2. Mo Bamba, C, Texas
The idea of a New Yorker playing for the Knicks is always intriguing. The fans fall in love with the idea regardless of how outlandish. In the case of Harlem-born Mohamed Bamba, there’s plenty to be excited about; regardless of the slim chance, he falls out of the top five.
The 18-year-old has already spoken about the possibility of playing for the Knicks. He told Marc Berman of The New York Post that “it’d be pretty cool to either play for or against the Knicks.” Bamba goes on to mention that he’s never played at the Garden–he didn’t consider St. John’s for his one college season–but he thinks that playing there “will be a funny feeling.”
The 7-footer’s elite shot blocking at Texas has naturally drawn comparisons to Utah Jazz star center Rudy Gobert. Bamba was second in the country with 3.7 blocks per game. He was fourth in total blocks and third in block percentage respectively. Then there are the combine numbers. Oh, the combine numbers. The draft combine was built for guys like Mo Bamba, and he took full advantage.
His absurd 7-foot-10 recorded wingspan is the longest all-time among players who have participated at the combine. His standing reach of 9-feet, 7.5 inches was the longest recorded by far. Per Berman, Bamba says that he can be one of the best rim protectors in the league as a rookie.
Bamba had an up and down freshman season, but it’s important to note that his best game came against the Big XII champion Kansas Jayhawks. He notched 22 points, 15 rebounds, and a season-high 8 blocks.
3. Michael Porter Jr., SF/PF, Missouri
Michael Porter Jr. was ranked toward the top of every recruiting class in the class of 2017 along with projected top three picks Marvin Bagley and DeAndre Ayton. He was supposed to be the number one pick in this draft before injuries derailed his time at Missouri. Porter played just two minutes of the opener against Iowa State before leaving with a back injury and missing the entire rest of the regular season.
He came back in March for two opening-round losses in the SEC and NCAA Tournament. In total, the 19-year-old logged just 53 minutes and put up only 30 points in his lone season with the Tigers. Despite the injuries, Porter is still projected as a top-ten pick.
A guy like Porter is incredibly valuable in the modern NBA. He’s a 6-foot-10 forward and a mismatch to nearly everyone he goes up against. He can make plays, shoot off the dribble, and defend. The mystery surrounding his injured back is what makes it possible he’ll slide to New York.
If that happens then, the Knicks need to take Porter. There’s too much potential there, and the Knicks can’t afford to pass on that. The arrival of the former Mr. Basketball USA, Gatorade National Player of the Year, and McDonald’s All-American Game MVP would bring classic New York City pomp and circumstance.
4. Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova
Knicks Twitter doesn’t agree on much, but they seem to agree on Mikal Bridges being a good fit. New York is starved for the necessary 3-and-D wing traits he brings to the table. The 21-year-old won two National Championships at Villanova but came into his own this season as a junior. His workload increased with the departure of senior guard Josh Hart to the NBA.
The 21-year-old’s scoring numbers jumped as he averaged 6.4 and 9.8 points per game as a freshman and sophomore respectively. As a junior, his averages went up to 17.7 points per game. He made threes at a ridiculous 43.5 percent clip on a total of 239 attempts from beyond the arc. He only launched 189 total threes as a freshman and sophomore combined.
Bridges is a legitimate knockdown catch-and-shoot player as 95.2 percent of his threes were assisted (via Hoop-Math) and finished the season in the 94th percentile on catch-and-shoot jumpers (via Synergy Sports).
But it’s his defense that makes him so appealing to the franchise. With averages of 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes for his career, he projects as a versatile defender who can guard 1-3. Everybody wants those guys.