As the days pass by, more evidence is suggesting that it’s possible Kentucky’s Malik Monk is there at No. 8 for the New York Knicks.The 2017 NBA Draft is a week away, and with the conclusion of the NBA Finals this past Monday, pre-draft chatter is dominating NBA circles.
The New York Knicks hold the eighth pick in this year’s draft, an unenviable spot for them, both this season and historically. In 2009, the Knicks drafted at eight, missing out on Davidson guard Stephen Curry by one pick. Curry is a two-time MVP and World Champion. The Knicks pick, Jordan Hill, has never sniffed the All-Star game.
This season, eighth is also an unenviable spot. The consensus among NBA scouts is that there is a drop-off from the top seven prospects to the next five. You have three point guards (Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox), three small forwards (Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, and Jonathan Isaac), and shooting guard Malik Monk.
After the top seven, the talent pool drops down to point guards Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith, and big men Zach Collins and Lauri Markkanen.
Most mock drafts had all of the top seven off the board by the time the Knicks selected. However, in recent weeks, more and more mock drafts have Monk falling all the way to the Knicks at number eight.
Could this viably happen? Let’s take a look at the seven teams drafting above the Knicks and weigh the odds that they select the Kentucky shooting guard.
The top two is fairly safe. The Celtics are almost certainly taking Washington’s Markelle Fultz, who has been likened to Damian Lillard (except Fultz is taller and plays better defense). Despite a logjam in Boston’s backcourt, Fultz projects as one of their franchise players heading down the line.
The Lakers selected second. While there is a recent rumor that they will select Kansas’ Josh Jackson over UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, the likelihood of them taking Monk is close to zero. They already have a 2 guard in Jordan Clarkson, and D’Angelo Russell is also capable of playing at shooting guard.
The first real threat to take Monk comes at third overall. The Philadelphia 76ers have a ton of height in the frontcourt, and therefore, taking Josh Jackson could create real spacing issues. How does Sixers coach Brett Brown evenly distribute minutes amongst Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons, and Josh Jackson?[graphiq id=”erDYXQmzKkd” title=”Malik Monk Game Log (2016-17)” width=”600″ height=”563″ url=”https://sw.graphiq.com/w/erDYXQmzKkd” frozen=”true”]
A few years ago, the Pistons signed Josh Smith and paired him with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the frontcourt. The lack of spacing was a disaster then, and this predated the pace and space revolution in the NBA. Drafting Jackson could create a similar logjam for the Sixers.
What Philly needs most is backcourt help. The only legitimate three point shooter they have is Covington, and in today’s NBA, one three point shooter is nowhere near good enough. Monk appears to be a perfect fit — but the only issue is that it is difficult to justify taking him third overall. Monk’s defensive deficiencies and lack of height bump him down most big boards and put him down as an inferior prospect to Jackson, Tatum, Fox, and Isaac.
If Philly was picking fifth or sixth, I’d say it would be a near certainty that they take Monk. However, they are drafting third, and unless they trade down, the safe bet is they go best player available (Jackson), or point guard (Fox).
The Suns aren’t taking Monk at four, and neither are the Kings at five. Phoenix is building around Devin Booker, and either needs a point guard running mate like Fox or another wing like Jackson or Tatum. The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins for Buddy Hield, who impressed in a bigger role in Sacramento. They are enchanted with Fox, and if he gets selected third or fourth, they’ll settle for another scorer like Tatum.
That leaves the Magic and the Timberwolves, two teams that very likely could take Monk. In most mock drafts, Monk goes in the 6-8 range. The Magic and Timberwolves both have needs at shooting guard. Orlando shot 32.8 percent from three last season, the third-worst mark in the league, per CBS Sports. Monk is a deadeye three-point shooter and could prove to be a valuable asset for a team that desperately needs them.
The Timberwolves and Jonathan Isaac seem to be a good match, as well. In today’s small ball climate, having a front court of Wiggins, Isaac, and Towns could continue their progress into one of the more up and coming teams in the league.
However, Isaac could be taken by Orlando, who also has a need at small forward. In that scenario, Minnesota could take Monk and stick him in the backcourt with Ricky Rubio, who has been in the league since 2009 and still hasn’t found his jump shot.
Either way, my guess is either Orlando or Minnesota takes Monk. Maybe the Magic take Isaac at six, and then the Timberwolves take a chance on Markkanen as a stretch four to pair with Towns, but Monk clearly has the higher upside.
Either way, there are three teams in the top 7 that have needs at shooting guard, and Monk is the only elite shooting guard in this year’s draft. A stroke of luck might fall the Knicks way, but in all likelihood, a last minute victory over Philly and bad luck in the lottery may have cost the Knicks a chance at one of the more exciting offensive talents in the last five years.