LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 07: General manager Scott Perry of the New York Knicks talks on a phone as he attends a game between the Knicks and the Phoenix Suns during the 2019 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 7, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

In an otherwise underwhelming NBA Draft class, the New York Knicks should seriously consider trading down from the No. 8 pick.

Josh Benjamin

Long-suffering New York Knicks fans are usually excited about the NBA Draft. But in the wild and wacky year that is 2020, this is simply not the case.

Frustration with the front office isn’t the reason why though. Rather, the 2020 NBA Draft class is so weak that it’s hard to become intrigued. The two top prospects are Georgia 2-guard Anthony Edwards and athletic 19-year-old point man LaMelo Ball. Talent aside, both are considered project players.

Meanwhile, the Knicks will take their turn at No. 8 despite finishing with the sixth-worst record in the league. The team needs a franchise point guard, but the options available at that spot are far from sure things. On top of that, the new front office led by former agent Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry is under pressure to nail the pick.

Yet, the answer as to what to do at No. 8 may not lie with who the Knicks draft there. In fact, using that selection to trade down and acquire other assets might be the better decision.

Who’s at No. 8?

To understand why the Knicks should trade down in the 2020 NBA Draft, we first must look at their draft position and overall needs. Aside from the No. 8 pick, the team also owns the Los Angeles’ Clippers’ selection at No. 27 thanks to the Marcus Morris trade back in February.

And what do the Knicks need? Aside from a scoring point guard, an athletic wing or power forward would be ideal. Julius Randle can opt-out after next season, so having a young big in the wings to take over could be key. Even though RJ Barrett exists on the wing, a team can never have too many in today’s high-scoring NBA.

But which players at the top of the draft class can help the Knicks in this area? Well, it’s hard to say. Dynamic Dayton forward Obi Toppin could call to New York at No. 8, but he still has some developing to do across the board. The same can be said for USC big Onyeka Okongwu, who’s explosive as can be but still needs to develop both his low post and face-up game. Israeli prospect Deni Avdija can do it all when given the minutes, but betting on him being available at No. 8 is a tall order.

The potentially available point guards don’t really offer further hope. Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton is a freak athlete who can do it all, but it’s unclear if he’ll even be a point guard in the NBA. Killian Hayes played well in France, but even he’s a gamble who might not be available at the Knicks’ turn.

New York thus has two options in the NBA Draft: roll the dice and go for broke at No. 8, or play the long game and trade down from the pick.

Trade down, but for who?

Just so we’re 100% clear, this is not me automatically saying the Knicks must trade down in the NBA Draft. But if Rose and Perry see someone they like who would be too much of a reach at No. 8, like Theo Maledon or Cole Anthony, they should absolutely pull the trigger.

In fact, Anthony could and should be the prime target if New York moves down from No. 8. His father, Greg, played four seasons with the Knicks back in the ’90s. The younger Anthony also grew up in New York and played three years of prep ball at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens. He put up rough numbers in his sole season at North Carolina, but his low percentages are more the mark of a good player carrying a bad team.

Furthermore, there is precedent for the Knicks trading down to land Anthony, who’s currently going No. 12 to the Sacramento Kings in NBADraft.net’s latest mock. Just look back at the 2018 NBA Draft — the Atlanta Hawks held the No. 3 pick, which they used to select dynamic Slovenian guard Luka Doncic. The Dallas Mavericks, meanwhile, had the No. 5 pick and really wanted Doncic.

Both teams then swapped picks and the Hawks also sent a protected first-round pick to Dallas. Doncic went to the Mavericks, while the Hawks got their man in point guard Trae Young.

Who’s to say the Knicks can’t swap their No. 8 for the Kings’ No. 12? They could easily include one of the picks acquired from Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade as well. For Anthony, or even the French prospect Maledon, this kind of trade makes perfect sense.

Final thoughts

Whatever the Knicks decide to do, they’ve got time. The draft isn’t until Nov. 18. If Rose and Perry choose to trade down, they should only do so if they feel it’s the best decision.

And the Knicks need to be careful with the NBA Draft this year. The front office is committed to a culture change and whomever it picks must be indicative of that. Simply put, there is no room for error.

But think of the movie “Rounders,” if you will. The Knicks front office, from Rose to Perry to new executive vice president William “World Wide Wes” Wesley, is collectively Matt Damon’s Mike McDermott. Every member is clearly smart and excited to compete at the NBA Draft tables. Nonetheless, they need to keep cool lest they tip their hand.

As for trading down, it’s all a matter of finding a team trying to be aggressive or, for the sake of this comparison, Teddy KGB. Bad as this year’s class is, there will be one or more teams looking to move up come November. Whether that’s the right move is up for debate, but the Knicks need to pounce on these opportunities.

A bad draft class means no pressure for the Knicks or any team. In 2020, trading down is a potentially genius idea, and hopefully Rose and Perry feel the same as the NBA Draft draws closer.

NYY

NYM

NYG

NYJ

NYK

BKN

NYR

NYI

NJD

SJU