Tyrese Maxey
AP Photo/James Crisp

Rumor has it the New York Knicks want to trade down for Tyrese Maxey, but is he the draft pick to kickstart yet another rebuild?

Josh Benjamin

The New York Knicks have the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft, but don’t be surprised if this changes.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the team is “seriously mulling” trading down on Nov. 18 unless star center James Wiseman or athletic point guard LaMelo Ball is still available. Given the weakness of this year’s class, trading back makes sense if the Knicks have someone they like further down the board. I even made the case for it last month.

Well, Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey might be one of those players. Berman reported the freshman was on New York’s radar as a “late-lottery guy,” and the team needs enough help at guard that he might be worth it despite not being a traditional point guard.

But is Maxey worth trading down for in an overall weak class? Let’s dig a little deeper and find out.

The Pros

For someone still just 19 years old, there’s no doubt that Maxey can play. He was a five-star recruit out of the Dallas area’s South Garland High School and played under John Calipari at Kentucky. Given the talent Calipari tends to recruit, it’s no surprise Maxey declared for the draft after one year with the Wildcats.

Believe it or not, this connection benefits the Knicks. Longtime Calipari assistant Kenny Payne is on new coach Tom Thibodeau’s staff as an assistant and coached Maxey in Lexington. New York also recently hired longtime Calipari confidante William Wesley as an executive vice president.

But let’s talk about Maxey the basketball player. He averaged 14 points per game at Kentucky and shot 42.7% from the field. This number may seem a bit low for a college guard, but Maxey posted a true shooting percentage (TS%) of 53.1%.

And in terms of scoring, Maxey knows how to do it in bunches. He only averaged 14.3 points per game at Kentucky, but don’t be fooled. He has an underrated shooting range and his ability to read schemes and find teammates makes him a unique combo guard. Maxey has also been known to occasionally get hot from long range.

His jumper isn’t the prettiest, but Maxey is young enough that it can improve with coaching. Most important of all, he knows how to limit his turnovers and only averaged 2.2 per game in college.

He might be a project player in a weak draft class, but Maxey still finds ways to stand out on the floor.

The Cons

The problem is since Maxey is such a strong and athletic combo guard, figuring out his role in the NBA will be tough. He isn’t particularly big at 6-foot-3, 198 pounds. Though built like a point guard, he often played at the “2” in college while teammate Ashton Hagans ran the point.

And despite a decent true shooting percentage along with a knack for hitting the three, Maxey was never much of a threat from long range. He shot just 29.2% from beyond the arc at Kentucky. In today’s fast-paced NBA, he must show he can be more reliable from three-point territory.

This means when it comes to scoring, Maxey is more of a slasher. However, don’t go calling him Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers just yet. Maxey does indeed prefer to drive the lane when he has the ball but doesn’t attack the rim consistently.

Rather, Tyrese tends to stop in the middle of the key and throw up floaters or mid-range attempts. He really doesn’t get too close to the rim in heavy traffic, which isn’t an effective means of scoring on the collegiate nor professional level. Maxey could also show some improvement on defense after posting just 1.5 defensive win shares (DWS) in college.

Now, consider what the Knicks need. RJ Barrett is a fine young and athletic wing whose range was already improving before the COVID-19 pandemic concluded New York’s season. Having a consistent scoring option alongside him, not to mention a competent point guard feeding him the ball, is the next step in his development.

Given where Maxey is in his own development, adding him brings its own risks.

The Verdict

The good news for the Knicks is if they want to trade down for Maxey, it shouldn’t be too difficult. If moving the No. 8 doesn’t work out, New York can use the No. 27 pick the Los Angeles Clippers provided in the Marcus Morris trade to move up the board.

Furthermore, late in the lottery could wind up being a reach for Maxey. Krysten Peek of Yahoo! Sports has him going No. 13 to the New Orleans Pelicans, but James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area has him just outside the lottery at No. 17 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Additionally, Jeremy Woo of SI.com has Maxey going to the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 16.

But when it comes to what the Knicks need right now, a combo guard like Maxey just isn’t it. He isn’t consistent enough with his shot to the point where he’ll avoid growing pains on offense, and he isn’t a strong enough playmaker to be the team’s franchise point guard.

That isn’t to say Maxey is a bust waiting to happen. He is indeed a dynamic talent who, if paired with a patient coach, can develop into a solid shooting guard.

That’s not what the Knicks need in the NBA Draft. Rather, Leon Rose and Scott Perry need to focus on adding a franchise point guard or an athletic defensive wing who can help complement Barrett.

Maxey is talented. If he can improve his range and confidence, he has the potential to be a special kind of player. But in a draft this weak, the Knicks need to select a prospect who’s as close to a sure thing as possible.

Sadly, that prospect isn’t Tyrese Maxey.

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