There's no question the Knicks have vacancies at the guard position with Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis out long term, Mike Bibby an unrestricted free agent, and Toney Douglas with no defined role.
But don't overlook the team's need to upgrade their frontcourt off the bench, especially because Carmelo Anthony doesn't have a lot of backup and the injury-prone Jared Jeffries is an unrestricted free agent. Even if Jeffries returns, which is likely at the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million, the Knicks will need more youth, size, scoring, athleticism, rebounding and defending in the second unit.
In addition to Jeffries, while Josh Harrellson is a big body, he's not athletic enough; he's more of an outside shooter. Also, Steve Novak is strictly a shooter and Jerome Jordan is still a developing talent. The Knicks could use another player, whether it be a rookie or veteran, who can shoot, be an interior presence and make plays on both ends of the court.
With my colleague Ryan Feldman, an ESPN Stats & Info college hoops researcher and co-founder of The Hoops Report, I've pinpointed five small forwards and five power forwards who the Knicks could pick at No. 48 (for offense and defense).
First, for small forwards:
1. Jae Crowder (Marquette) -- The consensus on Crowder is that there isn't an exact position for him. But that's because he's viewed as a very good all-around player who has the size (6-6, 235) to play inside and out. He was basically a double-double machine this past season and he would likely become a fan favorite in New York for his intensity, toughness, active motor and unique style (he has long dreadlocks). Perhaps most impressive is that he has an NBA-needed quick release and range to 3-point territory.
2. Draymond Green (Michigan State) -- While Green is about the same size as Crowder (6-7, 230), he's not as athletic and his release is a bit slower because he takes more time to set up. Crowder is better on the catch-and-shoot. But Green is more skilled on the block on offense and defense. He makes strong moves, has good footwork, an effective spin move and a nice touch around the basket. He can also initiate the fast break, handle the ball a bit in the half court and pass well to teammates from the wing and out of the post.
3. Kris Joseph (Syracuse) -- The Knicks could have two Orangemen to choose from with the 48th pick. One is point guard Scoop Jardine; the other could be Joseph (6-7, 215), who can drain the outside jump shot and finish with authority. However, he needs to add more creativity to his drives in half-court sets. He's more of a linear penetrator who likes to rely on his long strides to get to the basket. But in the NBA that won't cut it. Defensively, he plays passing lanes well and has the ability to be a one-man fast break.
4. Khris Middleton (Texas A&M) -- Middleton (6-7, 210) could have been a lottery pick if he didn't suffer a partially torn right meniscus in November, which required surgery and him to miss about four weeks. When he returned from the injury, he looked out of sync. For example, his 3-point shooting dropped from 36.1 percent as a sophomore to 26 this past year. But the potential is there because of his skills and athleticism. He's a solid isolation scorer, creative dribbler and locked in on D, but he needs to work on his rebounding.
5. Kostas Papanikolaou (Greece) -- The lefty Papanikolaou (6-8, 225) is a little bit of a cross between foreign NBA players Manu Ginobili and Carlos Delfino. He has some craftiness like Ginobili -- he has crossover moves, can split defenders and knows how to finish -- but he's not as good of a passer. Papanikolaou is a pure scorer, who also demonstrates defensive intensity like Delfino. In fact, he'll hustle back and make blocks in transition. Like both of the current NBA players, Papanikolaou's best asset is arguably his 3-point shot.
Stay tuned on Thursday for a look at power forward prospects.
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