Written by Ian Ellis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
‘Sup folks, today we look at the most important part of the draft, the players (duh). Let’s see who the heck these people are, their strengths & weaknesses and how they would fit in with our Knicks. In this 4 part series, there are four tiers I will place all the players in: the hopefuls, the most likely, the trade downs and the buy-a-picks.
The Most Likely
These are the players the Knicks are looking the most at to pick at number four. Players I put here are players that I would not be extremely surprised at if they were picked at number four. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re not trade down candidates, just that they are in play.
*Note: Yes, there is no Kristaps Porzingis. This is not because I don’t like him or that I think he’s bad, he’s just too much of a risk for these Knicks in my humble opinion (sorry Jay).
NBA Player Comparison: Jason Kidd
Emmanuel Mudiay is this years ‘mystery man’, like Dante Exum was last year. At the same time, he’s absolutely not. Emmanuel Mudiay was born the Congo and moved to Texas at a very young age with his mother and two brothers to escape the Civil war emerging there. Here, he emerged as one of the top point guard prospects in the nation. After playing taking part in all of the special events for high school seniors, like the Nike Hoop Summit, McDonald’s All American game and Jordan Brand Classic, he even was projected as the potential #1 pick in the 2015 draft by some sources. He initially signed to play under Larry Brown at SMU, but then due to either academic ineligibility or financial reasons, he decided to play for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) for 1.2 million dollars. There he averaged 18 points, 6 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 12 games before he was sidelined with an ankle injury. Mudiay’s strengths revolve around his physical profile. Mudiay is a very strong built point guard at 6’5” and 200 pounds. On offense, this strength as well as his quickness allows him to get into the paint with ease. Once he gets to the basket, he is very adept at finishing with either hand. Also, he can use his athleticism to get up for finishes and high flying dunks. In addition to this, while he’s not the flashy passer D’angelo Russell is, he is a very good passer in his own realm. He is very good at finding open shooters and working the pick & roll, which will be critical in the NBA. On the defensive side of the ball, he has all the physical tools to be a very good defender, his only problem is staying concentrated. Mudiay has two real weaknesses: perimeter shooting and decision making. Perimeter shooting is the biggie here. If Mudiay had Russell’s shooting ability, it wouldn’t even be question who would better. While he shot 34% from 3 in China, he isn’t a great shooter. This will allow teams to go under screens in pick & rolls and sag off of him in man on man coverages, therefore taking some of his penetrating ability. His stroke doesn’t look broken, but t it will take time and practice to fix it. The other weakness is his decision making. Sometimes he seems to force passes or shots, but with tutelage he should be able to fix it. When it comes to player comparison I believe it’s Jason Kidd (now remember, this isn’t a player projection, just a comparison). Both are big point guards, good passers and floor generals, and better rebounders for their position. It’s also worth noting that Jason Kidd, who is 5th all-time in three point field goals made, came into the league as a struggling three point shooter at a measly 27%, very similar to Mudiay. There are also lots of flashes of Dwayne Wade, John Wall and Jrue Holiday in his game. When it comes to Knick fit, I think he could fit much better than people think. Why, well I look back at the 2012-13 season. As we know, the Knicks did very well winning 54 games, and they were spearheaded by point guard Raymond Felton. Felton is a bad player, but let’s look why he did well that season; Felton was a mediocre shooter, set up the offense and penetrated the paint. Sound similar? My thinking is if Raymond ‘Doughnut Eating’ Felton can do that, think of what Mudiay can do with the Knicks. While Mudiay may be just as good a shooter, he could be a much penetrator, finisher, disher and pick & roll operator, plus Mudiay is a much better defender then Felton could ever dream of. Also Phil Jackson said that he wanted someone who could drive to the basket and he also loves taller triangle guards. Anyways, the Knicks could be a great match for Mudiay. Also, here are three more great videos about Emmanuel Mudiay HERE & HERE & HERE.
NBA Player Comparison: Kawhi Leonard
Justise Winslow is one of those ‘do everything’ wings that scouts and teams love. He can score, defend, pass, shoot and has a great motor and energy. He showcased this in the NCAA tournament when he averaged 15 points on 54% shooting, 9.4 rebounds, 3 assists, shot 58% on threes, had 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals. Yeah, that’s a lot, and this helped lead Duke to a national championship. He is very strong and athletic so he can drive into the paint and take contact. In addition, he showcased a promising 41% three point percentage. But, his strong suit is defense where he can lock down opponents with those physical tools and his insane motor, which can lead to easy steals and jaw dropping blocks. His weaknesses are his shooting, positioning and his handle. While I said before that he posted a good three point percentage, he’s not a marksman either. He only shot 26.9% on two point jumpers and 64.1% from the line. So, was the three point shooting a fluke? I doubt that it was completely, but he’s going to have to get better, especially with the 3 point line expanding in the NBA. Another ‘weakness’ is his his positioning. In college, Winslow played as a PF. In college that’s fine, but at only being 6’6” *with shoes on*, it’s not gonna fly. I put weakness in italics because this may not be a weakness at all, but it is right now. We’re not sure if his game is guard oriented enough to play the 2 or even 3 in the NBA, which is where he’ll line up. Lastly there his handle, which in a way I just brought up. Winslow drives mostly by using his pure strength and speed. While he loves to use euro stops and has a pretty good handle, his handle and off the dribble moves need to improve to be able to go 1 on 1 and get a good shot in the NBA. His player comparison and ceiling is a smaller Kawhi Leonard, a player who can completely lock up his opponent every night and has a respectable jumper. He would be smaller, so he would also need to have a little better handle though. In terms of Knicks fit, he is definitely a strong candidate, and while he wouldn’t fit extremely well, he would fit well enough. He would play either at the 2 or 3. If he’s at the 3, that would push Carmelo Anthony to the 4, which while I want that, I’m not sure if Melo and the Knicks organization want that. Positions aside, he would be very good, giving the Knicks perimeter defense THAT WE BADLY NEED, and if he can develop a real offensive game, we have our first real two way player since Ewing(?).
Willie Trill Cauley Stein
NBA Player Comparison: Tyson Chandler
DEFENSE DEFENSE DEFENSE. I could just stop here, with this just being my analysis, but I’ll expand. The seven footer was not heralded coming out of high school (where he played football) like most of Kentucky’s players, but nonetheless he has had a huge impact. WTCS played his junior year in Kentucky alongside top prospect Karl Anthony Towns, where they completely wrecked havoc. Now along with to his strengths: WTCS is an amazing defensive player and athlete. In his sophomore year, he lead the SEC in blocks (106) and block percentage (12.3%) and was on the SEC All-Defensive Team. In his junior year he lead the entire NCAA in defensive win shares (3.4), was a consensus 1st team All American, won the NABC and SEC Defensive Player of the Year award and was 1st team SEC. The best part is that he’s not only a shot blocker, Cauley Stein is a very good perimeter defender for his position, so you can confidently switch him on guards during pick & rolls (*cough* Mike Woodson’s dream center *cough*). I mean, just look at this defensive play on Notre Dame’s point guard Jerian Grant, big men aren’t supposed to able to do stuff like that. So all in all, WCTS can defend all positions, 1 through 5, making him a defensive monster. A big reason for this leads to another strength of his, his pure athleticism. WCTS has the lateral quickness of a guard and has reportedly gotten his vertical up to 42 inches. As previously said, this helps his elite defensive ability. Also, this allows him to be a very effective roll man in the pick & roll, as well as finish alley oops, emphatic putbacks and just dunk the ball. When it comes to weaknesses, look no farther then the other side of the court. WCTS’s offensive game primarily only consists of what I just previously said; he has no jumpshot, post game or faceup game. While he has shown promise in an improving midrange, he still doesn’t have a consistent jumper and it would take him a few years to master this for game speed. Also, the one part of his defense that may be a weakness is his post defense. Similar to Tyson Chandler (more on him later), both aren’t extremely strong, making them susceptible to stronger post players scoring on them. There also have been some questions about if he really loves basketball and is 100% committed. While he has obviously has declined these comments, this is very important to look into. While it’s ok to have other interests, you don’t want to draft a player that either isn’t completely committed so they get easily distracted (Example A: J.R Smith) or a player that don’t have enough fire for the game so they just completely leave (Example B: Larry Sanders). While this could just be incorrect reporting, the Knicks (and other teams) need to look at this through the interview process. When we go into player comparison, WCTS is a carbon copy of of Tyson Chandler. As Knick fans, we know the value of a player like this; an athletic big man who can protect the paint and finish alley oops and rolls in the pick & roll. They also share that they have no post game and while WCTS may end up having a good jumpshot, both have no jumpshot. The one difference between them is that WCTS can guard players on the perimeter much better that Chandler, which may liken him to former teammate Nerlens Noel, who also has quick feet and active hands. In terms of Knick Fit, he would essentially come in and be our Tyson Chandler 2.0, and considering we would be getting a 10 year younger, more athletic, and less injury prone verison, he could anchor the Knicks for the next 10 years or longer.
NBA Player Comparison: Klay Thompson
‘Super’ Mario Hezonja (Heh-Zo-Nya) is probably one of the safest bets in this year’s draft. The 6’8” shooting guard (6’8”!) from Croatia played for FC Barcelona in the Euroleague league, probably the best league besides the NBA, the last season. He averaged 7.7 points, on 46% shooting and 38% 3 point shots in only 16 and 1/2 minutes of play. His strengths are his athleticism, shooting, slashing and defensive potential. As seen in the highlight video above, this kid is crazy athletic, so with his combination of this and his great size for his position, this allows him to have a great size advantage. Also, Hezonja is a very good shooter, as he shot 38% from three and has a very silky smooth stroke that will only improve. With those physical tools previously mentioned, this gives Hezonja great slashing potential with his height and athleticism to finish at the rim. Lastly, Hezonja has great defensive potential. Super Mario has shown that he has very good lateral quickness, so (again) add that to the physical tools and he has the potential to be a very reliable defender down the line. But, it should be noted that he is not a consistent defender, meaning he sometimes takes plays off, so he needs to stay focused too. Hezonja’s weaknesses are his attitude, his handle and his decision making. Now when it comes to attitude, he’s not on the J.R. Smith boneheaded level, but it’s more of him being extremely cocky. While being confident is a trait that players need (especially if they come to play in New York), it can sometimes get in the way of his game sometimes. Another weakness is his handle. While he has a very nice step back jumper, he is not very creative off the dribble. Hezonja still needs improve his handle so he can get into paint easier. Finally, there is his decision making. While Hezonja did not have a high assist average at 1 per game, he is nice passer in the pick & roll, but his decision making sometimes is suspect. His player comp is Klay Thompson because while Hezonja might be more athletic, both are taller shooting guards (Klay is 6’7”) that can both slide to the 3 and that are/could be very reliable defenders that are both known for their silk smooth three point stroke. In terms of Knicks fit, he could slide immediately into starting SG role and provide 3 point shooting and athleticism right off the bat. Also, he is a good triangle fit because of his shooting stroke, size and decent handle. Another Knicks fit note: Hezonja’s season in Europe is still going on so he won’t be going to workouts. This will be interesting to see how it affects his draft status. It’s also worth noting that the Knicks, along with another amount of teams went out to see Hezonja in Spain earlier this year.
If you missed part one you can find is here: part 2.1