COMMENTARY | The New York Knicks have the No. 24 pick in Thursday's 2013 NBA Draft. James Dolan and GM Glen Grunwald are going to have a variety of options once they're on the clock. Undoubtedly, the Knicks are looking to add a player that can make a contribution immediately, but that guy could be hard to find late in the first round. Which way should they go?
Their spot in the draft order is unpredictable, to say the least, but for a while I have liked Jeff Withey. Teams in these draft spots tend to go with the best player available and for the Knickerbockers it could be this guy. The seven-foot center out of Kansas should be available; although you never know. On most major draft boards, he is projected as a late first round pick, ranked between the mid 20s and low 30s as far as player prospects go.
If he is there, the Knicks might want to scoop him up. His game is similar to that of Tyson Chandler. Withey is one of the top shot blockers in this year's draft, having blocked an average of four shots per game each of the past two seasons. With his 7' 2" wingspan he alters shots in the lane, making it difficult for opponents driving into the paint. Chandler was injured late in the season, and it showed in the playoffs. What scouts seem to like most about Withey is his ability as a big man to defend help-side as well as one-on-one. The idea is that it isn't easy to find a seven-footer with footwork this refined.
Tyson is going to get the majority of minutes, but having a monster like Withey down low can give him some much needed rest. If the Knicks have another reliable big man that plays defense on the block, Chandler can enter games down the stretch instead of having to play the entire fourth quarter and perhaps being gassed at the end of games. Chandler can also serve as a mentor to Withey, who models his game after the Knicks center.
Withey, like Chandler, has no game with his back to the basket. He makes shots around the rim, grabs offensive rebounds and puts them back up. The Jayhawk averaged 14 points and 9 rebounds in his senior season, helping Kansas to a 31-6 record and a share of the Big 12 title. Withey can help the Knicks reassert the dominance around the basket they seemed to lose in the playoffs. Do we really foresee his lack of offense being an issue? The Knicks didn't have many points come out of the five spot this past season and were one of the most potent offenses in the league for most of the season.
Amar'e Stoudemire (if healthy) will provide offense in the paint. Granted, we can't count on the man being healthy, but I don't see the point in being so pessimistic when we are stuck with his contract anyway. In the 29 regular season games he got to play in, he averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes on the floor. If he can keep those knees in check just a little bit, Amar'e can help the Knicks offensively. His lack of defense just means he has six fouls to give and if he doesn't allow so many easy baskets, that's all we can really ask for.
Chris Copeland could emerge as a player to watch down low for the Knicks. He is interchangeable between the small forward and power forward position and could take turns with Carmelo Anthony posting up and playing outside. Copeland has shown the ability to score from various parts of the floor. There is talk about the Knicks losing out on Cope, but without it happening yet I do not want to act as if he is gone already.
For what it's worth, Withey is excellent off the pick-and-roll and finishing at the bucket- he finished with the #1 field goal percentage in America in that regard. Granted, that does not include post-up moves, but the guy finished off 79% of his chances near the rim.
With the defensive skills he possesses, Withey can come in and make a difference from day one. Learning under Tyson Chandler is the best thing for any defensive young big man and making this pick helps the Knicks out now and hopefully down the road as well.
SIDEBAR: Gorgui Dieng of Louisville is a more attractive pick than Withey is. He weighs more and appears to be more NBA ready. Dieng looks like a player right now also and it needs to be mentioned. His set of skills is similar to that of Withey but is clearly higher up on the draft board, and for good reason. Under Rick Pitino, he helped Louisville take the crown in April. The All Big East first-teamer is projected around low-mid 20s, but for some reason I feel like he will be gone by the time New York picks. The exposure he received as part of his team winning the national championship could have him off the board quicker than some expect. Also, Dieng has a bit of an injury history -- something that scares off teams in drafts for every sport. In that case, he could drop to where the Knicks are…but then, isn't it all a vicious circle? If teams start passing on a guy for one reason or another, isn't there a reason for it? This is why the draft is so unpredictable. Although Dieng appears strong as an ox at this point and will only get stronger, the same can be said for Withey. I see them closer to equals than many think. The Kansas man flies a bit more under the radar but could be just what the Knicks need. However, if Dieng is the pick for New York, there are a ton of attributes the former Cardinal star could bring to Madison Square Garden.
Brian Sausa is a Queens, New York native. He has covered a variety of New York sports teams for New York Sports World. Twitter @BrianSausa
- Sports & Recreation
- New York Knicks
- Tyson Chandler
- Jeff Withey