Knicks president Leon Rose looks on during a game against...

Knicks president Leon Rose looks on during a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The one thing we have learned from the history of the Knicks front office is that a lot of time and effort can be wasted by folks outside their doors trying to plot out mock drafts and speculating on a plan.

Three years ago the Knicks — led by team president Leon Rose, but with a wide cast of personalities in the room including not just advisers like Brock Aller and Walt Perrin, but also coach Tom Thibodeau — made three picks. By the time the dust settled they’d parlayed those into three trades, keeping just 58th pick Jericho Sims while shifting spots to land Quentin Grimes and Deuce McBride. A year later they entered with the 11th pick and shuffled around the draft, trading it for three first-round picks, then moved out of the draft completely.

Last summer marked the second straight season that the Knicks left the draft without a pick. But with three picks this time — Nos. 24 and 25 in the first round and a valuable second-round selection at No. 38 — the Knicks are expected to use the draft to bolster their roster. Expected is the key word. But a league source indicated that the Knicks would use the picks — although quickly adding, “But it could be in a trade.” So, again, no certainty as the draft arrives, possibly adding three players or packaging some of the picks (or moving one for a future pick) and maybe even using one to draft and stash an overseas prospect.

But the Knicks do need to find depth for their roster and with the team's veterans due for raises and contract extensions, the need for roster help at low cost makes the draft truly valuable for the franchise.

As some of the players down the roster might tell you, the Knicks have depth and a rotation that is hard to break into, but in a draft that many have criticized for lack of star talent, one Knicks official insisted, “All drafts have players. You just have to find them.” And even in the lower reaches of the draft the Knicks have a track record of recent success — something Perrin did in Utah before joining the Knicks. The Knicks got Grimes with the 25th pick in 2021 — the same draft that netted them McBride at No. 36 overall and Sims at No. 58.

So barring some very surprising deal moving them drastically up, they will watch the lottery picks get selected and then put the scouting to work. They don’t have an issue with that. At the back end of the first round the cost is lower — and even lower in the second round without the guarantees of a first-round pick. So if you find talent there it provides relief for a team contending with the free agency of OG Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein as well as the possible contract extensions for Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle.

The uncertainty at the top of the draft could mean talented players trickling through the lottery and into the range of the Knicks picks. And with the possibility of losing Hartenstein (or dealing away Mitchell Robinson to alleviate salary-cap issues), that could mean a big man like Kel’el Ware, who excelled in his one season at Indiana. A 7-foot center with athleticism and a 7-4 wingspan, he has drawn comparisons to Dereck Lively II for his rim protection — but also has showed the ability to stretch the floor offensively. Baylor’s Yves Missi, is not as polished offensively, but is a mobile rim protector.

The Knicks front office, as with most things they do, try to act in silence. They refuse to announce players brought in for workouts, but the gym at the training facility has been filled with a steady stream of prospects over recent weeks. The name most often associated with the team from those workouts is Ryan Dunn, who hails from Freeport and graduated from Long Island Lutheran High School after spending a season at Oak Hill. Dunn then spent a post-grad season at the Perkiomen School before two seasons at the University of Virginia.

Dunn measured 6-6 with a 7-1 wingspan at the NBA Combine and projects as an immediate defensive force. He has a high-motor and is a highly skilled defender. Dunn possesses some offensive skills to work with, doing most of his damage around the rim as a cutter and slasher. But he has worked extensively with Don MacLean, the former UCLA sharpshooter who trains prospects, and some scouts believe his 22% shooting from three-point range will improve with time.

Some of the other names speculated in their pick range could fill a need, like Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, Duke’s Jared McCain and USC’s Isaiah Collier — all guards capable of running an offense on the second unit.

"Obviously playing for [Thibodeau], it takes a certain type of guy to be able to handle those demands," ESPN draft analyst Jeremy Woo said. "I think finding guys who can help and play minutes next season to kind of get through the grind of a season. Ideally, it's someone who can help you. But the draft is interesting. I think there's some interesting guys who might slide."

Help is there, as the Knicks official said, as long as you can find it. The Knicks have been pretty good at finding it and with three chances, — at least entering the draft, they will likely will be adding some new faces.

5 PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ryan Dunn, Virginia, 6-6, F, 21 years old — The question is how is he not the Knicks' pick? Local kid (Freeport), repped by CAA, possessing elite defensive talent — think OG Anunoby Lite, able to block shots, with tremendous hustle for help defense. Needs to improve on perimeter shooting but with good form and he should eventually check that box, too..

Johnny Furphy, Kansas, 6-8, Wing, 19  While we search for defense when considering a Tom Thibodeau pick it’s hard to pass on the offensive upside and potential here. He showed a smooth shooting stroke and playmaking ability, and even if he’s not yet strong at 189 pounds and lacking combine numbers for athleticism, he does at least try defensively.

Jared McCain, Duke, 6-2, PG, 20  Sort of under the radar, but if the Knicks need a point guard to lead the second unit McCain fits with natural playmaking and leadership instincts.

Tyler Kolek, Marquette, 6-1, PG, 23 — One scout pointed to TJ McConnell’s postseason performance and said that’s why Kolek will be a first-rounder. Like McCain, heady offensive skills and hard-nosed defense.

Kel’el Ware, Indiana, 7-foot, C, 20  With Isaiah Hartenstein an unrestricted free agent and Mitchell Robinson’s injury history as well as salary-cap logistics, securing a big in the draft makes sense. If he’s still around Ware shows not just the rim protection with a 7-4 wingspan but also the ability to shoot from the perimeter.

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