Sources: Philippines’ 7-4 unicorn Kai Sotto to work out with Knicks

The New York Knicks will be working out the Philippines’ top NBA prospect Kai Sotto next week, per league sources.

The 7-foot-4 Sotto is fresh from playing in Australia’s National Basketball League, where the previous lottery picks LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey played before entering the NBA.

The 20-year-old Sotto averaged 7.5 points on 50% shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in just 15 minutes off the bench for the Adelaide 36ers, the same team that groomed Giddey. His strong finish in his NBL stint has intrigued several NBA teams. Aside from the Knicks, Sotto has 11 more workouts lined up for him despite not getting an invitation to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.

“I got [off to] a slow start but I think as time went by, I played better. The whole process has been amazing,” Sotto said of his NBL stint.

He capped his promising NBL campaign, scoring in double figures in three of his final five games, including a career-high 21 points in 18 minutes off the bench against the three-time NBL champion Brisbane Bullets.

The Filipino prospect has been working out in Atlanta with NBA skills trainer and former Columbia University star Jeremiah Boswell to prepare for the NBA Draft.

“I’m just working on my strengths and weaknesses, trying to improve my all-around game and try to be ready for the NBA Draft in the team workouts,” Sotto recently told Lakersnation.com.

Sotto projects to be a stretch big man in the next level that offers rim protection and decent court vision. He displayed his soft touch from the perimeter in the NBL, albeit in a small sample size, shooting 38 percent from deep.

“(The perimeter shooting) is one of the things I try my best to improve on, and it’s going to be a weapon for me when I master it,” Sotto said. “I just need a lot of reps to have confidence in myself.”

His solid footwork came from studying NBA legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan.

A former four-star prospect, Sotto starred for Atlanta-based prep team The Skills Factory. He nixed playing in the U.S. NCAA and instead signed with the inaugural G League Ignite Team. However, conflicts with his commitment to the Philippine national team in FIBA tournaments aborted his G League stint.

Sotto hopes to become the first full-blooded and homegrown Filipino to play in the NBA. Currently, the league has two players with Filipino lineage — Houston Rockets’ Jalen Green and Jordan Clarkson.

New York has the third-largest Filipino immigrants in the U.S., with a 236,000 population, according to a 2019 census.

The Knicks have a stacked frontline with the emergence of last year’s second-round pick Jericho Sims into a serviceable rotation player. Barring any trades, Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson, who has yet to agree to a contract extension, are projected to patrol the paint for the Knicks next season.

The Knicks own the 11th and 42nd pick in June’s NBA Draft.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks hope for World Wide Wes luck in NBA Draft Lottery

New York Knicks vice president and senior advisor William Wesley burst onto the basketball scene more than three decades ago when his best friend, Milt Wagner, introduced him to Michael Jordan in Chicago.

Wesley eventually landed his biggest break — a job at Jordan’s basketball camp and thus began his enduring clout in the basketball circles.

On Tuesday, Wesley returns to Chicago hoping to recapture that luck for the Knicks when he sits on the dais for the NBA Draft Lottery.

The Knicks have not moved up since winning the Patrick Ewing lottery in controversial fashion in 1985. But they are banking on the man known as ‘World Wide Wes’ in the inner basketball circles and ‘Uncle Wes’ to basketball players to break that streak.

The 37-45 Knicks face tall odds to jump from no. 11 after their strong finish diminished their chances. They only have a two percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick and a 9.4 percent chance of moving to the top four.

There’s no consensus No. 1 pick this year, but the top-heavy draft offers four projected franchise cornerstones in Jabari Smith (Auburn), Paolo Banchero (Duke), Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga) and Jaden Ivey (Purdue).

Wesley succeeds his close associate and Knicks team president Leon Rose as the team’s representative in the draft lottery. Rose had no luck as the Knicks fell to No. 8 after entering the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery sitting at seventh.

Wesley hopes to do better and keep the Knicks from sticking to 11th (77.6% chance) or worst, falling to 12th (12.6% chance).

The 2022 NBA Draft Lottery, Presented by State Farm, starts at 8 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Pelicans play-in win increases Knicks’ NBA Draft Lottery odds

Thanks to the New Orleans Pelicans, the New York Knicks moved one spot up in the NBA Draft Lottery.

The Pelicans beat the depleted Los Angeles Clippers, 105-101, to sneak into the playoffs as the Western Conference’s eighth seed. Friday night’s result gave the Knicks the 11th best odds in the NBA Draft Lottery.

The Knicks appeared headed into the lottery with the 12th best odds when the Clippers erected a 13-point lead in the second half. But the Pelicans, behind Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance, and rookie Trey Murphy made a scintillating fourth-quarter run to send their franchise to a surprising playoff run even without their top star Zion Williamson.

Now, the Knicks have a 9.4 percent chance (from 7.1 percent) to land in the top four and 2.0 percent odds (from 1.5 percent) to hit the No. 1 overall pick.

Over the last four NBA Draft Lottery, only once did the 11th-ranked team move up from that spot.

In 2019, the Lakers jumped from No. 11 to No. 4 (De’Andre Hunter), part of the Pelican’s haul from the Anthony Davis blockbuster trade. In the previous year, the Charlotte Hornets remained at no. 11 and drafted Shai-Gilgeous Alexander. Alexander was quickly traded to the Clippers for the 12th overall pick (Miles Bridges) and two future second-round picks. In 2020, the San Antonio Spurs also didn’t move from 11th and used it to pick Devin Vassell. Last year, the Hornets got stuck again at 11th and selected James Bouknight.

With nine players aged 24 and under already on the Knicks’ roster, there’s a good chance they would use this year’s lottery pick as a trade chip unless they hit the jackpot.

This year’s NBA Draft is top-heavy, with Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Duke’s Paolo Banchero, and Purdue’s Jaden Ivey all having a strong case to be the top overall pick.

The NBA Draft Lottery will take place on May 17 in Chicago.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo