With the NBA draft less than two weeks away, Knicks President Phil Jackson has made no bones over the fact that the team hopes to acquire a draft pick to add more talent to the current roster. Which team(s) they are targeting as a trade partner remains to be seen, but several teams have a plethora of picks, in addition to roster gluts, that make them obvious candidates.
There are teams who will be shopping late first round picks and the Knicks will be intent on buying, regardless of the price. Here's a look at several potential trade partners for the Knicks, as well as players who would be great fits for the Knicks should they land a pick in a certain draft range.
Philadelphia's 26th Pick, Toronto's 27th Pick, Phoenix's 28th pick
If you're Jackson, and you feel good about who is on the board here, you have to be agressive enough to land a pick. This is where you rely on your scouts and trust your draft board. Late first round picks are always good places to be because you can be aggressive but also patient to see if a higher-ranked prospects falls in your lap. (I still wish the Knicks were able to land UCLA's Kyle Anderson, who fell to the Spurs in 2014.)
With all three teams owning multiple picks, expect these picks to be in play, and if the Knicks are indeed in love with Isaiah Whitehead of Seton Hall, you may see them take him in this range, but that's far too high in my opinion. This is where you have to land a player who can contribute, which is why I'm not over excited about the prospects of projects like Maryland's Diamond Stone, Australia's Thon Maker or Kansas' Cheick Diallo here despite their collective upsides.
I want a day one contributor, which is why I'd be ecstatic if Baylor's Taurean Prince, UNC's Brice Johnson, Michigan State's Denzel Valentine or Providence's Ben Bentil are sitting there. Realistically, I think Bentil would be there and that would be more than OK with me.
Boston Celtics' 31st or 35th pick
Danny Ainge has been lauded by fans who love the idea of "acquiring assets" as means of building a contender. The fact is the Celtics have build a pretty serious roster of young productive talent, starting with Isaiah Thomas, via trade, but who's counting? Ainge has seven draft picks in this draft, three in the first round and four in the second round, and the word around the league is that he's trying to package picks in order to make a huge deal for a star player. He better, or else he's obtained too many "assets" and will have to sell them for pennies on a dollar.
The Celtics own the 23rd, 31st, 35th, 45th and 51st and 58th picks. If I'm Jackson, I'm looking at the 31st and 35th picks, specifically. As usual, there is solid value in that range and Jackson has shown the propensity to trade into that range, having selected Cleanthony Early out of Wichita State 34th overall in 2014 and traded for Willy Hernangomez 35th last year.
If Bentil is off the board at 31, then you may have to reach for Whitehead here as both are first round players who can step in and contribute day one. Gary Payton II of Oregon State and Kansas' Wayne Selden are also really smart options who can step in for the Knicks and add depth in the backcourt at either 31 or 35.
Phoenix Suns 34th pick
The Suns are in an interesting position, and it may behoove Jeff Hornacek to tap into some of his prior relationships here if necessary as you'd have to think one of the Suns' picks could be available.
In addition to the aforementioned names, two guys worth noting here are St. Joseph's Isaiah Miles, and Florida's Dorian Finney-Smith. The Knicks could also look overseas should they secure the Suns 34th or Celtics 35th, especially if they wanted to add Juan Hernangomez, Willy's little brother, to the mix.
Milwaukee Bucks' 38th pick or New Orleans Pelicans' 39th or 40th pick
The Bucks have three picks and their last pick could be the most realistic for the Knicks to land. This would be the perfect spot for Bentil or Whitehead. Payton, Selden, Hernangomez, Miles, Finney-Smith all make sense here as well.
Another name quickly gaining momentum is Greek sensation Georgios Papagiannis, who will reportedly be working out in front of more than 20 NBA teams soon. The 7'2" Papagiannis is wowing scouts with his athleticism and feel for the game at such a young age.
"This kid has great pedigree," one league source, who loved Kristaps Porzingis' game last year, told me. "He plays at top level in Greece, as well as national team experience. If he went to St. Johns or Kentucky, he would be a lottery pick."
Other potential draft picks available:
- Los Angeles Clippers' 33rd
- Orlando Magic's 41st
- Atlanta Hawks' 44th
- Boston Celtics' 45th
As you can see, the Knicks will have a lot to choose from as it relates to obtaining a pick and it probably makes for sense for them to continue to look in the 31-40 range for a player who could fit their rotation and be on a very reasonable and manageable contract for the next several years.
There are more than a few players who fit what the Knicks need today at several positions starting with Bentil, Selden, Payton and Whitehead.
It should be an exciting night for fans hoping the Knicks can acquire an impact player as the team continues to build its way back toward the playoffs.