LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Knicks badly need a point guard and should target five particular prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft.

The New York Knicks need a point guard and should look to the NBA draft to find one.

It’s the move that makes the most sense. Granted, this year’s draft class isn’t particularly stacked at the position, but the free-agent market also leaves a lot to be desired. Throw in the NBA now being a scoring point guard’s league, and the draft is New York’s best route.

But who to pick? As was just mentioned, this isn’t a great draft class for point guards. Moreover, the Knicks don’t yet know which lottery pick they’ll have in June. It’s thus hard for the front office and incoming team president Leon Rose to come up with a strategy.

Fortunately, enough point guards stand out that when the Knicks’ time to make a decision comes, they can at least consider these five.

No. 5: Cole Anthony, UNC

Cole Anthony has all the makings of an NBA point guard. He has the size at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds and is averaging 19.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists for the Tar Heels this year. Anthony is also the son of former NBA point guard Greg Anthony, a former Knicks first-round pick, himself.

However, despite his pedigree, Anthony is a flawed prospect. Strong scoring average aside, he has shot just 35.9% from the field for the season and just 32% from three. He also just recently returned to game action after missing almost two months recovering from knee surgery.

Anthony would also do well to improve his defense, but the scoring consistency should be first priority. He’s a good fit for the Knicks, but has plenty of work to do ahead of a successful NBA career.

No. 4: Nico Mannion, Arizona

Mannion is an interesting prospect for sure. He isn’t an elite scorer, having posted just 13.6 points per game on the season. He’s made 39.3% of his field-goal attempts and has shot just 32% from long range. On numbers alone, he isn’t exactly a sexy addition.

But if there’s one thing Mannion has, it’s court vision. His passes are crisp and he has strong potential on defense. He may look small at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, but make no mistake. Nico Mannion is smooth as can be.

He shouldn’t be the point guard at the top of New York’s list, but the Knicks would still improve if he fell into their lap.

No. 3: Killian Hayes, Ratiopharm Ulm, Germany

Under most circumstances, the Knicks should shy away from Killian Hayes. He’s only 18, playing professionally in Europe for three years.

Just the same, Hayes isn’t going to be another Frank Ntilikina. He has similar size at 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, but his offense is much more well-rounded. In just 10 games with Ulm, he averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 assists per contest. Hayes also shot a respectable 45.5% from the floor and made 39% of his three-pointers.

Hayes is young, but the ceiling is high. However, it may take him some time to get his wheels under him.

No. 2: LaMelo Ball, free agent

Ball is an absolute enigma. He’s been viewed as a future top prospect for years, but his sample size is low. He last played for the Illawarra Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League and didn’t go to college, unlike his brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo.

And LaMelo Ball looked good in 12 games down under. He averaged 17 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. Unfortunately, he also showed plenty of room for improvement in shooting just 37.5% from the field and a paltry 25% from three. Ball also proved trigger happy with the three-pointer despite his struggles, with over 40% of his attempts coming from long range.

But stats aside, the Knicks would assume another risk in drafting ball. No matter where he’s drafted, his father LaVar likely follows. We all know LaVar’s strong personality rubs some the wrong way, and the last things the Knicks need is any distraction as they look to improve. His love for publicity could turn the Knicks not into a professional basketball franchise, but Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

LaMelo Ball is a big point guard (6-foot-7, 180 pounds) who could be truly great in New York. Still, if the Knicks draft him, they had better prepare themselves for the inevitable circus.

No. 1: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

There are plenty of reasons for the Knicks to possibly trade down in this year’s draft, but that’s another story. What I can tell you is Tyrese Haliburton is one of those reasons and a big one at that.

First, Haliburton has size at 6-foot-5, 175 pounds. He can hold his own on defense and has proven quite the spark plug on offense. His win shares per 40 minutes (WS/40) stands at .191, nearly double what is considered the standard average.

From a numbers standpoint, the 19-year-old can do it all. As a sophomore, he’s averaging 15.2 points, 6.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game for the Cyclones. He has made 50.4% of his attempts and shooting an eye-popping 41.9% from long distance.

Haliburton could wind up being a lottery pick or he could slip down the board a bit. Either way, if the Knicks are in a position to take him via trading down or standing pat, he deserves serious consideration.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.