NBA Draft 2019: Picking RJ Barrett key for Knicks after Kevin Durant's Achilles injury
“There’s a black cat running around this organization.”
This phrase was first used by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith to describe the Dallas Cowboys, an organization filled with seasonal drama and turmoil and of which Smith has been highly critical.
The black cat, while it brings both signs of luck and superstitions, symbolizes for the instances in which it was used a bad omen that is surrounding the franchise.
Now, as the summer months are upon us and the NBA free agency period creeps closer, the black cat has a relative and it has made its home within the building of another professional sports organization.
The quote, whose words were uttered once again by Smith in a recent airing of “First Take”, is now applicable to the New York Knicks.
There is a black cat running around the Knicks organization.
The New York Knicks and their fans have been going through a 50-year championship drought which has included seasons of tanking, failed drafts, poor player and ownership relations, misery, and bad luck.
However, with a new coach in David Fizdale, an awakened GM and President in Scott Perry and Steve Mills, and better financial resources gained through recent moves, the dark cloud was beginning to clear and things have finally been looking up for the Knicks.
The team has collected a league leading $72 million in cap space from the Porzingis trade along with other moves.
The Knicks have enough money to sign two max contract players and there have been both rumors turned trustworthy sources expressing interest from numerous NBA superstars. In addition, the NBA lottery odds despite the rule change were high in the Knicks’ favor.
Everyone in New York has been calling it the summer of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Zion Williamson. The light at the end of the tunnel has never been brighter, providing the perfect time for the black cat to reappear in New York City.
Within the last few weeks, the black cat has done just that, and the Knicks have seen their grand scheme, hopes, and dreams go crashing down.
It started on May 14th, the day of the NBA Draft Lottery. Zion Williamson and others were in attendance and Knicks fans everywhere were watching in anticipation for their team’s fate to finally change.
As the team names were being called, a few unexpected ones jumped up in the order and one of them, the New Orleans Pelicans, would trounce the Knicks in the top 4 selections to get the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Then Kyrie Irving, one of the potential max contract free agents the Knicks were planning on recruiting, surfaces in reports saying he’d prefer to sign with the Brooklyn Nets if he were to leave the Boston Celtics in free agency.
To makes the reports seem credible, the Nets made a trade with the Atlanta Hawks shortly after to clear up cap space, enough to sign a player like Irving.
Despite these two things occurring, the Knicks and their fans still held hope for the offseason through their free agent diamond in the rough: Kevin Durant.
The Golden State Warriors forward has been the Knicks’ top target for the past several months and talks regarding the possibility of securing a deal have been growing by the week.
With $72 million in cap space, they were prepared to offer him a max deal and bring in another star to help bring excitement and winning basketball to Madison Square Garden.
Not even Kevin Durant, however, in the midst of playing the best basketball of his career and being called the best player in the world currently, and the Knicks’ plans for him were invincible from the black cat.
After suffering a calf injury in the Western Conference Semifinals which kept him out through Game 4 of the NBA Finals, multiple parties including Durant decided to have him suit up in Game 5 to help save the Warriors three peat dreams.
Putting his health on the line in doing so, the Warriors may have won the game to force a Game 6, but Durant would rupture two things: his Achilles and most likely the Knicks’ opportunity to land him in the offseason.
As a result, he now stares down almost a year-long recovery process and will most likely miss the entire 2019-2020 season.
Durant’s Achilles injury is the icing on the cake that is the complete destruction of the New York Knicks’ summer franchise turnaround.
Even if he is still interested in coming over from Golden State, the Knicks would have to decide whether they want to take on the risks that are associated with Durant at this moment in time.
Given that it is an Achilles injury, the friendliest of timetables for recovery stands at eight months which would mean Durant could return sometime in January.
Still, that is the minimum time frame, so signing Kevin Durant to a max contract could mean he misses the entire first year. In addition, there is the risk that he might never play the same again following this injury and that the team’s hopes for his time there could have very much vanished.
Once again, the black cat running around the Knicks’ organization has reared its ugly head and wreaked havoc on their summer draft and free agency plans.
What does all this black cat talk and bad mojo mean for the future of the Knicks moving forward and what is the point of discussing how it’s affected them?
With Zion Williamson bracing himself for a selection by the Pelicans, Kyrie Irving packing his bags for Brooklyn, and the risks of signing Durant looking greater than the rewards, it means that the Knicks could be left with only one option to somewhat advance their franchise.
It’s not going to be the big splash the fans have longed for, but it’s about the only thing close to a highlight that’s available.
That is drafting Duke guard RJ Barrett with the 3rd overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Drafting RJ Barrett is possibly the safest option for the Knicks at this point. It will not involve the risking of assets the team could regret down the line and has the least probability of setting the franchise back another couple of decades.
Experts have been predicted that Barrett will be the player the Knicks select at No. 3 after they were unsuccessful at landing the first pick in the lottery and will not land Zion Williamson.
One of the positive things about Barrett though is his connection to Williamson: he is basically the next best thing since Williamson as the two played together at Duke and were responsible for a lot of their offensive production.
There are other routes the Knicks could take in the draft or free agency that the common fan would consider a “highlight”, but from a Knicks’ fans perspective they’re not better than just playing it safe and selecting Barrett. One such route is to move down in the draft and look for the hidden jewels in the middle of the order.
While this method has a history with teams finding studs in the mid round picks, such as the Pacers selecting Kawhi Leonard before trading him, it doesn’t seem right for the Knicks because the players ranked in this year’s draft are the best early on.
Values drop as you go down the list of available players so the Knicks should pick early on if they want a rookie who could help rebuild the team.
Not only has there been constant talk about the Knicks in connection to Kevin Durant, but to Anthony Davis as well. In this route, experts and sources close to the situation say the Knicks could trade whatever assets and picks the Pelicans want for Anthony Davis.
This would be a completely irresponsible move by the Knicks, however, and it should be avoided at all costs.
Anthony Davis, more than Kevin Durant, is a risky player to trade for as a struggling franchise in rebuild because if things don’t work, he could start asking to leave.
Also, the Knicks have had to spend several seasons tanking to acquire all their assets and picks that could better help them rebuild, especially if Durant does come, that should be preserved from a bad deal.
At the moment they are still recovering from the aftermath and impact of the Kevin Durant, but very soon the Knicks’ will have to decide what they want to do with pursuing him in the next few weeks and how they will move forward.
Stephen A’s black cat has thrown a massive wrench in their dream plan and now it’s either take the risk or play it smart for the year.
With Durant’s future very much in limbo and the other options out the equation, it won’t be surprising if the Knicks return to basketball in October with the only big addition being RJ Barrett and another season of trying to find the answer to the team’s lack of success.
More so, another season of the black cat.