chris duarte
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Chris Duarte is a projected first-rounder in the 2021 NBA Draft. How will his skill set translate and could he fit with the New York Knicks?

Danny Small

The New York Knicks are in win-now mode after making the playoffs in Tom Thibodeau‘s first year as head coach. As we watched with Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin, Thibs will not coddle the rookies. If they are playing well, they will play, but there are no guarantees with Thibs.

Enter Chris Duarte. The Oregon wing is one of the older first-round prospects in this year’s draft, but that shouldn’t scare anyone away. Duarte has incredible athleticism and a skill set that should translate well to the NBA.

New York owns the 19th, 21st, 32nd, and 58th picks in the 2021 NBA Draft. Let’s take a look at Duarte’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential fit in this Knicks draft profile.

Strengths

Shooter

Duarte is one of the better shooters in this draft class. He has all the tools to become an elite catch-and-shoot threat in the NBA — pre-shot preparation, smooth form, quick release.

Having excellent form isn’t enough. Making tough shots is what separates the good shooters from the elite marksmen. Based on his numbers and tape, Duarte’s game should translate. He shot a ridiculous 47.7% on catch-and-shoot jumpers at Oregon as a senior.

Even better, Duarte had a varied diet of looks from beyond the arc. He hit threes off kick-outs, in transition, and off plenty of screens.

Three-point shooting isn’t going out of style anytime soon. For that reason alone, Duarte is an intriguing prospect.

Help/Team Defender

Duarte was a Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection this past year and it’s no secret why. He was one of the most dangerous off-ball defenders in the country, using his athleticism and instincts to cause chaos for opposing offenses.

Whether he was jumping a passing lane for a steal or chasing down a block from behind, Duarte has a knack for making impact plays on defense. Despite being a bit overaggressive at times, he’s a great team defender. His bread and butter will be guarding wings who play (mostly) off the ball at the next level.

Weaknesses

Passer/Facilitating

Here is where we see Duarte’s biggest area of improvement offensively. He’s capable in the pick-and-roll due to his ability to shoot the three off of the pull-up, but he still needs work as a passer.

For this reason, he is more of a secondary ballhandler than a player who you want running an offense. With that said, Duarte was named the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year. No one expects him to be a point guard at the next level, but some secondary playmaking can never hurt a team.

1-on-1 Defense

The one thing holding Duarte back from being an elite defensive prospect is his ability to guard the point of attack. For a guy who is going to be a pinch undersized at the wing, being able to match up against point guards is the biggest thing Duarte needs to add to his game.

Fit With The Knicks

Experience/Age

Over time, NBA scouts have shifted towards younger players in the first round of the draft. The league is getting younger and 24-year-olds are seen as ancient in the draft, but that shouldn’t discourage the Knicks from taking Duarte.

Again, New York is looking to build on a first-round exit in the playoffs and that means they need readymade contributors in the draft. With Duarte already polished as a shooter and team defender, he’s a player who should slide into this rotation nicely.

Thibs Guy

It’s hard to put a finger on what constitutes a “Thibs guy,” but we know Duarte fits the bill. He’s a dogged defender who doesn’t seem to be afraid of the big moment. Duarte dropped 23 points and seven rebounds in a second-round upset over the second-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes in the NCAA Tournament.

Also, Duarte didn’t come into college as a highly-touted guy. In fact, he went the JUCO route for two years and proved that he was deserving of high-major offers. Oregon came calling and he continued to develop.

The Knicks won’t be picking in the lottery for the first time in what feels like a lifetime (it’s been five years). They can’t afford to miss on these important opportunities to snag rotation players in the first round.

Whether it’s at pick No. 19 or 21, the Knicks should seriously consider taking a chance on Chris Duarte. The Oregon product is projected to go to the Knicks by multiple outlets, including ESNY’s most recent mock draft.