The New York Knicks will be looking for a small forward to add to their young core at the draft. Here is a list of the dark horse prospects that may hear their name called in June.
Last week, Al Iannazzone of Newsday reported that the New York Knicks may be in the market for a versatile forward that can score and guard multiple positions. In the article Jeff Hornacek was quoted after a loss to the Miami Heat as saying,
“I think if you look around at the top teams that are in the league they have multiple guys that are in the 6-7, 6-8 range with length,” Hornacek said before the Knicks played Miami on Wednesday night. “We had a lot of guys that are in the 6-5ish range. Just to get bigger at some of those spots and just continue to work on the chemistry.”
Early speculation from Ian Begley of ESPN included reports that Knicks’ management may already be targeting names like Villanova prospect Mikal Bridges and Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox.
Jeff Hornacek told reporters that SF is a need for NYK this offseason. So it’s worth noting that members of the organization earlier this month viewed Kentucky’s Kevin Knox as a potential draft target, per sources. As noted earlier, some are also fans Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) March 23, 2018
However, the Knicks also possess two second-round picks in this year’s draft. And if they cannot select a game-changer during the first round, there may be some sleeper prospects with high upside available that can make an impact.
Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State Sr. F
Listed at 6-foot-7, 233 pounds, Bates-Diop completed an impressive senior year with Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Although his season came to an end in the NCAA tournament at the hands of Gonzaga, Bates-Diop was the best player on the floor, pouring in 28 points while shooting 44 percent from the three-point line.
Per College Basketball Sports Reference, during the 2017-18 season, Bates-Diop averaged 19.8 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game. Back in 2016, Draft Express profiled Bates-Diop as an athletic wing player with great defensive potential.
Specifically, Bates-Diop always had great length, the ability to switch multiple positions, and good shot-blocking ability as well. Yet, this did not always translate into great numbers, as his production during his first three years at Ohio State was somewhat inconsisent.
And while his offensive game has improved, he still has a ways to go. Per Draft Express, Bates-Diop doesn’t have the most fluid jump shot and is clearly better at shooting from a standstill position than off the dribble. Additionally, Bates-Diop does not always create for himself as a slasher and can be hesitant at times.
In his senior year, Bates-Diop had his best statistical output and improved his three-point percentage to 35 percent. Provided that he becomes a consistent threat from outside, Bates-Diop could be a great pairing with Tim Hardaway Jr./Kristaps Porzingis and/or a solid player off the bench.
Bates-Diop is also an interesting prospect because, despite his clear physical tools and length of stay at Ohio State, he isn’t the household name that you might think he would be.
In an article written for The Ringer, Mark Titus explains,
“He has packed on a ton of muscle since arriving at Ohio State, allowing him to absorb a beating in the paint when it’s required. He’s put in the work during the offseason, honed his skills, and become a player who can score from anywhere on the floor, set up his teammates, and lock down at least three different positions on the defensive end.”
Titus also states that Bates-Diop matured into a leader and the go-to-guy, which enabled him to have a stellar senior year.
Chandler Hutchison, Boise State Sr. F
Hutchison is another player that steadily improved throughout his years in college, improving his stats in points per game and assists every year.
Back in December, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated wrote an interesting profile about Hutchison as a sleeper in this year’s draft. One of Hutchison’s assistant head coaches, Phil Beckner, who also has ties with NBA star Damian Lillard, spoke highly of Hutchison’s progression and ability to be a quick study:
“The next day he shows up, he’s already good at it,” Beckner said. “The kid’s a freak. He excels at a quicker rate and improves at a quicker rate than any other player I’ve worked with.”
Furthermore, Hutchison has sought to improve and work on guard-like skills, even those made famous by Lillard, at the professional level. Fischer writes,
“Lillard has torched NBA defenses in part with what Beckner has dubbed elite ‘body-ball movement.’ His feet pitter patter synchronously with each yo-yo of the ball. All dynamic scorers slither with a similar craft.”
“Hutchison needed that next-level mobility, so Beckner drilled his footwork, compounded with grueling ball handling regimens. Hutchison discovered just how lethal those interminable strides can be.”
Hutchison appears to play the part of the consummate pro, someone who will continue to work on his game and have a chip on his shoulder, similar to the one that Lillard possesses.
Going forward, Hutchison may add value to the floor from a talent perspective, yet it may be his impact off the court, highlighting his work ethic that may be his biggest strength.
Kenrich Williams, TCU Jr. G-F
Take a gander at the video above and you’ll see Williams with a nice rejection on another potential Knicks draft target, Trae Young. Like the other two forwards, Williams is also listed at 6-foot-7, and he weighs 210 pounds, per College Basketball Sports Reference.
Overall, this season Williams posted modest numbers, 13.2 points per game, and 9.3 rebounds per game. He actually almost produced an identical stat line in a first-round NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse.
According to NBA Scouting Live, Williams is a player with good intangibles, a ‘rock-solid motor’, and a good rebounder. However, his athletic skills are not great, and he has to improve his free-throw shooting. Per College Basketball Reference, Williams shot 68.8 percent from the stripe.
Overall, Williams may lack the explosiveness, shooting, and upside to be considered an NBA starter. But it seems like this is a player who could certainly carve out a niche for himself and have a nice, productive career as a rotational player.
Vince Edwards, Purdue Sr. F
According to NBA Scouting Live, Edwards is fairly adept at shooting on the move and from a set position. He has above average athleticism (not a great first step, but can run and jump well), can play/defend multiple positions, and has good defensive tools.
However, Edwards is not always engaged and can have lapses defensively. Draft Express also added that, prior to his junior year, Edwards needed to improve his ability to guard either forward position, and needed to do a better job of fighting through screens.
Edwards is another player that clearly needs more time to mature. Yet, the tools are there for a player who has the ability to make an impact at the next level.
Edwards will most likely not be overwhelmed by the draft process, as he has tested the draft waters in the past, working out for teams like the Indiana Pacers.
The Knicks’ management and coaching staff will have a lot of tough decisions to make come June. However, with a deep draft, Knicks fans can rest assured that they will have the ability to select a player with the potential to be a rotational player/potential starter.