If your favorite NBA team wasn’t a title contender, it was likely leaving tributes at the base of Mt. Zion (Williamson). Thirteen franchises all sit under the stoplight that is the 2019 NBA Draft. TSFJ gives each team a reason to speed through, take caution and even hit the brakes hard before making a wrong turn. We continue this series with a look at the third overall pick and the New York Knicks.
You’re probably gearing up for some #LOLKnicks, aren’t you?
How They Got Here
New York had told everyone from the outset that this was the year of the reset, but holy hell it was rough.
David Fizdale and his tremendous glasses juggled lineup after lineup in his first season as Knicks head coach. Kristaps Porzingis, and his 1.3 assists per game prior to tearing his knee up, wanted out and got his wish. (Although NO ONE saw that man’s last few months nor the trade itself coming.) Enes Kanter, who knew the score when he opted in for the current season, got mad and took his world-class defense to Portland. The team’s three rookies — Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson — were all over the place as one would expect.
James Dolan still made hand over fist in a 17-win season. Local sports media remained stupid. Twitter accounts from national outlets that got their retweets.
Green Light: Draft RJ Barrett
New York has been in drastic need of an earnest backcourt overhaul for a long time. The team hasn’t had the same starting point guard and shooting guard in consecutive seasons on opening night since Allan Houston and Charlie Ward were pacing the team starting in 1998 and into the early 2000s.
With the Porzingis trade, it seemed as if the Knicks “finally listened” to LeBron and finally got Dennis Smith Jr. He’ll likely run point if the team doesn’t bring Kemba Walker home or offer Kyrie Irving a lifetime pass to the American Museum of Natural History. Yet, Barrett brings size, defense at multiple positions, good vision and strong rebounding at the two-spot. (Most likely, Kevin Knox would remain at small forward).
The offense will likely flow between Smith, Knox and whichever free agent New York signs. Though he was an inconsistent shooter at Duke, he could get to the rim and use his size to great advantage. He wouldn’t have to carry any scoring load, but if he and DSJ could play off each other, then there’s a lot of athleticism to exhaust defenses night after night.
And if he ever finds that shooting stroke, the Knicks would have someone at two-guard beyond his first contract. For once.
Yellow Light: Packaging the pick in a trade for Anthony Davis
So much for that.
Yellow Light: Praying the Pelicans trade down with hopes of getting Ja Morant
Let’s be honest: the Knicks are in a pretty good spot in a top-heavy draft. However, there aren’t many scenarios that they can control unless by some miracle, a title contender wants some salary cap relief and is willing to unload an All-Star to do so.
There’s a rumor out there that the Pelicans are quite enamored with Barrett, who was Zion’s former teammate at Duke. Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that New Orleans could trade its newly acquired fourth pick for Memphis’ second overall spot. This would free up New York to select Ja Morant out of Murray State, who has been assumed to be the Grizzlies’ target since the Draft Lottery.
To quote everyone’s mother when asking for a new video game as children, “we’ll see.” (Which often meant, “no.”)
Is Morant the point guard of the Knicks’ future? Well, he could be the point guard of a lot of futures in the NBA. Yet, as mentioned before, the Knicks’ shooting guard situation has been volatile for two decades. If Barrett is unavailable, New York must decide if it should grab the best player on the board in Morant or go for a pressing need at the two with Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, who is considered a premier defender and rebounder despite his iffy shooting.
Red Light: Packaging the pick in any trade
Anthony Davis is finally a Laker, with the Forum Blue and Gold offering a bounty that no other team would or even could match. Considering past management sins of handing over years of first-round picks for quick fixes, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the Knicks couldn’t pull anything off. (Well, they also couldn’t offer young talent with enough valuable experience.)
Truth be told, even with Davis in the fold, New York would have little opportunity now to make significant additions that would make it a playoff team, let alone a contender, within a year unless they knocked it out of the park in free agency.
And we know how the NBA Finals has dramatically impacted this offseason’s free agency.
The Knicks really couldn’t be in a better position to keep the pick to begin with. They were also limited when it came to obtain equal or surpassed value for said pick in return. The Davis scenario was the only one where packaging the #3 spot would have made a scintilla of sense. Yet even doing so would have meant doing what past leadership had always done – sending away much-needed young players away for the half-filled promises of tomorrow.
That said, there is no true red light for the Knicks. Maybe not even a yellow light. In fact, Scott Perry and Steve Mills are like the Uber driver who somehow got a half-hour of greens on the Manhattan streets. There is no reason not to speed through every single one.
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon’s beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school’s 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.
He shares more of his perspectives at jasonclinkscales.com.