Last season, nobody really thought much about the draft of the Knicks. New York didn't have a first-round draft pick, only a pair of second-round choices. For a team that had largely cleared the salary decks for a free-agent splurge, draft night seemed like an after thought. With the 39th pick of the night, the Knicks took Landry Fields, who ended up as their starting two-guard and logged over 2,500 minutes on the season. Only John Wall saw the court more often as a rookie. Fields wasn't the most highly skilled player in last season's first-year class. He did some things very well: He rebounded from the backcourt, defended on the perimeter and shot well from three-point range. As things turned out, the Knicks needed those specific skills so badly that it was hard for coach Mike D'Antoni to take Fields off the floor.
Keeping that little anecdote in mind, let's look at some players from this year's draft class that aren't likely to be taken in the lottery, but still have one or two standout skills that can get them onto the court in the next NBA season. And let's match those skills with a team that can use them.
Reggie Jackson > Milwaukee Bucks
Needs: backup point guard, three-point shooting
The Bucks won't take Jackson with the 10th pick as the Boston College point guard is projected as a late first-rounder at best. Depending on how things go, Jackson might be there when the Bucks pick at No. 40 and he'd be a great fit in Milwaukee. The Bucks need a young backup for Brandon Jennings, outside shooting and offense creation. Jackson fills the bill on all counts, with a perimeter game that improved during his collegiate career and a solid percentage from three-point range. Jackson can run the second unit, play alongside Jennings in stretches and get his own shot against lesser defenders. Jackson's defensive metrics aren't great, but he has good raw physical ability and a long reach for a backcourt player. Seems like good material for the defense-obsessed Scott Skiles to work with. This would be a perfect fit for both player and team.
Keith Benson > Boston Celtics
Needs: backup center, shot blocking
Oh yeah, I love this one. Benson showed up as a late-lottery talent in my translations, one that is projected to go in the mid-second round. Not only would the Celtics be getting an underrated player at No. 25, they could fill a couple of huge voids. Boston was desperate for center play, especially on the defensive end, after Shaquille O'Neal was injured and Kendrick Perkins was traded last season. Benson can potentially serve as a defensive anchor, thought likely not at first. He's got to get stronger. But he's still raw, with plenty of room to grow. He can help Doc Rivers for 10-12 minutes a game, when foul trouble won't be an issue. Would Rivers actually use him? That's the question.
Jeremy Tyler > Los Angeles Lakers
Needs: backup center, defensive rebounding, upside talent
I wish I could say that I have confidence in my translated stats on Tyler, who played in Japan last season. I don't. However, he's got the attributes of an impact rebounder--he's big, young and athletic. It'd be up to Mike Brown and his staff to tease production out of all that immaturity. The Lakers need young upside players, however, and need a backup center in the worst way. Some team is going to take the plunge on Tyler and with four picks in the second round, why not L.A.? It would be a good locker room to accelerate the maturation process of the raw but world-traveled Tyler.
Iman Shumpert > Miami Heat
Needs: playmaking from the point guard position
The Heat need a point guard that can distribute the ball. Mario Chalmers, if he returns, isn't a pure playmaker. Mike Bibby, at this late juncture of his career, isn't really anything. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will remain the primary playmakers but Miami needs a player that can orchestrate traditional sets in certain configurations. Shumpert may be that player and he may be there when Miami selects with the first pick of the second round. Shumpert rates as one of the draft's best passers but also has tremendous potential as a defender. He's got terrific ball-hawking skills and, at 6'6", would be a nightmare tool for Eric Spoelstra to deploy against elite point guards. Shumpert won't space the floor, which will limit his court time, but he has a fine complemenatry skill set that no one else on the Heat currently possesses.
Travis Leslie > San Antonio Spurs
Needs: youth and athleticism
The Spurs made a deft acquisition last season, picking up Gary Neal from overseas to serve as a dynamic, floor-spacing wing off the bench. San Antonio needs to get younger and more athletic, especially at the second backup wing position, where James Anderson, Danny Green, Alonzo Gee and Larry Owens were among those given minutes. Leslie is an undersized combo wing with exceptional physical ability. Like Neal, he's just 6'4", which could be problematic, but his rebounding from the wing, help defense and ability to run the floor would make a nice complement to the current Spurs roster, which is expected to mostly remain intact. As with Rivers, it remains to be seen whether even a player as seemingly perfect for the back of San Antonio's rotation as Leslie would see the court as a rookie under Gregg Popovich.
Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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