By John Fanta
FOX Sports College basketball writer
yes New York Knicks Really choose a player on NBA Night project.
After New York made three picks — having three first-round picks and losing the 11th pick, Kemba Walker and four second-round picks — Leon Rose & Co. left everyone’s heads spinning.
All of this movement was part of a larger effort to sign former Mavericks superstar Jalen Bronson to a four-year, $104 million deal. But amid the chaos, Knicks made his pick in the draft, with Duke producer Trevor Keels taking 42nd place overall.
McDonald’s first American of Paul VI Catholic High School in Virginia, 18-year-old Kells caught the nation’s attention—and easily the Knicks—when he scored 25 points to lead the Duke to a season-opening win over Kentucky at Madison Square Garden.
It ended up being his best performance in the first three months of the season by a large margin, with Keels going up and down offensively. He ended up averaging 11.5 points, 3.4 plates, and 2.7 assists per game, shooting 42% from the ground and 31% from behind the arc for the final four Blue Devils.
Keels was one of the youngest players on the draft, and there was an idea among his scouts that he would definitely be a first-round pick if he returned to Durham for another year of college hoops. But his decision to go one time adds intrigue because it is an incomplete product.
The good news? The granules are strong.
At 6 feet 5 and 225 pounds, the Maryland native uses his tire as a weapon when on the ground and plays with an aggressive nature. His best offensive asset is the ability to attack the edge. The granules can really descend in a hurry and start contacting well.
At the defensive end of the ground, he is a good defender on the ball who plays intensely and fights by playing well. The level of effort Keels puts into his play could make him a perfect fit for Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.
Concern with Keels? As far as my physical ward, he should be in better shape. Of the 76 players who attended the NBA Draft Combine, Keels’ body fat was the fourth worst, at 13.5%.
Plus, Keels’ ocean game was all over the place in his only Duke season. However, this skill set was a huge reason why he became a five-star recruit in the first place. He’s had 15 multi-triple games with the Blue Devils, so evaluators are left wondering if last year’s inconsistent shooting percentage is an anomaly or a cause for concern when Keels hits The Association.
One of the scouts, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “He is one of the type of players that Tebodo has loved historically, with his toughness and defensive superiority.” “He needs an all-out buffing offensively, and it would be difficult for him to break through a young, crowded backyard in New York.”
Is it positive that Keels goes to him on his way to New York? He has two members of the Duke fraternity on the Knicks List – RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish.
In a crowded backyard who just added a star piece at Bronson, it’s hard to believe Keels will see much time, if any, in the 2022-23 season. He will be in play in the New York Summer League and likely in Westchester with the J-League Knicks for next year.
While it’s a second-round pick and 42nd, the range of potential outcomes is certainly wide, and the Knicks have been credited with picking the promising 18-year-old. With two years of real development, who knows what a five-star former recruit could be?
That’s what they’re betting on with Keels. If he can display serviceable peripheral gameplay and can adapt his body to the NBA level, Duke’s producer could be an essential role down the road. Given how deep Knicks is in the draft, that wouldn’t be bad at all.
John Fanta is a National College Basketball announcer and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from invoking games on FS1 to serving as the main host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.
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