The New York Knicks will pick fourth in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Knicks had a 19.9% chance at the top pick, but quietly had a 31% chance at the fourth pick, the highest odds of any pick. And the odds came true, as the Knicks dropped two spots.
The Knicks picking fourth tells us that they will almost certainly not get one of the two star centers. Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor will almost certainly go first and second, probably in that order. Both teams are in need of a center. The Wolves have Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio at point guard, and the Lakers have Jordan Clarkson. That suggests that they won’t select one of the top point guards.
The Philadelphia 76ers are in need of a point guard. They have a crowded front court, with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, but they traded away former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams at the trade deadline. As a result, D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay will likely fall to them.
How about the Knicks? They have several options with the fourth pick, if they end up keeping it. Here are the players they should be looking at.
D’Angelo Russell, Point Guard, Ohio State
Russell will likely be selected by the Phiadelphia 76ers, but there is a chance that general manager Sam Hinkie prefers Mudiay. If so, the Knicks shouldn’t hesitate and pull the trigger on Russell. The former Buckeye is probably the most NBA ready prospect in the draft. He has the ability to see plays develop and predict how they will happen, an uncanny gift that can’t be taught. As a result, he has NBA floor general capability. He also is a tremendous scorer, who uses his quickness to get to the rim, and his shooting ability to hit off the dribble and from three. On defense, he uses his tenacity and size (6’5”, 180) to do the job. While he lacks athleticism, his basketball IQ and feel for the game more than compensate.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Point Guard, China
This high-flying athlete is the wildcard of the draft. After verbally committing to Southern Methodist University, the Congo native decided to ply his trade in China, where he averaged nearly twenty points a game before getting hurt. Mudiay is an incredible athlete, who can get to the rim and finish with ease. He also is a great point guard, who can run pick and rolls well and pick out teammates. His athleticism, height, and length also give him the ability to be an elite defender. Mudiay’s ceiling is as high as anyones in the draft, but he truly is a high-risk, high-reward talent. His jumper has been described as “broken,” his assist-to-turnover ratio was not great, his effort on defense has been questioned, and he has some baggage off the court, but if Emmanuel Mudiay puts it all together, you’re looking at a Russell Westbrook type of talent. His ceiling is that high.
Justise Winslow, Shooting Guard, Duke
With all of the attention surrounding the two point guards, many are overlooking Duke’s Justise Winslow. He has the making of an elite 3-and-D type of player. Think Jimmy Butler. Winslow is a tenacious defender who can shut down both shooting guards and small forwards. His strength and endless motor make him a matchup nightmare for offensive players, and his shotmaking ability is very underrated. Winslow is also a solid ball handler. Winslow may not seem like a sexy pick, but he can pan out to be a third option on a very, very good team. He also has ties to the Knicks– he’s been adament about going to the team, Phil Jackson is a fan, and he attended a New York Yankees game with Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. The writing may be on the wall for a Justise Winslow- New York Knicks relationship.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Center, Kentucky
Recently labeled a “100 million dollar player” by Larry Bird, Willy Cauley-Stein has incredible defensive potential. He’s a smart defender, a rim protector, and a strong rebounder. While he isn’t necessarily a shot blocker, he has all the tools to become an elite NBA defensive center. The knock on Cauley-Stein is his offense– he’ll never be able to score with his back-to-the-basket or face up, and will likely score most of his NBA points off of dunks and tip-ins. The DeAndre Jordan connection makes a lot of sense, and Jackson said he was looking for an anchor defensive center. Cauley-Stein makes a lot of sense, but he may be a reach at four overall. If the Knicks trade down, Cauley-Stein is definitely a legit option.
Mario Hezonja, Shooting Guard, Croatia
Now, drafting an international player may not be a great move regarding fan morale, but Hezonja makes a lot of sense for the Knicks. He can shoot the lights out, and can get to the rim quite easily. He is a very polished, technically sound offensive player who could be an elite scorer in the NBA. On defense, his size (6’8”) and athleticism make him a solid option. He hasn’t had a lot of playing time overseas with FC Barcelona, but he’s still a player with tremendous upside. He is very boom/bust, as most European prospects are.
Kristaps Porzingis, Center, Latvia
This player will remind a lot of Knicks fans about Andrea Bargniani– a 7 foot European who can hit threes. But as an athlete, he presents a great runner for his size, and a player who has the potential to develop a low post game. As a draft-and-stash player, he has tremendous upside.