The 2021 NBA Draft date of July 29th is quickly approaching. The lottery is complete, and the draft order is officially set, so it is now time for teams to start preparing their draft boards and planning their strategy. The New York Knicks currently have both the 19th and 21st overall pick in the first round. They have the option of packaging those two picks together to move up for a higher pick or even using them to acquire a veteran. The smartest move would be to do nothing and keep both of those picks to add solid depth to a team that really needs it.
New York Knicks 2021 NBA Draft Strategy
Don’t be fooled by the Knicks’ playoff appearance, they are still a rebuilding team and nowhere near a finished product right now. It is a luxury that they are ahead of schedule and already a competitive team, but they need to continue building their young core and set themselves up for sustained success. The Draft is the best way to do that and therefore the Knicks should value their draft capital very highly.
The Knicks under head coach Tom Thibodeau have established a clear identity and culture. They are a defensively focused team and actually had the number one ranked defense in the entire NBA last season. What they are currently missing is shooters, in particular from three-point range, as well as consistent playmakers. Improving their guard play is something that should be a priority. Factoring in both the style that the Knicks play, along with filling their needs, here are their top five targets in the 2021 NBA Draft.
1. Davion Mitchell, Baylor
One of the main reasons why Baylor won the National Championship this season was the outstanding play of Davion Mitchell. He was excellent on offense and even better on defense. He is probably the best on-ball defender in the entire 2021 NBA Draft class. This is obviously something that will be very attractive to Thibodeau, who puts a premium on defense. Additionally, he can create his own shot and is explosive off the dribble. He had much success at attacking the basket and shot an impressive 44.7 percent from three in his final season.
Mitchell clearly has the talent to be a top 10 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft but there are two factors that could cause him to slide a bit later in the first round. First, he is a bit undersized at just 6’1 tall but he does play much bigger than he measures. Additionally, he is one of the older prospects at 22 years old. Age didn’t stop the Knicks from drafting Obi Toppin last year so it shouldn’t scare them away from Mitchell either. Given his skill set, he is an ideal fit for the Knicks. If he happens to fall to them on draft day, he should be the pick.
2. Chris Duarte, Oregon
There will always be a role for the “three and D” style of player in the NBA. Chris Duarte is a perfect example of this concept. He has consistently been a very efficient three-point shooter throughout his college career and shot 42.4 percent from deep in his final season. He is more than capable of pulling up but does most of his damage in a catch-and-shoot scenario. In addition to his sharpshooting, he is an excellent perimeter defender as well. He has good length at 6’6 tall with enough speed and anticipation to jump passing lanes and create steals.
The game of Duarte is the perfect combination of both what the Knicks want as well as what they need. He would bring efficient jump shooting to a team that desperately needs it without sacrificing anything defensively. The only negative is that he is already 24 years old but his game translates very well to the NBA style of play so he should not need much time to adjust what he does. He has the ability to contribute immediately and is a great fit for the Knicks.
3. James Bouknight, UConn
While James Bouknight is not a sharpshooter from deep, he is not a liability either. His shooting percentages were not really impressive but he has improved his jumper over time so there is good reason to be optimistic about that part of his game. On the other hand, he is still an elite scorer and where he really thrives is in his movement and creativity. He is one of the best in the entire draft class at creating plays without the ball in his hands but is also a great passer with good vision to go with it when he runs the point.
Bouknight is a very unique player with massive potential and upside. He is still only 20 years old so there is still plenty of time for his game to continue to develop. His style of play as it currently stands would be a nice fit with both Julius Randle and RJ Barrett because they play better with the ball in their hands while Bouknight is lethal off the ball. Additionally, he is aggressive at getting to the rim and is creative with his slashing. He is a New Yorker, so he would probably be just as happy to be a Knick as the team would be to have him.
4. Moses Moody, Arkansas
The 6’6 height is a deceiving number for Moses Moody because he has a massive 7’1 wingspan. This is a huge weapon for him and he really knows how to use it. In particular, it makes him an elite on-ball defender who can easily disrupt passing lanes as well as block shots. He is an absolute nightmare matchup for guards on the defensive end of the floor. He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire 2021 NBA Draft and that fits very well with the philosophy of the Knicks.
Moody still has some work to do on his offensive game but he is not at all a liability on that side of the court either. He shot a respectable 36 percent from deep and his length makes him difficult to guard. The wingspan is definitely the most dangerous thing in his arsenal because of his ability to utilize it as an advantage on both ends of the floor. He is a wildcard in terms of where he will be drafted because of his offensive inconsistencies but he has the talent of a top 10 player. His style and value would be worth it for the Knicks if he is still available when they are on the clock.
5. Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
There isn’t much better value than Ayo Dosunmu when considering how good he was last year compared to where is projected to be selected in the 2021 NBA Draft. He was one of the best players in the country last season and was a first-team All-American. He was the main reason why Illinois was one of the best teams in the country and earned a top seed in the NCAA tournament. He is a true leader, a clutch performer, and often played his best basketball late in games when his team needed him the most.
Many “experts” don’t believe his game translates well to the pro level but his performance speaks for itself. He was an elite scorer in a very tough conference which proves that he has been battle-tested and still thrived. He is excellent with the ball in his hands and often ran the point. He can consistently create his own shot and even recorded a solid 39 percent mark from the three-point range. He is a willing defender and a ferocious competitor that would be a strong addition to the team that selects him. His value and potential make him a very interesting option for the Knicks.