Draft steal Tyrese Haliburton haunts Knicks

Tyrese Haliburton made sure the New York Knicks would remember this loss for passing up on him in the NBA Draft.

Haliburton, who slid to No. 12 in the Draft, helped the Sacramento Kings deal the Knicks a stinging 103-94 loss that put an end to their three-game winning streak.

The Knicks went into a black hole at the start of the second half but appeared on track for a comeback in the final quarter before Haliburton made them pay down the stretch.

The 12th pick of the draft hit the dagger three-pointer with 2:35 left — his only field goal in the second half — that gave the Kings a nine-point cushion, 96-87. Then he stole the ball on the other end to seal the win.

“I guess it fueled me personally,” said a grinning Haliburton before pivoting.

“But I love it here. If we did this all over, I pray to God that I slid here. It’s not hard feelings or anything. It is what it is. It’s a business. I don’t care,” he added.

He must be incensed for getting little interest from a team that badly needed a lead guard.

Haliburton showed what the Knicks could have had at No. 8.

“My job is to make them think about that when they go to sleep. So I’m just going to go out there and be the best player I can be. I’m not that big into that motivation,” Haliburton said.

Haliburton entered the game as one of the top rookie performers averaging 11.1 points on 50 percent shooting and 49.2 percent from deep with his unorthodox shot and five assists.

The 6-5 rookie combo guard was the best rookie on the floor Friday night at the Golden1 Center.

Haliburton was all over the court as he finished with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and four of the Kings’ 14 blocks in 31 minutes off the bench.

In contrast, the Knicks’ eighth overall selection Obi Toppin had six points and five rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench, his sixth game since recovering from an early-season injury (strained right calf).

The Knicks, playing on the second night of a back-to-back schedule, started slow and trailed by as many as 10 in the opening quarter. They recovered quickly and grabbed a 26-25 lead.

The Kings, who came into the game with the league-worst defense, stunningly limited the Knicks to just five points in the final 5:47 of the pivotal third quarter. They would grab a 10-point lead midway in the last quarter, but the Knicks charged back and got within two, 89-87.

The Kings lived at the line before Haliburton bailed them out with the big triple — their first field goal in four minutes — to gut out the big win.

”This was a weird, weird game for us,” said Randle, who led the Knicks with 26 points, 15 rebounds, and four assists.

“We started slow, worked our way out of it, and was up at the half. The third and fourth quarter was a little bit of a funk. I don’t even know what happened. The ball stuck a little bit.”

The Knicks’ offense turned cold after a sensational showing the night before in a 119-104 rout of the Golden State Warriors.

RJ Barrett added 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while Mitchell Robinson put up a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) but had little help from the rest of the Knicks.

De’Aaron Fox, who trolled the Knicks for landing No. 8 in the Draft Lottery, paced the Kings with 22 points and seven assists.

Together with Haliburton, they outplayed the Knicks point guards Elfrid Payton and Immanuel Quickley, who combined for 15 points and five assists.

The Knicks (8-9) will continue their West Coast trip in Portland on Sunday night.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Grading the New York Knicks draft picks and UDFA signings

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

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.

Grade: A+

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.

Grade: B

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.

Grade: A

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-

Report: Knicks eye to move up to No. 5, Cavs want more

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

After consolidating the No. 27 and 38 picks earlier today, the New York Knicks plan to use the No. 23 pick to move up in the draft.

The Knicks have offered their eighth and 23rd pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers to move to No. 5, according to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. The Cavaliers, however, are playing hardball to squeeze more value from the Knicks.

According to multiple reports, the Knicks are eyeing Dayton’s Obi Toppin, projected to go at No. 5.

The Knicks are the only team outside the top five teams in the lottery who have worked out Toppin. The 22-year old prospect is viewed as the most-ready NBA player in this draft. In his sophomore year, he averaged 20 points on 63 percent shooting and 39 percent from the three-point region, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on his way to becoming the consensus best player of the year in college.

Toppin, a Brooklyn native, played high school basketball in Ossining, a suburb village north of New York. Toppin played for Mt. Zion prep before landing a scholarship from Dayton.

Earlier, the Knicks have sent the 27th, and 38th picks to the Utah Jazz for the 23rd pick and Croatian Ante Tomic.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: Divisional front office tweaks could indicate that ‘risk is the new safe’

New York Knicks, Leon Rose

There are a few significant coaching personnel and front office tweaks for New York Knicks fans to keep an eye on in the Atlantic Division, possibly. The Philadelphia 76ers hired Doc Rivers as Head Coach, then went on to hire Daryl Morey as Team President. The Brooklyn Nets hired Steve Nash as Head Coach, then went on to add Mike D’Antoni, Amare Stoudemire, and Ime Udoka to the assistant coaching staff.

76ers have their cornerstones in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, while the Nets will finally have their stars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving share the court. Of course, none of this matters if injuries keep occurring. Front office positioning also wouldn’t matter if there isn’t an improvement on the basketball court for the Nets and 76ers.

However, improvement to two playoff teams in Brooklyn and Philadelphia could rightfully steer the New York Knicks into an even stronger player developmental stance along with a maintained focus on young talent acquisition.

The Knicks won’t win anything now in the Eastern Conference, therefore, why not put all the emphasis on solidifying the foundation for the near future and long term? With fans being away from the game during the pandemic, Knicks have time to build without Madison Square Garden’s infamous fan and media impatience pouring pressure on the franchise and its young players.

Atlantic Divisional front office tweaks mentioned above could indicate that “risk is the new safe” for the New York Knicks moving forward, especially in the upcoming draft on November 18th, 2020.

The New York Knicks did their own coaching personnel and front office adjustment earlier this summer with the hiring of President Leon Rose, Executive Vice President/Senior Basketball Advisor William Wesley, former Utah Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel Walt Perrin, former Utah Jazz Assistant Coach Johnny Bryant, former ten-year Assistant Coach of the Kentucky Wildcats Kenny Payne, and a new, yet seasoned Head Coach in Tom Thibodeau.

Leon Rose has plenty of connections due to his time as an agent with Creative Artists Agency. William Wesley, also known as “World Wide Wes,” is basically the most connected man in the entire basketball world period. Bill Simmons of The Ringer wasn’t afraid to touch on a rumor circulating the NBA regarding all the connections Leon Rose and “World Wide Wes” have in the entire basketball landscape.

Recently on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Simmons talked about NBA insiders having legit fear about the New York Knicks becoming the “Kentucky pipeline team.” Bill Simmons states the following on the podcast along with Kevin O’Conner:

 

 

There’s also a real fear in the NBA. I’m fine talking about this. It’s rumor, heresy stuff. But it’s just a fact. Kentucky, Worldwide Wes had a great relationship with John Calipari. CAA’s got multiple Kentucky guys and there’s a real fear in the league that the Knicks are going to become the Kentucky pipeline team.

 

 

Devin Booker is a great example of that, right? Even though he’s on a big deal right now, at some point if he wanted to move out of there…

 

 

The league is kind of watching the Kentucky factor with that team.

 

 

I think even [Anthony] Davis, if the Lakers hadn’t won the title this year, who knows? Right? Are we positive he would have stayed? I don’t know. All of the signs, all of the dialogue was like ‘LeBron and him love each other’. But who knows what would have happened?

Simmons believes there’s a CAA client that the Knicks love due to assumed access to extra intel and information on draft prospects as a result of Leon Rose and “World Wide Wes” CAA connections. Bill Simmons believes the Knicks will take advantage throughout the draft process.

With that being said, the Knicks are positioned for the future, whether it’s long-term or short-term. The focus is on player development, however, team development is the ultimate goal, and it could happen very soon with the help of Leon Rose and “World Wide Wes.”

In the upcoming draft, there are plenty of young prospects the Knicks could take a big home-run swing at. Knicks have many avenues available to them in terms of acquiring young talent. Whether it’s trading down in the draft or acquiring more draft picks on a contract dump from another team, the possibilities are exciting and endless. This points to an opportunistic approach for the Knicks to take on draft night. They may take chances on young prospects with very high ceilings. “Risk is currently the new safe” for the New York Knicks thanks to Leon Rose and “World Wide Wes.”

Kira Lewis, Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassell, Precious Achiuwa, Patrick Williams, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyrese Maxey, amongst others, are prospects suitable for the current Knick player developmental staff to hone into potential stars for the future of Knick basketball. A potential late first-round candidate to keep an eye on as a pure upside pick is the 6’10” 7’0″ wingspan 200 lbs Jaden McDaniels out of Washington University in Seattle, Washington.

November 18th will be a very interesting draft date due to so many scenarios involving all NBA teams in the lottery as well as salary cap implications. My advice, have your popcorn ready that night.

Knicks Draft Watch: John Calipari views Tyrese Maxey as smaller version of Jamal Murray

In the 2016 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks missed out on a big-time scoring guard from the University of Kentucky, the leading producer of NBA stars.

The Knicks’ lottery pick that year was earlier sent to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster trade. The Nuggets used the Knicks’ original pick (seventh overall) to select former Wildcat Jamal Murray.

Murray, as it turned out, is the real deal and he quickly became one of the league’s rising stars. The Denver Nuggets guard’s sensational play in the NBA Bubble has left team executives who passed on him scratching their heads.

This year, another big-time scorer under John Calipari’s program has entered the NBA Draft. One-and-done freshman Tyrese Maxey could be the answer to the Knicks’ backcourt riddle with his dynamic scoring and moxie.

“I’m trying to tell everybody when you look at Tyrese, he’s a smaller version, but he’s still 6’2”, of Jamal Murray who is 6’5”. They both have that lower release. Everybody said Jamal would never get it off,” Calipari told Empire Sports Media during his Zoom call with select media on Monday.

Murray though came into the Draft as a projected top-five Lottery pick but somehow slipped a couple of notches down because of doubts whether he was athletic enough to thrive in the league.

He proved all the skeptics wrong as his game and his low released shot translated well in the NBA.

Maxey isn’t viewed as highly as Murray was. Most boards have Maxey as a late lottery pick in a Draft that has become as unpredictable as it hasn’t been in recent years. Aside from his apparent lack of size (6’1″ without shoes and with only 6’6″ wingspan), Maxey is facing the same questions Murray had in 2016.

“Jamal played with Tyler Ulis so [people] said, is he a point guard? They’re point guards. We’re teaching them to play with the ball and without the ball. And now it becomes: do they make game-winning shots? Are they that guy? Tyrese is,” said Calipari.

With the NBA heading into positionless basketball, Calipari believes Maxey’s switchability as a combo guard could work well to his advantage. He has the skills and speed to run the point and he has the moxie and court smarts to play off the ball.

Maxey proved early on that he has the chops of Calipari’s typical dynamic guard when he dropped 26 points in his college debut at the Madison Square Garden against Michigan State.

He went on to average 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game before the college season was cut short. He shot 42.7% from the field, 29.2% from three, and 83.3% from the stripes.

It wasn’t fancy particularly his shooting percentage from deep but the eye test suggests his impact on the game was way bigger than those numbers. Another reason for that, Calipari explained, is because Maxey played within the system just like the way Murray, and earlier, Devin Booker did that made them somewhat underrated ahead of the Draft. 

While Maxey is two inches shorter than those two former Kentucky guards, he possesses the same characteristics that make him such an intriguing prospect with a high ceiling.

Calipari pointed those out but also acknowledged the area where Maxey should focus on to reach his ceiling.

“Tyrese, physically, athletically and you know he’s a guy who’s blocking shots, rebounding the ball, has played dribble-drive and a downhill runner his whole life,” Calipari said. “He has to be more consistent with his shooting so did Jamal. But they played similar (roles) here.”

While it’s a pity that Maxey was robbed of the opportunity to show more of his wares on the big stage when the SEC and NCAA were scrapped, his body of work from high school, AAU to Team USA would be enough to tell you he’s got a chance to be special.

Before he went to Kentucky, he teamed up with Draft classmate Cole Anthony in the Team USA that obliterated the 2018 FIBA U18 Americas Championship.

Maxey averaged 8.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists against 0.5 turnovers, and 1.3 steals in 18 minutes. Anthony, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, averaged 14.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists against 2.7 turnovers, and 1.2 steals in 21 minutes.

During his short-lived stay at Kentucky, Maxey was on a tear late in the season, scoring 20 or more points five times before the stoppage.

“There are gonna be people who’ll pass on Tyrese that will regret liked how they passed on PJ (Washington) like how they passed on Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander), Jamal (Murray) and we can keep going,” Calipari said. “He’s gonna be that (type of player).”

Mike Schmitz, ESPN’s resident NBA Draft Analyst, shared the same view with Calipari when he appeared on Sports Center with Scott Van Pelt last week.

“He didn’t have eye-popping numbers at Kentucky. He was under 50 percent from 2, under 30 percent from 3, but you have to play a role there. You have to fit in. Coach Cal does a tremendous job of forcing these guys to buy into a role. It’s about winning for the team and you sacrifice there and that’s exactly what Maxey did,” Schmitz said.

But the one thing that stuck out on Schmitz is that Maxey is a big-time scorer.

“This kid is a bucket. I saw him at the high school level, I saw him with USA Basketball, and I think he’s a perfect fit in today’s NBA. You can try to poke holes in him. You can try to say, ‘He’s a 6-3 combo guard. He’s a scorer or he’s out of control.’ But it’s worked pretty well for Tyler Herro, for Jamal Murray, for Devin Booker.”

That type of dynamic scoring has been sorely lacking on the Knicks backcourt for the longest time now.

Calipari didn’t go into specifics about the Knicks’ interest in Maxey. But a  highly-placed source in Kentucky said that Calipari has been constantly talking to the Knicks.

During the course of Calipari’s interview, the well-decorated coach revealed that his travel was limited by the pandemic but noted that his only out-of-town trip so far was to New Jersey.

Knicks’ team president Leon Rose is from Cherry Hills, New Jersey while his good friend and senior advisor William “World Wide Wes” Wesley hails from Camden, New Jersey.

Calipari has strong ties with the Knicks front office, and more so with his former top deputy and key recruiter Kenny Payne who is now one of Tom Thibodeau’s assistant coaches.

Maxey should be available by the time the Knicks would pick at No. 8 based on most Mock Drafts. But he’s also a trade-down candidate as reported by Marc Berman of the New York Post.

NBA Draft analyst Matt Babcock of Babcock Hoops, meanwhile, views Maxey in a different light.

“I see (Tyrese) Maxey being a solid complementary role player at the next level, whereas (Jamal) Murray is a dynamic player and one of the NBA’s rising young stars,” Babcock told Empire Sports Media. “Murray is just in an entirely different category altogether.”

Babcock Hoops has Maxey at No. 28 in their Mock Draft. It’s going to be a big surprise if Maxey gets picked inside the Top 10.

“I do not think the Knicks should consider Maxey with the 8th pick. It would be too high in the draft for him, in my opinion. I actually think Maxey would be a more appropriate option for the Knicks with the 27th pick, if he were there, of course,” Babcock said.

Maxey has shades of Murray in his game. But there are also glaring questions that he must address.

Only time will tell if Maxey can hold up to Murray’s comparisons.

But as Murray’s game became bigger and louder in the recent NBA Bubble, it’s hard to imagine that this new front office given their link to Kentucky and Calipari would pass up on the opportunity to get a player of the same caliber.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks 2020 Mock Draft (with trades)

Tyrese Maxey, Knicks

With the 2020 NBA Draft less than a month away, there have been the usual slew of rumors connecting the Knicks to various prospects and speculating what they might do come draft night.

With that being said, I figured I’d join the party with my take on what I think the Knicks might do on November 18.

TRADE: Knicks send pick 8 to the Celtics for picks 14, 26, and Romeo Langford

Marc Berman of the New York Post recently reported that the Knicks might be looking to trade down if prospects like LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman aren’t available at their pick, which is most likely going to be the case. Berman also noted that the Knicks would be looking to acquire another player on his rookie deal while still picking in the lottery.

The trade I have listed above fulfills both of those desires. The Boston Celtics have three first-round picks, and they are probably going to use them in order to trade up into the top 10 and grab a guy they love.

This would be a win-win for both teams, as the Knicks get an extra first that they can pair with the 27th pick to move up, and they also get an intriguing young player in last year’s 14th overall pick Romeo Langford who simply has too many guys ahead of him on the depth chart for him to get any consistent playing time in Boston.

Langford only appeared in 32 games as a rookie with two starts for the Celtics and put together an underwhelming stat line of 2.5 points and 1.3 rebounds while averaging roughly 12 minutes per game. He’s also dealt with a long list of injuries dating back to college, so his health is a legitimate concern that diminishes his trade value.

Nevertheless, he’s a very talented player with a good all-around skill set, and he would be a nice throw-in for the Knicks. Langford would be able to find more playing time in New York, and if he can stay healthy, the Knicks could have themselves another young building block.

Pick 14 (from the Celtics): Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky

With the 14th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Knicks select guard Tyrese Maxey from Kentucky. Maxey has been a player that has been linked to the Knicks heavily over the last few months, and he would likely be a player they target if they indeed trade down.

A one-and-done with the Wildcats, Maxey had an inconsistent but promising freshmen year. In 31 games played and 28 starts, Maxey averaged 14 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and roughly 1 steal in 34.5 minutes per game. His shooting percentages were a bit low, shooting 42.7% from the floor and 29.2% from three, but he has a good offensive skill set and can score from all three levels. He is also a solid defender and plays hard on both ends of the floor.

New York would be a very good landing spot for Maxey, as the Knicks need more scoring, and he would be a nice fit alongside RJ Barrett. The Knicks also have former Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne on Tom Thibodeau’s staff, who coached Maxey and has reportedly been praising him in draft discussions.

TRADE: Knicks send picks 26 and 27, 2022 2nd to the Timberwolves for pick 17

Surprise! After collecting another first-round pick from the Celtics, the Knicks package their now back-to-back first-round picks along with their 2022 second-round pick to move back up into the late teens. Leon Rose is not messing around and is willing to move all over the draft board to get his guys.

Pick 17: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama

You know what they say: speed kills. And the Knicks are getting themselves a lot of that with Kira Lewis Jr.

The 6’3” sophomore point guard had a great second season with Alabama, averaging 18.5 points, 5.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and almost 2 steals per game while shooting 46% from the floor and 37% from three. Lewis’s speed and burst allow him to get up and down the court in the blink of an eye and get to the basket quickly and effectively. Lewis also possesses a strong jump shot, a good handle, and a high IQ, and he would be a great pick for the Knicks.

He’s still a little raw, but Lewis has all the tools and is exactly the kind of high-upside prospect who I would love to see new associate head coach Johnnie Bryant work with. Having a speedster like Lewis would do wonders for Barrett and the players around him, as Lewis would draw a lot of defensive attention and maximize open looks for others.

If Lewis is able to be properly developed and reaches his full potential, the Knicks very well could have found themselves their franchise point guard and a huge steal outside of the lottery.

Pick 38: Isaiah Joe, G, Arkansas

To close out the draft, the Knicks add more shooting with Isaiah Joe out of Arkansas.

The 6’5” guard, while erratic at times, was a great shooter from all areas of the floor over his two seasons with the Razorbacks. He has a very smooth stroke and was effective finishing around the basket as well. He averaged 15.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.5 steals over his two collegiate seasons.

Joe is pretty raw and needs to develop a stronger shot selection and improved decision-making, but the talent and upside is there both offensively and defensively. He can end up being a valuable role player for the Knicks down the line if he’s able to tighten up some of the loose ends to his game.

The Knicks were one of the league’s worst shooting teams last season, so they need to add as many scorers as possible. These three draft picks provide exactly that with the potential for much more. This would be a very promising first draft class for Leon Rose, and the new front office, one that should have Knicks fans very excited and could go a long way in getting the team closer to basketball relevance once again.

Knicks Draft Watch: Warriors eye Devin Vassell in potential trade down

New York Knicks, Devin Vassell

It’s no secret that the Golden State Warriors are studying all options, including trading, with regards to their No. 2 pick. The question is will the New York Knicks field an offer to trade up?

San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that Florida State University’s Devin Vassell is on the Warriors’ radar should they trade down.

According to multiple league sources, the Warriors believe Vassell is the top wing defender in this draft and would strongly consider him if they trade back to the 5-10 range. There is an outside chance that Golden State could even take him at No. 2 if it doesn’t receive an enticing offer to move down.

Considered as one of the top two wings in this Draft Class along with Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, Vassell is all over the Draft Boards. He is projected to be selected anywhere from No. 6-12 range.

Vassell could add bench depth for the Warriors who are expected to have the Splash Brothers— Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson— back at full health next season. Vassell has drawn Thompson’s comparisons.

“People like to identify a player in college with a player in the pros. And I always said I thought he was more like Klay Thompson,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said in an interview with SB Nation’s Golden State of Mind.

Hamilton cited Thompson’s 41.2 percent three-point clip as a freshman in Washington State while his prized wingman, Vassell, shot 42 percent from deep in his two seasons with the Seminoles.

“And he has a lot of those qualities where he knows the ball is supposed to go going to the basket. He’s extremely confident, he always anxious to take big shots. One of the aspects of his game, I probably didn’t utilize as much as his ability to create his own shot. When we needed him to create his own shot, he was able to go and make fall away fades and step-back jumpers and things that are going to allow him to be even more effective at the next level. He is a shotmaker, there’s no doubt about that,” Hamilton added.

The Knicks currently have the No. 8 pick and are also strongly considering Vassell and Okoro along with Iowa’s combo guard Tyrese Haliburton should they still be available. But it’s also no secret that the Knicks, who are looking for a lead guard, has LaMelo Ball on top of their Draft Board.

Ball has revealed during his Draft Combine media availability that he had conversations with the Knicks before the Lottery.  It was the only team he confirmed he had interviewed. When he was asked if he feels the Knicks would trade up for him, he had an inconclusive answer.

“That I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not,” Ball said.

The following day, Ball curiously withdrew from the Draft Combine nixing other NBA teams’ chance to interview him. He still could or may have selected which teams to talk to outside the Knicks.

The Knicks have the Draft capital and young assets at their disposal to maneuver a trade. But they lack the veteran piece that the Warriors would likely covet.

However, there’s a unanimous belief according to ESPN insider Tim Bontemps last month that the Warriors will try to accumulate trade pieces to position themselves for a potential run at Washington’s Bradley Beal in case he becomes available during next season’s trade deadline.

If that’s the Warriors’ long play, then the Knicks could be in the mix to snag their No. 2 pick in this Draft.

New York Knicks: Isaac Okoro’s winning style of play is needed

There’ve been plenty of draft, trade, and free agency rumors circulating the New York Knicks’ franchise these past couple of days. A ton of things could happen on draft night as well as in free agency. The one thing that’s certain is Isaac Okoro’s winning style of play is needed on a young developing New York Knicks roster.

Isaac Okoro emulates his playing style after players like Jaylen Brown, Andre Iguodala, and Kawhi Leonard. Okoro, praises Kawhi Leonard’s approach to the game during a virtual interview with an NBA analyst.

 

Isaac Okoro was interviewed by NBA Draft analyst Mike Schmitz of ESPN. Mike Schmitz is also a contributor to a private scouting and analytics service by the name of DraftExpress. The two completed a virtual ESPN film session comparing Isaac Okoro’s style to other current and former NBA players.

What would Okoro bring to the New York Knicks? 

The intangibles that Okoro brings to the game on a nightly basis was evident during the entire virtual film session. Okoro’s motor, defense, defensive IQ, finishing ability, and Okoro’s underrated playmaking ability showed that there could be a case made for him to potentially end up being the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft. The prospect out of Auburn has tremendous upside and he’s shown time and time again on the basketball court that he’s a bonafide winner during his freshman year at Auburn.

Tom Thibodeau along with the rest of the current Knicks coaching and developmental staff would be an ideal opportunity for Isaac Okoro. The Knicks staff consist of experienced teachers from the Kenny Paynes’ to the Mike Woodsons’ and Johnny Bryants’. Combine the knowledge of the Knicks’ developmental staff along with Isaac Okoro’s desire to play defense and learn the game, and the potential to become a two-way star for years to come is suddenly a strong possibility.

Overall, The New York Knicks are in a position to select a strong defensive-minded young player filled with potential. The question is whether or not a team selecting before the Knicks will reach for the young talented prospect out of Auburn University.

NBA Draft: New York Knicks cast a wide net in point guard search

New York Knicks

It’s going to be an unpredictable NBA Draft Night for the New York Knicks.

New Knicks president Leon Rose and his front office have continued to keep their cards close to their chest.  But the Draft Combine media interviews have provided some clarity that the Knicks are zeroing in on a potential lead guard.

The Knicks, who will be picking at No.8, No.27, and No.38 barring any trades, have interviewed at least seven guards and could be even more.

The consensus top three point guards in the Draft — LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, and Tyrese Haliburton — have all confirmed that they have talked to the Knicks prior to the lottery.

Haliburton claimed his vision is what separates him from the top-tier guards in the Draft. The 6-foot-5 skinny guard from Iowa also added that he’s comfortable playing on and off the ball at the backcourt.

“LaMelo is scoring the ball at three levels. I think I’m the best facilitator out of the group and I think Killian defends at a high level,” Haliburton said of their different strengths during his Draft Combine Zoom call.

Ball is unsure if the Knicks would trade up for him.

“That I don’t know.  Maybe, maybe not,” Ball said.

Hayes, meanwhile, is excited at the possibility of playing with fellow Frenchman Frank Ntilikina in New York’s backcourt.

“It would be dope,” Hayes said Monday on a Zoom call. “He’s [Frank] not really a true point guard. He can play the 1 or the 2, so I think it would be a good duo.”

Another French guard Theo Maledon and Stanford’s Tyrell Terry have also interviewed with the Knicks. Curiously, Maledon had his interview only two weeks ago. He’s the only prospect so far that has been confirmed to have discussions with the Knicks in the post-lottery.

RJ Hampton, whose Draft stock considerably dropped after a lackluster stint in New Zealand’s pro league, has also met with the Knicks over Zoom call.

Add Alabama’s Kira Lewis, Jr. to the long list.  Ian Begley of SNY recently reported that the Knicks have been in touch with the quick point guard.

North Carolina’s enigmatic combo guard Cole Anthony, who opted not to join the Draft Combine, has also his share of fans and critics in the organization.  Meanwhile, Duke point guard Tre Jones, who is pegged by Tankathon as the Knicks’ pick at No. 27, revealed during his Draft Combine Zoom call that he has not interviewed with them.

During Rose’s first public appearance as the Knicks team president in June, he mentioned how he views this Draft as a lot more unpredictable compared to the recent years.

“This draft, a couple of guys stand out, and after that, there’s a lot of equality,” Rose said.

Outside the above-mentioned point guards, the Knicks have also interviewed Memphis’ big man Precious Achiuwa, who split his time in Bronx, New York, and New Jersey during his high school. The other lottery prospects that have also been linked to them are Dayton’s explosive big man Obi Toppin, and a trio of defensive stalwarts in Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, and Florida State’s Devin Vassell, and Patrick Williams.

The Knicks are navigating this Draft process under the same degree of prudence and diligence that they have shown during their head coaching search that ultimately led to Tom Thibodeau, the perceived frontrunner from the start.

Ball is the perceived No.1 point guard in the Knicks board as early as May, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.  And with Ball reportedly withdrawing from the Draft Combine after spilling his talks with the Knicks to the media, expect more smoke to come out of New York.

Whatever the Knicks would choose to do in the Draft — move up, trade down or stand pat — there’s a clear indication that they are doing everything to cover all their bases.

 

It’s a clever move that has Walter Perrin‘s imprint all over it. The former Utah Jazz executive is bringing in the small market-mentality to New York, finding every slice of information he could grab to get an edge over the bigger market teams.

The Knicks won’t draft everyone whom they have scouted and interviewed. But Perrin likes to keep notes which can be valuable down the road either in free agency or trade. Just like when the Jazz targeted Jordan Clarkson in the February trade deadline. Their Draft notes on him helped them pull the trigger on the trade.

“Towards the tail end of the (NCAA) season and the conference tournament he was struggling a little bit only because he had some off-the-court issues, personal issues, nothing bad. If I remember correctly, one of his family members was going through struggles in terms of illness,” Perrin said last April.

In 2014, five months before the Draft, Clarkson’s father was diagnosed with cancer. It took a hit on his performance and consequently hurt his Draft stock.

“It was affecting his play, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to bring him in, we wanted to get to know him a little better and find out what was really going on,” Perrin added.

The Jazz wasn’t able to grab him in the Draft, but when they were looking for a key rotational piece this season, their Draft notes came in handy. Perrin’s scouting instincts was right all along as Clarkson proved to be a second-round steal in that Draft class.

That kind of progressive of thinking is a whiff of fresh air in New York which had more misses than hits when it comes to player personnel.

Under normal circumstances, Perrin could have had more workouts arranged for the Knicks by now. But still, he and his scouting department are doing their due dilligence.

It’s going to be a wild NBA Draft. But if the number of pre-Draft interviews are any indication, the Knicks will come prepared.

New York Knicks: Devin Vassell has the “It” factor, says FSU coach

New York Knicks, Devin Vassell

The New York Knicks could find their “it” factor in Devin Vassell:

Devin Vassell was only a three-star recruit when he entered Florida State University.  Two years later, he’s leaving the Seminoles as a widely considered lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton wasn’t surprised at all. To him, it was a validation of what they saw in Vassell when they recruited him out of a nondescript high school in Atlanta.

“This is the reason why we’re consistent.  We do a great job evaluating.  We identified him as a guy with good potential and we are pleased that he has really panned out just like we thought he would,” Hamilton told Empire Sports Media.

Hamilton has successfully built a strong program in Tallahassee that has consistently produced NBA players. Under his watch, the Seminoles have sent 14 players to the NBA — from Al Thornton to Malik Beasley and Jonathan Isaac.

For Vassell, the NBA Draft Day will be the culmination of two years of hard work and patience in the FSU basketball program.

“Devin started out as a freshman more of a role player at the beginning of the season.  And at the end of the season, in a game that we have to win in the ACC tournament to get to the semifinals against Virginia Tech, he was the guy who hit the three in the deep corner to tie the game and gives us a chance to go on overtime and get to the semifinals,” Hamilton recalled.

Vassell’s rise wasn’t a question of how but just a matter of when.

“That says a lot about his patience, his coachability.  Despite not playing much early in the season, he was prepared for the big moments which says a lot about his character,” Hamilton told Empire Sports Media.

In his sophomore year, Vassell led the Seminoles to the ACC regular-season championship.  He could have led them to a deep run in the NCAA tournament, if not for the pandemic.

From 10.7 minutes in his freshman year, his playing time shot up to 28.8 minutes, and he responded big-time, leading the well-balanced Seminoles in scoring (12.7 points) and rebounds (5.1), second both in blocked shots (0.9) and steals (1.4).

Many, if not all, draft analysts see him as a solid 3-and-D prospect.

Unknown to many, Vassell wasn’t born a shooter. But through sheer hard work, he was able to morph from a 21.3 percent three-point shooter in high school to over 40 percent in his two years in Florida State. His 6’9 wingspan and tremendous motor on both ends of the floor have made him an intriguing prospect.

“Whoever gets him will get a hell of a player. Because he is a great shooter, he loves to play defense, he’s coachable. He has all those attributes and he’ll make good contributions to whoever drafts him,” Hamilton said.

This season, we’ve seen the rise of shooters Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, two players who were not highly drafted.  Robinson, in fact, even was undrafted.  But their shooting and court smarts have helped the Miami Heat advance deeper in the playoffs.  And that could be the trajectory of Vassell’s NBA career or could be even bigger depending on where he lands.

“What separates Devin from a lot of guys is even though he has an even-keeled temperament, he has extreme confidence but he’s not selfish. He’s a team-guy but he has a knack of putting the ball in the basket.  He’s one those guys that you can’t leave open.  If you don’t contest his shot, a high percentage of those shots will go in. He’s shot over 40 percent of his three-point shots two years in a row. That speaks for itself,” he continued.

While Vassell’s game is tailor-fit into today’s NBA, it has also a throwback feel of an Allan Houston with that above-the-head, high trajectory jumper.

It’s no wonder the New York Knicks have put him on their radar.  A highly placed source told Empire Sports Media that the Knicks have reached out to Florida State early this week to gather more information on the team’s experience with Vassell and his one-and-done teammate Patrick Williams on and off the court.

Hamilton politely declined to confirm the Knicks’ growing interest.  All he said is that all 30 teams have, at one point, inquired about one or two of his three players in the Draft, including senior guard Trent Forrest.

It won’t be hard for Vassell to bring his shooting to the NBA, but the bigger question is: how will he thrive in the league as a defender?

Hamilton is confident that Florida State has prepared him to succeed in the next level.

“That’s all we do (ball screens) in practice.  In our league, our conference, we deal with a lot of ball screens.  Most of the NBA, in my opinion, they’re spacing the floor doing a lot of dribble drives. Not nearly as much ball screens as it once was.  Devin will absolutely have no problem defending (in the NBA) because he’s long, athletic, fast-learner and we were one of the better defensive teams in the country so he was well-trained,” Hamilton said.

But what makes Vassell stand out, Hamilton point to the kid’s intangibles, which is wrapped under his 6-foot-7 and 194-pounds scrawny frame.

“Sometimes, people evaluate all the physical attributes but I think it’s very difficult to evaluate, which is the most important thing, is that your mentality, your emotions in the game, your IQ, your ability to make decisions, and how you respond to stressful situations.  Well, that’s what they call it the “It” factor and Devin, he checks all those boxes,” Hamilton said.  “And the good thing about him is his best basketball is still ahead of him.”

Hamilton described Vassell as a gym rat.  If he’s not shooting the lights out, he’s in the weight room.  He’s not worried at all that Vassell has a lean frame. To him, it’s just a matter of time before the 20-year old wingman grows bigger, thicker, and stronger.  And when that happens, he believes, he’ll take his game to another level.

What separates a great pick from a draft bust is what the trained eye cannot always see. And Vassell, Hamilton said, has everything that points to him becoming an impact player in the NBA.

“Devin is a high-character youngster.  He has a great support system with his mother and father.  They are God-fearing people, he’s very religious and focused.  He has a tremendous basketball IQ.  He has great attention to detail.  He is extremely unselfish, a great teammate.  He’s a very hard worker.  He’s a fast-learner.  He has a tremendous amount of confidence.  He’s a guy when the game is on the line, he’s focused and his confidence rises and he’s able to deliver under stressful situations. He’s the guy who has the ‘It’ factor,” Hamilton said. 

Call him bias or whatever you want, but Hamilton has been in the business for so long that he knows it’s real when sees one. His coaching staff has been trained to value character more than high school accolades.  And that’s what led them to unearth a diamond in the rough hiding in Peachtree Ridge High School in Atlanta.

Vassell is no longer the best kept secret high school player in Atlanta.  He’s no longer playing under the radar. But his coach is glad to see he’s embracing the challenge, and he’s extremely confident about one thing: Vassell rises when the lights are at their brightest.