Phil Jackson has said on more than one occasion that he’d consider trading the Knicks’ first-round pick in advance of this summer’s NBA Draft.
That’s the smart position to take — it doesn’t mean Jackson is shopping the pick, or that he wants to trade it, necessarily. It only means that he’s open to the possibilities, and won’t be afraid to accept an offer that may be too good to pass up.
But it’s no secret that Jackson and the Knicks desire to rebuild quickly, so if the pick falls out of the top two when the draft lottery results are announced on May 19, the likelihood of trading it may increase exponentially.
Phil Jackson has said he will likely keep the pick if it falls within the top four, but will consider dealing the pick if it falls to No. 5. Of course, Jackson could change his thinking between now and draft night. League sources with knowledge of the Knicks’ thinking said last month that the team would be very open to trading the pick if it falls outside the top two.
Jackson has said he’s looking for a strong defender in the draft, so it makes sense that the Knicks would rate Towns over Okafor. Towns is widely believed to be the stronger defender of the two at this stage of their careers, while Okafor is viewed by many talent evaluators as a stronger offensive player who is also more NBA-ready. But many scouts believe Towns can develop into a better all-around threat.
Most teams, at this point, seem to rate Karl-Anthony Towns ahead of Jahlil Okafor on their internal draft boards.
The lottery will be critical for plenty of teams, perhaps this year more than most. The Lakers, for example, are desperate for an influx of young talent, but will lose their pick should it fall outside the top five.
The Knicks are in the same boat — not in terms of losing their pick, but they will need a solid player on a rookie-scale deal to jumpstart the rebuilding process. If there are no perceived sure things available at the top couple of slots, it makes sense to listen to offers if they’ll include pieces that would get New York immediately closer to playoff contention.