Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan, Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
When the dust finally settled on lottery night, Knicks fans felt both disappointed and relieved, despite falling to the third overall pick in the draft. Sharing the highest odds with the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Knicks were the only team to remain with a top three draft pick. Most fans, insiders, players, legends, and anyone who pays attention to sports, believe that this pick will turn into RJ Barrett. The Duke freshman would likely have been the number 1 overall pick in any other draft, had it not been for the unmistakable potential greatness of teammate Zion Williamson, or the spectacular rise of previously unknown, now consensus number 2 pick, Ja Morant. The whispers have grown, however, of the Knicks not seeing Barrett as the obvious pick, and though they have every right to scout for the best possible prospect, Barrett is the key to kick-starting what could be the most successful offseason for the team in its history…even if he never plays in the orange and blue.
Barrett is unquestionably a star talent and was previously rated as the number one overall prospect in most insiders and analysts’ mock drafts, prior to the beginning of last season. The only reason that he dropped in the first place was that he didn’t surprise everyone the way Williamson or Morant did. He did exactly what everyone expected him to do: dominate the college game. The Knicks brain trust of Steve Mills and Scott Perry have been doing their due diligence on the third pick. Other college stars like Darius Garland, Jarrett Culver, and Cam Reddish, have all worked out, met, or are meeting with the team, but none of these players are Barrett, an alpha dog who truly wants to be one of the greats of the game. His family grew up in Brooklyn, which would immediately make him a fan favorite as a homegrown talent. He has the attitude of a superstar, and he has the mindset to deal with the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
So why are the Knicks not completely sold on Barrett? Well from a pure basketball perspective, he needs the ball to function. If Perry and Mills are really so sure that all stars like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are all but signed to the team, a ball-dominant player wouldn’t mesh well with two other superstars who need the ball. Reddish and Culver, in that case, would be a likely fit, as players who can knock down three-point shots and play solid wing defense, both have the potential to be a Klay Thompson type player, or at the very least, a three and d player that could support stars. But even if the Knicks feel that another prospect fits their plan, Barrett should still be their selection.
Even if he never plays a single minute with the Knicks, Barrett’s value on the trade market is exceptionally high. The Knicks could use the pick to trade down and swindle a team out of draft assets. (The Cavaliers are rumored to be enamored with Barrett), or they could hold on to Barrett’s draft rights until after free agency, and try to hit the home run of all home runs, by landing Anthony Davis, potentially forming the NBA’s next super-team with Durant and Irving. The Davis trade would be beneficial for both the Pelicans and Knicks. It would give Zion Williamson a reason to commit to the Pelicans long term, having his partner in crime from Duke on his squad to continue their onslaught on the biggest basketball stage in the world. It would also give the Knicks a team that could finally end a long-standing and inexplicable championship drought. Davis, after all, isn’t an older star or veteran that the Knicks have usually traded assets for. He’s a 25-year-old superstar, riddled by minor injuries due to not having the supporting cast needed to make a championship run, let alone a second-round series in the west.
These scenarios, along with Barrett’s potential, should make this pick a no-brainer. If the Knicks are truly committed to winning and turning this franchise around, in a city starving for basketball success, they should not hesitate. They’ve not picked this high in the draft in over 30 years, and he will be the greatest young star or asset they have had since Patrick Ewing. No other team in the lottery is questioning the potential of this kid, and though the Knicks have in recent years changed their organizational appearance, there are still many fans who are afraid that they will botch this selection. Only time will tell what happens after this offseason, but this fan base needs something to cheer about desperately, and it starts with picking the right player. Everyone knows who that pick should be, and hopefully, the Knicks know too.