If there's a silver lining to be found in this 13-54 Knicks season, it's in the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery and development of the young core
Fans can feel genuine excitement over some of the fresh talent their franchise collected. A few of these guys fulfilling their potential as useful NBA starters and even All-Stars is critical to this rebuild, and we're getting a clearer picture of where they have to go and how far they are from getting there. Here are the NBA players each Knicks prospect (24 and younger) should model their game after going forward:
Mitchell Robinson - Rudy Gobert
These comparisons aren't meant to serve as a realistic ceiling necessarily, but Mitchell Robinson could definitely be a consistent Defensive Player of the Year candidate and borderline All-Star. He trades out Gobert's strength for more length, but the potential effect on opposing offenses remains. Both stick to their roles and are surprisingly deft for their size. Robinson will need to pick up his screening ability to match Gobert's, but this is how good he can be, if not better.
Kevin Knox - Tobias Harris
While Robinson was a relatively clear picture, the jury's still out on who exactly Knox is. What position is right for him? Where would he best excel on offense? Will he bring more to the table than scoring?
Based on his lackluster year and general rawness, an educational guess is the best we can do. Harris has blossomed as a combo forward who can light up the scoreboard and pick up his slack on the boards, moving the ball and on defense. Knox has only exhibited flashes of each, but the goal should be trying to develop the whole package, and he has the potential to do so.
Damyean Dotson - Klay Thompson
Lofty? Maybe. But Dotson has taken tangible strides in two seasons, shows the ability to not only hit from three, but from a few steps behind the arc.
He's not afraid or incapable of attacking the rim and is improving on the defensive end as well. He won't be the all-time shooter Thompson is, but he shouldn't be relegated to Danny Green status (not that there's anything wrong about that) just yet. Turning 25 in two months doesn't help his case, but if he keeps improving at this pace, there's a lot of promise.
Dennis Smith Jr. - Eric Bledsoe
To be frank, there aren't a lot of successful point guards right now that can't knock down threes at a sufficient clip or defend well. Smith Jr. is falling short in those areas, but impressing in many other ways. His athleticism is ridiculous, and his passing skills are that of a seasoned veteran.
Rounding out the rest of his game while optimizing what he's already good at will be a tough road, but opens up the possibility of DSJ being a terror from the point guard spot. The flashes he's shown and the gifts he has make him capable of being an All-Star caliber player for the Knicks.
Allonzo Trier -- Jamal Crawford
Though Trier is more of an inside guy as compared to Crawford's jump-shooting prowess, both are gifted score-first guards that provide a spark off the bench that competitive teams love to have. The way Trier works his defender with his herky-jerky handles into nudging off at just the right angle for him to explode to the basket is scary for a rookie. The kid's nickname is Iso-Zo to top it off.
Frank Ntilikina -- Jrue Holiday
At this point, Dennis Schroeder is likely the best-case scenario for Ntilikina, but Holiday better reflects Frank's build and defensive potential. There's still much work to be done offensively: tightening that dribble, knocking down open jumpers and attacking the rim with more confidence, to name a few. But he's too young to give up on, especially in his second season.
Noah Vonleh -- Draymond Green
After Vonleh found his stroke from three, but before he dropped off a bit in this latter portion of the season, there was a period where he was legitimately Draymond-lite. He'd set hard screens, make plays for himself and others off the roll and dribble, defend the heck out of the basketball and rebound effectively. That whole package in a power forward that's still only 23? Yikes.
Emmanuel Mudiay -- Derrick Rose
Their offenses are very similar, and Mudiay has raised eyebrows this season with a few explosive scoring nights. He's still only 22, so there's hope the defense and passing start coming along. But even if they don't, Mudiay should be a strong scoring threat off the bench.
Mario Hezonja - C.J. Miles
So, the Hezonja flier has been… less than successful.
Luke Kornet - Kelly Olynyk
Kornet has shown the ability to shoot like one of the best stretch-fives in the league. Now he has to show he can bring more to the table.