Case for and against Knicks picking Chris Duarte in 2021 NBA Draft

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Chris Duarte treated image, green Oregon jersey and grey background
Chris Duarte treated image, green Oregon jersey and grey background

While it’s unclear where the Knicks truly may end up picking in the 2021 NBA draft with two first-round and two second-round selections to juggle, they’re set up to take advantage of this latest crop of talent coming in.

Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of potential draft options for the Knicks, starting with Oregon's Chris Duarte.

The case for drafting Duarte

Duarte, a 6’6” wing, is one of the best shooters of this draft class. Naturally, this makes him a prime candidate for the Knicks, likely to lose one of, if not both of, their free agent shooting wings.

Duarte’s splits are impressive: 53.2 percent from the field, 42.4 percent from three and 81 percent from the line. Nearly half of his attempts came from deep, 5.5 per game to be exact, and they came in a variety of methods. He can drill it off the catch, coming around screens, or off the dribble.

Also included in Duarte’s bag is a nifty step-back jumper. He has a high release point that, combined with his height, allowed him to loft gorgeous jumpers over defenders at any range on a nightly basis.

Should defenses overplay the shot, Duarte can always 1-2 dribble in for one, or take it all the way to the rack. He has some bounce, and is efficient scoring at the rim with his right.

Without the ball, he knows where to drift or relocate when the offense is freelancing, as with most pure shooters. The Knicks could greatly benefit from Duarte having a nose for open room and finding a look amid scrambling or dead possessions.

As with anybody signing on to play for Tom Thibodeau, defense is crucial. Duarte has a knack for help defense, with his activity leading to averages of 1.9 steals and 0.8 blocks a night. Where he lacks elsewhere, he’s sure to make up for in effort and IQ.

Duarte believes he’s a lottery pick, a show of confidence likely not to come to fruition. Mock drafts have him in the mid-to-late first round, with the Knicks picking him with 19 or 21 in a number of them. If the Knicks want a safe rookie who will come in and contribute immediately, along with someone who spent two years of high school in New York, Duarte may be their man.

Mar 12, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Oregon Ducks guard Chris Duarte (5) dribbles against Oregon State Beavers guard Zach Reichle (11) during the second half at T-Mobile Arena.
Mar 12, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Oregon Ducks guard Chris Duarte (5) dribbles against Oregon State Beavers guard Zach Reichle (11) during the second half at T-Mobile Arena.

The case against drafting Duarte

As someone who is primarily a shooting prospect, Duarte doesn’t have the quickest release. This can be worked on and won’t give him major issues in the league, but is worth noting.

His biggest issue is he’s not the quickest on his feet, either, causing problems laterally on defense and off the dribble offensively. This is compounded by his 190-pound frame, average wingspan and average hops.

In short, his one-on-one shot creation and defense might come under duress early on. The former isn’t helped by Duarte’s handle, which is not quite ready to break down NBA-level defenders.

It’s not that these flaws are fatal or unfixable, but Duarte has the unfortunate honor of coming into his rookie year at the ripe age of 24. This is usually a major red flag, indicative of a lower career ceiling.

While the Knicks need shooting, there are better options in this draft class or free agency. The idea of an NBA-ready wing is nice, but one who is coming in at 24 with mediocre athleticism and build isn’t what New York needs.