The NBA Draft Lottery is four days away. Finally, the Knicks will have a better idea of their future. Will they get lucky? Will they pick 11th? Will they fall back in the draft once again?
During the regular season, The Athletic simulated the draft order on the lottery-focused site Tankathon.com, then mocked how the draft might go from there until the Knicks select. With the lottery scheduled for Tuesday evening and with prospect boards starting to take better shape, we’re doing it again.
The Knicks have the 11th-best odds at the No. 1 pick, which gives them a whopping 2 percent chance at the top prize and a 9.4 percent chance at getting into the top four. Most likely, they will end up 11th; they have 77.6 percent odds to finish there and 12.6 percent odds to finish 12th.
The lottery simulations fluctuated between lucky and realistic. Let’s get to them.
Simulation No. 1: Knicks get the 11th pick
1. New Orleans (via L.A. Lakers): Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga
2. Orlando: Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn
3.Houston: Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke
4.Washington: Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
5.Detroit: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
6.Oklahoma City: Benedict Mathurin, W, Arizona
7. Indiana: Shaedon Sharpe, W, Kentucky
8.Portland: AJ Griffin, F, Duke
9. Sacrament: Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor
10. Saint Anthony: Dyson Daniels, W, G League Ignite
And with the 11th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select … Johnny Davis, guard, Wisconsin.
reasoning: I was debating between a few players here, but Davis gets the nod. Ohio State’s Malaki Branham, Memphis’ Jalen Duren, Duke’s Mark Williams and Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji were all possibilities. But Davis is an interesting prospect to me, and he could go in this range.
There is a world where Davis becomes a scoring machine. There aren’t many players in this class who can dominate as he can. (See his 37-point demolition of Purdue from early January.) He’s a top-notch rebounder for his position, but also prone to erratic shooting and a late-season ankle injury did n’t help his accuracy. I have finished the season as a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer. His 52 percent true shooting isn’t ideal for a lottery pick whose basis is buckets, but it also might not tell the full story, considering that figure was percentage points better before the ankle started hampering him.
Which Davis is the one that takes shape in the pros?
Simulation No. 2: Knicks get the second pick
1.Houston: Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga
And with the second pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select … Jabari Smith Jr., forward, Auburn
reasoning: When I ran this exercise a month and a half ago, Smith was the one top-four guy who never ended up on the Knicks. Now, it’s official. They have fake-drafted all of the best prospects. A major celebration is in order at MSG.
Smith is your ideal forward in 2022. He can guard one-on-one. He can move his feet from him. He has a sweet shooting stroke and drains 3s. He’s an athlete who, in a best-case scenario, morphs into a positionally ambiguous destructor.
If the Knicks get lucky in the lottery, they should not draft based on fit. Take the best player available, considering when a team is that high, it has a chance to land franchise-altering talent, but the fit is not exactly a deterrent in that situation, either, and Smith might be the best fit for the Knicks of anyone projected to go in the top five, considering how well he could work next to R. J. Barrett. He can spread the floor alongside him, opening up driving lanes. Ideally, he can man big wings, so Barrett doesn’t have to take on the opposition’s best forward each night.
Of course, the Knicks have only a 4.4 percent chance of getting into the top two. They almost certainly won’t end up with Smith.
Simulation No. 3: Knicks get the 11th pick again
1.Houston: Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke
2. Orlando: Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga
3. Indiana: Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn
4.Portland: Benedict Mathurin, W, Arizona
5.Detroit: AJ Griffin, F, Duke
6.Oklahoma City: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
7. Sacrament: Shaedon Sharpe, W, Kentucky
8. New Orleans (via LA Lakers): Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
9. Saint Anthony: Malaki Branham, W, Ohio State
10.Washington: Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor
And with the 11th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select … Dyson Daniels, wing, G League Ignite
reasoning: This mock is as wacky as possible to make a point. There’s always someone we expect to go high in the draft who falls down the board. In some years, that’s for good reason. In other years, we look back on draft night wondering how in the world such a good player dropped steeply.
I am curious how the Knicks react if that happens in June. In this hypothetical, the guy falling (for no distinct reason) is Jaden Ivey, who almost certainly will go inside the top five but who the Pelicans scoop up here at No. 8. If someone who the Knicks love plummets down the board like this (and, of course, it does not have to be Ivey), this team has a chance to make a play for him.
The Knicks have a surplus of first- and second-round picks. How far up the board could the No. 11 pick along with the Mavericks’ 2023 one, which they received in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, get them? They are proud of the fact that they had eight players 24-and-under this past season, but at some point, the quantity becomes overwhelming. You can’t pay everyone; you can’t play everyone, and if you’re not trying not to tank, which the Knicks give every impression is the case, you need to sprinkle some veterans into the roster, too. All of these draft picks may not yield players who don Knicks jerseys.
The Knicks trading up doesn’t have to occur because a player drops down the board. Maybe the front office just falls head over heels for Shaedon Sharpe and wants to find a way to skate up to No. 7 to draft him. Either way, the Knicks are in a position to move up if they choose to execute. But first, a player they love has to come within their range.
Simulation No. 4: Knicks get the third pick
1.Portland: Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga
2. Indiana: Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn
And with the third pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select … Paolo Banchero, power forward, Duke
reasoning: Banchero’s brain doesn’t get enough credit. He can score, as he showed off during his sole collegiate season, but it’s the passing that makes him stand out most. He can dish from the high post and the wings. He finds cutters. He’ll flip helpers to his teammates from awkward angles. It separates him. He’s not just a bucket-getter.
The Knicks are overflowing with young players, but the greatest critique of their core right now is that there is not a surefire star. Barrett could make All-Star teams, but it’s no guarantee, yet. He’s only 21 years old. There is room and time to grow. I have made significant advances this season. But he also hasn’t approached league-average efficiency. Sneaking into the top three could get the Knicks that guy. Banchero, in this case, could land them someone who wouldn’t just put up numbers; he could make others around him better.
Getting the third pick would be far more advantageous than sitting at No. 4. A clear top three has developed in the minds of many scouts. Whoever lands this selection will end up with either Holmgren, Banchero or Smith. Any of those players could develop into No. 1 options.
Simulation No. 5: Knicks get the 12th pick
1. New Orleans (via LA Lakers): Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga
2. Oklahoma City (via L.A. Clippers): Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn
3. Indiana: Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke
4. Orlando: Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
5.Houston: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
6.Detroit: Benedict Mathurin, W, Arizona
7.Oklahoma City: Shaedon Sharpe, W, Kentucky
8.Portland: Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor
9. Sacrament: AJ Griffin, F, Duke
10. Saint Anthony: Malaki Branham, W, Ohio State
11.Washington: Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin
And with the 12th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select … Mark Williams, C, Duke
reasoning: First, I just have to point out that the city of Los Angeles would go nuts if this were the draft order. The Lakers get the first-overall pick … but, oh no, it’s going to the Pelicans. And the Clippers get the No. 2 pick … but, wait, the Thunder own their selection unprotected. Could you imagine if both LA teams were slotted to draft in the top two, except neither got to do it?
Either way, those two teams would be far ahead of the Knicks, who I have taking a center with the 12th pick. There are other options still on the board. Daniels, Agbaji and Kentucky’s TyTy Washington are still around, but I wanted to give a nod to the most-recent mock draft of my colleague and our draft guru, Sam Vecenie, who has the Knicks choosing Williams at No. 12.
The center is intriguing, if only because of the buzz that followed him around after the NCAA Tournament. He’s an imposing, shot-blocking big man who has a chance to be a defensive difference-maker at the next level. The Knicks, meanwhile, have an uncertain future at the five.
Mitchell Robinson will become a free agent this summer, meaning there are only two possibilities: he will either leave or become way more expensive. Meanwhile, Jericho Sims progressed well as a rookie but is still in that is-he-a-backup-or-not middle ground. Plus, he’s a restricted free agent next summer. The Knicks could offload the final season of Nerlens Noel’s contract this summer.
At No. 12, any position is possible, including a center.
(Top photo of Dyson Daniels: Chamberlain Smith / NBAE via Getty Images)