Just a few days ago ESPN reporter Chad Ford tweeted that the New York Knicks are, “the ultimate wild card in this draft.” Ford added that the Knicks seem to be looking at a variety of players and it has been very tough to gauge what they’re doing. Ford also reported that New York will consider trading the fourth overall pick if Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell are all off the board.
If the Knicks were to trade back in this draft they would look to acquire a quality veteran player and/or future draft picks in addition to swapping picks with a team in the 7-14 range. The question is, who should Phil Jackson target in the 7-14 range?
Willie Cauley-Stein, C Kentucky
It’s unlikely Cauley-Stein falls past the seventh pick in this draft, but if New York were to move back and the Kentucky big man were still available they should not hesitate to snatch him up. Caught behind the shadow of the two big man prospects ahead of him, Cauley-Stein has been somewhat overlooked in these last few weeks leading up to the draft.
After Towns and Okafor, Cauley-Stein is the only true NBA center left on the board, a position that New York is in desperate need of filling. Though his offensive game is limited to mid-range spot up shots and pick-and-roll dunks, Cauley-Stein is a solid rebounder whose length and athleticism make him a force on the defensive end.
Similar to other athletic centers in this league like DeAndre Jordan, Cauley-Stein’s offensive game would be enhanced if he was playing with a quality point guard. Ty Lawson and Eric Bledsoe are two veteran point guards who have been mentioned in trade talks in the past few days, so it will be interesting to see if the Knicks look to move back and grab one of these guys along the way.
Frank Kaminsky, PF/C Wisconsin
The next best big man on the board after Towns, Okafor and Cauley-Stein, Kaminsky would not be a bad option for the Knicks if they were to trade back into the middle of the draft. Standing at 7’1″, Kaminsky has the height to be a quality rim protector in the NBA, but will have to add onto his 231 pound frame if he wants to be able to defend the low post at the next level.
Though there are questions about his lack of strength and athleticism on defense, Kaminsky’s versatility on the offensive end makes him a very intriguing prospect for the Knicks. The seven-footer showed his range during the 2014 season, shooting 41.6% from three-point range on 101 attempted threes, and was also one of the nation’s best low-post players.
In addition to his inside-out scoring ability, Kaminsky is a very good passer for a big man and knows how to manage an offensive tempo. If paired with another, stronger big man and quality outside shooters, Kaminsky would fit very well into the Triangle Offense and would be a great consolation prize after moving back to the 7-14 range.
Myles Turner, PF/C Texas
Similar to Kaminsky, Turner is another big man in this draft who is capable of stepping outside and knocking down long range shots, and thus would be a good fit in the Triangle Offense. He was most effective in college as a spot up shooter, working off pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop situations, as well as posting up down low and knocking down quick turnaround shots over his defenders.
Though he won’t be able to post up and shoot over his defenders as easily in the NBA, Turner has the length and athleticism to be a very good pick-and-roll power forward at the next level. Like almost every other prospect in this draft, Turner will have to add some muscle to his frame before he can match up with NBA big men. However, the freshman longhorn doesn’t receive nearly as much credit for his strength and athleticism as he should.
For someone standing seven feet tall, Turner moves very well both in transition and laterally on defense. Put him through an NBA training regimen and he’ll have the potential to not only be a talented stretch forward on offense, but a quality rim protector on defense.
Cameron Payne, PG Murray State
The first point guard on this list, and the third ranked point guard on most people’s draft boards, Payne would be a good consolation prize if the Knicks were to swap picks with a team in the 7-14 range.
At 6’2″ 180 pounds, Payne is a bit undersized compared to the physically imposing point guards of today’s NBA. However, the lefty out of Murray State has a smooth jump shot and an overall great feel for the game. He knows how to manage offensive tempo and create shots for his teammates, whether it’s off of a pick-and-roll or in transition.
Though he may not be able to step in and start at the position right away like Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay would, Payne would be a great backup should Phil Jackson choose to stick with Jose Calderon or add a veteran via free agency. Give him time to grow into his body and learn behind a veteran point guard, and Payne could become a starter down the road.
Trey Lyles, PF Kentucky
Probably the last name that Knicks fans want to hear, Trey Lyles is another big man who wouldn’t be a bad fit should the team choose to trade back into the middle of the draft. It’s tough to gauge how good Lyles can be because of how limited his playing time was in college, but when he was out on the court he was making plays.
The 6’10” freshman has very good footwork when he operates in the low post, and also possesses the ability to step out and hit long range jumpers. He’s not a standout defender per se, but his length and overall aggressiveness make him a candidate to become a quality defender with time.
Again, having only played an average of 23 minutes per game, and having to concede to his All-American teammates on offensive possessions, it’s unclear how good Lyles can be. If New York were to acquire a talented veteran point guard though, through a trade or free agency, Lyles could serve as a quality pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop forward.
It’s important to remember that if New York trades back in this draft, they’ll be acquiring at least one big name player in addition to swapping draft picks. Whether it’s a point guard like Eric Bledsoe or a big man like DeMarcus Cousins (highly unlikely, for argument’s sake), this veteran player will essentially serve as the Knicks first draft selection. The player they actually draft will ultimately be a consolation prize, a role player rather than a franchise player.
So, while Trey Lyles may not be the name Knicks fans want to hear come draft night, he would be a very good consolation prize if the team were to trade their fourth overall pick in exchange for a proven veteran and a mid-round pick.