It couldn’t be as simple as drafting RJ Barrett with the third overall pick at the draft for the Knicks, could it?
On Thursday, the New York Knicks will have a simple choice to make with the third overall pick: should they draft Canadian R.J. Barrett or not?
However, it may not be as simple as that, depending on the decisions of the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies. After acquiring the fourth pick in the Anthony Davis trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pelicans may be looking to move up—with Memphis’ second overall pick, thus taking Barrett off the board to pair him with Duke teammate Zion Williamson again.
Per Marc Berman of the New York Post:
“New Orleans has explored moving back to gain more assets and also had internal talks about moving up to the second pick to take Memphis’ selection and draft R.J. Barrett to team with his Duke compadre Zion Williamson. Barrett and Williamson are best friends.” [NY Post]
If that’s the case, is New York’s choice as easy as Murray State point guard Ja Morant?
Morant would undoubtedly fall past presumed destination Memphis in that scenario. The Knicks have been a point guard turnstile for awhile now, despite drafting what was supposed to be a “Triangle point guard” in Frank Ntilikina two years ago and acquiring Dennis Smith Jr., the immediate pick after Ntilikina, in January from Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
The Grizzlies should be destined to draft Morant at no. 2, however, following Wednesday’s trade with the Utah Jazz, where they sent star point guard Mike Conley to the Jazz, clearing the path for Morant’s coronation in Grind City.
The Knicks lost the ultimate ability to choose their future last month at the NBA’s Draft Lottery. If they manage to sign Kevin Durant, the Knicks will have lost the possibility to contend as soon as next year due to his ruptured Achilles.
But when the Knicks “fell” from first (by way of the league’s worst record) to third, they lost the ability to fulfill a destiny that featured a healthy Durant, the draft’s top talent Williamson, and perhaps even All-Star Kyrie Irving tearing up the Garden floor, making mincemeat out of opponents. New York had the odds favoring falling to no. 5, however.
Now, the Knicks will have to make due with Barrett, Morant, or possibly Jarrett Culver, who worked out for New York two weeks ago. Then, Culver touted his own “elite” defensive ability. It’s something the Knicks could use; too many times last season and beyond the ‘Bockers could all but watch opponents walk down Broadway for an open bucket. Nevertheless, the organization is thought to be high on Barrett, who Coach Mike Krzyzewski said will “flourish” in New York, and will do what’s expected: draft the 6-7 wing at three.
But would they be wrong to pass on Morant should he be available and go for Culver?
It’s not as simple as we previously thought.
Another variable thrown into the equation is Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland. Garland and the Knicks scheduled a late-minute workout on Draft Eve with the Commodores guard, whose one-and-done season in the SEC was cut short due to a knee injury. Garland is expected to be drafted in the top 10—perhaps by the point guard-barren Phoenix Suns or Chicago Bulls.
Darius Garland said his workout with the Knicks went well today. He sees himself as the best point guard in this draft and believes the Knicks have interest in him with the third pick.
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) June 19, 2019
To add more unpredictability on draft night, the Pelicans could either move up to two or even drop back and take Atlanta’s two top-10 picks. This puts the Knicks in a precarious position—particularly if their top target, R.J. Barrett, is unceremoniously taken at second overall by Memphis or the Pelicans in a trade. (This possibility is growing more unlikely in wake of the Conley trade.)
Apparently it’s never easy for the ‘Bockers, who, despite having their highest pick since Patrick Ewing’s 1985 draft, could become victims of circumstance—experiencing bystander syndrome as a product of a gritty playoffs run by the Warriors, and the shoddy trust in the NBA’s Draft Lottery which netted them the third pick.
R.J. Barrett. Ja Morant. Jarrett Culver. Darius Garland.
All of these, and more—like potentially taking up the Hawks’ trade in spite of previously rejecting it—are on the table for New York at the Barclays Center on Thursday.
While Zion Williamson and the Pelicans will be the center of attention from media and cameras, undoubtedly the Knicks’ fortunes, for better or worse, will change forever tomorrow.
Make sure to catch up on all of The Knicks Wall’s draft coverage here.