ESPN draft guru Fran Fraschilla has a message for the Knicks: Take the best player available with your lottery pick and save the late first-rounder for a point guard.
The former St. John’s coach believes there are flaws in each of the projected top-10 lottery picks in this year’s draft, including the trove of point guards led by LaMelo Ball and Cole Anthony.
With no sure floor general, Fraschilla prefers the Knicks go with a point guard at No. 27 and touts Alabama sophomore Kira Lewis Jr. as being their smart choice.
“Here’s what I would tell the Knicks,’’ Fraschilla, who also coached at Manhattan and New Mexico, told The Post.
“I think it’s a bad year to target one position. If I’m the Knicks and I’m picking sixth, I’m absolutely taking the best player available — regardless of position. If you reach to take a point guard you’re unsure of, you’re better off zeroing on whoever is the best player left on the board.’’
A scoring point guard is the Knicks’ top need. Fraschilla believes the speed demon Lewis, 19, is attractive late in the first round. The Knicks obtained the Clippers’ No. 1 pick in the Marcus Morris deal on Feb. 6. If the regular season never restarts because of the global pandemic, Los Angeles would select 27th.
“He’s still one of the youngest kids in the draft,’’ Fraschilla said of Lewis. “He’s arguably the fastest player in this draft. The crazy thing is he has played two full seasons in the SEC and doesn’t turn 20 until next April.
“If you want a sleeper, if they take (forwards Obi) Toppin or James Wiseman in the lottery and are looking to take a point guard, the first guy I’d look at is Lewis. He’s Ja Morant Lite and he started his career in the SEC as a 17-year-old.”
Known more as a penetrator, Lewis averaged 18.5 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds in his second season. He shot 45.9 percent and 36.6 from 3. Without the expected pre-draft workouts, Lewis probably won’t be able to climb up draft boards.
The mock drafts are stuck on Ball, Anthony, Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton and German League’s Killian Hayes atop the point-guard leaderboard. The draft is scheduled for June 25 but that could change. The lottery is slated for May 14, another event that is up in the air.
“There’s not a great consensus on who the No. 1 pick is or who the best point guard is, even though LaMelo has the most buzz,” Fraschilla said.
The super athletic Anthony Edwards is hyped as the top pick, but the Georgia shooting guard has plenty of question marks, including a wayward perimeter jump shot. Edwards shot 22 percent from 3-point range in his final 10 games for the bottom-dwelling Bulldogs.
“He’s boom or bust,’’ Fraschilla said. “He’s either Bradley Beal or Dion Waiters. If somebody has him figured out in the league, they’re lying. NBA GMs, scouts feel just like I do.”
“This is a draft of high-risk, high-reward guys in the first ten picks,” Fraschilla said. “There is no consensus guy that anybody can safely say he will be an NBA star.”
Besides the baggage Ball brings with Lavar, his loudmouthed father, LaMelo didn’t wow Fraschilla during a short stint in Australia but thinks he might be the first point guard taken.
“In terms of his talent and incredible passing ability, it has to be LaMelo,’’ Fraschilla said. “But there are major red flags about his on-court ability. His shooting is broken. I always laugh when someone says, well, he’ll get better as a shooter. There are some shots that don’t get better. [Rajon] Rondo, [Elfrid] Payton. His effort level defensively, I hope when he gets to the league, he figures out he’ll have to defend and play both ends. I don’t think he has an idea on how to play hard on that end yet.”
As for other point guard prospects, Fraschilla likes Anthony’s “shot creation’’ but is low efficiency and doesn’t make teammates better.
Haliburton doesn’t have enough “dynamic explosion’’ to get to the basket, making him a better 2-guard, according to Fraschilla. And Hayes, 19, is a project who may not make an impact until he’s 22.
“In this draft, you’re going to have to roll the dice with these top-10 picks and take a guy who has some flaws,’’ Fraschilla said.
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