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Knicks GM Scott Perry’s draft decision: Sure thing or gamble

Selecting Villanova’s Mikal Bridges would be a safe bet, but 18-year-old Kentucky product Kevin Knox may have more upside.

Knicks general manager Scott Perry addresses the media

Knicks general manager Scott Perry addresses the media during a press conference at Madison Square Garden on May 8. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Knicks general manager Scott Perry is on the clock.

With the ninth pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, Perry has a chance to pick someone who will shape the Knicks’ future as well as Perry’s legacy as an executive.

This is the first time in nearly 20 years in NBA front offices that Perry is overseeing a team’s draft. Knicks president Steve Mills and assistant GM Gerald Madkins will have input. But to say this is an important pick for Perry, especially as the Knicks hope to build something sustainable, would be an understatement.

And with the ninth pick, Perry could go the safe route and select 21-year-old versatile Villanova forward Mikal Bridges or he could take a chance on 18-year-old Kentucky forward Kevin Knox, who some believe has the most upside of any player in the draft.

Perry, who was part of recent Magic and Kings front-office teams that received mixed draft reviews, could go any number of ways depending on what happens with picks two through eight.

The Knicks also are doing their diligence in case they can trade up. They met with Texas center Mo Bamba in Manhattan Wednesday, a league source confirmed. Bamba could go in the top five. Memphis, which owns the No. 4 choice, has been open to trading their pick.

If Duke power forward Wendell Carter Jr. drops to them, the Knicks might pounce as they visualize pairing him with Kristaps Porzingis for the next 10 years. Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. would be under consideration at nine if he is available, but his back issues could scare them off.

If Alabama playmaker Collin Sexton or Oklahoma’s dynamic point guard Trae Young fall, they would be in play too, particularly Sexton. But the Knicks already have a stable of young point guards: Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina, whom they drafted last year.

Either way, the Knicks should be able to get a talented player who fills one of their many needs. But the toughest call may be to decide between a ready-made player (Bridges) or someone who can grow with the team (Knox).

Bridges makes sense because he’s a small forward, good shooter and strong defender. He fits exactly what the Knicks are looking for.

“It would be really cool,” Bridges said Wednesday in Manhattan. “The coaching staff and organization are in a really good position. Coach [David] Fizdale is a really good guy. He’s about developing his players and winning. He comes from Miami and he knows what it takes to win. Coming from ’Nova and winning championships, we both know about the sacrifices to win.”

But the Knicks are not built to win next season. Porzingis is out indefinitely after tearing his ACL in February. They’re not expected to have much money in free agency this summer, not with Joakim Noah under contract and Enes Kanter’s $18.6-million player option that he is likely to pick up.

The Knicks hope to be spenders next summer. So they could choose to take a chance this draft on a still-developing player.

Knox is 6-9, still growing, and projects to play multiple positions. He’s not the defender Bridges is, but he has been compared to Paul George and Jayson Tatum. If Knox has such a high ceiling, he might be worth the wait.

“They’re really interested in me,” Knox said on Wednesday. “Coach Fizdale loves the way I can pretty much play everywhere on the court. He said he had me as a mismatch problem playing the three, being able to take little guys in the post and take big guys on the perimeter.”

The Knicks did extensive research on Knox, Bridges and prospects throughout the draft. They also own the No. 37 pick, which they acquired from Oklahoma City in the Carmelo Anthony trade.

Depending on what they do at nine, the Knicks could go for a big man (Western Kentucky’s Mitchell Robinson or Michigan’s Moritz Wagner) or a guard (Duke point guard Trevon Duval or Creighton shooter Khyri Thomas) in the second round.

Perry is on the clock.

Source: O’Quinn to opt out. Backup center Kyle O’Quinn has declined his $4.2-million player option and will become a free agent this summer, a league source said. This was expected after O’Quinn had his best season of his six-year career with averages of 7.1 points and 6.1 rebounds. With the Knicks’ center situation unsettled, it’s possible they could re-sign O’Quinn, a Queens native.

With Sal Cacciatore

New York Sports