Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau smiles

Getty Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks coaches against the Philadelphia 76ers during the fourth quarter of game six of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs.

With the prospect of losing Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency increasingly becoming real and Mitchell Robinson coming off another major injury, the New York Knicks could use one of their two first-round selections on a young center.

The Athletic’s NBA draft analyst Sam Vecenie said Purdue center Zach Edey is likely the Knicks’ pick if he is available at No. 24 or 25.

“The reason that I think [Tom Thibodeau] would like Edey is that Edey is an ass-kicker,” Vecenie said on “The Knicks Film School” podcast. “There’s not really another way to put what Zach Edey does on the court. He is an awesome screener, which is really important for [the Knicks] offense. He flips screens, he re-screens, he’s just really good in terms of getting his man some separation.

He’s not the best rim-gravity threat or anything. Purdue would often kind of roll him into post-ups because that’s the way it worked in college. Zach Edey was way bigger than everybody. Here’s the thing: Zach Edey is still going to be way bigger than everybody in the NBA. It’s just going to be slightly less bigger than everybody in the NBA. When you’re 7-foot-4 without shoes and you have a 7′ 10 1/2″ wingspan, you’re still going to be an enormous human.”

Polarizing Prospect

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor mocked Edey at No. 25 while CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish projects the center at No. 24, both Knicks selections.

Edey has impressed several NBA teams “with his serious-minded approach in interviews,” according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. But his skeptics wonder if he can space the floor in the NBA.

“Edey has fans in the top 10, but also plenty of detractors, creating a somewhat wide range that extends into the 20s, depending on how the draft shakes out,” Givony wrote.

A two-time national college player of the year, Edey is coming off a monster season averaging 25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks for the Boilermakers who lost to UConn in the NCAA Finals.

If Edey continues to rise leading to the NBA Draft, the Knicks could package their two first-round picks to move up. Consolidating those picks is an option for a veteran-laden Knicks team, who are coming off a back-to-back second-round playoff appearance.

“Definitely word around the league is that they are looking to move those [picks],” Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer said on the “Bad Weather Fans” podcast.

Knicks Could Further Develop Zach Edey

If the 22-year-old Edey lands on the Knicks, he could benefit from the team’s strong player development program and Thibodeau’s system.

Robinson and Hartenstein were two underrated centers whose games have matured under Thibodeau.

Robinson was vying for All-Defensive Team honors before his ankle injury forced him to miss 50 games in the regular season. Hartenstein is on track to get a massive raise from his two-year, $16 million deal after flourishing as a starter in Robinson’s absence.

Edey is bigger and more advanced than both the Knicks centers at his age.

“I think [Thibodeau] would like the fact that Zach improved a lot in terms of drop coverage this past year,” Vecenie said on the “Knicks Film School” podcast. “I actually think he’s a pretty okay — like, I feel okay about him in drop.

I think the screening, the rim protection, the drop coverage stuff, and the toughness, the rebounding, I think that Thibs would really like that.”

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