With the 2020 NBA Draft finally, in the books, the Knicks had themselves a busy and productive night. After all the trades they made, they came away with two draft picks and one undrafted free agent. I’m going to offer my grades and analysis for each of the three acquisitions.
NBA Draft Round 1 Pick 8: Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
The Knicks started their draft off with a bang by taking the Consensus First Team All-American and John R. Wooden Award winner in Dayton’s star big man, Obi Toppin.
When they were on the clock, there were a number of intriguing options available. Aside from Toppin, Iowa State guard Tyrese Halliburton, Israeli forward Deni Avdija, and Florida State wing Devin Vassell were all still on the board. The reaction amongst the media and Knicks fans at the selection of Toppin was mixed as usual. I would have preferred Halliburton, but you can’t really criticize the Toppin pick.
Toppin is an electric and explosive player with great athleticism. He is capable of scoring all over the floor and possesses a smooth jump shot as well. He is a human highlight-reel who dominated college basketball last season at Dayton, finishing with a stat line of 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 70% from the field and nearly 40% from three. Toppin should become an instant fan-favorite and provides the kind of box-office appeal that can make the Knicks a fun team to watch again.
There certainly are criticisms with Toppin’s game, which is why he fell to the Knicks. He isn’t a very strong defender, although he’s already spoken about how excited he is to work at and improve his defense under Tom Thibodeau. He also is 22 years old, which is pretty old for a rookie, but that hopefully means he’ll need less time to develop and will be ready to make a big impact immediately.
It wasn’t a secret that the Knicks wanted Toppin badly, probably stemming from his CAA connection. They were trying to trade up to draft him, but fortunately, they didn’t have to. Toppin is a very good player who should help this Knicks team on day one. Getting the best player in college basketball last season at number 8 is a steal, and Knicks fans should be happy about the pick.
NBA Draft RD 1 Pick 25: Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky
After originally packaging picks 27 and 38 to move up to pick 23, the Knicks then made a savvy move by trading pick 23 for pick 25 and 33. So they essentially turned picks 27 and 38 into picks 25 and 33. With the 25th pick, the Knicks selected Kentucky sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley.
While this selection may have come to the surprise of some, as most people had Quickley listed as a second-round pick, there’s a lot to like with Quickley.
Arguably the Knicks’ biggest team need was shooting, and Quickley brings that. He was a sniper for John Calipari last season, putting together a solid stat line of 16.1 points, 2 assists, and 4.2 rebounds en route to being named the SEC Player of the Year.
His shooting percentages were phenomenal, as he shot nearly 42% from the field, 43% from three, and 92% from the free-throw line. Quickley also has shown promise on defense, averaging a steal a game. He is limited in other areas of his game, but Quickley’s ability to space the floor and shoot at a high level is a perfect fit for the Knicks and helps fill a big need.
As for those saying the pick is a reach, that might have some truth to it, but how many late first-round picks really pan out in the NBA? Not a very high percentage. Quickley also has a skill set that should translate well to the NBA, and the familiarity is there with the Knicks coaching staff through Knicks assistant coach and former Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne. Therefore, considering all those factors, is getting Kentucky’s leading scorer and the SEC Player of the Year with the 25th pick really that much of a reach at all? A solid pick for the Knicks.
UDFA Signing: Myles Powell, G, Seton Hall
After trading pick 33 for a 2023 second-round pick, which was a questionable move, the Knicks were done drafting after the Quickley pick.
Once the draft ended, however, they ended up snagging arguably the top undrafted free agent available in Seton Hall’s star guard Myles Powell.
Powell was one of the most dynamic players in the country over his four years as a Pirate, with this past year being his best. He averaged 21 points, 3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.2 steals as he lead Seton Hall to a Big East championship. He also won the Big East Player of the Year, was a Consensus First Team All-American, and won the Jerry West Award for the best shooting guard in the country.
Many were surprised to see Powell go undrafted, which might have to do with him being a senior and the fact he is undersized for the shooting guard position, but he is an electric scorer who has a legitimate shot to make the roster. At the very least, he can be the type of player who provides instant offense off the bench for the Knicks. If he can improve his shot selection a bit and strengthen his defense, he has the chance to be a huge steal.
This was a fantastic pick-up by the Knicks, as they grab an experienced, talented player who plays with a chip on his shoulder. Powell also has plenty of familiarity at Madison Square Garden, having played there many times in college. This is the kind of under-the-radar move that can pay off in the long run for the Knicks.
Overall, the Knicks had a very productive draft night, adding two talented players who will help right away and can be foundational pieces going forward. Throw in a dynamic undrafted free agent in Powell, and Knicks fans should be feeling very good about the three players they added to the team. Hopefully, this group can help the Knicks compete for a playoff spot this season and beyond.
Overall grade: A-