All eyes were on the Knicks going into yesterday’s NBA Draft. Days prior, rumors surrounded the team regarding their sudden consideration to trade franchise player Kristaps Porzingis, and GM Phil Jackson received a massive beating from the New York media as a result. Jackson ultimately decided to hold onto the 21-year Latvian native, and moved forward with his three scheduled picks in the draft. In the end, the Knicks found themselves with Frank Ntilikina (No. 8), Damyean Dotson (No. 44) and Ognjen Jaramaz (No. 58), but failed to deal any of their trade chips, including Carmelo Anthony, Courtney Lee, and Kyle O’Quinn. Overall, Knicks fans seem ‘okay’ with the three selections, but this is just the beginning for the Knicks front office. While Jackson begins to ponder his next move, let’s take a look at each draft selection and attempt to predict their future contributions in the NBA.
The Knicks were not afraid to publicize their affection for Ntilikina, as they visited him numerous times over the past month or two. The 18-year old from France represents another high-upside pick that could pay off major dividends in the near future, but there is a considerable risk. Shortly after the selection, ESPN rated Ntilikina as the player with the highest potential to turn into a bust out of the entire draft class, so clearly the Knicks are taking a leap of faith here.
In terms of raw upside, Ntilikina is in a league of his own. He has elite size (6-5) for the point guard position, and the length that could make him into a more versatile defensive option. The French native impressed NBA scouts with his ability to score, as he finished his 2016-17 season shooting 43.1 percent from three-point range. He has also been seen as a solid finisher at the basket, showing flashes of being able to float shots over the outstretched hands of interior players. Finally, and perhaps the most interesting dynamic in his offensive arsenal, is Ntilikina’s capability of posting up smaller players. Point guards typically do not play with their backs to the basket, but Ntilikina wisely takes advantage of mismatches and bullies opponents down low.
Now, point guards have to pass the ball, right? Well, luckily for New York, Ntilikina has drawn comparisons to a number of solid NBA floor generals, including Dante Exum, Jrue Holiday, and Kirk Hinrich. Understandably so, fans may not be blown away with those names, just remember that we are strictly talking about Ntilikina’s court vision abilities. While still improving as a facilitator, he has evolved into a pick-and-roll specialist who knows how to turn the corner and find either the dive man or a fading shooter. It is quite possible that we see Ntilikina and Porzingis working on their pick-and-roll chemistry as soon as this upcoming season.
Lastly, Ntilikina’s bread and butter is his defensive potential. As mentioned earlier, his 6-5 frame allows him to lock down players at both guard positions, and lets him move fluidly around the court. As he puts some weight on, Ntilikina should have no problem keeping slashers in front of him on the drive. If you are looking for specific numbers, the 18-year old averaged 1.5 steals per 36 minutes in 2016-17. For a Knicks team that ranked No. 23 in points allowed per game, No. 25 in points allowed per 100 possessions, and No. 29 in points created via turnovers in 2016-17, Ntilikina could make an immediate defensive impact.
Overall, the Knicks took a chance with Ntilikina, but it was much needed. Words like ‘potential’, ‘aptitude’, and ‘capability’ will surround the 18-year old until he steps on the NBA hardwood, but for now the Knicks faithful should be glad that they snagged such a high-upside player in, frankly, a mediocre draft spot.
After two seasons at the University of Oregon, Dotson was dismissed from the basketball program due to sexual allegations. He then transferred to the University of Houston, and it did not take long for the Texas native to make a name for himself. As a senior, Dotson was named to the American Athletic Conference first-team after averaging 17.4 points and 6.9 rebounds. Additionally, he ranked in the top 10 nationally in three-point field goal percentage with 44.3 percent. The 23-year old also set a school record by making at least one three-point shot in 32 consecutive games.
Dotson’s greatest strength is his tremendous ability to shoot the ball. Standing at 6-6 and weighing 205 lbs, he has also earned the reputation as a plus-defender for his position, and should carry a degree of versatility that enables him to switch between shooting guard and small forward.
In terms of upside, it may be limited for the Houston product. Dotson seems to project as a one-dimensional player, as he has little value defensively without the three-ball. Nevertheless, this is a good pick by the Knicks as Dotson could be an immediate contributor to the team. Upon being drafted, experts predicted that Dotson could follow a similar journey as current-Spur Danny Green, who has carved out a very respectable NBA career. As a second-round pick, Dotson would be perceived well if he could do half of what Green has done in the NBA.
With the third-to-last pick in the entire draft, the Knicks took a flier on yet another international player. Jaramaz, 21, is a 6-5 guard from Serbia who averaged over 12 points per game last year for Mega Bemax, the same team that produced current-Nuggets-star Nikola Jokic. Equipped with good size and athleticism, Jaramaz has an interesting combination of traits that make him an intriguing pick. His vision, pick-and-roll polish, and outside shot have left something to be desired, but his height, transition offense, and defensive potential are all positives.
Still very young, Jaramaz will likely not see any in-game NBA action for at least another year or two. For now, he is slotted to participate in the upcoming Knicks Summer League, but will possibly return to Europe next season as a “draft-and-stash” prospect.