Scott Perry didn’t talk about luck leading into the NBA Draft Lottery.
He talked about focus. Afterward, as the Knicks maintained their maddening record of never once moving up in 15 lottery appearances, Perry talked about fortune.
“I’m just happy we didn’t move back,” he said.
So the Knicks remained in the 9th spot in the draft and now have a little over a month to decide who they’ll choose on June 21 at Barclays Center. In a draft loaded with new age athletic big men who shoot threes and block shots, the Knicks don’t have a specific need to target. And, as Perry bluntly pointed out, there’s a reason for that.
“We’ve got to add talent to this team,” he said, “regardless of position.”
The team went from being in a desperate search for point guards to having two — Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke — who are former lottery picks looking to get re-established. They also have last year’s first-round pick, Frank Ntilikina, who looks like he will be developed into more of a combo guard with a defensive foundation. While the Knicks could be in play at No. 9 for arguably the best point guard in the draft — Alabama’s Collin Sexton — Perry said there are conditions to once again target the point guard spot in the draft.
“I think it only makes sense if you feel that guard is far and above what you have on the roster,” he said. “And we haven’t been able to make that determination yet.”
Expect Sexton to be among the players the Knicks meet with at the NBA Combine (his measurables will be important because he was listed at 6-foot-3 in college) and get a workout back in New York in June. Sexton only has to prove he has more potential than Mudiay or Burke, and some feel his athleticism and speed will make him a dynamic NBA guard that will fit in today’s pro game.
The most logical area of focus for the Knicks is at the wing, where Tim Hardaway Jr. moved to during the season and was forced to defend bigger players. The Knicks desperately need a small forward who can switch onto guards and yet can also defend the post, while also offering the ability to shoot the three. That describes Villanova’s Mikal Bridges.
And when you listen to Perry, the type of player the Knicks are looking for — “the guy, we feel, is the best fit for our culture” — also describes Bridges, a two-time national champion, and Big East Tournament MVP.
“I bring winning to your team,” Bridges said last month.
The Knicks certainly need that element.
Perry acknowledged the need at small forward — “It’s no secret we could use help at wing,” he said — he would not completely commit to it as the main focus. “At the end of the day, I still think we’re in talent-acquisition mode,” he said, reiterating the need to find the best talent available.
Last week on my radio show on ESPN Radio (7-10 PM Weeknights on 98.7 FM in New York), Perry told me it also depends on who is available when the Knicks make their pick.
“If there’s someone down there at a position you think you’re more strong at, but the player is clearly a better talent than, maybe, the position of need, then you have that question: do you go ahead and take the greater talent at that time and then utilize trades and free agency to bolster the position you feel you need help in at small forward?” Perry said.
In other words, if you have to stack talent at one spot, you do it and turn the surplus into an asset to fill the area of need via trades.
“We have to get the highest level of talent that we can get onto our roster and we’ll figure out all the positions once they get in there,” Perry said.
This will be the third time in four years that the Knicks are selecting in the top 10. Kristaps Porzingis became an All-Star, Ntilikina is a project. This year’s pick, Perry knows, has to make an impact to advance the cause.
“If you can find a starter, that would be fantastic,” he said. “Worst-case scenario is you have to find a strong, what I would call, a rotation player who is going to play for you each and every night and is going to contribute to your overall success.”