Like Ian Begley of SNY said not too long ago, Raymond Felton is the best point guard the Knicks have had in recent memory.
Knicks fans know that a point guard is what the franchise desperately needs. Take a look at the other top teams in the league. Boston has Kemba Walker, Brooklyn has Kyrie Irving, Portland has Damian Lillard.
However, unless the Knickerbockers trade up, it seems that the talent at point guard in the 2020 NBA Draft takes a tumble after LaMelo Ball, who I believe will go third to the Hornets.
A few weeks ago, an article was posted indicating some backcourt players the Knicks could look at with the 27th pick, the pick they acquired from the Clippers for Marcus Morris.
Here we take a look at a handful of frontcourt players who could be available for the Knicks at number eight.
Obi Toppin // PF, Dayton
As mentioned in a previous article, Toppin might be the fourth-best player in the 2020 NBA Draft. If Toppin somehow slips all the way down to eighth, the Knicks should jump on it with zero hesitation. He averaged 31.6 MPG, and even 20.0 PPG on 63% shooting from the field to go along with 7.6 rebounds a game last season as a sophomore for the Flyers.
Toppin had a PER of 32.5 last season along with a .684 true shooting percentage and box plus/minus of 12.3.
Deni Avdija // SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Once upon a time, while playing 2k18 (or maybe it was an earlier version of the game) and fixing the Knicks like I am accustomed to doing, I suffered some bad luck and fell out of the top five. I came across some kid named Deni Avdija from Israel, who had A+ potential. I took a chance on him, he flourished and became the best European player in Knicks history.
What does that mean? Not a lot. It just means some European player was a projected top draft pick for the 2020 Draft and still is.
However, teams are falling in love with this kid. According to Eric Ting of SFGate, the Golden State Warriors were “blown away” by the 6’9” 19-year-old. Avdija averaged nearly 13.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.0 APG in 33 games (21 starts) in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. Alongside former Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire, Avdija helped Maccabi Tel Aviv claim their impressive 54th title. Avdija was named the Israeli League MVP, becoming the youngest player in league history to win the award.
However, it’s possible Avdija goes in the top five and the Knicks will miss out on filling in the small forward position that may be too tough for Kevin Knox.
Isaac Okoro // SF, Auburn
Now we dive into the players who have been consistently linked to the Knicks since dropping in the lottery.
The 6’6”, 225 lbs. Georgia native spent just one season in Auburn under Bruce Pearl. He averaged 12.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.0 APG on 51% shooting from the field, 27% from behind the arc, and 67% from the charity stripe. Okoro also started in all 28 games played.
Per 100 possessions, Okoro’s offensive rating finished at 116.5, while his defensive rating finished at 101.3.
Offensively, Okoro is already a reliable slasher. When he sees a lane to the rim, he will attack and attack hard. However, sometimes he drives too hard and loses control. He has a soft touch around the rim and can finish with both hands. While he drives, don’t be surprised to see a smooth euro step or spin move to get a little more space and get a step ahead of his defender. He’s also a terrific bouncer, he may be the best dunker in this draft class. We all know how a thunderous dunk can electrify Madison Square Garden.
But, if the Knicks are looking for a lights-out shooter, Okoro isn’t the guy. He doesn’t have the shooting mechanics, including at the free-throw line, and that’s something he is going to have to work very hard to adjust to when he gets to the next level. Okoro also passes up and looks uncomfortable when he can’t drive to the rim. However, there are flashes in Okoro’s game that shows a little improvement can lead to a smooth stroke and shooting effectively from outside the paint.
Defensively, Okoro is a stud. He stays on his assignment and rarely is caught out of position. He shows a high basketball IQ and matches up well with the opposing team’s best player. Okoro was often given the assignment to defend Anthony Edwards when Auburn went toe-to-toe with the Georgia Bulldogs. A mismatch is hard to find when Okoro is on defense as he can effectively both guards and forwards. He also isn’t a block/steals type of player. He tries to avoid risks, bad positioning, and fouling. Instead, he’ll get in a position to make the offensive player’s shot a little harder than what he anticipated.
A look at the advanced stats line shows a 19.1 PER, a .587 true shooting percentage, a .556 effective field goal percentage, and a 3.7 Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and a 2.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus.
Okoro was named to the 2020 Second Team All-SEC, the 2020 SEC All-Freshman Team, and the 2020 SEC All-Defensive Team.
Onyeka Okongwu // PF/C, USC
The 6’9”, 245lbs. Chino Hills, California native (yes, he could’ve been LaMelo’s teammate in high school) also spent just one season in college before declaring. Under Andy Enfield, Okongwu averaged 16.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG and 1.2 SPG while shooting 62% from the field and 72% from the line. He started in all 28 games he played.
Per 100 possessions, his offensive rating finished at 122.8 while his defensive rating ended up at 88.5. He also managed to average 5.1 blocks per 100 possessions.
Scouts say he has a great motor and uses that to fight for position when trying to secure an offensive rebound. They also love Okongwu in pick-and-roll situations. He has great balance and footwork in traffic. Again, although it’s a lost art in today’s game, he is already a solid post player, although this has to improve for it to work in the NBA. He can explode at the rim, usually taking off from two feet. Like I said before, Knicks fans know what a thunderous dunk could do at Madison Square Garden. All the potential is there.
Again though, if the Knicks are looking for lights out shooter, Okongwu isn’t the man. He rarely takes jump shots and took only four shots from behind the arc all season. He has a tendency to do this awkward hop when he catches the ball and lines up for a shot. Maybe he uses this to get in the rhythm, but it hasn’t quite panned out. He also needs to make better choices when passing. He also gets tunnel vision when he’s around the rim or after getting an offensive rebound.
Even at his size, he has shown the ability to use his 7’1” wingspan to get into passing lanes. He can defend pick-and-rolls effectively and can switch as he is projected to be a multi-positional defender. He’s got quick feet on defense, too. He quickly scrambles to cover space and plays longer than his wingspan. He may be the best blocker in this draft class, too, and has great instincts as a help defender. Even though it is a lost art in today’s game, don’t engage post with Okongwu defending. He knows how to use his length down on the low block, even though he sometimes stays too upright while defending the post. In the past few years, it seems like when the Knicks need a rebound, they don’t. Okongwu is a great rebounder, especially on offensive boards.
However, Okongwu has a tendency to fall for pump fakes, which leads to him flailing his arms to make up for it. He may also need to get a little stronger as he can get moved around.
The Knicks could have a deadly defensive/pick-and-roll duo in Okongwu and Mitchell Robinson.
Advanced stats tell a 31.1 PER, .645 true shooting percentage with a .618 effective field goal percentage with a 11.6 total box plus/minus.
Okongwu was named to the 2020 First Team All-Pac 12 team and the 2020 Pac 12 All-Freshman team.
The Knicks need to fill in many slots during this draft season. The only way to rebuild the correct way is by scouting and finally making the right decisions. All they need is two really good selections in the draft and I already feel like they made a good selection in RJ Barrett last season.
In Leon We Trust.
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