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Can Knicks Rookie Trevor Keels Become Like Marcus Smart?

When does coach Tom Thibodeau give a second-round rookie guard a real shot? That may take some time.

Comparisons are often unfair. But they do provide a short-hand way, even for actual NBA scouts, of trying to project what a prospect might become.

So ... Duke's Trevor Keels, taken by the New York Knicks with the 42nd pick in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft, might become Marcus Smart.

“He competes, man,'' said Duke assistant coach Chris Carrawell (via the New York Post. "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.

“If he stays with it, and gets an opportunity and improves, I compare him to Marcus Smart.”

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That's high praise for a second-round rookie (Carrawell notes that he believes the Knicks got themselves a first-round talent in the 6-4, 220-pounder), but there are a bunch of "if's'' shoved in there. 

There is no particular reason Keels won't "stay with it.'' There might be some reasons for him not to "get an opportunity,'' as the Knicks are suddenly sporting a crowded backcourt, now featuring prize free-agent signee Jalen Brunson.

But this can happen in a baby-steps sort of way - maybe not to the point where Keels truly matches the Boston Celtics standout who is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate ... but maybe to the point at which Keels is a "hustle guy'' (as Smart certainly is).

When does coach Tom Thibodeau give a second-round rookie guard a real shot? That may take some time. But if the Duke coaches are right, Keels deserves a peek from the New York coaching staff.