There is no clear No. 1 player in this draft. There is a player almost certain to be selected in the top 10 who never played a game last season. The player most rank as the fourth-best prospect has had no contact with the team picking fourth.
In other words, this year’s NBA Draft might be a little harder to predict than most.
For the Knicks, this presents an opportunity. Despite their usual lack of luck in the lottery, they find themselves at No. 11, where they might get a player as good as the top prospects, or they might be able to deal their way up or down to find the player they really want.
1. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith (Auburn, 6-10, F)
There are critics who point to his ball-handling skills and defense, but those are fixes to worry about in the future for a smooth-shooting player with a frame that reminds scouts of Kevin Durant.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, 7-foot, F/C)
Holmgren's rail-thin frame has critics using that as a reason to doubt his prospects. But he is already an elite shot-blocker with perimeter offensive skills and a toughness that his body will catch up to with work.
3. Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero (Duke, 6-10, F/C)
Banchero is a skilled scorer with guard abilities and the strength and smarts to score inside. He was inconsistent at Duke, but showed by the end of the NCAA Tournament that he could end up being the best of the class.
4. Sacramento Kings: Jaden Ivey (Purdue, 6-4, G)
While some don’t peg him as a classic point guard, he can score efficiently and excitingly at the rim. His mom, Niele Ivey, is a former WNBA point guard and current Notre Dame head coach.
5. Detroit Pistons: Keegan Murray (Iowa, 6-8, F)
The NBA postseason showed how many teams have a skilled and smart player who can defend multiple positions, score in a variety of ways and contribute to winning. That’s Murray’s calling card.
6. Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, 6-6, W)
He's a strong, athletic scorer with three-point range and highlight-reel dunks. Mathurin's defense is not elite yet, but he’s a hard-nosed defender who could blossom in the NBA.
7. Trail Blazers: Dyson Daniels (G-League Ignite, 6-6, G)
The Australian is old school in that he's a playmaker and passer first. His shot needs work, but he also defends well for a young player.
8. Pelicans: Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand Breakers, 6-10, W)
Dieng is one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft. The French native played pro ball in New Zealand and after a slow start flourished with guard-like skills.
9. Spurs: Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky, 6-6, W)
Sharpe did not play at Kentucky and was unranked in high school until a star turn at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League jumped him to the top of his recruiting class. He's an athletic wing who can score at every level.
10. Wizards: Johnny Davis (Wisconsin, 20, 6-4, G)
Scouts differ on Davis, some pointing to his mature pace and shooting and others wondering if he’s athletic enough to flourish in the NBA.
11. Knicks: AJ Griffin (Duke, 6-6, W)
The son of former NBA player and current NBA coach Adrian Griffin, he has endured injury struggles, but when healthy has been an elite talent. Some think he’s the best shooter in the draft, but he also has the ability to score creatively in the paint.
12. Thunder: Jeremy Sochan (Baylor, 6-9, W)
In a league predicated on shooting, Sochan has a long way to go. But everything else? He’s got it, starting with the ability to defend every position, playmaking ability and a motor that doesn’t stop.
13. Hornets: Mark Williams (Duke, 7-foot, C)
Strong and athletic, Williams measured the longest wingspan at the Combine (7-6 1.2). While bigs may be undervalued right now in the NBA, he is an elite rim protector.
14. Cavaliers: Jalen Williams (Santa Clara, 6-6, W)
Perhaps no player has risen more since the season ended, impressing scouts at the Combine and in team workouts. An elite playmaker in college, he has shown the ability to shoot and score for himself.
15. Charlotte (from New Orleans): Malaki Branham (Ohio State, 6-4, SG)
Branham is a versatile scorer, hitting 42.5% from beyond the arc. His one season at Ohio State was interrupted by a team-wide COVID shutdown, but he improved dramatically after that.
16. Atlanta: Tari Eason (LSU, 6-8, F)
Eason is a tough and high-effort defender. He measured a 7-2 wingspan at the Combine, in line with some of the centers.
17. Houston (from Nets): Ochai Agbaji (Kansas, 6-4, W)
A victim of the trend towards potential, he spent four seasons in college and led the Jayhawks to a national championship, emerging in his senior season as a solid 3-and-D player.
18. Chicago: Jalen Duren (Memphis, 6-10, C)
It's hard to believe Duren could have been a high school senior this year because his physique already looks like Bam Adebayo or Dwight Howard. He's very athletic and strong. Scouts believe he will develop an offensive game away from the rim.
19. Minnesota: TyTy Washington (Kentucky, 6-2, PG)
He mentioned Chris Paul as a model for his game and you see it with very good point guard skills, scoring and playmaking. While he’s not tall, he does have a 6-8 wingspan.
20. San Antonio (from Toronto): E.J. Liddell (Ohio State, 6-7, PF)
He's a bit of a throwback with his strength and toughness. Liddell not only defends well but was a productive scorer who improved the holes in his offensive game as a junior.
21. Denver: Jaden Hardy (G League Ignite, 6-4, SG)
The success of some of the Ignite players has shown Hardy's numbers — 26.9 points per game — will likely translate to the NBA.
22. Memphis (from Utah): Blake Wesley (Notre Dame, 6-3, G)
Wesley is a strong defender with slashing offensive skills — which sounds like a lot of players on the Grizzlies, who have built depth around this type of player.
23. Philadelphia: MarJon Beauchamp (G League Ignite, 6-5, W)
He shot just 24% from the three-point line but can already score in a number of ways with good ball-handling ability. His path included four high schools, a year of community college and the G League.
24. Milwaukee: Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee, 5-11, PG)
One of the fastest players at the Combine, he excelled as he led the Vols to an SEC championship. Undersized, but very skilled and his speed makes up for size offensively.
25. San Antonio (from Boston): Nikola Jovic (Mega Mozzart, 6-10, W)
He turns 19 ahead of the draft, but the Serbian wing has impressed scouts for a while now. He seems like a good stash candidate for the Spurs.
26. Houston (from Dallas): Walker Kessler (Auburn, 7-foot, C)
Kessler is a good rim defender with a 7-4 1/4 wingspan, blocking 4.6 shots per game last season. While he shot poorly from the three-point line, scouts think he could develop like Brook Lopez did.
27. Miami: Trevor Keels (Duke, 6-3, G)
Keels is a hard-nosed player on both ends. He's viewed a bit as a project with a need to improve his three-point shooting, but Miami does that better than any team.
28. Golden State: Dalen Terry (Arizona, 6-7, W)
Terry has moved into the first round through the Combine and team workouts, displaying athleticism that reeks of potential. He still has a ways to go, but his open-floor skills and basketball IQ have impressed.
29. Memphis: Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Milwaukee, 6-9, F)
He passed up an offer from Duke to play for his father. After an injury-plagued season, his stock dropped and his father was fired. But he still has size and talent.
30. Denver (from Phoenix via OKC): Caleb Houstan (Michigan, 6-8, G)
The Canadian was a highly regarded prospect entering Michigan but didn’t have an eye-popping season. He turned down an invitation to the Combine, raising speculation he’s got a first-round guarantee.