NEW YORK -- Just a few hours before the Knicks tipped of the 2017-18 NBA season with a 19-point loss to Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Michigan State sophomore forward Miles Bridges spent time at Madison Square Garden for Big Ten Media Day.
Bridges is an explosive 6-foot-6 forward who opted to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season instead of being a likely lottery pick in this year's NBA Draft. He's now projected as the No. 6 pick in 2018 via ESPN.com.
So with Bridges in the Garden for Media Day and the Big Ten Tournament beginning Feb. 28, how would he feel about potentially being drafted by the Knicks?
"It's going to be great," Bridges told me on The 4 Quarters Podcast. "If the Knicks draft me, I'll be extremely happy. It's a great organization. I know it's been going through a lot in the past few years but every team goes through that and at some point it's going to be a turnaround point. So if I were part of that turnaround point, then I would be happy."
The Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, Bridges is focusing primarily on trying to win a national championship as a sophomore with his teammates. But he can't help but look at some of his classmates like Phoenix's Josh Jackson and Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox in the NBA. Bridges said he would prefer to go to an NBA team that is rebuilding, as opposed to a super-team like Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City or Cleveland.
Bridges averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds last season.
"Bridges is arguably the best athlete in this draft and plays a coveted position as a two-way forward who can guard all over the floor," ESPN's Jonathan Givony wrote. "He converted 39 percent of his 3-pointers as a freshman and is making strides with his ball-handling and playmaking abilities as well. After passing up the chance to be a lottery pick in last year's draft, Bridges will be expected to show significant improvement while leading Michigan State on a deep NCAA tournament run."
Bridges is the first of a parade of projected lottery picks who will play at the Garden during the 2017-18 college basketball season, and you can bet more of them will be asked similar questions.
Duke features 6-11 freshman forward Marvin Bagley III, a potential No. 1 overall pick, 6-10 freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. and 6-3 freshman point guard Trevon Duval -- all projected lottery picks. The Blue Devils will be in the Garden Feb. 3 to play St. John's.
Kentucky, which features freshmen wing Hamidou Diallo, freshman forward Kevin Knox and freshman big man Nick Richards, comes to the Garden Dec. 9 to face Monmouth.
Syracuse, UConn, Gonzaga and Villanova all play at the Garden in December, and the Mecca hosts the Big Ten and Big East Tournaments during March Madness.
So expect more and more college players to be asked about the Knicks with the way they are projected to finish.
"The Knicks will not make the playoffs," Shaquille O'Neal said Thursday on TNT. "This is a rebuilding process for the Knicks. They'll probably go 31-51 again this year."
One Garden source said the hope around the Knicks was to "show progress and improvement."
"I don't want to be in the middle of the pack," the source said. "I want to win 20 games and get the No. 1 pick."
Two years ago, of course, the Knicks were in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick, and ended up choosing at No. 4 to get Kristaps Porzingis. This year, they again went the European route to take French point guard Frank Ntilikina at No. 8 -- just ahead of N.C. State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. to Dallas.
Now, assuming the rebuilding Knicks again land in the lottery, they could be in the mix for a player like Bridges.
"Miles is I think somebody special for all college basketball, because he's -- I call him my blue-collar star," Spartans head coach Tom Izzo said. "And he's got the humility and the humbleness of an everyday player and the skills of a very, very good player."
Smiling from ear to ear, Izzo called it a "Christmas present" when he found out Bridges was returning for his sophomore season.
"I got a Christmas present in April when Miles, shockingly to me, decided to come back," he said.
Bridges -- or some other current college star -- could turn out to be the Knicks' Christmas present next June.
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