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Once again, the NBA Draft Lottery shattered the hopes and dreams of New York Knicks’ fans around the world. Finally, the Knicks tanked to perfection and solidified the best odds (alongside the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers) at 14% to win the overall number one pick. Unfortunately, the basketball gods scoffed at Knicks’ fans wishes as usual, and the final result was New York ending up with the third pick. Therefore, there will be no Zion Williamson putting opposing players on posters under the bright lights at Madison Square Garden.
Despite ending up with the third pick, all is not doom and gloom for the orange and blue. There is still the possibility that the Knicks can end up with a potential perennial All-Star player at that spot. At the moment Duke’s RJ Barrett is projected to be the third-best prospect in the draft. Often, Barrett was overshadowed by his Duke teammate Zion’s exploits on the court, but before the college season began, many projected Barrett to be the number one overall pick. There is potential in Barrett to be a great pro but does he fit on a young Knicks roster? Also, would Barrett be able to fit in if the Knicks sign two max free agents? These are questions that the Knicks brass has to consider when it comes to Barrett.
If there’s anything, the one factor that may shift New York’s front office to draft Barrett is his ability to embrace the bright lights. In elementary school, Barrett faced older players, and instead of using his height to bully smaller players, he played point guard to develop his ball handling skills. In high school, Barrett attended Montverde Academy in Florida, one of the few powerhouse basketball academies scattered across the United States. There he played against top high school prospects and often came out on top. In college, he attended Duke University, and there aren’t many institutions where the lights shine brighter. Everything that Barrett has been through basketball-wise has prepared him to embrace the bright lights on the NBA stage.
The high beam lights may not affect Barrett, but does his skill set translate onto a young Knicks roster? At the moment, with the current roster, Barrett would be beneficial. At point guard, the Knicks have been underwhelming. Dennis Smith Jr. shows promise, but his erratic play leaves a lot to be desired. Emmanuel Mudiay seemed unstoppable during a short two-month span early in the season, but as the season wore on, his play became inefficient. As for Frank Ntilikina, he barely showed any improvement and injuries limited him to play only half the season. New York is still in need of a player who can create with the ball in his hands and Barrett fits that need perfectly.
With his ball handling skills at 6’7″, Barrett could be placed at point guard and use his slashing ability to create shots for Kevin Knox, Damyean Dotson, and the rest of the young Knicks cast. While Barrett is at his best handling the ball, he struggles when playing off-ball and that may be an issue if the Knicks sign two max free agents.
For example, if the rumors are true about Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signing with the orange and blue, Barrett would have to learn how to play off-ball and improve his jump shot. He would have to learn how to move without the ball in his hands and be able to knock down a jump shot if need be. Also, he’d have to learn to make better decisions on the court. At Duke, his shot selection was mediocre at times, and he often tried to force the issue, which resulted in over three turnovers a game. For all the talent Barrett has, there are some aspects to his game which may worry New York’s front office.
Despite the negatives to his game, Barrett can still make an impact because there will be more room to operate with both Durant and Irving on the floor. He would still be able to use his slashing ability to get to the basket to either finish or create for others, and in transition, he’s highly effective at running the floor and finishing. If Barrett makes the necessary changes to his game, along with improving his right-hand dribble and finishing, he’ll mesh well with any max free agents that sign with the Knicks. Unfortunately, the draft game is a guessing game, and it’s impossible to tell if Barrett will be able to make these changes before deciding to draft him.
Regardless, Barrett is a top talent, and the Knicks need all the talent the front office can get their hands on. Also, Barrett can be used as possible trade bait for another superstar player, such as Anthony Davis, if the Knicks brass believes that Barrett won’t be a good fit on the roster.
Drafting Barrett could be a win-win scenario for New York. A position, throughout history, New York has rarely been able to appreciate. Maybe the basketball gods are trying to save the Knicks after all.