Should the teams possessing the top-three picks of the 2019 NBA Draft tomorrow night remain the same, their selections are a foregone conclusion.
At least, that’s what we thought.
The New Orleans Pelicans will take Duke superstar Zion Williamson first and the Memphis Grizzlies will select point guard Ja Morant out of Murray State.
Then there are the Knicks, who provided one final twist on Wednesday to serve a reminder that the struggling franchise could make another shocking selection that defies logic.
Williamson’s Duke teammate, RJ Barrett, has been the pick for the Knicks since they were awarded the No. 3 selection at the NBA Draft Lottery last month.
The hype surrounding Williamson has not been seen since the arrival of LeBron James in 2003. Morant’s stock has skyrocketed since March. Yet Barrett is considered by many as the most NBA-ready prospect.
At 6-foot-7, he is a premier wing talent that has shown flashes of becoming a dominant two-way player in the pros.
When he’s on, the Canada native can score from anywhere on the floor. His length makes him unstoppable in transition thanks to long strides toward the basket along with a 6-foot-10 wingspan that makes him hard to cover around the rim.
That length also holds the promise of becoming an elite defender who can provide shut-down coverage from the paint to beyond the arc. However, he has been hesitant at times to fully commit to that side of the ball.
His mid-to-long-range shooting has been streaky and his shot selection has been suspect, but given proper time and space he can knock down almost anything. That space isn’t always afforded at the NBA level, which is priority No. 1 when it comes to his development.
Even when sharing the floor with a star like Williamson, Barrett was still able to put up big numbers in his lone season at Duke. In 38 games he averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game.
He’ll need to be greedy at times if he wants to become the centerpiece of what is shaping up to be a young Knicks team (barring free agency). He’s exuded a desire to be the man in New York, previously stating he’s “built” for the pressure that comes with playing in the Big Apple.
Barrett doesn’t necessarily see himself going anywhere else, either, as the Knicks were the only team that he worked out with.
The Knicks, though, raised some eyebrows on Wednesday when they worked out Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland, as first reported by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com.
A 6-foot-2 point guard, Garland was suddenly under “serious consideration,” by the Knicks, as a legitimate franchise point guard has alluded them for decades.
Garland averaged 16.2 points and just 2.6 assists per game at Vanderbilt, which are not the most promising stats for a point guard. What has been noticed is his blinding speed, agility, and superior ball-handling skills. Not to mention a lethal three-point shot that has seen him become a top-five prospect while providing a shroud of mystery as to what he can do against elite talent.
The Knicks have had their fair share of projects and unknowns over the past few years, whether it’s been with Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina, and even Kevin Knox.
While Barrett seems to be the safe pick, the last-minute workout of Garland suggests that the Knicks see something greater in Garland.
Or, they could simply be drumming up some last minute action. The teams directly behind them — whether that be the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, or Minnesota Timberwolves — could be willing to offer up something big to move up to the No. 3 spot.