Knicks size up Duke’s Mark Williams; Nerlens Noel on trade block anew

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The uncertainty of the New York Knicks center rotation may lead them to take a flier on Duke’s Mark Williams.

Williams has visited five lottery teams, including the Knicks.



The 7-foot-2 Williams is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year after swatting 2.8 shots per game and altering countless rim attempts. He is one of the five Duke players expected to get drafted and could be the third Blue Devil behind presumptive top-3 pick Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin to be called in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

His combination of size (nearly 7-foot-7 wingspan and 9-foot-9 standing reach), motor, and mobility have made him a projected late lottery pick. What’s stopping Williams from vaulting to the top of the draft is his limited range. But he’s almost automatic inside the paint (83.4 percent conversion rate at the rim, per Hoop-Math).

Overall, Williams shot 72.1 percent from the field, becoming the first Duke player to hit better than 70 percent on more than 100 field-goal attempts in a season since 1992, per Sports Reference’s men’s college basketball Play Index.

Both ESPN and Bleacher Report predict he would go to the Hornets either at No. 13 or No. 15. But with Mitchell Robinson’s looming free agency and the murky status of Nerlens Noel, it’s not far-fetched that the Knicks would take a hard look at Williams when they are on the clock on Thursday night.

Noel, limited to only 25 games due to an assortment of injuries, is reportedly on the trade block again.

“I have heard that Nerlens Noel is one of the players that the Knicks are the most active in discussing right now,” Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer said on his podcast.

Noel was almost dealt at the February trade deadline in a scuttled three-team trade with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers. Jericho Sims’ emergence in the second half of last season had made Noel expendable.

If the Knicks could offload Noel, the Knicks will likely convert Sims’ two-way deal into a traditional contract to make him eligible beyond 50 regular-season games.

It could also mean the Knicks are likely to retain Robinson especially after the Dallas Mavericks have scooped up their starting center in Christian Wood and the Detroit Pistons reportedly eyeing Phoenix Suns’ disgruntled center Deandre Ayton.

If Ayton lands elsewhere, the Pistons, along with the Chicago Bulls, are expected to pursue Robinson. The Knicks have until June 30 to strike an extension with Robinson.

Williams, who has a similar skill set and a better offensive upside on a rookie deal, is a good fallback option for the Knicks.

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