The New York Knicks snapped their seven-year playoff drought this year and will head into the offseason and the 2021 NBA Draft with an opportunity to make another leap forward next season. Naturally, it all begins with the 2021 NBA Draft.
New York is in a comfortable spot, especially for a team looking for a blockbuster trade. The Knicks are loaded with cap space and have six picks in the next two drafts, including a pair of top-25 selections this summer.
With that in mind, let’s dive into our New York Knicks draft preview.
New York Knicks draft picks: 2021 NBA Draft
- First round, 19th overall
- First round, 21st overall
- Second round, 32nd overall
- Second round, 58th overall
New York Knicks mock draft
- 17. New Orleans Pelicans – Jalen Johnson, forward, Duke
- 18. Oklahoma City Thunder – Cameron Thomas, guard, LSU
- 19. New York Knicks – Sharife Cooper, guard, Auburn
- 20. Atlanta Hawks – Chris Duarte, wing, Oregon
- 21. New York Knicks – Charles Bassey, center, Western Kentucky
- 22. Los Angeles Lakers – Joel Ayayi, guard, Gonzaga
2021 NBA Draft targets for New York Knicks
Chris Duarte, wing, Oregon Ducks
As the Atlanta Hawks progress further through the NBA Playoffs, the Knicks’ first-round exit became less painful. New York boasted a quality team and fans are elated at the improvements it made from prior seasons. But it’s time for Madison Square Garden to be hosting Eastern Conference semifinal games, which means addressing areas of need.
New York stayed true to its identity from the regular season. After averaging 31 3-point attempts per game and shooting 39.2% from beyond the arc, the Knicks kept prioritizing efficiency over volume from behind the 3-point line (30 attempts per game) in the playoffs. For Tom Thibodeau’s team to get better, it needs more outside shooters.
Chris Duarte was one of the best spot-up shooters in the country this year, averaging 17.1 points per game. Of his 301 field-goal attempts this year, nearly half (144) came from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward deserved the green light, given he shot 42.4% behind the line.
Duarte isn’t going to be a great defender at the next level, but coaches and evaluators rave about his hustle and energy. Those things matter to Thibodeau and that makes Duarte an exciting fit for the Knicks.
Ziaire Williams, wing, Stanford Cardinal
The beauty of having two first-round picks, you can make at least one big swing on potential. Williams, the No. 6 recruit in the 2020 class, has a chance to be a special player.
Stanford’s 6-foot-7 forward showed flashes of what he is capable of during his freshman season. He started 14-of-20 games for the Cardinal, averaging 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest. He also demonstrated the ability to be a playmaker, putting his passing skills, handles and vision on display. On top of all that, there is upside as a defender thanks to his length and basketball IQ.
With that said, Williams isn’t ready to be a trusted scorer in the NBA as a rookie. He shot 37.4% from the field this past season and an abysmal 29.1% from behind the 3-point line. It will take great coaching to tweak his shooting mechanics and to iron out some other areas, but there are also reasons why he draws NBA comps to Cam Reddish.
Isaiah Jackson, power forward, Kentucky Wildcats
Nerlens Noel filled his role admirably for the Knicks this past season, coming off the bench and protecting the paint. Thibodeau certainly enjoyed the defensive impact the 6-foot-11 center made, but there are no guarantees Noel is retained by the Knicks. If they draft Isaiah Jackson, New York will fill that role for years to come.
Jackson is an incredible athlete at 6-foot-10 and that can make him a force around the rim. He played a more limited role at Kentucky, averaging 21 minutes per game, but Jackson’s stats per 40 minutes (1.5 steals, 4.0 blocks) are outstanding and his 90.7 defensive rating hints at what could come with time.
It will take time for Jackson to reach his floor. This is still a 200-pound big man who doesn’t have a ton of frame left to fill out and there’s always the risk that added muscle will come at the cost of some athleticism. But in a quality NBA program with coaches who showed they can get a lot out of young players, Jackson is an intriguing fit.
Alperen Şengün, center, Turkey
This would be the ultimate gamble for the Knicks and there’s an argument for letting Alperen Sengun slide to another team. But New York would be wise to take a deep dive into Sengun, because he is in a rare club coming out of Turkey.
As pointed out by Kings Herald’s Omer Khan, Sengun and Luka Doncic are the only teenagers to win MVP of a marquee European league within the last 30 years. If you raise that list to players 20 or younger, it includes Nikola Jokic and Dario Saric.
Sengun averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals per game this past season in the Turkish Super League. This is a 6-foot-10 center that can be unstoppable around the rim. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor sees shades of Nikola Vucevic and Domantas Sabonis, with his footwork and scoring in the paint among Sengun’s biggest strengths.
What 2021 NBA Draft prospects have New York Knicks met with?
- James Bouknight, guard, UConn
- Scottie Barnes, forward, Florida State,
- Jalen Johnson, forward, Duke
- Jaden Springer, guard, Tennessee
- Ziaire Williams, forward, Stanford
- Josh Christopher, guard, Arizona State
- Cameron Thomas, guard, LSU
- Luka Garza, center, Iowa
- Trey Murphy, forward, Virginia
- Miles McBride, guard, West Virginia
New York Knicks trade targets
- Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: The moment has finally arrived. Damian Lillard isn’t pleased with Portland’s front office and it could lead to a trade demand. Barring the superstar requiring a move to a specific team, there are few clubs better positioned than the New York Knicks to land Lillard.
- Russell Westbrook, Washington Wizards: New York never really engaged in trade talks for Westbrook before the 2020-’21 season, wanting to see how their younger roster performed. Westbrook proved he can still play at an extremely high level and the Knicks have the cap space to absorb his contract. There are certainly limitations to Westbrook’s game, but he’d be the star MSG needs and would push the Knicks up a tier in the Eastern Conference.
- Trade up: With two first-round picks and the No. 32 selection, a trade feels inevitable. There’s little incentive for the Knicks to keep three rookies on their roster. Plenty of teams will be taking calls in the 7-12 range and if a defensive-minded guard like Davion Mitchell slides a bit, the Knicks might jump up.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Knicks have engaged in talks with lottery teams about moving up in the 2021 NBA Draft. New York owns the 19th and 21st selections and in a talent-rich class, this could be the year to move up for an impact player.
New York Knicks 2021 draft preview
It’s time for everyone to get excited about this team. The New York Knicks draft picks and cap space ($60 million) put this franchise in a fantastic spot. Any superstar that demands a trade this summer, Leon Rose will be putting in a call and boasts the assets to land almost any player.
But it all starts with the 2021 NBA Draft. There will plenty of rumors in the weeks leading up to it, but draft night will answer a lot of questions about the Knicks’ summer plans and targets.