Ron Baker and Chasson Randle spent the last third of the season picking each other’s brains about the art of playing point guard.
And the Knicks have the seventh slot in the NBA Draft Lottery, which comes with an 18.2 percent of chance of landing a top-three selection and a 5.3 percent shot at the top pick.
Shake off the disappointment of the season’s 31-win campaign and consider this: The player taken with their high pick, combined with the emergence of those young players, transforming the Knicks into a much more competitive team in 2017-18.
It could happen.
This draft is rich in quality point guards. But before the Knicks decide to use that pick on a lead guard, there are decisions to be made.
Phil Jackson, the Knicks president of basketball operations, said he believes the team can get younger and more athletic by trading forward Carmelo Anthony. If such a deal were to go down, the Knicks might have additional picks in this draft.
“Right now we need players that are really active, can play every single play, defensively and offensively,’’ Jackson said at the season-ending press conference. “That’s really important for us.
“We started to get some players on the court [at the end of the season] that can do that. And that’s the direction we have to go.’’
Which means a decision also needs to be made on free agent point guard Derrick Rose.
Rose told Jackson that he’d like to return. But Rose’s season ended prematurely when he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee, the same one he blew out in 2012.
Jackson expressed his admiration for Rose. But with the NBA rules favoring point guard play, the Knicks might want to grab one of the young lead guards coming out.
Markelle Fultz is the consensus No. 1 pick. After the Washington point guard, there are three or four guards that could be on the board when the Knicks pick.
According to several mock drafts, Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox could be available when the Knicks are on the clock. Fox’s stock has been rising. His only drawback is consistent outside shooting. Fox shot just 24.6-percent on 3s.
N.C. State point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is another freshman with a ton of upside. He’s stronger and a better shooter than Fox, who is considered an elite defender. Kentucky’s Malik Monk, a shooting guard who can play the point, also is an option.
“I like the backbone of what we have,’’ Jackson said. “I like the people that are in Portsmouth that are looking at talent. They know what they’re looking for.
“The people that are in our scouting [department], I think we know what we want. We’re interested in developing talent and turning away from say, ‘This guy can jump out of the gym. This guy can do a triple double gainer to dunk the ball.’’’
“That’s not what we’re interested in. We’re interested in skill players that know how to play together in a team form.’’
In Porzingis and Hernangomez, the Knicks have two young building blocks that could form a formidable frontcourt for the next decade.
Porzingis has acknowledged he needs to get stronger to avoid the minor, nagging injuries he fought in the second half of the season. Hernangomez has vowed to become a better defensive player.
Kuzminskas possesses a high basketball IQ and a slick offensive game. He, too, will benefit by improving his strength and defensive game.
Jackson said he wants players that will get into player’s bodies on defense. Which brings us to the center position.
Joakim Noah’s first season with the Knicks was sabotaged by an assortment of injuries. The New York native saw his childhood dream come true when he donned a Knicks jersey but he was limited to 46 games.
Noah adds a physical paint presence. He was the NBA’s 2014 Defensive Player of the Year. Noah told MSGNetworks.com that the season also was emotionally painful because he badly wanted to impress Knicks fans.
“Hamstrings, hamstrings, hamstrings, eventually it ended up being a knee that was creating ultimately other problems,’’ Jackson said. “He expressed his great dedication toward getting back to what he was and who he is as a basketball player.’’
The Knicks, who also have two picks in the second round (Nos. 44 & 58), have several role players that nicely fit with Jackson’s vision.
If the Knicks decide not to re-sign Rose, they will have about $22 million in cap space. Although Jackson is intent on building an identity with young players that can defend and move the ball, he is not adverse to dipping into the free agent market.
“I think you can do both,’’ Jackson said. “I think you can do both together. We obviously have three draft picks so we’re going to bring in some young players. We obviously have money for the contractual situation in free agency. So we’d like to do a little bit of both in this and we’d like to have a team that’s competitive.’’