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The NBA Draft order is set and the Knicks will be picking ninth. The last time the Knicks picked in that spot, they took Michael Sweetney...and we know how that turned out. The jury is still out on their eighth pick last year, Frank Ntilikina, but the Knicks badly need to take an impact player this year that they can potentially insert in the starting lineup.
Over the next five weeks, there are things that can change with these prospects after the Combine, workouts, and interviews. But the list below should be the guys the Knicks have their eye on and the order of preference...
1. Mikal Bridges
I've been all-in on the Mikal Bridges train. He's the only non-freshman/sophomore in the lottery. He's also the only guy in the lottery that has won two championships in college. Bridges was also coached by the best coach (next to Coach K) in the lottery in Jay Wright. Being 21 years old with a tremendous head coach and college program and two titles under his belt is very appealing.
Oh yeah, he can also play basketball. Bridges is one of the more complete two-way players in this draft. He's 6'7" with a 7'2" wingspan and can defend behind the arc and shoot behind the arc. The Knicks desperately need that right now from the small forward position. He shot better than 50 percent from the field and better than 40 percent from three-point range. He is the most logical pick if he's still on the board here, and the Knicks really shouldn't pass on him. The wing is their biggest weakness, and Bridges would fill that void.
2. Collin Sexton
The Knicks don't necessarily need a guard, but Collin Sexton is has the chance to be a special player. I really don't think he will still be available when the Knicks are up, but if he is, nobody really should object if they take him over Mikal Bridges. The Knicks aren't sure whether Ntilikina is a true point guard or not, so Sexton could end up being the Knicks' starting point guard.
At 19 years old, Sexton still has room to grow, but finishing the season hot was a great sign for his draft stock. Over the final five games, including tremendous performances in the SEC and NCAA Tournament, he averaged 24.2 PPG while shooting 52.7% from downtown. Sexton is also one of the better defensive guards in the draft and his 6'7" wingspan will make him a tough matchup for most players at the position. If he can improve on his outside shot, Sexton has a chance to be a future NBA All Star.
3. Wendell Carter Jr.
Another item on the Knicks' wish list this offseason is a big man to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. With Porzingis out for what will likely be at least half the season, they will have another hole next year. At 6'10," Wendell Carter Jr. will definitely be on the Knicks' radar. Carter fell under the radar a bit playing alongside Marvin Bagley III, who got most of the attention from that Duke team. Carter definitely has upside, but should still be right behind Mikal Bridges.
He's a unique player in that he is an incredible rebounder, and can also shoot from three-point range. Carter averaged 13.5 PPG and 9,1 RPG in his lone season at Duke, and shot 41.3 percent from downtown. He also shot 73 percent from the free-throw line, which is respectable enough for his size. He might have been better off staying another year at Duke so he could unleash his entire game, but nonetheless, he's going to be a lottery pick. It might just take him a few years in the NBA to develop.
4. Trae Young
I only put Trae Young at four because I'd be stunned if he's available when the Knicks pick. If he is, it will be hard not to take him. Young is just too explosive of a scorer to pass up on. When he didn't have extra defenders on him, there were times where he was just unstoppable. Young could finally give the Knicks a dynamic point guard again if he somehow fell in their lap.
Young has his flaws defensively, but his ability to put up points -- especially in how the game is played in the NBA today -- will likely outweigh his defensive concerns. Young is also going to have to get his turnover rate down and play a little bit more under control. He's not going to need to carry a team like he did at Oklahoma. Young's ability to knock down shots from 30-35 feet with ease will make him a very fine pick for wherever he ends up. The way the Knicks can get Young if they like him enough is by potentially trading up a few spots. But they shouldn't trade away more assets.
5. Miles Bridges
Miles Bridges is a rare case of a player who may have been better off going to the NBA after last season since numbers declined in his sophomore campaign at Michigan State. He's a heavily built, explosive forward that would fill a void for the Knicks. He's lost 20 pounds since the season ended, which should make him even more explosive, now at 220. And Bridges another guy who had an all-time great coach as well in Tom Izzo
With the Bulls being linked potentially to Mikal, Miles could end up being the Knicks' guy. If they decide to go the small forward route, they would likely end up taking him if that's the case. It's way too early in the process to buy into any of those rumors without the Combine and interviews and everything taking place, though. It will be intriguing to see how it plays out since small forward is a huge hole. Tim Hardaway Jr. should be playing the two, and Courtney Lee should be a guy the Knicks look to trade.