Given the number of picks the New York Knicks have in this year’s NBA draft, including any, all or some of them in trade packages is an appealing option. But the Knicks are in dire need of a point guard, and keeping just one of the first-round picks that they own — Nos. 19 and 21 — could help fill that void.
Auburn’s Sharife Cooper has become a popular potential pick for the Knicks.
In Jonathan Wasserman’s most recent mock draft for Bleacher Report, Cooper goes to New York with the 19th pick. Zach Buckley at Bleacher Report has Cooper being selected with the 21st pick in the Knicks’ “ideal” draft, saying “his long-term potential is enormous.”
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony also has New York taking Cooper with the 19th pick in his latest mock draft. Givony also mentioned that Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau and other front office personnel were in attendance of Cooper’s pro day, “where he had a strong showing.”
Despite a limited amount of experience in the NCAA, his playmaking and potential could make him a good point guard choice for the franchise moving forward.
Cooper starred at Auburn as its starting point guard for one season before declaring for the NBA draft. His lone collegiate season was limited to just 12 games. Eligibility issues, as reported by ESPN, forced him to miss the first 11 games of the 2020-21 season.
Additionally, Auburn’s men’s basketball program had a self-imposed postseason ban, so all 12 of his games happened during the regular season.
Cooper was Auburn’s leading scorer with 20.2 points in 33.1 minutes per game. He shot 39.1% from the field and also led the team with 8.1 assists per game. He was also a reliable rebounder with an average of 4.3 per game.
Even with several games missed, Cooper made enough of an impact to be named to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds on the Auburn athletics site, Cooper measured taller than anticipated at the NBA Draft Combine. According to NBA draft expert Chad Ford, Cooper came in at 6-feet, 3.5 inches tall without shoes.
Even though it comes from a small sample size, Cooper’s 8.1 assists per game at Auburn is an impressive number and is telling of his ability to be an effective playmaker.
According to Bleacher Report’s Buckley, his playmaking ability makes him an “ideal” choice for the Knicks:
He pairs dizzying handles with good vision and a better feel for the game to form a compelling lead guard package. He can routinely carve up defenses out of the pick-and-roll, which should make him a strong fit for two-man work with (Julius) Randle.
On the other side of the offense, Cooper is an aggressive scorer. His scoring has mostly come from inside the 3-point arc, shooting 46.5% on 2-pointers. But he has done a good job of getting to the free throw line. At Auburn, Cooper shot 82.5% from the charity stripe and averaged 8.6 free throw attempts per game — which was a team high.
Cooper was a poor 3-point shooter at Auburn, where he shot just 22.8% from long range on 4.8 3-point attempts per game. Not every NBA player needs to be a 3-point shooter, but as a guard, Cooper’s lack of long-range shooting may limit him. And given the importance of 3-point shooting in today’s game, Cooper will need to work on developing a shot.
In the video included above, Cooper did show off an ability to make 3-pointers, though, so it could be a matter of learning to be an effective in-game shooter from long range.
Because of the differences between Cooper’s listed height at Auburn and how he measured in at the NBA Draft Combine, there are questions about how tall of a guard he is in reality. If he is closer to 6-feet than 6-foot-3, there could be concerns about how well he can hold his own against backcourt players because he’d be undersized for an NBA guard.