The New York Knicks had quite the busy night yesterday, using their highly touted number four draft pick as well as trading for two other selections.
In typical Knicks fashion, controversy and confusion surrounded the picks. Here is an analysis and grade on each pick.
Round 1, Pick 4: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia.
Out of all 60 selections in the draft Thursday Night, this one was probably the most controversial. Fans loudly booed the pick, and some media members such as Stephen A. Smith were in dismay. But, drafting Porzingis may have been the best choice for the Knicks.
Porzingis has a very unique skill set that sets him apart from the other players in this draft. He’s 7’1 and still growing as he’s only 19 years old. He also has skills as if he’s a small forward with the size of a power forward. He can dribble well, shoot off the dribble from the mid-range, and with continued work, could become a good three point shooter. He shot 36% from behind the arc last season in Spain, but the arc in the Spanish League is slightly closer than the NBA arc.
Porzingis has been playing for the Spanish club Sevilla the last three seasons, and averaged 18.5 PPG on 50% shooting, while grabbing 7.7 RPG and 1.7 BPG per 36 minutes a game. Many scouts and insiders have said they believe Porzingis has the most potential out of any player in the draft, with his offensive ability and potential to develop a defensive game. He probably won’t be a bonafide starter for another two to three seasons, as he needs to continue to develop his post game and defense, but he’s still only 19 and has all the potential in the world and represents a desire to build for the future by Jackson and the Knicks.
The Knicks obviously swung for the fences with this one. They passed on safer options like Justise Winslow and Willie Cauley-Stein. Whether or not it will be a home run or a strikeout is yet to be seen, and it could define Phil Jackson’s legacy.
Round 1, Pick 19: Acquired from Atlanta Hawks for Tim Hardaway Jr., drafted Jerian Grant, Point Guard, Notre Dame
It was known that Tim Hardaway Jr. was being dangled in trade talks, and the Knicks were finally able to flip him for a draft pick, specifically the 19th overall. With that pick, the Knicks then went with a safer pick by drafting senior point guard out of Notre Dame, Jerian Grant.
After playing all four seasons in the NCAA, Grant should be ready to step in and make an impact almost immediately. He averaged 16.5 PPG on 48% shooting to go along with 6.7 APG and 1.7 SPG. Grant’s strength is just how smart and comfortable he is on the court. He can command an offense very well, and has a high basketball IQ, knowing exactly how to run plays and when and whom to pass to.
His scoring ability is mostly reliant on getting close to the basket, as he shot just 32% from the three point line last season. His defense is also mediocre when man-to-man, but he does still have room to improve.
Grant’s signature game that pushed him over the top was Notre Dame’s upset over Duke. He scored 23 points and added 12 assists, leading the team to victory. He also had a good game against Kentucky in the Elite Eight, scoring 15 points and adding 6 assists.
The issue with this deal was losing Tim Hardaway Jr. He was coming off a disappointing season, but a lot of that had to do with having nobody around him to take the pressure off. Hardaway Jr. was just two years into his career, and the Knicks giving up on him this early could prove to be a mistake.
With the point guard position dwindling in free agency, drafting a young player who can step in now like Jerian Grant was a wise move. He should excel in the triangle as well with his high basketball IQ. The only downside was losing Hardaway Jr.
Round 2, pick 35: Acquired from Philadelphia 76ers for two future second round selections, drafted Guillermo Hernangomez, Center. Spain
This pick was arguably the most confusing of them all. The Knicks, running low on future draft picks, traded two of them to Philly for a stash pick.
The Knicks have consistently regretted dumping away draft picks, so trading two second rounders for one doesn’t make much sense at all.
That isn’t a knock on the actual pick though. “Willy”, as he’s nicknamed, put up 10 points and 6 rebounds per game in Europe. He played alongside Porzingis at Sevilla, and was the more defensive orientated of the two. He has an old school style of play, being able to score at the rim and play defense down low, using his toughness. He also is a very smart passer.
Where he struggles is shooting the mid-range shot, and he isn’t very athletic either. He should come over to the NBA for the 2017-2018 season, but projects to be a solid contributor off of the bench.