The New York Knicks find themselves with the 24th pick in this year’s NBA draft. Finishing with their first division title and playoff series win in a decade, they are looking to improve even further this offseason. Which direction will they go in the draft? Could they replace Jason Kidd and add another guard, or look to the frontcourt for more support?
Looking at the talent of this draft, it is not the star-studded draft top draft pick teams hope for. There are many talented and valuable pieces that will be important role players for many teams. The Knicks finished 2nd in the East this year with a lot of scoring and some tough defense. Iman Shumpert is fully healed, coming off an incredible defensive postseason, and should lead them to a top 10 defense next year. The team will have their inside force in Tyson Chandler next year, and Amare Stoudemire should return, but next to them, they need help. Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, and Kurt Thomas were not the pieces that the Knicks thought they would be. Camby is under contract, Rasheed is retired, and Thomas should be gone without a contract. Kenyon Martin was a pleasant surprise with his late play and is a tough enforcer that the Knicks need coming off the bench. They may be able to sign him again, but if not, there will be a big hole.
In the late first round, there will be a few notable bigs remaining. Jeff Withey was a defensive force at Kansas. This 7 footer has a knack for blocking shots and grabbing boards, averaging 8.5 rebounds with 3.9 blocks. He wreaked havoc for teams underneath and definitely showed improvements on the offensive side throughout the year. He could serve as a solid backup behind Chandler. Another interesting target is from a smaller school in North Texas. Tony Mitchell is a 6-8 combo forward who put up a solid stat line in 13 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 2.7 BPG. He is very athletic player who is also a defensive force. His offense needs work, and he only shot 44% last year, but the Knicks could play him alongside Carmelo Anthony where his offense would not be as needed. Lastly, Deshaun Thomas out of Ohio State could fall to the Knicks spot. This small/power forward put up 19.8 PPG and 5.9 RPG in a very tough Big 10 conference. Watching Thomas play this year, I see a resemblance to the former Big 10 player in Draymond Green, who is showing how affective he is with the Warriors. Thomas could play as a backup to Melo, being able to fill some of that scoring gap when he is sidelined.
The guard play has been solid for the Knicks with Raymond Felton and JR Smith providing scoring and a fast paced play. Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni played extremely well this year, proving to be solid backups with a knack for defense and unselfish ball movement. With Kidd retiring, JR Smith most likely turning down his option and Pablo having a qualifying offer, a worst case scenario has the Knicks losing all three and in need of guard help. Shane Larkin out of the University of Miami is a very intriguing player. He just finished his sophomore season at Miami where the Hurricanes were one of the most explosive offensives in the country. He led them at point, shooting 40% from three, while dishing out almost 5 assists per game. He has potential to become a starter in the NBA with his abilities. Another option at guard that may fall down to the Knicks spot is Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway helped lead the Wolverines to the championship game this year. He is a very athletic two guard who has some resemblance of Iman Shumpert in him. Given that Shumpert has played the 3 for a good portion of the season, Hardaway could fit in with the Knicks very well.
So with all these options, which player should the Knicks take?
Tony Mitchell, North Texas
This kid can flat-out play. At 6-8, he is a defensive monster who blocks shots and can play defense on some of the bigger players at his position. With the Knicks shifting Melo to the 4 spot this year, Mitchell would be a great compliment to the team at the small forward position. I would be ecstatic to see him fall to the Knicks and work his way into the rotation. With Shumpert and Mitchell on the wings, the Knicks would have one of the top defensive tandems in the league. Mitchell would also add versatile scoring to help the starting line out, and down the line I think he is a guy who could average double figures. The Knicks have plenty of options with a team that is already very good, so we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.