With just one week remaining until the 2011 NBA Draft, who better to talk to things over with than the man behind ProBasketballDraft.com, NBA Agent and draft-guru, Joe Kotoch.
Joe, a Cleveland native and former Cavaliers season ticket holder, is also the Principal and Founder of Triton Elite Sports Management. His mock drafts have been featured by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and he pretty much lives and breathes hoops.
Joe, thanks so much for taking the time during your “busy season” to sit down and talk about the Knicks and the draft. Some of our New York readers may not be familiar with you and your background, so how, exactly, does a Cleveland lawyer end up representing professional basketball players and moonlighting as an NBA draft expert?
Well, I grew up in Cleveland during the eighties watching and Mark Price, Brad Dougherty and Ron Harper repeatedly have their hearts broken by MJ. For me, it was seeing Jordan progress from a scorer to an ultimate champion that made me fall in love with basketball. I’ve always played, even through law school, and I followed the game closely. Naturally, finding a way to merge the law and sports became the goal, but this whole thing actually started when I represented a family member who happened to be a professional soccer player. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a future for a U.S. agent in a predominantly international sport, so I realized professional basketball was a much fit.
So why the interest and dedication with respect to the draft, specifically?
As an agent, you’re already going to countless games and traveling overseas to scout international talent, so why not share that experience and knowledge with the fans? It’s a process they all care about. It doesn’t matter if you’re the Cavs or Lakers, either. Top or bottom of the league, everyone wants to know what’s next.
Before we dive into the draft, and specifically what might be in store for the Knicks, we’ve gotta talk about LeBron. What was it really like in Cleveland when he “decided” to take his talents to South Beach? What’s it like now?
First of all, I am very careful to ensure that my views are objective, so I have to remove my Agent/Draft Expert hat here for a minute. Truthfully, it’s been a very tough time here in Cleveland. It just feels like things are deflated, something is missing, much more so than you would expect just because an athlete left town. When the Heat came to Cleveland last season, I was sitting with LeBron’s agents and the hostility in the crowd was extremely intense.
So can you imagine an alternate universe where LeBron comes back to Cleveland for the final act of his career?
You’d have to ask his agents, but I get the sense that they’d ultimately like to see that happen. I just don’t think it can work without a change in ownership.
Alright, let’s get to the Knicks, who absent a trade to move up, currently own the 17th pick. We all know they need defense in the worst way, but they also need legitimate shooters for the D’Antoni offense to work as it’s intended. So let’s go rapid-fire here, I throw out a name, and you give us your take on the player and how he might fit with in New York.
I really love his game. Last season, he was thought to be a late 1st, early 2nd rounder, but in this draft, but he’s going to go well before that as you know. Klay’s got a great makeup and great DNA, being the son of a former NBA’er. I’d be surprised if he falls to the Knicks, but if he does, D’Antoni will be very happy because this kid can really shoot, with range.
He’s definitely an athletic point guard, really sort of a combo guard, who can jump out of the gym and play defense, but I am not sure he does enough yet that the Knicks should reach for him at the 17 slot. Maybe a second-round value pick.
I really love this guy. His plays an old school game in that he doesn’t need the ball to be effective, and the Knicks could use a few players like that. Really, in this league, you need pieces to surround your superstars with, and Faried can help the Knicks, especially given their lack of rebounding, particularly from Amar’e. I’m not really sure that Faried fits D’Antoni’s mold though. As far as his lack of height, Faried’s 6’10” wingspan is legitimate, and it’s all about getting a hand in the guy’s face, altering shots and getting rebounds. Think Rodman-lite though, probably not an NBA center.
He’s an athletically superior prospect, massive wingspan. Jackson kind of reminds me of Ray Felton, but right now his stock is falling because of that surgical procedure a few months ago. He didn’t go to the combine, but I really think he’s a mid rounder if healthy, and I can’t see him getting by the the Houston Rockets at 23.
Well, he’s definitely one of the hottest names out there, a Big East tested player and big time scorer. He’s not afraid to take big shots, and his 7’1” wingspan is impressive. Brooks is definitely the kind of guy that can create his own shot, but the Knicks already have ‘Melo and Amar’e, so I don’t see Marshon as a great fit there, as intriguing as he is. In fairness, I really like his game and I think he’d be a huge hit in New York, I’m just not sure that he’d get the touches to replicate what he was in college.
So, what school do you come from? Should the Knicks draft based on need or best available talent?
It really depends on the team and also where the franchise is in its contention cycle. Teams like Cleveland should always take the best talent. Who cares if you already have Baron Davis, you should take Kyrie Irving regardless. For a team like the Knicks, they need shooters and rebounders, so even if a guy like Alec Burks slides in the draft, his game doesn’t really benefit the team with their aforementioned two superstars dominating the touches. I think guys like Markieff Morris, Justin Harper, Klay Thompson and Jimmer Fredette make the most sense for New York.
Last one, Joe. Most of your clients are European, so how about an international sleeper or two, they need not be one of your clients, and can you throw out a second-round name with upside that no one’s talking about? Hopefully someone mean and nasty.
Ha, I’m not sure Euro and nasty go together, but I’m very high on Davis Bertans from Latvia. He’s a 6’10” point forward. Just an unreal shooter. If Donatas Motiejunas is still there for New York, I think he’d be a steal, and might make Knick fans forget about Danilo Gallinari. As far as the second round goes, keep an eye on Bojan Bogdanovic.
Thanks so much, Joe. This has been an education. We’ll catch up with you after the draft to see how you think the Knicks did.