Lauri Markkanen's stock has been steadily rising as one of the better frontcourt players in this year's draft class. His skill set is definitely unique and well-favored in today's evolving NBA as a big man with terrific range. As a freshman, Markkanen not only logged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds, but also shot an impressive 49 percent from the field, 42 percent from deep, and 84 percent from the line.
According to the Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, Knicks president Phil Jackson met with Markkanen in New York Monday.
But the Knicks need a point guard. As they look to make improvements across the roster this summer, finding a floor general of the future figures to be a priority.
Of course, Thursday night's NBA Draft is littered with intriguing and quality point guards. New York is building for the future and could certainly a find a young guard to implement within their system and grow with an already evident core. Finding such a player through the draft is one possibility, but it's not the only option.
Phil Jackson has already made it clear that the team will target veteran scorers to replace Carmelo Anthony's production (in the event of a likely trade). With offensive-minded guards like Jrue Holiday, George Hill, and Jeff Teague set to be available in free agency, perhaps the priorities will shift.
Should the Knicks turn their back on scooping up a point guard prospect, Markkanen -- who draws similarities to the kind of talent they've liked in the past -- could be a good option.
As a seven-footer, Markkanen's ability to space the floor makes it difficult for equally tall (but clearly not as agile) defenders to chase him around the perimeter. The 19-year-old also has decent slashing and attacking ability -- not as common for players of his size and stature.
If this sounds familiar, much of his scoring prowess is similar to what the Knicks like in Kristaps Porzingis. Much like the unicorn, Markkanen played overseas before joining the Wildcats. Such professional experience should go a long way toward him garnering consideration.
Markkanen could serve an interesting purpose for New York. Early on in his NBA career, there was initial chatter about Porzingis playing small forward. Playing alongside Markkanen (and perhaps Willy Hernangomez) would help the Knicks create offensive mismatches galore with interchangeable forwards. It wouldn't be a total shock to see them attempt to do this. When not playing all three at once, Markkanen's skill set could alternatively provide relief when Porzingis sits. And the Knicks wouldn't miss a beat offensively.
Unfortunately, that would leave the team incredibly vulnerable on the defensive end. Getting Porzingis and Hernangomez up to speed has already proven to be a challenge. And they have a long way to go. Throwing Markkanen, who has his own defensive shortcomings, into the mix, could complicate things even further.
A point guard is what the Knicks need now, but many league executives advise prioritizing talent over need. Markkanen has great upside, and that may be tempting enough for the Knicks to pass on adding a guard if the top choices are off the table.