I literally just changed my mind on this. For the past few days, I thought Klay Thompson was the clear-cut choice in terms of somebody to move up for. Although the Knicks don’t necessarily NEED to add to their offense, this would give them the third piece of a big three ala the Celtics. By no means am I comparing the talent level, but instead using the Celtics blueprint for player types ideal for big three.
It starts with a solid low post threat with a consistent J out to 15 feet (Garnett). Next, there is a true isolation scorer with a deadly midrange game and the ability to knock down threes at an above average clip (Pierce). And lastly, a deep ball shooter with such bulls eye accuracy that the defense is forced to give the first two pieces space to work, or else risk getting buried by a quick 9-0 run (Allen). I was firmly convinced that Thompson could be that last piece for the Knicks. Obviously not at the clip that Allen is for the Celtics, but effective enough to inspire the fear of that run in defenses, giving Melo and STAT free reign.
But the one thing that made me change my mind was Mike Nugent. You see, just like kickers, I believe that you don’t want to draft your shooters. The Jets drafted Nugent in 2007, a can’t miss college kicker from OSU and, well, he missed… a lot. Enough that they eventually brought in veteran Jay Feely to challenge for the job, and eventually replace him. I’d be much more willing to sacrifice leg power (or in a shooters case athleticism) for accuracy and poise in the big moment (applicable to both positions).
Sure, every once in a while there’s an outlier like Steph Curry who shows no ill effects of adjusting to the league, namely NBA defenses and the extended three point line. But plenty of other outstanding 3 point shooters – like JJ Redick, Salim Stoudamire, and Steve Novak – saw their percentages fall noticeably from their senior year in college to their rookie year in the NBA. Only one of those three (Redick) has regained his reputation as someone that has to be accounted for from 30 feet in.
Assuming that a truly elite NBA 3 point shooter shoots 40%, last year there were no elite rookie 3-point shooters (Gary Neal went undrafted out of Towson in 2007). There were six elite 2nd year shooters (Curry: 44.2 %, Reggie Williams 42.3 %, Wesley Matthews 40.7 %, Ty Lawson 40.4 %, Austin Daye: 40.1 %, and Jodie Meeks 39.7%), and three elite third year shooters (Anthony Morrow 41.9 %, Kevin Love 41.7 %, Courtney Lee 40.8 %).
Now, to wrap this up, almost half of the players mentioned above were undrafted. Drafting a great shooter is a very inexact science, kind of like drafting a quarterback. You know that rebounding transfers to the NBA, same with elite athleticism, and solid defense, mainly because all of these tools are defined heavily by effort.
A shooter needs deft touch from a distance well beyond where the line dictates, fearlessness – not just in the waning moments but also in the face of a charging defender – and enough confidence that it radiates to their teammates, who then never question giving them the ball in a big moment. All against significantly stiffer competition than in college, and without the benefit of preheating the oven with 3 or 4 warm up threes. To conclude, would I take Thompson if he inexplicably fell to 17? Yes. But what I want to trade up for is more athleticism and defense, so the pick is…
I watched him play in college every time the Seminoles played the Terps, and every time came away wowed at just how physically impressive he was in person. More than with any other player I saw in 4 years, besides Derrick Favors, Chris Singleton had an NBA ready body.
What Singleton is, is the draft’s best defender, and he might lap the field in that department. The minute he ties off the Nikes, he will immediately be the most effective defender in New York at three different positions.
Naturally, he profiles as a small forward, which is the spot he played for the Seminoles. But his height and length mean that he’s capable of guarding the majority of the 4’s in the league, and his outstanding foot speed means that pick and roll switches with a shooting guard would present a challenge only in exemplary circumstances (like a lightning quick Monta Ellis).
With all of the firepower that the Knicks have, what they need is the ability to erase one player off the floor from the opposing team. If they could turn a great player into an above average one, or were capable of turning a Big 3 (whether it be Miami or Boston) into a Medium 2.25, they could win an extra 5-6 games per year. Right now, Singleton can guard 90% of players that he’ll be matched up with at the NBA level.
In terms of his offense, he’s not raw, but certainly much closer to rare than medium, as evidenced by the fact that last year the Noles built a condo complex with all the bricks they laid. How much of this is this fault has been debated by scouts. There are those that say that he’s looked exponentially more effective in summer camps than he did in Leonard Hamilton’s plodding system.
Last year doesn’t provide much help in terms of judging where his offensive game stands. Somewhere between 9/16 for 28 points against national runner u Butler, and 2/11 for 6 points against ACC cellar dweller Wake Forest. Could he develop into a decent shooter (.368% from 3 last year)? Like I just said, it’s difficult to predict from college to the pro’s, but it would just be gravy.
There are a handful of players in the past 20 years (Rodman, Artest, LeBron) who have been blessed with the unique athletic gifts that Singleton possesses. With a little coaching, and some time to pick up player tendencies and judge the officials foul calls, he presents the tantalizing option of being able to shut down anybody from 6’5” – 6’10”, no matter their skill level.
My theme for this year is a player who would allow Amar’e or Melo to maximize their offensive attributes by alleviating them of primary defensive responsibilities. Singleton is the one player in this draft that would be able to cover either Amar’e or Carmelo’s man not just effectively, but better than either of the stars could.