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NY Knicks Draft Watch - The Forwards: Tony Mitchell & C.J. Leslie
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25 Jun 2013 03:26 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: C.J. Leslie averaged 15.1 PPG and 7.4 RPG as a junior. (Image Source: NBA.com)

Forwards Signed for 2013-14: Carmelo Anthony, Steve Novak, Amar’e Stoudemire

The plan was to build the New York Knicks around the forward tandem of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Even though they had what was a successful season in 2012-13, for the most part, the Stat & Melo experiment still hasn’t worked, not really. The Knicks played their best basketball when Stoudemire was on the sidelines, which allowed Anthony to play the power forward position.

The duo will be back next season and account for over $44 million in payroll. Yet, it remains unclear what role either player will take next season. Melo is clearly the man and the number-one option, but is he going to play the four again or will the Knicks ask him to move back to the three despite his success last season?

Stoudemire brings even more questions. Will he start, as he has most of his career and is paid to do? Or will he come off the bench, as he did this past season, with some success in a small sample? How many minutes can he give on a per game basis? Will he stay healthy?  How many games will he play? These are all questions the Knicks must ponder as they build their team heading into the upcoming campaign and beyond.

Beyond the “Big 2” sharpshooter Steve Novak regressed a bit last season, while Chris Copeland emerged in the postseason. However, the salary-cap strapped Knicks probably won’t be able to keep Copeland after bringing him back to the States from Europe. The New York Post is reporting that the New Orleans Pelicans are prepped to make a big run at Copeland, while the Knicks are trying to re-acquire Greek forward Kostas Papanikolaou.

It’s clear the Knicks need to add another forward this offseason. Even if they decide to go with Anthony at the four, it would nice to have a true power forward on the roster, who isn’t injury prone and/or way past his prime.

Potential First-Round Candidates: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece; *Grant Jerrett, Arizona; * C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State; *Tony Mitchell, North Texas; Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga

* Indicates Player Worked Out For Knicks

Two forward prospects that standout to me as good fits for the Knicks are Tony Mitchell [see workout below] of North Texas and North Carolina State product C.J. Leslie. Mitchell is considered more of a four, while Leslie fits the three mold, but I could see either player [they’re both 6'9”] playing both forward spots. They possess the type of versatile skill set that might work perfectly with Anthony.

Physically, Mitchell gets a mark for every attribute going down the checklist. He’s athletic, has the speed to run up and down the floor, is quick laterally and can really jump. At over 235 pounds he has excellent size to complement his 7’3” wingspan. Offensively he needs to work on his perimeter game, but he can defend either forward position and he’s an excellent rebounder, two skills that would endear him to headman Mike Woodson. Some consider Mitchell to have lottery-top talent, maybe even top 10, but his stock slipped after a disappointing sophomore season. Even so, if he’s there at No. 24 the Knicks should pounce.

Coming out of NC State, Leslie may not have the same upside, but he’s got the ability to be a very solid starter in the NBA. At just under 210 pounds, Leslie lacks the bulk of Mitchell, so he will have to get bigger and stronger to contribute as a power forward at the next level. Nevertheless, his athleticism is top-flight, as are his speed, quickness and jumping ability. Like Mitchell, Leslie can run the floor and finish, and the ACC man is probably even more of a high riser. He’s also shown flashes of developing an outside shot. Moreover, the former Wolfpack has the tools to be an excellent defender if he works at his craft.

Other Forwards Who’ve Worked out for Knicks: Brandon Davies, BYU; Jordan Henriquez, Kansas State; Kenny Kadji, Miami; Murphy Holloway; Ole Miss; Stan Okoye, Virginia Military; Jamal Olasewere, LIU; Romero Osby, Oklahoma; Adonis Thomas, Memphis, Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State; Christian Watford, Indiana

A player who is still raw, but has some intriguing upside is Brandon Davies of BYU. The former Cougar is very athletic for a power forward with excellent rebounding potential, especially if he gets a little stronger. Jordan Henriquez and Kenny Kadji have excellent length, with Kadji clearly the more talented and likely to get drafted of the two. Kadji can do a little bit of everything but his game isn’t as far along as it should be for a 25-year old.

Big Ten products Deshaun Thomas and Christian Watford are small forwards. Thomas will get drafted, possibly early in round number two. An excellent scorer, Thomas is very strong and he continued to add range to his shot at OSU. Indiana’s Watford could be an interesting undrafted pickup. He also has range with the ability to knock down deep shots. Watford has solid physical tools and understands how to be a role player.

What Are the Mock Drafts Saying?

Mock Drafts:

Tony Mitchell, North Texas: “Mitchell's been at this spot for three mocks and I continue to hear the Knicks like him. He has all the physical tools to succeed in the NBA. Strength, length, elite athletic ability. And the Knicks really need help on the front line.” – Chad Ford [ESPN Insider 6.0/June 25]

“Somebody is going to take a gamble on Mitchell in the first round, so it might as well be the Knicks. Despite Carmelo Anthony's wish to add another scorer, New York will look to bolster its frontcourt. While Mitchell may have a similar physique to Amare Stoudemire don't be fooled Knick fans, he doesn't have Stoudemire's long lost game. What he does have, however, is athleticism, long arms and an ability to block shots and rebound. Tyson Chandler needs the help so the Knicks go with Mitchell.” – Tyler Jamieson [The Sports Xchange, Yahoo! Sports/June 19]

New York Knicks Draft Watch Links:

Guards Isaiah Canaan & Brandon Triche Among Six Prospects to Workout

UNC's Reggie Bullock Works Out, Tony Mitchell & Ricardo Ledo Up Next

Guard Ricky Ledo an Intriguing Prospect at No. 24

Could Tony Mitchell Be the Ideal Forward Complement To Carmelo Anthony?

Center Jeff Withey Headlines Monday’s Workout Prospects

Jeff Withey Compares to Tyson Chandler; Mike Muscala Another Big Option

Guards Allen Crabbe, Lorenzo Brown & Myck Kabongo Workout

Son of Former Knick, Wingman Glenn Rice Jr. Works Out

Son of Former Rival, Shooting Guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

C.J. Leslie & Pierre Jackson Are Potential First-Round Options

Kentucky Product Archie Goodwin One to Watch

Could Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng Be the Next Man in the Middle?

PG Nate Wolters of South Dakota State is One to Watch

Forward Brandon Davies & Guard Angelo Sharpless Are a Pair of Sleepers

The New York Knicks Are On The Clock

The Point Guards: Isaiah Canaan, Pierre Jackson & Nate Wolters

The Swingmen: Tim Hardaway Jr., Glen Rice Jr., Jamaal Franklin & Tony Snell

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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