Pick Wisely, Phil — And Watch Your Back

By John Schmeelk
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The New York Knicks might be sitting at the pivot point in Thursday night’s draft. Depending who gets selected with pick Nos. 1-3, they could face a coin-flip between any number of players, or look to make a trade.

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With all the rumored moves involving the Lakers, it might be difficult to hit every scenario, but here’s my honest attempt:

1. Best-Case Scenario For The Knicks

This one is simple, and at this point unlikely. Quite simply, if the top three picks in the draft aren’t Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, the Knicks will take whoever is left and run to the podium before anyone realizes the theft that just took place.

It looks nearly certain that the Timberwolves will select Towns.

The Lakers are rumored to be “settling in” on Okafor, but Russell or even Kristaps Porzingis might still be in the mix for them. If they trade the pick, it seems logical that the team trading up would want Okafor, who many consider the consensus second-best player in the draft. But if the team is the Orlando Magic, would they take Porzingis? I’d say there’s at least an 80 percent chance Okafor goes off the board here.

The Sixers are far more interesting. Sam Hinkie is known to march to the beat of his own drum and doesn’t hesitate to trade down to acquire picks. He has also shown the patience to wait for high-ceiling players to either mature or come from overseas. Someone leaked that the Sixers had a lot of interest in Porzingis (who fits their profile), but many suspect that it had more to do with getting trade interest from a team like Orlando than anything else. Russell is the likely pick if he is still on the board.

If Okafor and Porzingis are both available, which one do they pick? It’s a great question. The Sixers and their unorthodox GM could be the Knicks’ best bet to get one of the top three players.

2. Okafor, Towns & Russell Are Gone – Knicks Make Their Pick

This is the most likely scenario and the Knicks have multiple options.

Option 1: Select the player they have rated the highest. This is the safest route and the one the Knicks should take. They need to figure out who they like best out of Justise Winslow, Emmanuel Mudiay, Porzingis and Mario Hezonja. I’ve moved Willie Cauley-Stein out of this group in the last day or so because of the screw in his ankle that could require additional surgery in the future. (He was already, in my opinion, the last player in this group based on talent alone.) This puts Knicks president Phil Jackson in a tough spot because odds are that one — or maybe two — of the aforementioned four players will be All-Star caliber. He needs to pick the right guy. Jackson should go this route, pick a player and build the right way. Don’t get cute.

Option 2: Minor trade down. The Knicks would move down to no lower than No. 7 to assure them one of the players in this group. If they really want to push their luck, they could even move down to eight or nine if they are comfortable with Cauley-Stein. The question is what the Knicks could get in such a move.  Their top option should be acquiring a first-round pick in 2016, dumping Jose Calderon, or getting a young player on his rookie contract. (There are rumors Sacramento wants to move two such players in Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore.)  This type of trade would minimize New York’s risk since it would still get one of four players who are very comparable. If you find a good trade partner, make it happen.

Option 3: Major trade down. The Knicks could move into the late-lottery or middle teens and net a much bigger haul. This type of move is extremely dangerous since you don’t really know who you will get, or how good they will be. The chances of hitting on a pick at No. 13 are much lower than at sixth or seventh. Trey Lyles is the type of player they would target in this type of move. The Knicks need to avoid this like the plague. (It should be noted any Knicks trade can only be executed AFTER they make their selection, and not before.)

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Option 4: The Knicks go completely outside the box and pick someone like Frank Kaminsky at No. 4, or if even if they trade down a few spots. This would be… bad.

3. Isiah Thomas Coup

In a putsch assisted by Steve Mills, Isiah Thomas takes control of the organization for just long enough to orchestrate a trade that would send the fourth pick to the Warriors for David Lee. Jackson regains control but it’s too late. He promptly resigns, and Mills is made GM with Thomas names as Chancellor… err… advisor.

Let’s summarize:

Best-Case Scenario: Knicks gobble up Russell or Okafor if they are still on the board.

I’m Thrilled: Knicks trade down no later than seven, get an extra asset and still draft one of Porzingis, Mudiay, Winslow or Hezonja.

I’m Happy: Knicks stay put and draft one of the same four players above, with the criteria being solely based on who they think the best player will be.

I’m Not Surprised At All: A successful Thomas coup.

I’m Really, Really Confused, Annoyed And Angry: The Knicks stay at four or in the top seven and don’t pick Towns, Okafor, Russell, Winslow, Porzingis, Mudiay or Hezonja.

I’m Going To Slam My Head Into The Side Of Barclays Center Until My Brain Explodes: The Knicks trade down into the teens and come away with someone who will never be an impact player in the NBA. They add a player with a big salary who eats up their salary cap space.

I’ll make sure to walk around Barclays Center before I go inside to make sure I pick out my spot for my brain explosion.

I love the draft, don’t you?

My mock draft 1-15 comes Thursday.

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You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, the NBA, the Giants and the world of sports.