In a fascinatingly deep draft, the New York Knicks had a slightly uneven draft night. Going into this draft fresh from their playoff appearance, the Knicks were primed with picks 19 and 21 in the first round. Plus two picks in the second round. In the draft they were looking at two key skillsets: shooting at the guard spot, and a perimeter defender. This draft was stacked with potential future stars and starters in both rounds. As we will discuss in my draft grades for the Knicks, they certainly drafted players to the skillset they desired. Yet the return in their trades and the upside of some selections remains questionable.
According to sources, President Leon Rose focused their 19th pick on Davion Mitchell, Corey Kispert, Trey Murphy, Tre Mann, and Chris Duarte. When all these names came off the board they had to pivot and make trades with mixed results. Let’s discuss how the Knicks faired, and I will give my draft grades on how the Knicks did on draft night.
New York Knicks Draft Grades
Pick 25: Quentin Grimes, G, Houston, Grade: C
According to The Athletic Quentin Grimes was rated 38th on their consensus draft board rated as an early second-round pick.
Grimes opened eyes helping Houston to the NCAA Final Four. He shot at a 40% clip from range, averaging 17.9 points per game this year. Particularly, he opened Knick talent evaluators’ eyes with a combine where he was extremely hot from 3-point range showing a fluid shooting motion.
According to sources, Thibodeau was particularly impressed by his workout. He’s also a strong defender. After struggling at Kansas after being heavily recruited, he’s redeemed his career by remodeling his game to more of a ‘3 and D’ type at Houston. Culminating in a strong final year and draft combine.
He is most likely projected to be a backup two-guard and impact player off the bench with his ability to defend and score from range. Although there are concerns as to athleticism, he’s not seen as a great athlete according to evaluators.
My main concern is the upside rather than the ability. Projected as a solid bench piece, it’s hard not to look at names selected a spot or two above him and wonder if the Knicks were better served trading up for much higher upside.
Pick 34: Rokas Jokubaitis, G, Lithuania, Grade B
Rokas Jokubaitis is a crafty guard, where the Knicks can stash in the Pro European league at Barcelona so he can develop from afar for a season. He has the potential to provide future upside for the Knicks with an array of skills at either guard spot. At 6’5 he provides length and is able to score in multiple ways. He is also comfortable as a ball-handler in the pick and roll.
NBA draft insider Sam Vecinie had a 1st round grade on this intriguing Lithuanian prospect. While other experts such as Ian O’Connor had a 2nd round grade on him.
This has the potential to pay dividends down the line due to the numerous examples of European players excelling at the NBA from the pro game in Europe.
Pick 36: Miles McBride, G, West Virginia: Grade A
This is a steal at 36. Miles McBride is a guy who coach Tom Thibodeau lobbied for through the scouting process. He is a bulldog defensively, ultra-competitive, and isn’t afraid to take on the opposition’s best player. Known for his toughness due to playing football in high school, he also loves to defend the other team’s best player.
Case in point, McBride in the Big 12 tournament stole the ball off number 1 pick Cade Cunningham twice down the stretch, including dunking on him. He is a fearless player and a fine shooter, hitting over 40% from range. He was a playmaker and lead guard in college also.
Scouts had him in the middle of the first round to early second range. He could easily have gone in either of the Knicks’ two 1st round slots according to Sam Vecinie of the Athletic.
There are questions as to whether he will be a point guard in the NBA, as he is most likely seen as a backup at the one or an undersized ‘3 and D’ type at shooting guard. Excellent value here at 36 as he was one of the best perimeter defenders in college and perfect for Thibodeau’s system.
Pick 58: Jericho Sims C University of Texas: Grade B
New York took a flier here late on a big with some upside. Jericho Sims has the physical tools you want for the position, and opened eyes in the combine with a huge 44.5-inch vertical wingspan. We may see him developing in Westchester, with the shot of being an energizer for the Knicks in the future.
Assessing New York Knicks Draft Day Trades
Knicks Send 19th Pick to Charlotte Hornets for Protected Future First-round Pick- Grade: F
New York receives a heavily protected future pick 1-18 in 2022, or 1-16 in 2023, or 1-14 in 2024 according to ESPN.
This trade was a surprise and appears initially as a poor use of a significant asset. In comparison to the Thunder earning two future firsts in a deal with Houston at pick 16 a few spots earlier.
Leon Rose, according to sources, discussed various trade scenarios with the Indiana Pacers at 13 to select Chris Duarte but were unable to come to an agreement. Unfortunately for the Knicks, due to some surprise selections, none of their main targets at 19 dropped. Notably, Davion Mitchell going to the Kings was a surprise. Other targets such as Tre Mann, Murphy, and Kispert were all selected a pick or two before 19. Clearly unhappy with the value remaining, the Knicks decided to pivot.
While trading the pick was understandable, the poor return indicates they were caught by surprise here. By essentially punting the pick down the line, best case they use it in a trade or have a late future pick from Charlotte. In a deep and talented draft this year, it’s hard to sell that this was the best use of assets. Arguably, they had leverage to sell to teams of the immediacy of this talented draft. Punting the pick feels like a wasted opportunity. This trade particularly affects my overall draft grades for the Knicks.
Trade: Pick 21 to LA Clippers for a Future 2nd Rounder and Pick 25- Grade D+
Another odd trade value-wise. This is redeemed somewhat by the fact that it saves them cap room in free agency this year by trading back a few spots. Again the value seems poor trading down 4 spots in the first round for just a future 2nd rounder. It’s clear their strategy regarding assets is with an eye to free agency and trades, yet the return in this deal is still questionable.
Knicks selecting Grimes with pick 25; he was likely available in the 2nd round and was perhaps a slight reach. However, he fits the mold as to what the Knicks want and could carve a nice role off the bench for the Knicks.
Trade: Pick 32 to Philadelphia 76ers for Picks 34 and 36- Grade A-
It looks like the front office finally took advantage of a team with a surplus of picks and acquired very good value early in the 2nd round to get two picks in the same range. Leading to particularly an impressive McBride selection, and an intriguing draft and stash guy in Jokubaitis.
New York Knicks Draft Grade Overall: C+
All in all, an eventful draft with some questionable trades but eventually they got the kind of skillset in the draft they were looking for. New York wanted guards with a specific skillset of outside shooting and gritty defense which they got. There are legitimate questions, however, as to their use of assets prior to the eventual selection of Grimes at 25.
On the other hand, it is also clear they are all on the same page as a front office. For instance, Thibodeau liked Grimes and McBride in their pre-draft workouts. Suggesting they already have a set role in mind for their selections, and how they fit in the roster. It is easier to develop prospects within a system, and in Thibodeau and his staff, they will develop well. As much as their essentially punting the 19th pick is hard to figure out, it’s likely that this pick will be used as an asset. Will they go big game hunting in trades?
Their best value selection was Miles McBride, and this props up the Knicks grade in an uneven night. Overall, it appears they missed an opportunity in the first round. However, they redeemed themselves and found nice value in the second round.
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