LAS VEGAS — When the 17-65 wreckage ended on April 11, Knicks coach David Fizdale promised the club would bring in some defensive-minded players to the roster for 2019-20.
Meet Kenny Wooten.
Wooten, the power forward from Oregon, has looked impressive as an athletic defender during the team’s first two summer-league games, blocking four shots in 24 minutes.
The 21-year-old was likely earmarked for the Knicks at No. 55 had they not traded up in the second round to No. 47 to nab Ignas Brazdeikis, who pumped in 30 points in Sunday’s overtime loss to Phoenix.
They got Wooten anyway when he fell through the draft after he made a surprising decision to leave school instead of going back to the Ducks for his junior year.
“They told me about that,’’ Wooten said about the Knicks’ plan to take him at 55. “But I’m glad they got Iggy. You saw what he did right now [scoring 30 points in Sunday’s loss to the Suns]. I’m proud of him. I have no complaints. [Trading up] was a really smart choice.”
On Sunday, Wooten looked like a keeper and he’ll likely be invited to training camp to fight for the last spot on the 15-man roster. In 12 minutes Sunday, he blocked two shots and hauled in five rebounds.
“I’ve maximized my time on the floor but I still feel I can bring a lot more to the table,’’ Wooten said. “I definitely think my chances are really good [of getting a training-camp invite].”
During a two-minute sequence Sunday, Wooten blocked a shot, then soared for a putback dunk — after an RJ Barrett brick — and was fouled. Then Wooten drew a charge. A few minutes later, Wooten raced downcourt to execute a chase-down block that would have made LeBron James proud.
“I’m trying to show the coaching staff I’m a hard-working guy who can rebound the ball,’’ Wooten said. “That I’m able to make passes to my players really well. I’m able to defend really well and be able to provide a lot of rim protection.”
On a roster that may lack defenders and ball-movers, Wooten could fit in down the road. Wooten’s summer playing time should increase once the Knicks, who face the Raptors on Tuesday, shut down center Mitchell Robinson and swingman Kevin Knox.
The Knicks have three other rookies this year in Barrett, Brazdeikis and Kris Wilkes, who is out of summer league with an illness, but who will eventually sign a two-way contract.
All three are cold-blooded scorers. A Pac-12 All-Defense selection, Wooten couldn’t care less about scoring.
“My whole goal is to just defend as well as I can,’’ Wooten said. “I really don’t focus too much on my offensive numbers. I’m able to shoot it. But if they don’t want me to, I have no complaints.”
Wooten said his workout with the Knicks was good on the court and off.
“They really liked my character,’’ he said. “They know I play well within my position and within my role and know I provide that on a nightly basis. I think they fell in love with that. My whole goal was to play at the highest level. I stuck to my decision and it’s worked out for me.’’
Committing to the Knicks’ summer-league team was an easy choice.
“They called me immediately right after the draft was over,’’ Wooten said. “They already had shown the most interest in me. So I was able to sign with them the quickest.’’
The chasedown block is a play that most impresses coach David Fizdale, who has not been made available for comment during summer league. Allonzo Trier showed a knack for that play last training camp.
“It’s a matter of having enough energy to give it all you got,’’ Wooten said. “Running back and being able to save the other team from making a bucket. The coaches appreciate it.’’
Fizdale failed to establish a defensive identity last season. Bringing Wooten to training camp — along with free-agent Taj Gibson — will be a positive start.
“I feel I have a really good chance,’’ Wooten said. “We haven’t talked about it yet. I know we’ll be talking about it sooner than later. I think I’ve played alright.’’
Oregon coach Dana Altman supported Wooten’s decision.
“Kenny is a tremendous athlete and as his game continues to develop,” Altman told OregonLive, “he’ll have opportunities at the next level.”
Wooten played alongside Bol Bol with the Ducks until Manute’s son got injured. Bol slid in the draft from potential lottery pick to the 44th selection, by Miami.
“He looked great,’’ Wooten said. “I’m not going to lie. He’s one of best players I’ve seen in person. I think he’s going to be great and absolutely [prove teams wrong].’’