Drafting for potential makes sense for Knicks

In a survey of experts’ NBA mocks drafts, the consensus is the Knicks will draft Villanova sharpshooter Mikal Bridges in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

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But in a year where teams can throw a curve early in the draft by drafting someone that no one expected such as Wendell Carter Jr. or Kevin Knox, the Knicks may get someone else with the potential to be great. That means Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Michael Porter Jr. could all be available when the Knicks make their choice with their ninth pick.

Knicks president of basketball operations Steve Mills and Knicks general manager Scott Perry have to like about the possibilities of what they can do with this draft. It’s a chance to make a franchise-changing move. As disappointing as it was that the Knicks did not win the NBA draft lottery, all does not have to be lost if they play this right. That’s the challenge both Knicks executives face.

Drafting Bridges would be a safe pick. What’s not to like about him? He is a gym rat. He plays defense, and he makes clutch shots. He brings a winning intangible. He was why Villanova won the national championship this past season. He is a guy who will not be high-maintenance, so the Knicks could use a guy like that.

But the Knicks should take a risk by drafting a guy who has the potential to be a star in the NBA one day. They need a franchise changer, not a serviceable player. Bridges would be fine for a team like the Philadelphia 76ers, who have championship aspirations. He would not be a fit for a team that is so many pieces away from being a NBA title contender.

The Knicks need to draft either the best player available or based on upside, not based on need or not who can be a valuable contributor to a team. That means they should draft Knox, Carter or Sexton if any of the three land on their spot. If Young is somehow available, this is a no-brainer.

Yes, the Knicks have three point guards in Frank Ntilikina (last year’s first round draft pick), Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke. But that’s the point. If a team has three point guards vying for minutes, they don’t have a point guard. So the Knicks should explore the option of finding a point guard that can do better defensively and offensively. That’s why Sexton would be an intriguing pick, and that’s why Young should be the choice if he is somehow not drafted before the Knicks’ turn to draft.

Carter and Knox are intriguing. They have a chance to be special one day. They are big men that can make things happen on both ends of the court. The Knicks haven’t had a big man like that since Patrick Ewing. Those are dynamic players that can make a difference for a franchise that hasn’t drafted well since Ewing.

The NBA has become a shooting guard league, but there’s something valuable about big men that can be difference makers. Carter and Knox have the size, strength and toughness to play defense and be a dynamic scorer. Most importantly, they are explosive enough where they can be versatile on both ends.

They only played a year in college, but no matter. This should be to the Knicks’ advantage. They are not winning anything in the next two or three years. They might as well use this period to develop these guys now. For the Knicks, the next few years has to be about player development, not about being mediocre or being respectable.

The NBA is a young man’s league. That means stars grow at the age of 20 or 21. By the time those guys develop, this is where the Knicks can accelerate their timeline in being a contender again.

Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to have an exciting player for the next 10 or 15 years? There’s nothing interesting about this Knicks team as presently constituted. Even a healthy Kristaps Porzingis does nothing to make a New Yorker watch the Knicks on a cold January night.

Miles Bridges and Porter are guys that the Knicks should avoid.

In Porter’s case, he comes with a risk after coming off a back injury. An injury like that can be chronic forever, and it remains to be seen if he can ever regain the explosiveness that can help him be a good player. The Knicks can’t take that type of a risk.

Bridges has unbelievable talent, but he does not play defense and his shot selection left so much to be desired in his two years at Michigan State. Think Nate Robinson when thinking of this player. The Knicks have been there, done that.

The Knicks need to get it right with this draft pick. Their drafts have been awful for two decades now, which is why the franchise has stunk. As good as Porzingis is, he is still a suspect because of his inability to play a full season due to injuries. They need to get a guy who can be healthy and reliable.

If Perry and Mills get this right, build a statue for them since their predecessors have had a hard time getting it right in the draft.

They spent all of six months scouting these guys. They should have a good idea of who they want long time ago.

If they are smart, they realize high risk for potential could result to high rewards in a draft that is crapshoot like it always is.


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