The Knicks will have a great opportunity to add 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.
The 19-year-old Johnson 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 might enjoy working with Johnson, who should 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 1.4 three-point attempts a night during his lone season at Duke (though he did convert 44.4% 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 possess the No. 19, No. 21, No. 32 and No. 58 picks this year, so if they want Johnson, they may need to move up.
There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- 6’6″ 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 won the Jerry West Award, given to the country’s top shooting guard, and was 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. 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 will opt out of the final season of his contract this summer, the free agent market for swingmen has gotten that much more competitive. Brian Robb of MassLive suggests that this could help the Celtics retain free agent wing Evan Fournier. Robb notes that no more than five-to-10 clubs will have the salary cap space to add players for more than the full $9.7MM mid-level exception, and thus Barton’s availability could mean one fewer team is in the mix to lure Fournier away with a big-money offer.
- Wells Fargo Center, home court to the Sixers, is soon set to resume its $300MM renovation, which had been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New club level seating tweaks 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 rumored construction of their own arena. The team’s lease with Wells Fargo expires in 2031. Sielski notes that the improvements to Wells Fargo could entice Sixers ownership to stay. “I don’t want to get into speculation about how the Sixers think about this,” Valerie Camillo, Wells Fargo’s president of business operations, said. “The Sixers know we want them to stay.”