By John Schmeelk
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The shock felt by Knicks fans on Tuesday after they lost their coin flip to the Timberwolves was matched only by their surprise that the sun came up Wednesday morning.
This is where the Knicks now stand in terms of their percentages for draft night:
1. 5.3 percent
2. 6 percent
3. 7 percent
7. 57.2 percent
8. 22.6 percent
9: 1.8 percent
10. Slightly above 0 percent
Thanks to winning four of their last nine games, the Knicks now have a nearly 80 percent chance of picking at either No. 7 or 8. The draft process hasn’t begun yet so here’s a way-too-early look at what Phil Jackson might be looking at on draft night. As part of this exercise, we are assuming no teams will move up.
Pick 1: Celtics (via Nets): Boston will have a lot of cap space this summer to go along with a young and talented roster. With Isaiah Thomas as an undersized scoring guard, the Celtics could still draft Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz since they have the size to defend shooting guards. The question is whether there would be enough basketball to go around in that scenario. Boston could also go Josh Jackson to be the wing scorer the team needs. Pick: Josh Jackson
Pick 2: Suns: Jackson seems to make the most sense with Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker all under contract, but one of the top point guards might be too tempting to pass up. Pick: Markelle Fultz
Pick 3: Lakers: Much like the Suns, L.A. would probably just pick whoever is left between Ball, Fultz, and Jackson. Jayson Tatum or De’Aaron Fox could be sleepers here, but I would be surprised if it wasn’t one of the consensus top three. Pick: Lonzo Ball
Pick 4: 76ers: Philly is interesting because of the variety in Ben Simmons’ game. If the Sixers want to use him as a point forward and let him control the ball would they want to draft a ball-dominant guard like Fox or Dennis Smith, Jr.? A guy like Malik Monk or Tatum would be more likely selections, though a scorer like Smith wouldn’t be out of the question. Pick: Jayson Tatum
Pick 5: Magic: Orlando needs a point guard. The Magic will get one in this draft, whether it’s Fox or Smith. If it isn’t Fox I would be very surprised. Pick: De’Aaron Fox
Pick 6: Timberwolves: The Wolves are another interesting team. With Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn under contract, they don’t have a need for a point guard. They have maybe the best center in basketball in Karl-Anthony Towns. Andrew Wiggins is a premier wing. Monk could be an option here, but I could also see the Wolves really change their roster this time around, making this pick a wild card. They would love Tatum if he was still available and Jonathan Isaac could sneak in here. Pick: Malik Monk
Pick 7: Knicks: There’s no telling who the Knicks pick here. They have needs at small forward, shooting guard and point guard. Fox, Tatum, Monk, Smith, Isaac and Frank Ntilikina would all be options, with at least two of them definitely being available. Fox and Tatum are least likely to be there, followed by Monk and Smith, and then Ntilikina and Isaac. Lauri Markkanen could slide in here as well, though not for the Knicks. Isaac is a project and also in the mix. Pick: Frank Ntilikina
He fits the big point guard mold Jackson likes and would be a better fit in the triangle than Smith. My early preference here would be Fox, followed by Monk. Isaac has far more upside than Ntilikina as well.
All those players have legitimate flaws and the Knicks will have to figure out which of them have the best chance of succeeding at the NBA level. Ntilikina lacks explosive offensive ability, along with speed and quickness. Smith has an injury history, isn’t as athletic as advertised and has an attitude/effort problem. Monk is undersized and struggles on defense. Fox doesn’t shoot well. Tatum could struggle to create his own shot.
The Knicks need to get this pick right to continue their rebuilding process. A failure here could set them back even further than Jackson has already put them.
Jackson will have a chance to draft a good player. He just has to pick the right one.
For everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk