Reality set in for the Knicks and their fans Thursday night as the team again found no joy on NBA Draft Lottery night, tumbling from the sixth-worst record to the No. 8 spot in the 2020 draft.
But unlike a year ago, when the Knicks also dropped two spots and saw the visions of landing Zion Williamson and Ja Morant fade away, the drop is not quite so jarring this time. In what already has been the oddest of years, the Knicks are No. 8 in a draft in which scouts and evaluators have struggled to find a single sure thing.
Could LaMelo Ball be the top pick? He could, but he also arrives with huge flaws in his game. Anthony Edwards, who is predicted to go first overall in many outlets’ mock drafts, appeared on ESPN on Thursday night and said of his single season in college: “I feel like it prepared me because I learned how to deal with bad games. I feel like I had a lot of bad games.”
So at No. 8, the Knicks find themselves in a draft in which they could pick up the best player, the sort of pick their fans have watched other teams make as the Knicks struck out in the draft. There still is pain in recalling Steph Curry going to the Warriors at No. 7 and the Knicks taking Jordan Hill at No. 8. Remember, it was just three summers ago that the Knicks had the No. 8 pick and took Frank Ntilikina. One pick later, the Dallas Mavericks took Dennis Smith Jr. — and four picks after that, the Utah Jazz grabbed Donovan Mitchell, who has far exceeded the accomplishments of the other two guards.
That should matter now because the man who oversaw that pick as the vice president of player personnel for Utah was Walt Perrin, who was hired as an assistant general manager this summer by new Knicks president Leon Rose.
“Walt Perrin has been a tremendous asset to the Jazz organization over the past 19 seasons,” Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey said in a statement when the move became official. “His work overseeing player personnel, including his enormous impact on our draft acquisitions, has been an invaluable part of our franchise’s success and he will be missed.”
This year’s scouting process is unlike any other, devoid of the usual processes of watching players in the high-pressure environment of the NCAA Tournament and the in-person workouts of prospects. With the usual gathering in Chicago lost because of the coronavirus, the league is still trying to plot out at least a virtual draft combine.
So the Knicks, if they can make it work, at least are combining forces of their own scouting efforts this past year along with the addition of Perrin as well as Brock Aller, who arrived from Cleveland’s front office.
The Knicks also hold another first-round pick, No. 27, as well as a second-rounder, No. 38.
While the Knicks have needs everywhere, what really remains to be seen is what Rose has planned for this draft. If the Knicks feel compelled to move up, they have the resources — and teams at the top already are reported to be interested in moving the Nos. 1 and 2 overall picks. But with a new front office and coaching staff, Rose could be willing to trade out of the top of the draft, too, and try to obtain veteran help for coach Tom Thibodeau.
“You go step by step,” Thibodeau said when he was introduced. “You don’t skip over anything. The first thing is you lay the foundation, develop a plan and then work the plan. The steps are incremental. You don’t make major jumps without going through each step. So I think the first step is to establish the work ethic and how we want to play.”