Fortunately for the Knicks, the 2017 NBA Draft is one of the deepest in years. It’s uber deep at the two positions the Knicks have prioritized — point guard and small forward.
However, the NBA’s Draft Lottery held Tuesday night in midtown wasn’t fortuitous for New York. The odds favored them getting the 7th pick.
They received the 8th.
Not even Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier’s splendiferous wardrobe could help New York.
“We were hoping for a better pick,’’ said Frazier, who 50 years ago was the Knicks top pick at 5th overall in 1967.
The Knicks didn’t get a better pick, but they are not stuck behind the 8-ball. Because of the abundance of talented guards, there’s no reason to believe New York won’t find a player to feed the young front court of Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez.
Assuming the Knicks don’t move up — which isn’t likely — the two guards that probably will be available are Frank Ntilikina of France and Dennis Smith Jr. of N.C. State.
Ntilikina is taller and a better defender. Smith is stronger and more explosive.
“I don’t anticipate us picking a rabbit out of the hat,’’ Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson told reporters Tuesday night. “We’re looking for the best player at this point to fit what we need.’’
The Knicks need a guard that can run the triangle, which is one of Ntilikina’s strengths. At 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, he has the frame to develop into a unique weapon in the backcourt.
Ntilikina is not considered a true point guard, rather a guard with exceptional defensive prowess, a terrific offensive feel for the game, and one who is rapidly improving his shot.
He needs to develop physically, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t ready to start as a rookie. He played in the same league that produced Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Rudy Gobert.
“He fits the triangle because he’s got the size, skill and basketball feel to play in an offense that rewards versatility,’’ said Fran Fraschilla, ESPN basketball analyst and resident expert on European players.
The Knicks are doing their due diligence on Ntilikina. GM Steve Mills recently traveled to Europe to scout him.
Scouting the French guard doesn’t guarantee anything other than when the Knicks make their selection at the NBA Draft on June 22, they will be prepared.
If Ntilikina is somewhat of a mystery because he’s not as well known as the elite college players, Smith also comes with some uncertainty. Smith’s Wolfpack went 15-17 overall and he took a lot of heating for going 4-14 in ACC play while being one of the nation’s top recruits.
Of course, Markelle Fultz’s Washington squad went 9-22 overall, and 2-16 in Pac 12 play. Fultz is expected to be one of the first three players drafted.
“My thing with him, I’m really proud of him,’’ former N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said of Smith. “I think he’s handled a tough situation as well as you could handle it.
“Tons of expectations were put on Dennis to be the savior of the program, that kind of thing. That’s hard for a young guy.’’
Perhaps, but it will have prepared the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Smith for playing in New York.
Smith has demonstrated his toughness. He tore the ACL in his left knee and missed his senior season in high school, only to return and win ACC Freshman of the Year honors.
“When I recruited him, I thought he had unbelievable potential,’’ said North Carolina coach Roy Williams. “I thought he had a chance to be one of the best point guards I’d ever seen.’’
There’s always a chance that the Knicks could move up or a player could drop. Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster was a consensus Top-15 pick in the NFL Draft who dropped to 31 because of health concerns.
And there are a couple of wing players the Knicks might find attractive such as Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, and FSU’s Jonathan Isaac.
But Jackson reaffirmed the team’s interest in a point guard Tuesday night. In Ntilikina and Smith, the Knicks have two very strong options. Both are likely to be available when the Knicks pick at No. 8.
“We’ll get a young and talented player,” Jackson said. “Hopefully someone that can contribute next year.”