On top of a high volume scoring point guard, the New York Knicks could use the upcoming NBA Draft to add a strong defensive wing.
The New York Knicks have a bad defense.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the truth. Granted, the Knicks ranked 19th in the league with 112.3 points allowed per game and thus weren’t the worst. However, New York also ranked 29th in allowing opponents to shoot 38.1% from three-point range, with only the injury-ravaged Golden State Warriors behind them.
Such is life in today’s NBA. It is very much a scoring guard’s league where long-range shooting rules the hardwood with an iron fist. As a result, even with glaring needs elsewhere, teams really can’t have too many strong defensive wings to help curb scoring.
And what does this mean for the Knicks? Well, the NBA Draft is in October and the team has options. On top of their lottery pick, New York owns the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round selection this year. The Knicks also have first-round picks in 2021 and 2023, courtesy of sending Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks last season.
This means if the Knicks have their eye on someone but are in an unfavorable position, they have the means to trade up or down to get their guy. Even with a glaring need at point guard, adding a strong wing despite RJ Barrett‘s presence could be a good idea.
As for who that wing should be, these five prospects stand out in particular.
No. 5: Tyler Bey, Colorado
Tyler Bey just looks like a great wing at 6-foot-7, 218 pounds. He averaged 13.8 points and led the Buffaloes with nine rebounds per contest. Bey also shot 53% from the field and has the range to make threes. He additionally posted a true shooting percentage (TS%) of 61.1%.
Bey isn’t likely to be much of a scorer in the NBA though. His jump shot is kind of herky-jerky with or without a hand in his face. Therefore, Bey will likely make his bones in the NBA doing something he does quite well: play defense.
Bey didn’t just average 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game at Colorado last year. On top of that, he posted a defensive rating (DRtg) of 85.7 and a defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) of 5.0.
There’s every chance Bey will also be available when the Knicks’ turn comes in the second round of this year’s NBA Draft. Nonetheless, if president Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry use the Clippers’ pick on him, it might not be that much of a reach.
No. 4: Jaden McDaniels, Washington
There are two things to consider in drafting Jaden McDaniels. First, although 6-foot-9, 200 pounds isn’t a bad size for a wing, he needs to bulk up by at least 15 pounds, possibly more. Second, he played on a Washington team that took a huge step back after winning 27 games in 2018-19. This past season, the Huskies were a subpar 15-17 (5-13 in the Pac-12).
But in terms of defensive skill, McDaniels checks most of the boxes. He’s more of an interior shot blocker than he is a traditional defensive wing, but will only be 20 on the night of the NBA Draft. With proper coaching, he can switch positions. McDaniels also posted a box plus/minus (BPM) of 2.6, with his DBPM measuring at 2.2.
If the Knicks decide they like his ceiling, McDaniels could certainly be in the cards late in the first round.
No. 3: Patrick Williams, Florida State
Patrick Williams checks all two boxes required of a forward in Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton’s system. First, he has the size to play both forward positions at 6-foot-8, 225 pounds. Second, he understands the value of consistent defensive toughness.
But how will Williams fit into the NBA? As was just mentioned, he played both forward positions in college but isn’t a particularly strong rebounder — he averaged just four per game as a freshman. This means as a pro, barring significant improvement, Williams will play the wing.
The good news is the wing is right where he belongs. His 6-foot-11 wingspan isn’t just for blocking shots, but also for playing smothering defense against opponents. If his DRtg of 94.1 seems small for a college system, it’s because he’s not yet 19 years old and is still learning the ins and outs of the game. Despite his inexperience, he had a respectable DBPM of 3.2.
The Knicks would do well by drafting Williams if Rose and Perry decide to move on from Kevin Knox. However, if the Seminole is their man, they may have to make a draft-day trade to land him.
No. 2: Isaac Okoro, Auburn
In his freshman year for the Tigers, Isaac Okoro posted 12.9 points per game while shooting 51.4% from the field. He showed excellent potential as a rim finisher at just 19 years old as well as fine defensive footwork.
Okoro still has some work to do on defense, as he posted a DRtg of 101.3. But he also posted a decent DBPM of 2.5 and has the potential to up his scoring output as he develops a jump shot. Once he improves his range, he’ll be all the better.
This very potential is why Okoro’s name has been bandied about as a potential lottery pick. The Knicks certainly could pick him then, but that also depends on their position the day of. That said, better for the team to draft a point man or the best available player first, and then see about possibly acquiring Okoro.
No. 1: Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel
In case it wasn’t already obvious, I really like Deni Avdija. No, seriously. I may need to take a break from writing about him lest I want to risk becoming Robert De Niro in “The Fan.”
Jokes aside, the Knicks should really consider Avdija if the front office decides a wing is an NBA Draft priority. He’s only 19 and just recently started playing significant minutes for Maccabi, but the talent is there. Since the Israeli Basketball Premier League returned last month, Avdija has averaged 18.2 points and six rebounds in five games.
But the real testament to Avdija’s talent lies in his international play. Representing Israel in last summer’s FIBA U20 European Championship, he posted 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 blocks, and 2.1 steals per game. This was enough to net him tourney MVP honors.
At the end of the day, the Knicks have two options regarding Avdija. They can either use their lottery pick on him and risk it being dubbed a “reach.” Or, if Rose and Perry are so inclined, they can use other draft assets like the picks from Los Angeles or Dallas to trade up or down for him.
One way or another, Avdija is coming to the NBA. He’s an unconventional pick for New York, but his ceiling is very hard to ignore.