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Knicks doing their homework on top PGs

Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to Tuesday's NBA draft lottery, most of the attention has been focused on the debate between the top two collegiate big men -- Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor.

But the New York Knicks have done their homework on the point guard position as well.

In fact, according to ESPN Insider Chad Ford, there is "complicated debate" among the Knicks front office regarding Okafor and the two top point guards -- D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay.

"As of today, it looks like Jahlil Okafor would be the second choice. While he doesn't have the defensive skills of Towns, his ability to play right away and his dominance on the offensive end will make him difficult to pass. After that, the Mudiay and Russell rages in the Knicks' front office the same way it's raging in front offices around the NBA," Ford says.

Phil Jackson scouted Russell in person in late February at an Ohio State game. Afterward, he made it clear that he was a fan of the 19-year-old.

"He's a great-looking kid," Jackson told Cleveland.com. "Great prospect."

The NBA fined Jackson for those comments, a source for a light moment when Jackson and the Knicks' hierarchy sat down to interview Russell in Chicago last week.

"I actually apologized to him when I met with him," Russell said, according to reports. "He kind of winked and smiled."

Russell also raised eyebrows when he said he wasn't familiar with Jackson's triangle offense, but that shouldn't keep the Knicks from thinking long and hard about taking Russell if the opportunity arises on draft night.

ESPN NBA Draft analyst Fran Fraschilla sees Russell as one of the most skilled players in the draft.

"I think D'Angelo Russell has a chance in time to be an NBA star," Fraschilla said on a recent conference call. "He is a combo guard who is more of a point guard, in my opinion, than he is a 2-guard. He is the best passer, I think I can remember in recent years this high in the draft. He has incredible court vision. He throws passes to teammates that don't even realize they're open. That is the mark of a great passer. He's got size, he's got a terrific IQ."

Russell's measurements (6-foot-5 with a 6-9.75 wingspan) are similar to John Wall's. But some observers believe Russell lacks athleticism.

"While he's not an elite athlete, he's a good enough athlete, and he may be the most skilled player in this draft," Fraschilla said. "I didn't say the best player, but maybe the most skilled from the standpoint of shooting, passing IQ, and then the requisite size to play guard in the NBA. So I don't think he's going to have much of a problem once he starts to physically mature."

The other elite point guard in the draft is Mudiay, who committed to play for ex-Knicks coach Larry Brown at SMU but ultimately decided to play professionally in China this season.

Mudiay was injured for much of the season, but impressed scouts and observers when he did play.

"[Mudiay is] the mystery man in this draft. He has a Jason Kidd-type game in that he's big, strong, quick, powerful [and] perfect in the open court," Fraschilla said in a recent interview with the New York Post. "There's a lot of promise there, but he's not a great shooter at the moment."

The Knicks, according to league sources, have done their homework on the 6-5, 190-pound guard, scouting him in person on occasion during the season.

Of course, it makes sense that Jackson & Co. would pay close attention to the point guards in this draft. New York is guaranteed a top-five pick. If they fall out of the top two, they could be forced to choose between Mudiay, Russell and others.

The Knicks will find out where they select on Tuesday night when the NBA holds its draft lottery.

No Cauley-Stein workout: The Knicks did not host Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein for a workout on Sunday. Reports stated that he was going to work out for the Knicks but, according to a league source, no workout was scheduled.