The New York Knicks finally have a first-round draft pick. Which shooting guards should the Knicks be scouting during the 2016-17 college basketball season?
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Mar 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; LSU Tigers guard Antonio Blakeney (2) waves to fans as he leaves the floor after defeating the Tennessee Volunteers in game seven of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. LSU won 84-75. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks have owned and utilized a first-round draft pick in just three of the past seven years. Team president Phil Jackson has ensured that the pursuit of immediate success won’t conflict with his long-term vision.
The next step in securing the future will be the proper utilization of the 2017 NBA Draft.
The Knicks entered the summer of 2016 with a glaring void at shooting guard. Team president Phil Jackson addressed that flaw by signing Courtney Lee to a four-year deal worth $48 million and acquiring Justin Holiday in the high-profile Derrick Rose trade.
The long-term future of the position is still undetermined, however, as Holiday will become a free agent in 2017.
Lee could be the starter for the foreseeable future, but it’s worth noting that he enters his first of four seasons in New York at 31 years of age. In other words, New York will soon have to find his long-term complement—a process that could begin at the 2017 NBA Draft.
The question is: which shooting guards should the Knicks be watching and scouting during the 2016-17 college basketball season?
Mar 10, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) reacts after making a three point shot in the first half ND| during day three of the ACC conference tournament at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Jackson may not have much faith in prospects who have played for the Duke Blue Devils, but that doesn’t mean he’ll write them off. In the case of Grayson Allen, he could be the 3-point shooting assassin who helps transform the New York Knicks’ offense.
Allen needs to improve his defensive consistency and ball-handling, but he has the perfect skill set to excel in the contemporary NBA.
Allen made 90 3-point field goals on 41.7 percent shooting during the 2015-16 season. He averaged 21.6 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field overall, and excelled as a facilitator with an average of 3.5 assists per game.
Allen is an elite 3-point shooter who can attack closeouts and distribute to his teammates when given clear opportunities to pass.
What Allen will need to do is improve the consistency with which he breaks down defenders from a stationary stance. He wouldn’t be drafted to be a star in New York, but the more he can do, the more flexible Jeff Hornacek could be in his use of Allen.
Even as he currently is, Allen’s offensive skill set is beyond ideal for Hornacek’s motion offense. He should be a top target.
Dec 29, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Dwayne Bacon (4) drives to the basket against the Florida Gators during the first half at Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Dwayne Bacon is one of the most athletically gifted players in the country. His jump shot is still a work in progress, but the Florida State Seminoles have a physical force of a player who can be of significant long-term value.
Bacon is close to the prototype from a physical perspective, and he’s a consistent jump shot away from being a starting-caliber player.
Bacon is a 6’5″ and 202-pound athlete with a 6’8″ wingspan and an explosive vertical leap. He can elevate with what seems like ease, which makes him an invaluable asset both on the drive and on the fast break.
That athletic ability would be a welcome addition to the New York Knicks’ crop of young players, which primarily includes grounded guards or big men.
Bacon recorded 12 20-point games during his freshman season with the Seminoles. He recorded four double-doubles, thus establishing his ability to kickstart the transition attack by grabbing rebounds and turning up court.
Bacon needs to improve his jump shot, but he could be a quality second-round target for the Knicks in 2017.
Feb 23, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; LSU Tigers guard Antonio Blakeney (2) dribbles the ball in the second half of a game with the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks won 85-65. Mandatory Credit: Gunnar Rathbun-USA TODAY Sports
Coming out of high school, Antonio Blakeney was praised as one of the most explosive scoring threats in the country. He played more of an off-ball role alongside Ben Simmons, however, which didn’t exactly fit his skill set.
In 2016-17, Blakeney will have a chance to prove what so many have said about him before: he has the tools to be a dominant scorer.
Blakeney is an instinctive scorer who can be great if he’s able to become more decisive with the ball in his hands. He knows exactly how to hit an angle and has proven beyond capable of pulling out a secondary move to catch his man off guard.
The next step in his development as a scorer will be responding to that second move without hesitation—shooting without second-guessing himself.
Blakeney still needs to improve his jump shot, defensive consistency, and overall decision making as a playmaker. He’s athletically gifted and naturally talented as a scorer, however, and his upside can be extracted by the right coach.
Blakeney may take time to develop in the NBA, but the Knicks are the perfect organization to give him the chance to develop with the right coach and mentor: Jeff Hornacek and Carmelo Anthony.
If all else fails, Blakeney has a 45.0″ max vertical leap.
Apr 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Villanova Wildcats guard Josh Hart (3) drives to the basket against North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) during the second half in the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Villanova Wildcats shocked the college basketball community by winning the 2016 NCAA championship. One could easily argue that the best player on the Wildcats in 2015-16 was starting shooting guard Josh Hart.
With Ryan Arcidiacono now with the San Antonio Spurs, Hart will have a chance to prove that his game truly is NBA-caliber.
Hart has a comparable skill set to one of the players who most recently played shooting guard for the New York Knicks: Arron Afflalo. He plays inside-out rather than outside-in, utilizing his fundamentals rather than his athleticism.
That’s an old school approach to the game, but if anyone is going to appreciate it, it’s Knicks team president Phil Jackson.
Having established that, Hart has made 107 3-point field goals on 40.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc over the past two seasons. He’s more than comfortable stepping outside, and should continue to excel in that regard in 2016-17.
Hart is a champion, a leader, a big-game player, and a deceptively athletic player with a 38.5″ max vertical leap. He has a profile that the Knicks could covet in the first or second round.
Feb 24, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles guard Jajuan Johnson (23) dribbles the ball against the Creighton Bluejays in the first half at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Jajuan Johnson has been progressively building towards a leap to stardom during his three seasons at Marquette. He came dangerously close in 2015-16, but had a somewhat turbulent ride that positively altered his attitude.
With an NBA build, an improving jump shot, lockdown defensive potential, and a well-rounded offensive game, Johnson could be a steal come the 2017 NBA Draft.
Johnson, who flirted with the 50/40/80 club—not real, but still impressive—seems to have found his niche as a scorer. He balances hard drives to the basket with an opportunistic 3-point shot, proficiency in transition, and a willingness to distribute to his teammates.
Truth be told, Johnson is cut from the same cloth as many of the Marquette shooting guards who came before him: tough, versatile, and flush with upside.
Johnson tallied per 40 averages of 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.7 steals, and 1.3 3-point field goals made in 2015-16. He’ll need to prove, once again, that his jump shot has become a strength, but the progress is intriguing.
If Johnson continues to improve at the rate he did in 2015-16, then he could be a steal of a selection for the New York Knicks come 2017.
Jan 21, 2016; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes guard JaQuan Lyle (13) dribbles the ball up court against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
JaQuan Lyle may not have shot the lights out in 2015-16, but it’s clear that he has the tools develop into a high-quality NBA player. At his best as a freshman, he was an all-around contributor who looked the part of a genuine star.
The New York Knicks could find the perfect complement to Courtney Lee in the form of Lyle—a player who could be available in the late first or second round.
As a freshman, Lyle had two games with at least 10 assists, four games with at least 10 rebounds, and one triple-double. He also had three games with at least 20 points, two with at least 25 points, and nine with at least two 3-point field goals made.
Lyles did a bit of everything for the Buckeyes in 2015-16, which makes 2016-17 the perfect platform for a breakout season.
The Knicks should look for Lyle to improve his jump shot—25.2 percent from 3, 71.2 percent at the free throw line—and cut down on turnovers. He has significant defensive potential, as well, but that all comes down to consistency.
The question is: can Lyle actually make the necessary improvements to justify his being selected by the Knicks in 2017?
Nov 27, 2014; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Rhode Island Rams guard E.C. Matthews (0) drives to the basket as Kansas Jayhawks guard Brannen Greene (14) attempted to defend during the first half at HP Field house at Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
If not for a season-ending knee injury suffered during the first game of the 2015-16 season, E.C. Matthews likely would’ve been drafted in 2016. The Rhode Island Rams star earned NBA hype during his first two collegiate seasons.
If he manages to remain healthy during the 2016-17 college basketball season, Matthews could prove himself to be worthy of one of the New York Knicks’ draft picks.
With players like Matthews, it’s especially important to look beyond the percentages and at the actual skills. Thus, while he shot 32.9 percent from 3-point range between 2013-14 and 2014-15, he did so while making 115 3-point field goals.
That includes the 68 he made during the 2014-15 campaign, when he was a ball-dominant player who often shot off the bounce.
Matthews is a slasher, shooter, and facilitator combined into one intriguing shooting guard prospect. He needs to cut down on his turnovers, improve his shot selection, and commit more defensively, but the talent is clearly there.
The New York Knicks own two second-round draft picks in 2017. Targeting Matthews with one could be a wise idea.
Mar 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonalds High School All-American guard Malik Monk dunks during the McDonalds All-American Powerade Jamfest at the Chicago Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Malik Monk appeared on the list of point guards whom the New York Knicks should be scouting during the 2016-17 college basketball season. He’s a positionally ambiguous player with the potential to transform that into versatility, however, which is why he’s here, as well.
Explosive athletes will never go out of style, which is exactly why Monk’s height can be forgiven based on the athletic gifts he possesses.
Monk has a 42.0″ max vertical leap and the end-to-end speed to single-handedly lead a transition attack. He’ll gain invaluable experience under John Calipari, who will push him to give his greatest effort defensively.
If Monk learns how to turn defense into offense, then he should become one of the Knicks’ most coveted prospects in 2017.
Monk has lottery pick potential, but his lack of a defined position has left some skeptical of what he brings to the table. That could be a delightful result for the Knicks, as the hope in New York as that Jeff Hornacek will lead this group to the playoffs and out of the draft lottery.
It’s impossible to make accurate predictions so far from June, but Monk is the type of player whom the Knicks should scout and study.
Mar 17, 2016; Des Moines, IA, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) brings the ball up court against Austin Peay Governors forward Kenny Jones (42) during the second half in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has been on NBA radars for longer than most college players. He’s received limited playing time during his two seasons with the Kansas Jayhawks, but the Ukrainian wing has flashed pro-level potential throughout—and before—his tenure.
In 2016-17, Mykhailiuk may finally get the playing time he needs to justify his status as one of the more revered upside prospects in the country.
Mykhailiuk began to justify the hype during the 2015-16 college basketball season. He scored in double-figures in seven different games, including the 23 points he posted during the Round of 64 at the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Even when his scoring numbers weren’t jumping off of the page, Mykhailiuk was confirming the belief about him: he’s a big guard who can shoot the lights out.
Mykhailuk made 37 3-point field goals on 40.2 percent shooting in just 12.8 minutes per game. That translates to an average of 3.3 3-point field goals made per 40 minutes—a per game number he could reach and maintain in 2016-17.
A 19-year-old junior who won’t turn 20 until June, Mykhailuk has the size, youth, experience, and shooting range to develop into the perfect first-round selection for the New York Knicks.
Mar 17, 2016; Providence, RI, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Allonzo Trier (11) drives past Wichita State Shockers forward Markis McDuffie (32) during the first half of a first round game of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Dunkin Donuts Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Though 3-point shooting may be the new craze in the NBA, slashing scorers remain of extraordinary value. Players who can create off the bounce and get to the rim are often the difference once the NBA Playoffs roll around.
For the New York Knicks, that makes Allonzo Trier a prospect whom scouts should monitor closely for progress in the areas he needs improvement.
Trier’s game is simple, yet complex. He knows how to put the ball on the floor, play the angles, and get to the rim. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he has quality size for a shooting guard and a quick first step that enables him to attack even the most narrow of driving lanes.
Ball-stopping can be an issue with Trier, but if Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller can help him find his game, he could be a high-level player.
Trier has unorthodox shooting mechanics, but his shot was quite effective during his freshman season. He shot 36.4 percent from beyond the arc and 79.3 percent from the free throw line, and made an average of 1.5 3-point field goals per game.
Trier may or may not be the answer for the Knicks, but he’s a player whom the front office should keep a close eye on in 2016-17.