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The New York Knicks elected not to tank in 2021-22. They finished 11th in the Eastern Conference and, as such, left the draft lottery with a fitting pick: No. 11. The big names will be gone by then, but there’s still a variety of intriguing directions that New York can go in.
The team’s most pressing need can be hard to pinpoint. Two years ago, it was obviously perimeter shooting. In 2019-20, New York ranked dead-last in the league for three-pointers made. In 2020-21, they jumped to 21st and, in 2021-22, they moved to 10th.
Now, the Knicks’ woes feel more nebulous. Julius Randle’s shooting came back down to earth, Mitchell Robinson is an unrestricted free agent and the team’s starting backcourt—Alec Burks and Evan Fournier—are each north of 29 years old. A shot creator, a big man and a playmaker could all be on the table.
The only quasi-certainty in New York is that the team can build around 21-year-old RJ Barrett. Given the surrounding question marks, basketball’s best draft experts have differing ideas on who the Knicks should select at No. 11.
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Now here’s a player who would absolutely fit the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman has Johnny Davis coming to New York in his mock draft, and you only need about a 20-second mixtape to see why.
Davis is 6’5″ and shot just 42.7 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from deep in his sophomore season at Wisconsin. Those numbers don’t scream lottery pick, but the tape doesn’t lie (and a 79.1 percent free-throw rate shows room for outside shooting improvements as well).
While streaky, Davis is a pure bucket. He creates shots at will, everywhere on the court, and plays with the right type of toughness on both sides of the floor. He was inconsistent this season but averaged 19.7 points per game and absolutely torched teams when his hand got hot—to the tune of three 30-point-plus games and 10 with 25-plus. If he slides down to No. 11, the Knicks could get their next fan-favorite alongside Barrett.
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Going in a very different direction, The Athletic‘s Sam Vecenie has New York picking the divisive Jalen Duren. It’s not because of lack of faith in Davis, though, but simply because he has the Wisconsin guard going a pick earlier.
With Davis and the other hyped wing Bennedict Mathurin going in the top 10, Vecenie projects the Knicks to take a big man instead of settling for one of the draft’s later wings. The fit is fairly obvious, too: Duren is an explosive defender and rim-runner, making for a quality replacement should New York let Robinson walk this offseason.
As a freshman, Duren averaged 12.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He showed real flashes of paint dominance and could help shape the Knicks’ rotation, but his lack of a shot (zero three-point attempts, 62.5 percent from the free-throw line) isn’t ideal for modern basketball.
Duren’s ceiling is unclear at just 18 years old, but his floor should feel like a bigger Isaiah Stewart. That’s nice value at No. 11, but fans may be more interested in a high-potential wing like Malaki Branham or Ousmane Dieng.
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Denis Poroy/Associated Press
While Wasserman and Vecenie both had Mathurin going inside the top 10, ESPN‘s Jonathan Givony sees him dropping into New York’s lap. That would certainly feel fortuitous, as the Arizona guard followed up his impressive season with a statement March Madness.
Mathurin is 19 years old and coming off a sophomore year in which he averaged 17.7 points on 45.0-percent shooting from the field and 36.9 percent from three. His shot release may look a little wonky at times, but that’s hard to fixate on when the rest of his game draws so much attention.
At 6’7″, Mathurin still looked like the fastest and bounciest player on the court at most times this year. The jumper is somewhat streaky, but he can glide, fly and take advantage at the line—as showcased during a 30-point game against TCU in the NCAA tournament’s second round (where he went 11 for 13 from the line).
If either he or Davis is available at No. 11, experts see the Knicks going for a shot-creating wing to complement Barrett. If they’re taken, maybe Vecenie’s Duren projection comes to light.