Tagged: James Harden

Handicapping the Knicks’ Pick

In my opinion, here are the odds of the Knicks drafting popular lottery prospects, from most to least likely:

Stephen Curry: 75%

This seems like a lock. Not only is Curry immensely talented but he also fills a need. With other prospects, you might have to give up some talent for fit or some fit for talent. It makes too much sense, and my impression of Curry’s constant expressions of love for the Knicks is that he’s trying to make clear that he’ll be unhappy playing elsewhere.

As an aside, I’ve often pointed to Bob Knight’s statement that Curry is one of the best passers to ever play college ball. Larry Brown, who is a harsh critic, particularly when it comes to point guards, echoed those sentiments, saying “I heard people rave about the way he shoots the ball. The most impressive thing to me is how he passes the ball. He’s a great passer.”

Johnny Flynn: 25%

It’s just a hunch but I think the order of preference for the Knicks is Rubio, Curry, Holiday and Flynn. Flynn is the second most likely choice because Holiday has quickly risen up draft boards. So if Curry is off the table, I think Flynn is the choice. And a good choice he’d be. While he’s not the best shooter, a lot of players come into the league with below average jumpers. It’s fixable. What Flynn does have is heart, hustle, good length, great point guard skills, and a winning attitude.

Jrue Holiday: 20%

In the unlikely event that Curry is selected before Holiday, and Holiday slides, the Knicks will scoop him up. He has risen quickly up draft boards because of his size, speed, and athleticism. Those are good traits to have in general, but alone they will not make you a good point guard. Holiday is a bit of a risk because while it is undeniable that he has all the physical tools to play in the NBA, his jumper is suspect, and his passing is unproven, as he played only one season at UCLA and played off the ball. In my opinion, the best way to evaluate a player is game film, so his sharp ascent might lead to a letdown. Maybe he’ll be Chauncey Billups one day, but maybe he’ll be Antonio Daniels.

Hasheem Thabeet: 15%

It’s hard to peg Thabeet’s place in the draft. The only team that was rumored to really like him was Memphis, but now they seem more enamored with Tyreke Evans and a rumored trade with the Kings in which they swap picks makes a lot of sense for both teams. It is possible though that he could wind up with Oklahoma or Washington. Minnesota is set up front (though they can add him to the rotation) and Golden State is repeating an experiment I tried in NBA Live once where my roster exclusively guards. There has been rumored interest on the part of Donnie Walsh for Thabeet, but I don’t think he loses a shot at a real point guard for Thabeet. Maybe a Lee or Nate or Harrington or Hughes trade for Etan Thomas, Mike James (Jon originally came up with this idea and it makes sense) and the 5th pick could land the Knicks Thabeet and still allow them to draft a point.

Jordan Hill: 15%

There haven’t been any Hill to the Knicks whispers at all, but he seems to be a popular candidate to slide in many mock drafts. He’d be a cheap Lee replacement but would offer more toughness than Lee and would block a shot or two. Still not sure if Donnie prefers that to a play-maker though.

Tyreke Evans: 10%

Evans has great size and athleticism. He’s a physical presence in the back-court or even as a 3, but be sure, he’s a wing, not a point guard. Not only that but he will dominate the ball, pound it into the ground, and shoot poorly. There has been reported interest on behalf of the Knicks but I’m selling that rumor as a smokescreen. Just because the Knicks are calling a guy’s agent, or trying to schedule workouts, it doesn’t mean he’s a legitimate target. The Knicks have had their fair share over the last epoch of selfish players who pound the ball into the ground and either recklessly bull their way into the paint or heave up a jumper (Marbury, Crawford, Robinson, Francis), and they won’t take a chance on another one.

James Harden: 5%

Harden’s basketball IQ and scoring prowess would force the Knicks to take a long hard look at him if he is still on the board at 8. It would almost certainly mean that both Curry and Holiday have been selected. People knock Harden’s athleticism but he has been compared to Paul Peirce, who isn’t overly athletic and who slid to 10 on draft day somehow.

Ricky Rubio: 5%

There is a chance that the Knicks could land Rubio. Reportedly Rubio is wants to play for the Knicks. But unless he says he will play only for the Knicks, the chances of getting him are very small because other teams he would consider would have more to offer the Grizzlies in a trade. If he did issue such an ultimatum, Knicks fans should be prepared to lose Wilson Chandler in exchange, since it is unlikely that David Lee, who is a restricted free-agent, and thus can simply take the qualifying offer if he doesn’t consent to his destination in a sign and trade, would agree to go to Memphis. At that point you have to ask yourself, with the Knicks looking to win now, does it really make them better to give up 8 and Chandler for a 17 year old who is sure to require time to adjust to a faster game with stronger opponnents and a new culture? I see this trade happening only if the Grizzlies can be convinced to accept an expiring contract and a future draft pick in exchange.

Brandon Jennings: 1%

There hasn’t been any indication that the Knicks have interest in Jennings, and why should they? Why should anyone in the first half of the draft? Jennings showed promise in high school against boys half his size but so did Gerald Green and Kwame Brown. After high school, Jennings went to Europe and barely got off the bench in Italy. Then was replaced on his squad for the playoffs by a back-up power forward. I don’t buy the notion that he should be given slack because he’s 18. So is Rubio. Again, even though he might be good one day, the Knicks are trying to win now, and it is unlikely that Jennings will bring anything to the table next year at point guard.

Prospect Wish List and Ish List

I’m not as saavy as to the college game as Jon, but I do have my opinions. I put together a wish list and an ish list for this year’s draft.

Wish List (only 8 deep, since it’s pointless to go past 8):

1. Stephen Curry: Elite shooter, elite passer, elite basketball I.Q., astute team defender. Talk about fitting like a glove.

2. Ricky Rubio: Jason Kidd to Curry’s Nash. Great defender, elite passer, creative with the ball, not much of a J.

3. Blake Griffin: Beast. Elite rebounder. Polished offensively. Not a shotblocker or much of a defender, even though he promises he’ll defend on the next level. Reminds me of David Lee in that he’ll take a punch, but will he give one? More talented than David Lee but I’m not sure I want the lane to be a freeway to the paint anymore.

4. James Harden: High basketball I.Q., patient, lets the game come to him, knows how to read the D to set up his O without forcing anything.

5. Jrue Holiday: Apparently a solid point guard who played out of position and thus didn’t get to show it off. But it’s clear that he can defend.

6. Jordan Hill: Reminds me of a big Balkman (and not because of the hair). He’s hyperactive, blocks shots, defends, and chases down rebounds. He has size at 6’10 so you can stick him at center where he can be a weakside defender a la Camby. Downside? Chris Wilcox (not because of the hair).

7. Hasheem Thabeet: Shotblocking skills are unquestionable. But what else? Doesn’t have great footwork and isn’t particularly nimble, so I don’t really ever see him becoming a threat on offense. Got pushed around and outrebounded easily by DuJuan Blair in college, who is about 8 inches shorter than Thabeet. Hey, at least Chad Ford notes that he can hit a 10-15 foot jumper…in an empty gym.

8. Johnny Flynn: Great leader, super fast, great passer, intense, a winner.

Ish List:

1. Tyreke Evans: Just what the Knicks need: another guard to pound the ball into the ground for 20 seconds and then bull his way into the paint or chuck up a desperation jumper. Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, I’m looking in your general direction. Poor shooter, not a willing passer. Doesn’t fit into SSOL.

2. Brandon Jennings: Risk/reward just isn’t there, especially with more solid options like Curry, Lawson, Flynn, Maynor, and Calathes. He goes to Europe because he can’t get into college (we need a smart player at PG), and can’t get off the bench, doesn’t seem to have one particularly useful skill that he’s shown in game action, and might get cut from his team for a back-up power forward. You might say, he’s 19 and playing in Europe against top competition, cut him some slack! Yea? Well Gallo was playing against equally tough competition and was a top player on his team. Same with Rubio. Maybe Jennings will be a good pro, but I’d prefer some other team gamble on him.

3. Gerald Henderson: Fancy Shandon Anderson? No thanks. He can defend and he’s athletic but he couldn’t hit the side of a barn with his J. Tell me how that fits into SSOL?

Knicks FanBlog Sweet 16

We won’t be doing any mock drafts in this space until Tuesday evening following the results of the lottery but, in the meantime, here’s our ranking of the top 16 prospects that are eligible for this year’s draft. This list is simply based on our own impressions and opinions of these players (although names are linked to their profiles at DraftExpress.com). We’re not trying to present some sort of consensus of how these prospects are viewed by the draft experts. Without further ado:

  1. Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
  2. Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
  3. James Harden, SG, Arizona State
  4. Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
  5. Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
  6. DuJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
  7. Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
  8. Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA
  9. Earl Clark, F, Louisville
  10. Demar DeRozan, G/F, USC
  11. Terence Williams, G/F. Louisville
  12. Brandon Jennings, PG, Virtus Roma
  13. Nick Calathes, G, Florida
  14. Eric Maynor, PG, VCU
  15. Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
  16. Jonny Flynn PG, Syracuse
  • We imagine the first two aren’t very controversial but it did take us a few minutes to decide between Rubio and Griffin for the top spot. In the end, after some discussion, we decided that a big man with Griffin’s athleticism and ability is just too valuable a commodity to pass on in that first spot. But we’re both big believers in Rubio and Griffin has some limitations that make him less than a cornerstone player (you can read about that here).
  • We also struggled with where to slot Thabeet. A player with his size and athleticism has a pretty big built-in upside but he has big-time bust potential as well. In the end, though, we think his ceiling is probably something like Sam Dalembert or Joel Pryzbilla and just couldn’t justify putting him any higher than 7th.
  • You’ll notice how guard heavy this list is. This draft is almost completely devoid of capable big men. A good argument could be made for James Johnson of Wake Forest as a top 16 prospect (he was one of the last cuts), but we like the guards better.
  • And, considering how guard heavy the list is, we know that some will think we’re crazy for leaving Tyreke Evans off our list. But we are not Evans supporters at this blog. Evans is the type of player who would have thrived with Isiah’s no accountability, chuck-and-duck version of the Knicks. Yes, we know he won a whole bunch of games in a row with Memphis in Conference USA. He’ll be a fine pick for the Warriors or any other team that values guards who pound the ball into the ground for 20 seconds and then force up contested shots.
  • It should also be noted that Dan has serious reservations about Brandon Jennings and, if this wasn’t a collaboration, he might not even have him in his Top 16. In the end, though, he was sort of persuaded (but not really) that at 12, his upside justified the risk.
  • Originally the list was going to be a “fine 15″, but we couldn’t decide between Lawson or Flynn so we just expanded it to 16 players. Those two, while very different types of PGs, were difficult to distinguish between for the purpose of this list.

Of course, we welcome debate.

NCAA First Round Games to Watch

Here’s a primer for the first round of the NCAA tournament. These aren’t necessarily the games I’d watch if I was just trying to enjoy the tournament, but these are the most interesting games from the standpoint of getting a chance to see college prospects that might interest the Knicks in the upcoming draft in June:

UCLA v. Virginia Commonwealth: This is, in my opinion, by far the most intriguing first round game in the entire tournament. Aside from the fact that it should be an exciting game (VCU could very well take down the Bruins), the game also offers us a chance to see Eric Maynor, a player some consider the best PG in the country, go up against Darren Collison, UCLA’s fine senior PG and Jrue Holiday, a freshman combo G who is the future of UCLA’s program (unless he decides to go pro).

Maynor is a guy the Knicks should definitely have their eye on as he’s a pure point who can score, sees the floor well, and makes great decisions with the basketball. He’s also shown that he plays big on the biggest stages (witness this two minute stretch in the finals of the Colonial league’s 2007 conference tourney and this stirring upset of Duke in the 2007 NCAAs). Opinions really run the gamut on Maynor. As I said earlier, some see him as the best PG in the college game while others see him as a somewhat limited prospect due to his slight frame and just average athleticism. The tournament will likely help to shape a consensus and a good showing against UCLA could give his draft stock a big boost.

Collison is an NBA-ready backup PG. He has a slight frame, he’s not flashy and he doesn’t have the great floor vision to be an elite PG but Collison is a great on-the-ball defender and he knows how to run a team. In this game look for him to put a ton of on-the-ball pressure on Maynor and make him work hard for everything he gets. Holiday has a much bigger upside but has largely tended to defer to his more experienced teammates this season. He’s a great athlete with a refined skill-set but we really won’t get a chance to see what he’s capable of until next season when (and if) he takes over the PG reins. If Holiday has a big tournament it’s possible he could declare but if he goes back to school and has a big year running the show he could work his way into the top 5-10 picks of the 2010 draft.

Arizona St. at Temple: I’d especially urge you to check this game out if you haven’t seen James Harden play yet. Harden is a virtual lock for the top 5 in this year’s draft. It’s his basketball IQ that makes him so fun to watch. He simply refuses to force the issue. If the defense he’s facing is set up to deny him good looks, Harden patiently makes plays for his teammates. If the defense changes up to offer some opportunities, he immediately recognizes and starts looking for his offense. His ability to think the game has led to a lot of Brandon Roy comparisons. He loves to set up on the wing and then attack towards the elbow looking to either get to the rim or create an easy bucket for a teammate. If the defense gives him space, he’s a very capable shooter with NBA 3 point range. Harden’s not a great defender but, as with everything else, he’s very smart at that end of the court. And ASU plays a lot of zone.

Temple sports Dionte Christmas, a senior wing who is, right now, a solid second round prospect. Christmas is a primarily a perimeter shooter in the Michael Redd mold but, like Redd, he can score in a multitude of ways when the 3-ball isn’t falling. He’s is a good athlete and a decent defender. With a good tournament he could catapult himself up into the back end first round. In D’Antoni’s system the Knicks will always need players that can stroke it and if DW can acquire an extra pick in the late first/early second round area, Christmas could make some sense for the Knicks as a guard off the bench who can help space the floor.

Also, keep an eye on ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph. He’s a smart, reasonably athletic big that should find a home in the NBA.

The Knicks are bad. Let’s talk draft, Part I.

Ok, at least to this point, the season’s not going quite as well as some of us hoped. Fans aching for a contender continue to wander in the desert for what, by now, must feel like 40 years. I’m a glass half-full kind of guy though and, to me, the best thing about being a fan of a lousy team is that you can start to salivate at the thought of drafting one of the best amateur or European players in the world. Of course, the Knicks look like they’re going to have the great good fortune of owning a lottery pick in what’s shaping up to be one of the worst drafts in a while. Nevertheless, let’s all dream along together and take a look at some top prospects that would look mighty fine in orange and blue. (I’ve linked each player’s name to his scouting report and profile at Draft Express).

Greg Monroe, Freshman, Georgetown, 6’10, 226As we’re all painfully aware, the Knicks are in dire need of some size. Monroe is tall. But there’s more. He’s also very skilled. In Georgetown’s version of the Princeton offense, Monroe gets the ball at the elbow where he shows the ability to make great passes to dive cutters or open shooters, face up and take it to the hole, or take the elbow jumper. In fact, his range extends past the 3 point line. When he gets chances down low, he also shows an advanced low post game (although it’s all left-handed). Defensively, he’s a good rebounder and very good shot blocker. Of course, there’s also a downside. Scouts question whether he has the will to dominate the way his talent suggests he should. So while his upside might be something like Chris Webber from his Sacramento days, he may level off as something closer to a taller version of Boris Diaw.

Stephen Curry, Junior, Davidson, 6’3, 185 – By now, everyone who follows the college game even a little has seen Stephen Curry. For those of you like Dan out there who have a college basketball allergy (Dan has seen him, by the way), here’s what you need to know: Steph Curry can flat score. He has rare scoring instincts and the range on his shot extends to pretty much anywhere in the gym. During last year’s tournament it was astounding to watch him spend the first 10 minutes working out how he was being guarded and then use the last 30 shredding that defensive concept. In past seasons he’d been strictly a scorer working off the ball but this year he’s played a lot of point and shown that he can see the floor well and capably run a team. On defense, he gives a solid effort and racks up the steals. The downside? He’s not very long or tall for a combo guard and he’s not a great athlete. Some scouts worry that his size and athletic limitations will prevent him from being able to recreate the magic as a pro. I respectfully disagree. The NBA comparisons range from Steve Nash to Dell Curry, his sharpshooting father. But his dad never showed the kind of ball skills or court sense that Stephen does. I think he’ll top out somewhere closer to Nash. He’d fit well in D’Antoni’s system be a great get for the Knicks.

James Harden, Sophomore, Arizona St., 6’4 , 220 – Perhaps because he plays out west for a team that’s not a traditional power or perhaps just because of how he goes about his business, it seems like Harden gets overlooked a little. He’s the best guard in the college game though, and, as much as I love Curry, it’s really not that close. Harden is a classic example of the type of player you can watch all game, think he hasn’t done anything, and then when you look at the box score he’s racked up 25, 8 and 5. He just knows how to play, which is to say, he let’s the game to come to him until it becomes apparent that he has to take over, and then he does. He’s not overwhelmingly athletic and he doesn’t do anything flashy but he has a great NBA body with long arms. He goes strong to the hole and shoots it consistently with range well beyond the 3 point line. Arizona St. plays a lot of zone so it’s tough to gauge his defense but he’s rarely out of position and always seems to understand how the other team is trying to attack. Downside? With Harden there really isn’t much of one. The most you can say is that the lack of explosive athleticism may prevent him from becoming a super-duper star but out of all the players in this year’s draft, if I had to bet on one reaching his full potential, I’d bet on Harden.