Chauncey Billups underwent an MRI exam that showed no further damage in his strained left knee, which means he can begin training in July and be on schedule to play at the start of the 2011-2012 season--should there be no lockout. The 35-year-old point guard was still experiencing pain at the end of May, but Newsday reported yesterday that the news was good on the test.
This changes the Knicks' approach to the NBA draft on June 23.
Speculation on who the Knicks will pick with their first-round draft pick has centered on point guards, especially Josh Selby (7.9 points per game at Kansas). With a healthy Billups, the Knicks can instead look for a big man, which would allow Ama're Stoudemire to spend more time at power forward. Selby is a bit of a risk anyway, as he sat out last season because of suspensions and an ankle injury.
The most likely candidate for the Knicks pick would be Nikola Vucevic, a 7' junior from USC. Vucevic averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds last season with the Trojans, and he has impressed scouts in pre-draft workouts. Two centers from overseas--Turkey's Enes Kanter and Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas--will likely go in the first ten slots; Vucevic will most likely be the third big man to be picked. If he's still available when the 17th selection is made, the Knicks might nab him.
If the Knicks pick a shooting guard--and there are many who believe that New York under coach Mike D'Antoni is obsessed with offense--their first choice may be Klay Thompson. The Washington State junior was a 44% shooter from the field and a 40% three-point shooter, averaging 21.6 points per game for the Cougars. He may be gone before the Knicks get to pick, however.
A more likely choice for shooting guard is Marshon Brooks, who ESPN projects to go by the 18th selection. The 6' 5 Providence senior averaged 24.6 points last season with 48% shooting. He's relatively weak from the three-point arc but has shown flashes of being a strong defender--and he has a 7' 1 wingspan.