Knicks value Duke’s Mark Williams; Nerlens Noel again on the trading block

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The uncertainty of the New York Knicks center rotation could lead them to take a flyer on Duke’s Mark Williams.

Williams visited five lottery teams, including the Knicks.

The 7-foot-2 Williams is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year after shooting 2.8 per game and altering countless rim attempts. He is one of five Duke players expected to be drafted and could be the third Blue Devil behind presumptive top three picks Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin to be called up in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

His height (nearly 7-foot-7 wingspan and standing reach of 9-foot-9), motor skills, and mobility made him a late lottery pick. What’s holding Williams back from making it to the top of the draft is his limited reach. But it’s almost automatic inside the paint (83.4% conversion rate on the rim, per Hoop-Math).

Overall, Williams shot 72.1% from the field, becoming the first Duke player to hit more than 70% on more than 100 field goal attempts in a season since 1992, according to the Game Index. Sports Reference men’s varsity basketball court.

Both ESPN and Launderer’s report predict he would go to the Hornets at No. 13 or No. 15. But with Mitchell Robinson’s impending free agency and Nerlens Noel’s murky status, it’s no stretch that the Knicks are taking a hard look at Williams when they are on the clock Thursday night.

Noel, limited to just 25 games due to an assortment of injuries, would once again be on the trading block.

“I’ve heard that Nerlens Noel is one of the players the Knicks are most actively discussing right now,” Fischer said on his podcast.

Noel was nearly traded at the February trade deadline in a scuttled three-team trade with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers. The emergence of Jericho Sims in the second half of last season had made Noel unnecessary.

If the Knicks could offload Noel, the Knicks would likely convert the Sims’ two-way deal to a traditional contract to make him eligible beyond 50 regular-season games.

It could also mean the Knicks are likely to keep Robinson, especially after the Dallas Mavericks snapped up their starting center in Christian Wood and the Detroit Pistons reportedly eyed disgruntled Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton.

If Ayton lands elsewhere, the Pistons, along with the Chicago Bulls, should pursue Robinson. The Knicks have until June 30 to reach an extension with Robinson.

Williams, who has a similar skill set and better offensive upside on a rookie contract, is a good fallback option for the Knicks.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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