TKB’s Pre-Draft Notebook: Can’t Take Nate Wolters at 24 ; Plumlee Would Be Perfect; Finding the Next Trevor Ariza

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Tommy Dee

This is an off season that I’m really interested in seeing what the Knicks do to improve. If I were a season ticket holder I’d be very disappointed if the Knicks stood pat and hoped for internal improvements to take them to the next step. I’m not sure how much JR Smith can improve on the court. Off the court, if the drug whispers have any merit, JR needs severe lifestyle changes he needs to make and the Knicks need to monitor them if they are going to invest a lot of money and years into him. James Dolan’s business decisions have been questioned, but you have to respect the path he recognized his life was on before cleaning himself up.

As I’ve said, figuring out what to do with JR is question one then you go from there. Is Chris Paul definitely not an option? Let’s say for argument’s sake he isn’t, now what do you do with the 24th pick and the draft night as a whole?

There have been rumors that the Mavericks are shopping the 13th pick. The Knicks and Mavericks have done deals before and it looks as if the Mavericks, who were dormant last year, are ready to hit the market big time and they’ve targeted Dwight Howard. This means that they may not be looking for much in return for a pick, but you can bet they’d ask for Iman Shumpert. No deal. Unless, of course, there’s potential for other picks so the Knicks can get younger, but I assume they are holding Shumpert for Chris Paul and Paul only. No Paul no dealing Shumpert.

Glen Grunwald would do well to dig out some picks, however, and as customary they may be looking into the second round to make a play for a point guard. A source with serious knowledge has told me specifically not to sleep on South Dakota State PG Nate Wolters who, in studying, has some ability but is a major reach at 24 in my estimation. Let’s dig deeper. Forget the level of play, many executives aren’t concerned with competition level as much as they are concerned with how a player can compete against speed and, far more importantly, length.

Putting 30 on Alabama, the 17th best defense in college basketball last year, is impressive as is his ability to control flow and wait for the offense to return to him later in the shot clock. Combine that with a very low shooting release in my estimation and there are questions. Can the Knicks risk their first round pick on a quarterback with a questionable release? Wolters, to me, would be a target in the second round (picks 35-45) but is too much of a risk? He’s got good size at 6’4 190 and I think can handle the load of an NBA season off the bat thanks to that sturdy frame.  That said there are very good PGs who developed well last year in the D-League who are already more NBA ready than Wolters and there are far more talented players per position than Wolters at PG. This draft pick has to play rotation minutes.

So let’s say that the Knicks are heart set on adding talent up front? Do they wait around hoping bigs like Steven Adams, Jeff Withey, Mason Plumlee  or Gorgui Dieng falls to 24? To me, if any one of these players are on the board you take them especially Plumlee who I have ahead of all of them. People think Plumlee and associate him with other Duke bigs, but, in my mind, he’s the best big out of Durham since Elton Brand. He has the total package on both sides of the ball and is physically dominate. Any of these bigs would fit perfectly, but I put Plumlee on top of the list in terms of being fully ready to step in and contribute in the regular season and in the post season.

What if all these bigs are gone? Good question and I have to plead ignorance on the European talent because I haven’t been able to study them all but I will say whatever Kevin Wilson wants to do is a smart choice. Not just based on finding a guy like Chris Copeland, but because his credibility in finding talent overseas is very, very strong. If the Knicks want to think for the future and develop a player then it may make sense to choose a skilled European talent  like Dario Saric or  Giannis Adetokunbo or a big like Mouhammadou Jaiteh or hoping they pan out in a few years. I like Jaiteh’s defensive ability and motor, but he’s super raw offensively and not ready to absorb the 20-25 minutes per game the Knicks desperately need against more physical teams. Plus he’s not a guy who you think you can depend on come post season.

Saric seems to be the most NBA ready, but I don’t think that’s the direction they go unless they make a trade and bring back a player up front. Again, the Knicks need this pick to contribute next year in my opinion, and none of these players fit immediate needs, but it’s hard to argue with Wilson’s note taking on talent evaluation.

For me, barring anything major, I’m looking big in the first round and then looking for serious talent in the second round. You may already know how I feel about Tyler Brown from Illinois State , but I’m really high on Minnesota’s Rodney Williams. This guy is a freak athlete who is long in the passing lanes and can finish with anyone in the country. He’s a corner or wing jumper away from being another Wilson Chandler/Trevor Ariza, in my opinion, and he’s a talent that the Knicks can gamble on in the second round. He’s flown completely under the radar but I’ve talked with several people around the league who have told me that he’s on a few team’s lists. He’s a 4-year guy under a coach who knows a thing or two about NBA talent, Tubby Smith, and a strong defensive player with NBA size and skill. Again, he struggles to shoot threes but there’s some potential and he’s the type of gritty defender/athlete who can get a ton of easy baskets in transition, a MAJOR weakness for the Knicks.

I’m not married to the idea that the Knicks need to go point guard in this draft unless Shane Larkin falls to them at 24 which I don’t see. There are talented guards who’ve been developing and can be signed for cheap after summer league. I think this is a draft for bigs, but I’m not going to get excited about a big who needs development unless it’s a player like Pitt’s Adams. 

There’s a lot of directions the Knicks could go here, so make sure you check out our notes as the team invites prospects for their individual workouts.