Instead, the New Orleans Pelicans — with just a six-percent chance to pick first — won the sweepstakes to draft Duke phenom, Zion Williamson, leaving the Knicks and their fans to dream about what might have been.
Knicks NBA rumors: RJ Barrett, Ja Morant, Anthony Davis
Tuesday night added more salt to a two-decade wound that has been New York Knicks fandom.
Tied for the highest odds to get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the league’s worst team came away with the third pick.
The disappointing result was still the best outcome of the three teams tied for the best odds to get the top selection for next month’s draft. Also with 14-percent odds due to new lottery rules, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns fell out of the top five altogether.
It looked as though Zion shared those same sentiments on Tuesday night as he quickly left the Draft Lottery upon learning he’d likely be heading to New Orleans. A report from the ESPN’s Marc J. Spears revealed that Williamson was rooting for the Knicks to win the lottery.
Disappointments aside, the Knicks are still holding a top-three pick in a deep draft class that will ensure a chance at them picking up a premier, young talent to build the future upon.
Their path will be altered by what the Memphis Grizzlies do with the second pick, whether they take Murray State point guard Ja Morant or Duke wing RJ Barrett.
Both Morant and Barrett would provide a significant upgrade to a Knicks team devoid of talent while adding more incentives for big-name free agents to sign.
This creates a ton of avenues for the Knicks to possibly take this summer, which heaps a ton of pressure on general manager Scott Perry and president Steve Mills to get this right.
Here are a few to keep an eye out for around draft day on Jun. 20:
The Knicks have been searching for a game-changing point guard for decades to no avail. If the Grizzlies pass on the mid-major product, New York will have an opportunity to get just that.
Morant labels himself as a “Point God,” rather than a conventional point guard, citing an ability to adapt to any game situation.
His ball-handling skills are off the charts, he can pass with pin-point precision with either hand and is capable of putting up 25-to-30 points per game if needed. He showed flashes of that at Murray State as he was the first Division I player ever to average 20 points and 10 assists per game in a season.
Drafting Morant though would likely take the Knicks out of the running for Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics All-Star point guard hitting the unrestricted free-agent market this summer.
While the buzz will be around the other Duke phenom, Williamson, many pundits and analysts alike believe that Barrett is the most NBA-ready prospect in the class of 2019.
Barrett can play either the 2 or the 3 at 6-foot-7, which is an ideal size for a wing player. It allows him to score from almost anywhere on the floor, especially given his well-polished footwork that brings a mature air to his game.
That kind of maturity will bode well in New York where lofty expectations will be waiting for him.
One of the only knocks on his game would be his shot selection as he sometimes forces things. It will be another task on the Knicks’ to-do list as they continue with the development of Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson, and Dennis Smith Jr.
Getting the first pick and a clear path at Zion was a monumental win for the Pelicans, who are dealing with the potential exit of their last No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis.
Davis has developed into a top-10 player in the game and one of the best centers on the planet, but he made it clear that he will not re-sign with the Pelicans following the 2019-20 season. The decision sent the trade-rumor mill into a frenzy as the Pelicans will look to unload the six-time All-Star to help continue their rebuild at some point this offseason.
The acquisition of Zion could change those sentiments, but that remains to be seen at least for now.
Before the Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, Shams Charania of the Athletic revealed that the Knicks would try and trade for Davis if they won the top pick. Davis is reported to have said he would re-sign with the Knicks for the long haul if traded there, per SNY’s Ian Begley.
If Davis is hellbent on getting out of New Orleans, the Knicks could trade the rights of either Barrett or Morant — alongside promising youngsters like Robinson or Knox — for “The Brow.”
Securing Davis in New York could mean the loss of one of their two max-salary roster spots available this summer, but it will only increase the Knicks’ chances of landing a player like Durant.
Suddenly, the Knicks are looking at a starting five of Smith, Allonzo Trier, Knox, Durant, and Davis.
Is that a championship side? No. But it’s a whole lot better than 17 wins.