defensive rebounder, pulling down 7 defensive boards per 40 minutes. His versatility as a defender makes Winslow a very attractive player.
For a big man Winslow is a great passer and he rarely turns the basketball over. He has the ability to hit the open man wherever he may be on the court. Winslow may not be the biggest offensive threat but he’s effective on this end – 12.6 points per game on 48% from the field and 41% from long distance. He’s at his best when in transition and he’s not afraid to punish opponents down low in the post. Winslow is also very good off ball as he makes hard cuts to the basket. He’s a solid ball handler but he can create for himself due to his fast first step and unmatched strength – Winslow is a guy who just bulldozers his way to the rim. He also has good touch with either hand. Prior to college Winslow was known to be a poor shooter but his mechanics have improved and he’s now a threat from long range. He is able to play as a stretch-4 which is handy heading into a league where small-ball is regularly on display.
As a person who can play as a small forward Winslow lacks the ability to create his own shots. He has rarely been successful when in an isolation situation and Winslow also has a hard time working the pick-and-roll well, unless his opponent is slower than he is. Winslow relies heavily on his strength but dropping a shoulder in college isn’t the same as dropping a shoulder in the NBA. He may have a difficult time adjusting to the physicality in the NBA.
Winslow may initially struggle as a shooter in the NBA due to his slow shot release as he need to stop, balance and square up to the basket – defenders will eat him alive if he takes that long. Winslow made the jump to being able to knock down the three ball in college, but it’s a big question as to can he extend his shot to NBA range? His lack of an in-between game is also a concern.
Height: 7’0 Weight: 244 lbs Wingspan: 7’3
Cauley-Stein has terrific tools for an modern-day NBA big man, he will come in and be one of the most athletically gifted players right off the bat. He runs the floor like a track star and has the hands of a wide-receiver. The 7 footer is extremely fluid, mobile and explosive. Defense has been the 21-year-old’s calling card from the beginning. In the past college season he legitimately guarded all five positions – opposition guards shot a lowly 21% on switches – showing unseen versatility. He displayed nice footwork and Cauley-Stein was seamless on switches. He is a very impressive rim protector, averaging 3.6 blocks per 40 minutes. The native of Kansas also challenges and changes almost every shot attempted in the painted area when he’s on the court.
On the offensive end he isn’t a source of scoring but he finds ways to contribute. Cauley-Stein runs the floor extremely well and he also outruns guards, he finishes 77% of his shots in this situation. Cauley-Stein is a good cutter and roller to the rim and this way his primary source of offense, especially lob-plays. That bodes him well for his future in the NBA. He has improved his jump shot and he made a handful this past season and Cauley-Stein improved his free throw percentage from 37% in his sophomore season, to 62% in his junior year.
He is a factor on the offensive glass, pulling down 3.9 offensive boards per 40 minutes. Cauley-Stein uses his quickness and vertical leap to be effective in this area.
Besides dunks, layups and put-backs, Cauley-Stein is quite limited offensively. He has little to no post game with his back to the basket and it’s unlikely he’ll develop into a post presence in the NBA. His strength is an issue and it’ll be a struggle big time to get good post position even if there’s a guard on him. Cauley-Stein also misses plenty of bunnies under the rim and he is unable to play through contact. Often when the 21-year-old tries to create in the post he goes out of control and hoists up a poor shot or fires a nonsense pass.
Cauley-Stein pulled down 6.4 defensive boards per 40 minutes which is solid but many believe that his stick-figure frame and lack of strength will lead to him being mediocre on the glass in the NBA. To begin his career it seems as though he will be bullied down low. Cauley-Stein’s focus and intensity also wavers and he struggles to go out and play two straight games with the same concentration and intensity level. His lack of focus also spills over the rest of his game which is a worry moving into the league.
New York Knicks News and Rumors Heading Into the Draft
In recent times there have been plenty of rumors regarding the Knicks and their lottery pick. And as you’d expect, the news, rumors and reports all conflict with each other. I’ll leave it to the reader to make what they want of the situation.
In chronological order;
Phil Jackson would prefer to draft Jahlil Okafor based purely on his size and low-post game.
Phil Jackson would rather draft Karl-Anthony Towns due his defense and all-round game.
Phil Jackson will consider trading the New York Knicks lottery pick. He would only do so to acquire established talent and other pieces.
The Knicks ideal targets are Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor.
If the Knicks fall to outside the top-2 Phil Jackson will definitely consider trading down.
If the Knicks miss out on Towns and Okafor they will seriously shop the pick.
According to Chad Ford the Knicks draft board looks as so;
The Knicks like D’angelo Russell ‘a lot’.
Karl-Anthony Towns would ‘love’ to play with the Knicks.
**All of the above is via HoopsHype and SportSpyder
Breaking Down the News (not all of the above)
Trading the Lottery Pick
Phil Jackson has received endless criticism for saying that he and his coworkers will consider trading the Knicks top-5 pick. The Knicks, in the past, have made a habit of trading away their draft picks and some just want to see New York use it for once. Along with saying that he’ll consider dealing the pick, Jackson said he would do so only to get established talent along with other pieces and the other team’s first round pick. The Knicks not only want to add young talent but they also have the desire to add players who can step in and help the team win right now.
Just think about it like this; in the end that draft pick will be a player. If you place the pick on the trade table you are effectively placing a player on the trade table. What you do with players is to put them on the block? Sit back, relax and see what offers you get. Therefore you’d be seeing what you could get in exchange for the pick, you don’t have to trade it. If no offers are appealing, so be it! Move on and take your pick!
Okafor and Towns are the Prime Targets
In that second half of the season New York discovered some diamonds in the rough at the guard position and there’s a good chance they’ll return next season – Langston Galloway, Alexey Shved. New York also has Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jose Calderon who is practically un-tradable and Phil Jackson also has free agency to find a lead guard if it comes to that. It’s clear that Jackson is after an established guard to run the team rather than a rookie – Jackson also prefers mature-aged recruits at the guard spots as well.
The Knicks currently have no big men under contract for next season and the draft is the ideal way to slowly build up the front court. Both Towns and Okafor have the talent to be in the starting five come October. Both of their skill sets, although different, fit in with what the Knicks are trying to do offensively and defensively. The system requires a big who can score down low, but can also pass – Okafor – and a power forward who can stretch the defense and protect the rim – Towns.
Trading the Pick if it Falls Outside the Top Two
At the moment it’s likely that Okafor and Towns will be taken as with the 1st and 2nd overall picks respectively. It New York fall to 3rd or lower and their top two targets are gone trading the pick would make some sense. It’s clear that the Knicks would like to draft a big man, so if they miss out on their primary targets Jackson could deal the pick for a lower first rounder – and some 2nd rounders – along with a talented, relatively young and established big who can help right away.
The Knicks currently look as though they’ll have three point or lead guards under contract next season – Galloway, Shved, Calderon – so drafting a point guard may not be the best thing to do. When you think about it’d be a waste to draft a guard to create more of a log-jam at the position. As was mentioned in the last point, the New York Knicks have no big men under contract at all for next season.
Why the Draft Board Looks the way it Does
1. Towns – He defends, he rebounds, he blocks shots, he can hit a jump shot, stretches the floor and he can pass.
2. Okafor – Big low-post presence, crashes the offensive glass and an excellent passer.
3. Mudiay – athletic, facilitator, gets to the rim, gets to the line, rebounds well and is a great defender.
4. Russell – Terrific shooter, shot creator, crafty ball-handler, great court vision and excellent anticipation.
5. Winslow – Defends all five positions, great team defender, strong, powerful, effective shooter and floor spacer.
6. Cauley-Stein – Rim protector, freak athlete, runs the floor well and crashes the offensive glass.
Phil Likes Russell ‘A Lot’
Firstly, liking a player doesn’t mean he wants to draft him. Well, to begin with, New York’s point guards were in turmoil for the entire season and all of them struggled to shoot the basketball well. They also all struggled to penetrate and they failed to draw in the defense. Does that make it clear as to why Phil Jackson admires Russell’s game?
The 19-year-old is a terrific shooter, both when flat footed and shooting off the dribble. Russell already has NBA range he’ll make a seamless transition shooting wise into the NBA. The Buckeye uses his nice handle of the basketball to create his own shots. He can also use his ball-handling ability to get past his defender and penetrate getting into the paint where he dishes it off to a wide open teammate. Russell loves to facilitate the basketball and he’s not like other guards, Russell doesn’t dominate the ball but passes it up the court freely and he does it freely once again in a half-court set.
Russell has the attributes to contribute well if placed within the triangle. Once again, liking a player doesn’t mean Jackson will draft him.
The Knicks are about to dive head-first into a very, very busy summer. The Knicks fate will be decided on May 19th followed up by pre-draft workouts and then the draft itself on the 26th of June.
Make sure to come back here regularly to get all the news, reports, rumors and anything related to the Knicks and their lottery pick!