Could the Knicks select a center with a Kevin Garnett ceiling on 2024 NBA Draft night?

Kel'el Ware , Knicks
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks could wind up with the biggest steal of the 2024 NBA Draft at the end of the first round.

Yahoo Sports’ David Vertsberger made the case for and against the Knicks selecting Indiana’s Kel’el Ware with their No. 24 or No. 25 overall pick, citing his prowess off the ball and athleticism as his major draws while acknowledging his age, decision-making, and body weight as potential detractors.

Knicks: Kel’el Ware is an extremely attractive center to consider in the 2024 NBA Draft

Kel'el Ware, Knicks
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It is evident that the Knicks will need reinforcements at center this offseason. Isaiah Hartenstein will be an unrestricted free agent that the Knicks may not be able to afford again, Mitchell Robinson could be traded for an All-Star, and Precious Achiuwa could also walk in the open market, having a $6.27 million qualifying offer for next season.

Enter Ware, who ticked all of the boxes in his sophomore season with the Hoosiers. The 7-footer posted 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks on 58.6 percent shooting from the field and 42.5 percent shooting from three-point range in 2023-24.

Can Ware help make up ground in the rebounding department should Robinson or Hartenstein depart this summer? His 17.5 percent rebounding percentage which ranked first in the Big Ten last season suggests that he has the potential to. Can the 242-pounder man the middle and protect the rim? Not only does his 6.5 percent block percentage (No. 6 in the Big Ten) say so, but the way of today’s NBA proves that a center of his frame and imposition could do just fine in those departments as is.

Kel’el Ware’s game resembles HOF’er Kevin Garnett

Apr 28, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett (5) and New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) work for the rebound during overtime in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 97-90. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett (5) and New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) work for the rebound during overtime in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 97-90. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY SportsCredit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The 20-year-old closely resembles NBA Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett with his body mechanics and the way he moves on the floor. Ware shows a precocious feel for operating in the mid-post. He’s able to swiftly and fluidly put the ball down, spin-off of his defender, and rise up over a hand in his face for silky smooth jump-shots, hook shots, and fadeaway.

Ware catches and shoots from outside without hesitation, and conversely, is a dunk waiting to happen in the pick-and-roll, akin to Clint Capela of the Atlanta Hawks. Outside of the post, he most resembles Garnett when he rises up from 18 feet out.

Ware may have some maturing to do at the pro level, but it is rare to see the level of polish that he has from any player in the collegiate ranks. Teams typically want a center that can set screens and finish at the rim, space the floor and play good team defense, or carry their offense if they’re that gifted. There is not a single area within that criteria where Ware glaringly lacks.

The Knicks would be more than wise to select him should he fall to No. 24, which may not happen. Projections also have New York trading one or more of their first-rounders this year to move up closer to the lottery. Should that come to fruition, Ware is about as promising a prospect as there is in this year’s draft and could be a great tool for Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau to nurture with tough love and deploy behind whichever center they retain, as well as Julius Randle at the four, in 2024-25.

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