Opinion: Knicks should run with RJ Barrett post-lottery and avoid playing games
The ping pong balls took a wild spin at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery Tuesday night, causing part one of the Knicks fans’ frenetic summer journey to go awry. After the Lakers, Grizzlies, and Pelicans shockingly moved up to the top four, the New York Knicks were awarded the #3 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
While third overall is much better than how the Cavaliers and Suns fared out, nothing can hide the reality that this drop in the lottery, barring a miracle, means no Zion Williamson in the Big Apple. All signs and rationale point to Duke’s RJ Barrett being selected at #3 and despite already circulating takes regarding the pick, this is the path they should take.
It is understandable that after weeks of hopeful speculation and dreams of Williamson slamming it down at Madison Square Garden, the idea of drafting RJ Barrett is like coming away with the bronze medal. However, taking all things into account, it’s a much better option than trading down or making some move for Anthony Davis.
After Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, RJ Barrett is the next player up on the list of top available draftees, and for a reason. His athleticism is at a level next to Williamson and that could explain why at least one of them was most often involved in the big plays made by Duke’s offense. As a freshman from Ontario, Canada, Barrett averaged 22.6 points per game while shooting 45% from inside the arc and racking up 4.3 assists.
Recently, RJ Barrett went on “Get Up”, ESPN’s weekday morning show with Mike Greenberg, and even proclaimed himself as the best player in this year’s draft. While the truth of his statement is yet to be seen, he certainly is at the top of the options come June 20th.
Trading down in the draft will most likely prevent the New York Knicks from capitalizing on this talent and continue the roster problems that will inhibit the team from building around a superstar such as Kevin Durant. There are some good players after Barrett such as Virginia’s De'Andre Hunter whose team won the NCAA national championship, but with the Knicks’ tendency to move down more sports than one, he would likely be passed up as well.
In terms of Anthony Davis’ implications on the #3 pick, there have been numerous theories turned reports that the Knicks could try to offer the New Orleans Pelicans that pick and some of their attractive young guys for Davis. This would be the Knicks only option since they will most likely not get a chance to draft Zion Williamson in June.
However, besides the fact that the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers have more to offer for Davis, pursuing him creates a slippery situation for the team’s future. As a player like Anthony Davis is an expensive asset, trading him would involve a lot of pieces in return. In order to get Davis with the #3 pick, the Knicks would need to ship away players such as Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, both up and coming players that the team would want to have around a star like Kevin Durant.
Not only is Davis an expensive asset, but he is a risky asset as well. Unlike Durant who many believe wants to leave Golden State for a place where he can be the lead cause of a championship without having an asterisk next to it, Anthony Davis is looking for his super team opportunity. His time in New Orleans hasn’t seen this which is why he is reportedly wanting a trade out despite the Pelicans' ability to draft Zion Williamson.
He would like to go to a market like Los Angeles, New York, or Boston where he can join forces with the game’s best in LeBron James or Kevin Durant, but if he has to become the lone savior in a struggling franchise then he might not be happy. This is how a David attack can be risky if the Knicks do not know yet whether they’ll be landing another top tier free agent.
If everything goes to shambles this summer and the Knicks trade for Anthony Davis but do not reel in Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, Davis might be inclined to leave especially if the struggles continue while other star players are having success in their respective markets.
Now that the likelihood of the Knicks landing Zion Williamson is slim to none due to the draft lottery results, New York should be cautious with that #3 pick heading into the free agency period in July. The smartest option would be to select RJ Barrett with the pick and go from there in recruiting Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving.
The Knicks have multiple players with expiring contracts or contract options that could create openings in the roster which also holds good secondary players such as Dennis Smith Jr. and DeAndre Jordan.
There is still plenty for Knicks fans to look forward to this summer despite the draft lottery disappointment, but the team must approach it the right way.