The No. 8 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft may not seem an ideal selection, but it gives the New York Knicks more options than one would think.
Another NBA Draft lottery, another year of disappointment for the New York Knicks and their fans.
Despite finishing with the sixth-worst record in the NBA at 21-45, the lottery gods burned the Knicks again. The Knicks received the No. 8 pick and also own the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round selection.
Yet, disappointing as the result may be, this does not sink the New York Knicks’ hopes in the fall’s NBA Draft. This isn’t a particularly strong class, but some prospects still stand out.
Enter new Knicks president Leon Rose, a former player agent who used to represent LeBron James. He and general manager Scott Perry have been tasked with bringing the New York Knicks back to prominence. Rose is the Mariner, and the city is counting on him to lead the team to the mythical Dryland.
And given the New York Knicks’ needs ahead of the 2020-21 season, Rose would be wise to target the following prospects with the No. 8 pick.
Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State
It’s no secret that the New York Knicks really need a franchise point guard. The NBA is now a scorer’s league and building around frontcourt strength just isn’t an effective strategy. This means as to the NBA draft, look for the Knicks to prioritize a point man.
This is where things get interesting. Devin Vassell is a shooting guard, but still would provide the scoring boost the Knicks need. He led the Seminoles with 12.7 points per game as a sophomore and made 49% of his shot attempts. Vassel also shot an impressive 41.5% from three-point range.
And just how would Vassell fit with the Knicks? Well, his arrival would allow RJ Barrett to shift back to the wing and develop effectively under new coach Tom Thibodeau. Granted, this isn’t to say Vassell would run the point from the two, but he can be a factor from anywhere on the floor.
Vassell is also a solid defender, having posted a defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) of 4.2 last season. Throw in his career college true shooting percentage (TS%) of nearly 58%, and he can provide the offense New York needs despite not being a franchise point man.
Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL Basket, France
If Theo Maledon seems like a reach for the New York Knicks at No. 8, it’s because he is. Granted, Rose and Perry have plenty of draft capital that can be used to trade up or down. In fact, given the Knicks’ position, that seems very likely, but that’s another story.
Anyway, moving on. The point is even if the Knicks do keep the No. 8 pick, their history indicates they won’t be shy about reaching on an international prospect like Maledon. It wasn’t too long ago that the team drafted Frank Ntilikina even though Donovan Mitchell was available. Moreover, some fans are still salty about Frederic Weis.
But Maledon is different from any and all international prospects the New York Knicks have drafted in recent memory. He’s a bigger point guard at 6-foot-4 and only just turned 19 years old.
As to his NBA readiness, that’s hard to say. Maledon doesn’t have much of a jump shot, but is effective with the three and can play defense. He didn’t score nor play much for ASVEL, his career highs being 7.4 points and 17.8 minutes per game. However, he played well for France on the nation’s FIBA U16 team in 2017 and posted 14.6 points there.
Maledon would be an untraditional pick for the Knicks at No. 8, but his ceiling is high. Given Thibodeau’s knack for working well with young point guards, Maledon may very well be worth the reach.
Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
Cole Anthony and prospective No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards have more in common than one might think. Both played at prominent schools in the south, with Anthony starring for the Tar Heels and Edwards for the SEC’s Georgia Bulldogs. Moreover, both prospects played on particularly bad teams and saw their overall percentages suffer because of it.
But while Edwards’ rough freshman campaign hasn’t affected his potential No. 1 status, Anthony is still hovering around the middle of the pack. For example, The Sporting News did a Top 60 big board post-lottery, and Anthony is ranked 17th. Additionally, NBADraft.net did a mock draft earlier this month and had him at No. 15.
That said, there is still a long time between now and draft day. If Anthony is still in this position on most boards, the New York Knicks should absolutely consider trading down from No. 8 to pick him. Knowing the team, they may also reach on him regardless.
Though Anthony’s 18.5 points per game as a freshman came with making just 39% of his shots, his TS% was just north of 50. Anthony can also hold his own on defense, and there’s room for improvement.
Throw in his father Greg’s ties to the team, and Anthony was almost born to play for the New York Knicks.
Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
Years from now, when he’s long retired and a premier investor in a fun little startup called Skynet, Tyrese Haliburton may be looked back on as one of the NBA Draft’s greatest enigmas.
It’s easy to see why because Haliburton literally did it all for the Cyclones. He scored points effectively while also putting up strong three-point percentages. His TS% in college was a ridiculous 64.5. Haliburton was also a strong on-ball defender.
And how would Haliburton fit the New York Knicks? Well, that’s hard to tell right now. He did it all in a college system, but will likely serve in just one role in the NBA. Why would the Knicks draft someone who doesn’t yet have a clear role in the pros?
The answer is simple: Tyrese Haliburton is just that good. He has length at 6-foot-5 and can succeed in the league as anything from a scoring point guard to a three-and-D guard. More importantly, Thibodeau is a coach who can rotate him between several roles before figuring out which one suits him best.
Haliburton is going to be a fine NBA player on some level. His versatility means whichever team drafts him has options. If he’s available at No. 8, the New York Knicks must take advantage of the opportunity.