3 best NBA Draft prospects Knicks must watch in 2023 NCAA Tournament

The New York Knicks are playing well and are currently focused on the upcoming NBA playoffs. However, with the 2023 NCAA Tournament about to start and the 2023 NBA Draft to follow, it’s time for fans to look toward the future as well. In that vein, here are the three best potential Knicks draft picks to watch in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

Dereck Lively II, C, Duke

The Knicks have a loaded roster at both the guard and forward spots. Jalen Brunson, Immanuel Quickley, Julius Randle, and RJ Barrett among others are the reason Knicks fans have more hope in the 2022-23 squad than any team in years.

What the Knicks need most to round out the roster is a dynamic center. Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jericho Sims are all solid players and bring different things to the table but none are big men on the level of the top players at the position in the league, like Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid.

There aren’t many true centers in the 2023 NBA Draft after Victor Wembanyama — and you can debate whether he’s a “center” at all, even at 7-foot-5 — outside of Duke big Dereck Lively II.

The 7-foot-1 center was the No. 1 high school recruit last offseason, but in his freshman season at Duke, fellow freshman big Kyle Filipowski overshadowed him. Lively averaged just 5.4 points and 5.0 rebounds this season in 19.8 minutes per game.

While Lively hasn’t shown his full potential with the Blue Devils, his talent, athleticism, and skill on both sides of the ball, he may be better suited to the NBA game and could be a steal at the back end of the first round.

The NCAA Tournament game that Knicks fans who like Lively should be most excited for is the potential Sweet Sixteen game against the Purdue Boilermakers. If that matchup happens, the Duke center will go against one of the best players in college basketball, 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey.

Kris Murray, PF, Iowa

It’s not sexy to pick upperclassmen in the NBA Draft, but one potential Knicks draft picks to watch in this NCAA tournament is Iowa junior Kris Murray.

Murray started his career with the Hawkeyes averaging 3.2 minutes and 0.6 minutes per game. The 6-foot-8 forward put in the work, though, and became one of the best scorers in the country this season.

What Murray is doing ahead of the NCAA tournament is one thing, but the fact that his twin brother Keegan is showing great promise on the surprising Sacramento Kings is helping Kris as well.

Any Knicks draft pick in 2023 doesn’t have time to sit and develop for two, three, or four years. New York needs help now, as their championship window is fully open. At 22, Murray may not have the elite upside of some other prospects in this NBA draft, but he should be able to come in right away and contribute.

Murray is a career 35.1% 3-point shooter, and he should be able to extend to NBA range. At worst, Kris should come right in and put up numbers similar to his brother, averaging 11.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists.

At best, Kris Murray could become a high-end, 3-and-D big wing, which would look great on the Knicks in 2023-24.

Colby Jones, PG/SG, Xavier

If the Knicks have one issue at the guard position it is that the team’s entire rotation is on the smaller side. Jalen Brunson is 6-foot-1, Immanuel Quickley is 6-foot-3, and Quentin Grimes is 6-foot-5.

Adding a big guard with the Knicks draft pick in the 2023 NBA Draft would be a good move, and the player to watch in the upcoming NCAA Tournament is Xavier’s 6-foot-6 guard, Colby Jones.

Like Murray, Jones is a third-year player. However, at 20 years old, he is two years younger than the Iowa Hawkeyes star. The biggest similarity is they are both players who have improved every season for the Musketeers. In the past season, he averaged 15.2 points, 4.3 assists, and 5.4 rebounds. At the next level, Jones can be an on-the-ball playmaker or an off-ball scorer for the team that takes him in the NBA draft.

During the NCAA Tournament, Jones can help his draft stock if the matchups fall right. In the Sweet Sixteen, he could run into the best senior point guard in the nation, Penn State’s Jalen Pickett, and in the Elite Eight, he might go head-to-head with the harassing Houston Cougars.

Dominating in those situations could send Jones soaring up draft boards. Depending on where New York ends up, though, Jones could be an excellent candidate to become a Knicks draft pick.

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