One way or another, the New York Knicks will acquire a new point guard this off-season, whether it be through the NBA draft or free agency. Depending on how much the Knicks are willing to spend on the open market for a point guard will determine their strategy during the draft, but one great combination could involve a familiar face and an elite passing option at just 19 years old from Auburn.
While names like Davion Mitchell and Tre Mann litter the headlines for Knick fans, one player who’s going under the radar is Sharife Cooper. At 6’3” and 180 pounds, Cooper is a bit undersized as he prepares to enter the NBA, but having been named to the McDonald’s All American and Jordan Brand Classic team in 2020, he is preparing to take the step to the next level.
The Auburn product is considered one of the best facilitators in the upcoming draft class, containing elite passing traits and vision that mirrors the likes of Chris Paul and Trae Young.
“Sharife is a once-every-ten-year fast-breaking, playmaking, transition, and ball-screen floor general with his ability to make plays for himself and others,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl told Alder Almo of Empire Sports Media.
Statistically, he averaged 20.2 points, 8.1 assists and shot 39% from the field last season. While his three-point percentage sat at a lowly 23% over 4.8 attempts per game, there is reason to believe his shooting is better than advertised.
“He had a pied piper effect. He has the ability to bring other guys along with him which is great for a point guard,” Pearl said.
If Cooper can elevate his efficiency from the field and when driving to the rim, he could be an elite PG at the next level, but that is entirely dependent on the process in which he adapts to the NBA.
How the Knicks can set themselves up for the future without compromising the present:
An ideal situation for the Knicks, who might envision Sharife as the future at PG, could be to pair him with veteran Derrick Rose, who played well after being acquired from the Detroit Pistons at the trade deadline this past year.
Over 35 games in New York, Rose averaged 15 points, 4.2 assists, and shot a career-high 41% from three. In fact, he proved that he is still capable of starting on a daily basis and elevating a team with his impressive intuition and scoring attributes. While he might not contain the same athleticism he once did a decade ago, his veteran intelligence and wisdom show up frequently on the floor.
Placing Cooper behind Rose would allow the rookie to develop his floater and shooting traits while he eases his way into the NBA at just 20 years old. Defense might end up being Cooper’s biggest weakness, but some have compared him to Paul and Young in terms of their start in the NBA and how Cooper could mimic some of their qualities, including facilitation.
While there could be better options available for the Knicks in terms of immediate impact, like Davion’s elite defense, Cooper has the potential to be a premium scorer and passer to complement players like RJ Barry and Julius Randle which can’t be overlooked.
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