2013 NBA Draft: ‘Pass’ or ‘Draft’, 6 Prospects on the New York Knicks Radar
'Draft' or 'Pass': 6 New York Knicks Draft Prospects Get Graded
Unless they are able to pull off a deal yielding multiple picks, the New York Knicks will draft just one player on June 27. Will they choose the player with the best potential or the one with the best college production? Will they opt for need over the selecting the best player available, or vice versa? Will their draft pick be too raw or will he have some sort of height or speed deficiency that will hamper him at the next level?
Being that the Knicks draft position is less than ideal, New York will likely draft a player who will probably not make the starting lineup next season. However, once in a while, a team holding a late round pick comes up aces, like when the San Antonio Spurs drafted point guard Tony Parker with the 28th Pick in 2001 and the Detroit Pistons selected small forward Tayshaun Prince with the 23rd pick in 2002.
Can the Knicks possibly hit with a late round pick? Right now, it’s too early to tell. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. The Knicks hit the mark when it drafted University of Florida Forward David Lee with the 30th pick in the 2005 draft. With the 23rd pick in the 2007 draft, New York scooped up another productive player in Wilson Chandler, who now dons a Denver Nuggets uniform. The Knicks will need similar luck this year, because it will not have a first-round draft pick until 2015. Next year’s pick goes to the Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal.
In recent weeks, the team brought in a host of players for its pre-draft work out, from point guards and big men to swing players. Knicks brass knows it has to cash in on this draft because it lacks the salary flexibility to make significant upgrades via free agency. Sorry to say it Knicks fans, University of Miami dynamo Shane Larkin will probably not be there when your team picks.
With that in mind, here are the six most intriguing names the team has worked out so far. Each pick brings something to the table. Yet, only a few are worth drafting for the Knickerbockers. Without further adieu, here are the candidates under consideration.
Tacuma R. Roeback is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TacumaRoe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+
Center Jeff Withey, Kansas
The Knicks are in desperate need of a big man who can protect the rim. But selecting the 6-foot-11 Withey with the 24th pick would be a heck of a reach for a player who lacks strength, lateral quickness and offensive ability. While he could provide valuable in a reserve role as a defender, Withey will likely get pushed around by the stronger centers and power forwards of the NBA.
Scouts also question his mental toughness. As of right now, what Withey brings to the NBA is a defensive center that will only make an impact as a rebounder and shot blocker at this point. Because he is one of the older guys being drafted at 23, scouts question whether there is any real upside to his game.
Shooting Guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan
The kid with the famous bloodlines, who never met a shot he didn’t like, worked out for the Knicks this week. He has been shooting up draft boards because of his impressive NBA Draft Combine numbers, particularly in the three-quarter court sprint and bench press. Hardaway has a solid, pro-ready jump shot and is a terror in transition (this is a good thing). He is a solid finisher and can flat-out score.
Yet, there are negatives. For one, he settles for too many jump shots and doesn’t get to the free throw line enough. While he was the second leading scorer for his NCAA Championship runner-up Michigan Wolverines, he has been wildly inconsistent in his three years in Ann Arbor.
Still, the pedigree, athleticism and size are intriguing. And while the Knicks have a swingman on its roster whose athleticism is superior in Iman Shumpert, Hardaway, Jr. is more polished offensively. The son of the father who terrorized the NBA with his double-crossover dribble throughout the 1990’s would be an intriguing addition to the Knicks, particularly if volume shooting swingman J.R. Smith walks.
Power Forward Tony Mitchell, North Texas
There are athletes and then there are ‘aff-elites’. You read that right. The intentional misspelling in the latter term is to illustrate how physically gifted some guys are over others. And Tony Mitchell is a testament to the fact that some people on this earth were the pre-selected winners of the genetic lottery.
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward is an explosive leaper who can finish. His physical tools are astounding. He has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and the potential to be a good shot blocker and offensive rebounder at the next level. Yet, whenever a specimen this impressive is available in the latter part of the first round, there are significant question marks usually.
Scouts question Mitchell’s motor and mental approach. Academic issues forced him to sit out his 2010-11 year. His numbers this past season were mostly down from his 2011-12 stats. Mitchell is still a very raw prospect who lacks a definite position. He has the physical tools to be a power forward or small forward, but lacks the requisite skills particular to either of those positions. Yet, with Mitchell, there is that tantalizing word of “If.” If he fulfills his potential and polishes his game to complement his remarkable athletic gifts, those armchair historians of hindsight will declare him the steal of the draft.
But if he doesn’t improve, he will be just one more gifted athlete whose lack of progress relegates him to the dregs of the NBA. But, alas, that “If” word is too enticing to ignore.
Small Forward Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Knicks fans are still scratching their heads at the team’s decision to ink Steve Novak to a four-year contract last year. It’s a befuddling deal in that Novak was about as useful as a busted cup holder this past postseason.
Yet, in today’s NBA, guys who can shoot and space the floor are at a premium. For more evidence of this see Danny Green and Gary Neal ’s two-man machine-gunning of the Miami Heat in game 3 of the NBA Finals, where they shot a combined 68 percent from three-point range.
North Carolina Small Forward Reggie Bullock is a quality, long-range shooter who knocked down 44 percent of his threes this season. His ability to catch and shoot is off the charts. He has a sweet stroke and possesses nice size for a small forward at 6-foot-7, 205 pounds.
However, he is a poor ball handler who has difficulty creating his own shot. Plus, he is not the greatest athlete, which puts a crimp in his ability to start at the next level. Bullock has an average first step and lacks good lateral quickness. Plus, he has trouble beating his guy in isolation situations, according to DraftExpress, a site that features college basketball scouting reports.
Bullock is not the strongest guy, either. In the NBA, he will have to go ‘mano-a-mano’ against NBA small forwards, many of whom are stronger, more fleet and explosive. Still the North Carolina Tarheel has a place in the league: “Though [Bullock] may not be a glamorous NBA prospect, his standout shooting ability, size on the wing and the little things he does on both ends give him plenty of potential as role player.”
But in assessing Bullock’s attributes, they are very similar to a guy that the Knicks already have, assuming they are able to retain his services next season: Chris Copeland . Would it make sense to draft a guy when your roster already has one or two players who have a similar set of attributes? I say no.
Point Guard Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Jason Kidd’s retirement left a gaping void on the Knicks roster for a playmaking point guard. Enter Isaiah Canaan, the Murray State guard whose chief asset is scoring. He led his Murray State Racers by notching 21.8 points per game this past season. Canaan is more than just a proficient shot maker. He is adept at catching and shooting and nailing jumpers off the dribble. He is also one of the few prospects in this draft who played all four years in college. Thus, he has the polish to step in immediately and contribute to an NBA ball club.
He’s relatively short, measuring out to 6-foot in shoes, but powerfully built, a bowling ball of an athlete who led all point guards in the bench press at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
Yet, just like the arm-length measurement for offensive linemen in the NFL, the height-speed ratios for small guards, no matter how superficial they may seem, is an important predictor of future success in the pros.
There have been players shorter than Canaan who have achieved in the NBA, like Nate Robinson, who is listed at 5-foot-9. But Robinson’s athleticism is otherworldly, allowing him to compensate for his lack of verticality. People also forget that Robinson could have easily made his bones as an NFL cornerback.
So the knock on Canaan is whether his scoring and defensive abilities will transfer over to the NBA, where the point guards are bigger and possess the kind of lateral quickness that can be blinding. Plus, scouts wonder if he would be able to finish over bigger guys in the pros. I wrote a column expressing the feeling that the Knicks should pass on Canaan, opting instead for a bigger, more athletic point, which they currently don’t have on their roster.
Yet, there is something to this young man’s heart. Canaan, who was under recruited in high school, made the mid-major Murray State a known entity in college basketball. He is a winning player who excels because he has something to prove.
That same attitude propelled him to become one of the top performers at The Chris Paul Elite Point Guard Camp in 2012, competing with likely NBA draftees like Trey Burke and CJ McCollum . And very few players, no matter what level, can boast about leading his team to a 31-2 record. Canaan can. It’s tough to overlook the positives, despite the shortcomings.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward Glen Rice, Jr., Rio Grande Valley Vipers (NBADL)
This guy is lucky to have a famous father. Otherwise he might be playing for a basketball team in Guam. Unlike Tim Hardaway, Jr., Rice, Jr. doesn’t have substantial on-court production after being kicked off of Georgia Tech’s basketball team in 2012 for disciplinary reasons. During his time with the Yellow Jackets, he was suspended and benched multiple times for disciplinary reasons.
He left Georgia Tech to play in the NBA’s D-League, where he posted some impressive numbers, averaging 18 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists in 25 starts for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, according to DraftExpress. Rice, Jr. upped that production in the playoffs, where he averaged 25 points and 9.5 rebounds in six games (29 points per game in the Finals).
The aforementioned numbers proves that there’s more to this kid than his name. This 22-year-old played against some grown men and delivered. Scouts believe that Rice can take his offensive skills to the NBA and still eat and well.
“Like his father, Rice's most attractive skill lies in his jump-shot, which he's honed into an extremely dangerous weapon as of late,” states DraftExpress.
He is a good spot up shooter who has a developing offensive game. And while he has good size for a shooting guard at 6’6” and 198 pounds, he lacks the top-end speed and explosiveness that the shooting guard position demands. Still, in four months, Rice, Jr. went from being “hated” to becoming celebrated by scouts. It certainly helps that his father, Glen, Sr., put up 18,336 points in the NBA and is 14th all-time in three-point field goals made. There’s something to those bloodlines. This boy has his daddy’s game.
Still, does he add anything dramatically different to the Knicks roster besides scoring? Not really. While Rice is intriguing, the Knicks should bypass this mercurial prospect.