The Knicks will have a great opportunity to select some immediate help in the 2021 draft, stocked with two first-round and two-second round picks. David Vertsberger of Yahoo Sports examines the pros and cons of intriguing Duke small forward Jalen Johnson in a new piece.
Johnson, 19, appears to have a high upside, per Vertsberger. He has exhibited flashes of being a solid playmaker and dangerous transition option at the next level. Defensive-oriented Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau could enjoy working with Johnson, who could be a valuable contributor on that end of the floor thanks to his athleticism and size (6-9 with a 6-11 wingspan).
Vertsberger cautions that Johnson’s long-range jump shooting is the biggest question mark in his game, as he took just 18 three-point attempts during his lone season at Duke (but he did convert 44% of them). He also made just 63% of his free-throw attempts, a low number for a ball handler. Johnson is currently listed as a late-lottery prospect on ESPN’s big board. The Knicks have the No. 19, No. 21, No. 32 and No. 58 picks this year.
There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- Three-and-D Oregon wing Chris Duarte could be a perfect fix for what ails the Knicks in this year’s 2021 draft, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. “I’m ready to step in,’’ the 24-year-old said during a Zoom interview with reporters Friday. "No doubt in my mind, [Duarte is] good enough for an NBA rotation now,’’ Oregon assistant coach-turned-DePaul head coach Tony Stubblefield raved. “And he’s ready to impact winning in an NBA franchise. He’s still got more upside to his game.’’ This season, Duarte was awarded the Jerry West Award, given to the country’s top shooting guard, and honored as the Pac-12 Player of the Year by the Associated Press. Duarte averaged 17.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 APG and 1.9 SPG. His shooting percentages are encouraging, too: he averaged .532/.424/.810. during 2020/21. ESPN projects Duarte to be available within the range of where New York will be selecting, as a mid-to-late first-rounder.
- Now that Nuggets shooting guard Will Barton has opted out of the final season of his contract, the free-agent market for swingmen has gotten that much more competitive. Brian Robb of MassLive.com notes that this could help the Celtics retain free agent wing Evan Fournier. Robb notes that only 5-10 clubs will have the salary-cap space to add solid starting wings for more than the full $9.7 million midlevel exception, and thus his availability will leave one fewer team available to lure Fournier away with a big-money offer.
- Wells Fargo Center, home court to the Sixers, is soon set to resume the $300 million renovation that had been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New club level seating improvements will be added this fall, and further improvements will be built next summer. Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer wonders if the club will opt to remain at Wells Fargo long-term or will continue pursuing the construction of its own arena. The Sixers' lease with Wells Fargo expires in 2031.