The Knicks traded out of the first round on draft night, but they may have landed a player with the upside of a first-round pick. At least, that’s what Chris Carrawell believes the Knicks have in Trevor Keels.
The one-and-done guard had an up-and-down season with the Blue Devils, averaging 11.5 points and 3.4 rebounds, but the former five-star recruit was still projected by some to find his way into the first round. That didn’t happen, and the Knicks ended up selecting him with the No. 42 overall pick in the draft.
“I think he’s a starter [in the NBA], ”Carrawell, the Duke assistant coach, told The Post in a phone interview on Sunday. “It’s harder when you’re a second-round pick, but he’s only 18. If he stays with it, and gets an opportunity and improves, I compare him to Marcus Smart.
“In a year [if he stayed in school] he would’ve been a potential lottery pick and guaranteed first-round pick for sure. Potential is there. Think I think the Knicks got a steal. ”
Carrawell singled out two needed areas of improvement for the 6-foot-5 Keels to develop into a solid NBA player. One of the youngest players in the draft, the Clinton, Md. native has to improve his perimeter jump shot – Keels shot just 31.2 percent from beyond the arc for Duke this past season – and he has to get into better shape. Keels registered 13.5 percent body fat at the draft combine, the fourth highest of the 76 players there.
“These guys come in, they’re 17, 18 years old, in college for the first time. No matter how much we talk to them about nutrition, things you gotta eat, they’re still college kids, ”Carrawell said. “They’re going to still stay up late, they’re going to play video games, they’re going to hang out with their classmates, their teammates. He has the body type that you have to watch what you eat, make sure you’re putting in the work, which he does. But he’s still young. I didn’t pay attention to those things when I was 22. In time, once he learns, he can do it. ”
Off the bat, Keels’ best asset is his competitive fire and on-court desire. He was one of Duke’s most intense players and, according to Carrawell, has an extremely high basketball IQ. That manifests itself at both ends of the floor.
Perhaps most important for Keels and the Knicks, Carrawell thinks he’s a Tom Thibodeau type of player, due to his aggressive nature and his desire on the defensive end. Thibodeau, of course, is notorious for relying on veterans, so Keels will have to prove himself to carve out a role for himself. The fastest way for that to happen is on the defensive end.
Carrawell’s take was similar to what an NBA scout told The Post on draft night, that Keels has to improve his body and his jumper, but the toughness and edge he plays with will appeal to Thibodeau.
“I’m going into a foxhole, I want him on my side,” Carrawell said. “’Thibs is going to fall in love with Trevor, because he’s a competitor, he’s a winner.
“He competes, man. Trevor really has the potential to be a really good defender once he learns the NBA game. He can really guard the ball. When he’s locked in, he does a good job of putting pressure on the ball, and he’s not bad off the ball as well. ”