Written by Guillem @goodoldliam
For the last 2 months or so, I’ve spent quite an amount of time reading and watching videos about the best players in Thursday’s draft. Now it’s the time of truth, and I’ve come to this conclusion to which players I’d draft if I was making the decisions. This order doesn’t mean that I would draft them all at #4, but how high I regard each player. If a player doesn’t have the value, then I’d trade down. Now, let’s go to the big board:
1 Karl-Anthony Towns
The comparison I like the most is a bigger Al Horford. That’s a center that does everything well, including shooting from distance. With the extra size, he could be a better defender and a rim protector too. That’s why he’s considered the best prospect. And that’s why the Knicks won’t get him. We needed to win those final games.
2 D’Angelo Russell
Russell is the first player the Knicks could potentially draft if he falls to 4. I like his shooting, creativity and vision. Would be a great fit in the triangle, and Phil reminded us that the triangle offense is still the plan. With not a lot of quality guards available through free agency this summer or next (Dragic and Rondo in 2015; Conley and Lillard (RFA) in 2016), this draft may be the only way to get one, and potentially a great one. He has a very high bust potential though, read more here [http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/projecting-the-top-50-players-in-the-2015-nba-draft-class/]: he has the highest % of bust potential in the top 25 college players, and also the highest % to become a star from all of them.
3 Kristaps Porzingis
I can imagine a lot of people not wanting Porzingis here. But let me explain. Porzingis has elite size and length, and great athleticism and skill. His major weakness is his strength. Which is why he may need a couple of seasons to develop physically. But I would take the risk of not physically developed yet over players that can’t shoot, have issues off the court, don’t have size or have injury concerns. Because players can add enough muscle easily, like Durant, Pau Gasol or Noah did. In addition to that, Porzingis’ parents and older brother all played professional basketball, so he has good influences around him. If and when he develops, he could very well be the best player in the draft: a big man that can protect the rim and space the floor to an elite level, something that would complement to perfection a player like Greg Monroe, our most likely free agent signing.
4 Willie Cauley-Stein
WCS is a defensive superstar from day one. Can defend 1-5, giving something that almost no team has. He has a developing jumper that wasn’t featured at all at Kentucky, but that he has showed in impressive workouts. His biggest weakness is his offensive game, where he doesn’t show a lot apart from dunking and the jumper. If he can really develop as a 3 and D big man, he’s a pretty exclusive commodity. Apparently there are some concerns about his interests off the court and a stress fracture he had more than a year ago in his ankle. Of course I wouldn’t take him if he has injury concerns, but I don’t know what the doctors the Knicks rely on said.
5 Emmanuel Mudiay
I know people are skeptical about all players that don’t play in college, but remember he was considered a top 2 pick a year ago. He’s a really big point guard, capable of finishing strong at the rim, potentially a great defender and his 3 point shot has improved already in China. He’s not that a good fit in the triangle at first glance, but I could see him playing in the post against smaller PGs, and his intelligent and excellent passing abilities do fit the system.
6 Jahlil Okafor
As you might have guessed, I’m not in love with Okafor. I do love his offensive game, especially when he makes a play Duncan would be proud of. And he fits the triangle offense too, as he has an elite post game, great passing ability and great vision off double teams. His defense and rebounding aren’t that great though. He’s quite slow, and hasn’t showed great intelligence in defense. He has great wingspan, but doesn’t block shots at a great rate. He is not a good leaper, as his athleticism is his major weakness. Apparently there are questions about his motivation, which is related to his mediocre conditioning. In terms of fit with Melo, I’m not really concerned with it on offense, as Melo has a great jumper. On defense though, there would be obvious deficiencies that need no explanation. Okafor would be best complemented by a stretch 4 that can protect the rim, which makes him similar to Monroe, like Ibaka… or Porzingis.
7 Justise Winslow
He’s 7 in my list, but I like him a lot, just that I like other players better. He’s already a 3 and D, and a great D. Would complement Melo greatly in the wing positions, as he wouldn’t demand the ball and is a superb individual and team defender. He’s a winner too, which given the Knicks situation may be handy. He needs to develop his offensive game though. He’s compared to Harden, but to get to that level he needs to be able to create for himself and have great dribbling skills, which right now he doesn’t have.
8 Mario Hezonja
I have watched Hezonja play in ACB and Euroleague games several times. In Barcelona, he’s been wasted because of a big wing rotation full of veterans that the coach trusted more. However, every time he stepped on the court and he was featured offensively, something electric happened. He’s one of the most athletic players I’ve seen in Europe, as he’s big, fast and a great leaper; he has a perfect NBA body. And he has a lot of confidence. And I mean, a lot. He believes he’s the best player in his team always. And with the few minutes he got, that affected him as he wanted to show too much in too little time and ended up rushing things up all the time. Especially on defense, where he has the tools but not the awareness yet. On offense, he has NBA 3 point range and more, and he’s a spectacular dunker. He still needs to develop his dribbling skills, and add some tricks in his repertoire, but he has All-Star potential, as long as his cockiness translate in a good way and he lands in a good place. Could New York be that place? I think so, I can imagine his personality translating well to a great stage, like Kobe to LA. He’s unlikely to be selected at 4 though.