NBA New York Knicks

2014 NBA Draft: 5 Players The New York Knicks Should Target

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5 Players The New York Knicks Should Target In 2014 NBA Draft

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are having a season to forget. A year after nabbing the second seed in the East and looking like true contenders, the Knicks look like they’ll miss the playoffs. There should be a silver lining in the form of a lottery pick for New York in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.

But that rarely seems the case with the Knicks. While the NBA has banned trading picks in back-to-back years, the Knicks have traded pretty much every pick they have been allowed to.

This year is no different, even though it might be more excusable. The Knicks traded it to the Denver Nuggets in the trade that landed them Carmelo Anthony. In fact, the Knicks don’t even have a second-round pick this year. So, why care about this draft?

Well, later in the first and early in the second, it becomes easier to acquire picks. By that point, the players remaining are far from a certainty, and several teams don’t have the roster spot to use on a fringe player. At that point, cash considerations become more valuable to teams.

The Knicks have done this plenty in the past; they’ve even traded into the first round before. In 2009, they picked up Toney Douglas with the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round pick at 29.

This year’s draft is particularly deep, meaning there could be a solid player available late in the first, or even in the second round. With little resources to make moves in free agency, the Knicks should have the roster spots to gamble on a pick or two.

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5. Cleanthony Early

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Cleanthony Early was a big part of the Wichita State team that made the Final Four last year. He has continued his strong play during the Shockers' undefeated regular season.

While he is not very big, he has been a great offensive rebounder and a strong post scorer. He also has a reliable jumper and could help space the floor for the Knicks as an undersized power forward, or if Anthony plays the four, a strong rebounder from the three.

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4. CJ Fair

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CJ Fair is that player who is good at pretty much everything, but not great at anything. Despite being the preseason ACC player of the year and largely coming through on that promise, it looks like he might slip out of the first round. That could be a great coup for the Knicks, who would be glad to keep the Syracuse forward in New York.

Fair would most likely be a bench player for the Knicks, but provides strong rebounding, sound shooting, adept passing, and a very high basketball IQ. He can be that energy and glue guy for a team that is severely lacking in both.

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3. Aaron Craft

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This starts a string of senior point guards from big-time college programs. The Knicks clearly have a need at point guard, and getting one of these players could give immediate help to the franchise.

Aaron Craft isn’t the flashiest player, and Ohio State is far from an offensive juggernaut, but he is one of the better defensive players in college basketball and has been a winner at every level he has played at. More importantly, he is a smart player and a pass-first point guard, which is exactly what the Knicks need.

He probably doesn’t have a high ceiling, but as a senior, he should be able to contribute right away for the Knicks.

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2. Keith Appling

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Keith Appling is another player who will probably contribute more on the defensive end than the offensive one. Granted, he is probably a better scorer than Craft is.

Appling has been an inconsistent shooter most of his college career, but has shown improvement season to season and should continue to improve in the NBA. He has also improved as a distributor, as Michigan State has asked him to take on more. He is a bit turnover-prone, but has strong scoring instincts.

He might not be as strong a contributor when he first comes in, but he probably has a higher ceiling than Craft.

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1. Shabbaz Napier

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Shabazz Napier was part of the UConn team that won a national title. He is a strong scorer with a great jump shot. He isn’t the greatest passer, but he is a good one who has improved every season; he is electrifying in transition, and he would be great teamed with Tim Hardaway Jr.

He is also one of the top players in the country, making appearances on the Wooden Watch, and he is great in the clutch. The Huskies are one of only two teams to beat Florida this season, and it came on a last second shot by Napier.

He isn’t the strongest defender or an explosive athlete, but like Hardaway, he should be able to contribute in his rookie year.