Even without a top-three pick, there’s a chance the New York Knicks could still end up with the best player in this year’s NBA Draft.
That’s the belief of former St. John’s head coach turned ESPN college analyst Fran Fraschilla when he appeared on Michael Kay Show over the weekend.
“First of all, there’s no clear-cut no.1, there’s no consensus no.1, there’s no clear-cut NBA superstar in this Draft just yet but I will remind you guys that this is like 2013 when Anthony Bennett went no.1 and there was a kid by the name of (Giannis) Antetokounmpo that was taken No.15 by the Milwaukee Bucks.Â Now, there’s nobody like that in this draft but quite honestly, I don’t care if you’re picking 1, 2, 3 all the way down to 15, you can get a guy, the Knicks can find somebody at eight [pick] that could end up being the best player in this Draft,” Fraschilla said.
The Knicks’ current roster has glaring holes everywhere, but with team president Leon Rose viewing last season lottery pick RJ Barrett and rim protector Mitchell Robinson as cornerstones of the franchise, the growing belief is that the most pressing concern is finding a lead point guard.
Whether they can find that player in the Draft, in the free agency or within the current roster, is a matter of internal debate according to a source familiar with the Knicks’ front office thinking.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported earlier today that the Knicks, along with the Phoenix Suns and Detroit Pistons, are among the teams expected to bid for Toronto Raptors breakout star Fred Van Vleet, the top point guard in an underwhelming free-agent class.
The Knicks currently have a point guard rotation of Elfrid Payton, Frank Nkitilina, and Dennis Smith, Jr., all former lottery picks, who have not panned out.Â But after acquiring Kenny Payne and Johnnie Bryant to join Tom Thibodeau’s staff, the sense is that they will attempt to develop their current players to get more value on the court and possibly in the trade market.
LaMelo Ball, who is the Knicks’ top point guard in their board as early as May, is not expected to drop outside the top three.Â The team has also conducted an interview with Killian Hayes, the top playmaker among international prospects. The Knicks, in typical Rose’s fashion, is doing their due diligence and is said to be considering all options.
Several mock drafts have yielded different results for the Knicks at no.8, bolstering Fraschilla’s observation.
Under normal circumstances, the Knicks and the other 29 teams could have a better grasp of most of their targets in the NCAA tournament and validate that intel during their in-person workouts and interviews. But even if they missed out on that, Fraschilla believes that some teams have already pegged the best players in their boards.
“Hopefully, Rose and the Knicks are one of those teams but there are kids who are going to be available at eight â€”Tyrese Haliburton, Onyeka Okongwu, Saddiq Bey.Â There are guys that are gonna be hanging around in this draft that could end up at eight being the best player in this Draft,” Fraschilla said.Â “The Knicks just have to find that guy.”
It is interesting to note that Haliburton is being represented by CAA while Okongwu and Bey are with Excel Sports.
In recent memory, the Knicks have been unlucky at no.8.Â Since 2005, they have taken three players with the eight pickâ€” Channing Frye (2005), Jordan Hill (2009), and Nkitilina (2017)â€” without much success.
Can Rose turn the Knicks’ lottery pick into a ‘Lucky 8’ this time?
Fraschilla is optimistic: “There’s a new regime. I’m confident that these guys know what they’re doing.”