The New York Knicks are likely stuck with the ninth pick in the 2018 NBA draft lottery, but until the ping pong balls are chosen, it’s possible to dream of a future at the top of the draft.
Hope springs eternal for the New York Knicks. Maybe that’s not always true. Maybe that’s almost never true—but for the time being, the fanbase can take a glass half full mentality.
The team hired one of the best coaches on the market in David Fizdale and there seems to be a steadiness that has been absent for the better part of this decade. Although this organization has fooled us before, it’s quite alright to let your imagination run wild for now.
If you’re trying to envision a brighter future for the Knicks, the quickest way they can turn around the franchise is through sheer, dumb luck. The lottery is on Tuesday night and one lucky bounce of a ping-pong ball could change the fate of the franchise.
The chances of the Knicks securing the top pick in the draft are minuscule. They only have a 1.7 percent chance at obtaining the first pick while their chances at sliding into the top three are only slightly better at 6.1 percent.
But forget ping-pong balls, percentages, and basic common sense. For now, imagine a world in which the Basketball Gods grace the Knicks with a top three pick. Here are the three guys the Knicks
should target will target after jumping to the top of the draft.
Luka Doncic - G - Real Madrid
For my money, Luka Doncic is the crowned jewel of this draft class. There always seems to be a stigma surrounding European players which could lead to Doncic dropping to third—or possibly even fourth when all is said and done.
But forget the European stigma because the hype around the 6-foot-6 Doncic is all too real. Just last week, Doncic became the youngest player to record a triple-double in Liga ACB history.
To put his play this season into perspective, let’s look at how he stacks up against the franchise centerpiece, Kristaps Porzingis. The 19-year-old Slovenian is averaging 14.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.6 assists. In Porzingis’ last season in Spain, he averaged 11.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 0.5 assists.
Doncic’s numbers this season are turning heads, but his true coming out party was at EuroBasket 2017 where he led Slovenia to the title. He’s not afraid of the moment whatsoever. Throughout the tournament, Doncic averaged 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He also played alongside NBA veteran Goran Dragic who became somewhat of a mentor for the young Slovenian.
If you scoff at the stats in front of you, feel free to use the eye test on Doncic. Although he is young and needs to improve upon his quickness and defense, he is going to be a force in the NBA for years to come. That’s evident immediately when you watch Doncic play.
Imagine a Knicks lineup featuring Frank Ntilikina and Doncic in the backcourt while Porzingis’ dominates the paint. The European flair would be insanely fun to watch.
DeAndre Ayton - C - Arizona Wildcats
DeAndre Ayton has generational talent written all over him. He’s a monster physically and his 7-foot-1 frame showcases an NBA-ready body. Ayton is likely to go number one overall for the simple fact that teams are often afraid to pass on centers that could be generational talents.
That’s not to say that he’s not deserving of the first overall pick because he is deserving and then some. While his athleticism and size jump off the page, it’s impossible to overlook his offensive game. He shoots better than you expect from most 7-foot-1 centers. He shot 73.3 percent from the free throw line while averaging 20.1 points per game. If his shot continues to improve, he will be a problem for opposing defenses for years to come.
If you’re looking for drawbacks, look to the defensive end. He’s still a bit shaky on defense and not quite the imposing shot blocker that you hope he develops into. He’s not great at guarding the pick and roll either, but he has all the physical tools to drastically improve his defense as he matures.
A frontline of Porzingis and Ayton would be downright scary for opposing coaches.
Marvin Bagley III - F/C - Duke Blue Devils
If the Knicks manage to sneak into the top three, look for them to secure the bag. Marvin Bagley III that is. Bagley is similar to Ayton, but lacks physicality and athleticism that the big man from Arizona possesses. Fortunately for Bagley, he makes up for that with a more refined offensive game.
The 6-foot-11 forward can score inside or outside and expect his shot to continue to improve. He shot just under 40 percent from deep during his freshman season. His outside shooting isn’t the only versatile aspect of his game. He handles it well for a big and he has the ability to create off the dribble when necessary.
Although his athleticism is overshadowed by Ayton, he still possesses an NBA-ready body. As he fills out and matures, look for every aspect of his game to improve as well. He’s already skilled and athletic, but his ceiling is incredibly high.