Five point-guard prospects have emerged as lottery options for the upcoming NBA Draft — whether it is held on June 25 or pushed back because of coronavirus.
In what is considered a mediocre class, LaMelo Ball, Cole Anthony, Tyrese Maxey, Tyrese Haliburton and Killian Hayes have separated themselves.
Knicks president Leon Rose has a giant decision to make as the franchise tries to solve what is its greatest need.
“There’s no Ja Morant in this draft,” ESPN’s top college-basketball analyst Seth Greenberg told The Post. “It’s not a good draft.”
The Post reported Knicks scouts earlier this season were given an edict to keep all eyes open for a scoring poing guard.
While Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards has climbed up the draft boards to as high as No. 1 based on upside, he put up inefficient numbers on a dreadful team, is a poor outside shooter, has low basketball IQ and the Knicks already have a bedrock piece in RJ Barrett at that position.
Greenberg, the former Virginia Tech coach who hails from Plainview, Long Island, has his own choice for the Knicks. It’s not the sexiest but safest.
“I really like Haliburton,” Greenberg said of the Iowa State point guard.
Greenberg admits he hasn’t seen enough of Hayes, an 18-year-old from France who skipped college to play professionally in Germany, but has concerns with Ball, Anthony and Maxey.
He has questions on whether Anthony and Maxey have the vision of a pure point guard. Greenberg wonders if the flashy Ball has too much baggage because of his father, LaVar.
“The best of the group is Haliburton,” Greenberg said. “He’s a pure point guard who will end up being able to shoot the ball, does have a runner. He’s got really, really good vision. He sees plays develop, has tremendous size, will be an excellent defender. He could potentially be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.”
The Knicks could have had Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 9 in the 2018 draft, but passed on him for the disappointing Kevin Knox. They have to get this right.
Haliburton, 20, was averaging 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals. The 6-foot-5 sophomore was shooting 50.4 percent (41.9 from 3) before a Feb. 10 wrist injury felled him in his 22nd game. He wouldn’t have been ready for the canceled Big 12 tournament or the NCAA Tournament.
“He’ll be an adequate scorer eventually,” Greenberg said. “I like his feel, presence. He’s got to get a little more bounce into his 3-point shot. I like that he comes with absolutely no baggage.”
Which brings us to the 6-foot-7 Ball, who shut down his season Dec. 7 after bruising his foot in Australia’s National Basketball League.
“LaMelo is a freak with his size, vision and speed,” Greenberg said of Lonzo’s youngest brother. “But he doesn’t shoot it well and his decision-making is not great in terms of shot selection. His creativity is at another level.
“But I think LaMelo in New York would either be feast or famine. I’d only draft LaMelo in New York if there was a promise LaVar wouldn’t come with him. If you have a new Knick front office, do you want to deal with that? The second-guessing from a guy who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He’s a disaster.”
Ball, 18, signed with Creative Artists Agency, Rose’s former agency, but the new Knicks prez wasn’t his primary rep.
Another potential point guard stud with a Knicks connection is Anthony, the New York product and son of ex-NBAer Greg Anthony. Anthony’s freshman year was an injury-riddled disappointment on a mediocre North Carolina team, but he showed flashes.
Greenberg doesn’t believe Anthony will turn out as well as Bulls lottery pick and fellow UNC product Coby White.
“He’s a poor man’s Coby White,” Greenberg said. “I think he’s physically strong, he could be a good defender, but he’s not a point guard. He’s a ball guard. He doesn’t see things very early, doesn’t have great natural vision. He’s an average-at-best shooter. His shot selection wasn’t good, but his team wasn’t good. It’s not like he has this dynamic playmaking ability.”
Greenberg continued the critique of the 19-year-old Anthony, who averaged 18.5 points on 38-percent shooting. “He’s got a good first step, but not great and he’s not a freak athlete,” Greenberg said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen at any level great vision and he’s undersized.”
Kentucky’s Maxey, 19, is higher on Greenberg’s list, but he sees him also as a combo guard. In his freshman debut, the 6-foot-3 Maxey came off the bench to explode for 26 points at the Garden.
Greenberg calls Maxey “a poor man’s Jamal Murray.” Maxey averaged 14 points on 42.7 percent shooting.
“He can make plays, can penetrate, not a great shooter, but can make shots,” Greenberg said. “He’s got good speed with all kinds of floaters. And he’s a great kid, great enthusiasm. He’s far from a pure point guard. He’s a ball guard, but a little undersized for a ball guard. But has a burst, a pretty good passer off the bounce, but not with instinctive vision. He’s no Morant.”
Nobody is in this draft – whenever it will be.