The Knicks must stick to their plan if they are to construct a contender

Knicks

The dust has settled from a night that fans of the New York Knicks won’t ever forget. They won’t forget the build up to the NBA Draft Lottery where everyone expected their name to be called out last, to be called out as the number one pick for the 2019 Draft and – more importantly – put them in pole position to draft the most intriguing and famous college basketball star since LeBron James, Zion Williamson.

It seemed like a match made in heaven. Here is this young star who everyone has seen and everyone knows all about, now imagine him in New York, the media capital of the world and the largest sporting market in the United States.

He becomes part of a super team that makes the Knicks a success, this making him a permanent New York City legend. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. The Knicks were drawn out as the number three pick and New Orleans got the number one pick, thus putting them as front runners for Zion. Zion didn’t look too pleased on the live broadcast last night, but who could blame him? I’m sure New Orleans is an amazing place full of amazing people but if you had the choice of playing basketball in New Orleans or New York, it seems like a slam dunk for the latter.

But while the sporting media in the US talks about how the Knicks missed out on the number one pick (like they had any choice or could do anything about it), a lot of talk on social media surrounding the Draft Lottery changed seemingly by the minute.

Who would the Knicks draft? What will the Lakers do with the 4th pick? Does Zion going to the Pelicans open the door for the Lakers to trade AD for their 4th pick? Does the Knicks only having the 3rd pick affect their FA chances? It seems like a lot to digest and while it’s not possible to 100% accurately predict anything in the NBA, it seems like Knicks fans need to just settle down, take a look at the situation and realise that no Zion doesn’t mean the end of the world. In fact, it might be the opposite. And in this piece, I’ll try and figure out why picking 3rd for the Knicks won’t change a thing, and might actually work out for the best for them.

The ideal situation for the Knicks was to have Zion line up along side Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – two stars to fill out the max contract slots the Knicks have left – to create a super team.

On paper, it seemed amazing. A young, generational talent lining up against two future Hall of Famers and lighting up New York but in reality, would it have actually benefitted the Knicks? KD and Kyrie would’ve been handling the majority of possessions, and rightly so, while Mitchell Robinson would’ve been the guy to make the blocks and defensive plays that Zion made at Duke, so Zion’s skills wouldn’t immediately transfer over to the NBA and certainly not in a contender team, which is what the Knicks are hoping to build.

It is natural to be upset about not getting a talent like Zion but at the same time, the Knicks should feel lucky. They may miss out on Zion but they’ll have one of Ja Morant and RJ Barrett in their team, compared to the Suns, Cavs and Bulls who all had the same odds as the Knicks but dropped to the 5th pick or lower.


Ja and RJ will be studs, everyone knows that and while the NBA has a deep history of greats being picked at number three (Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Michael Jordan, Kevin McHale, Pete Maravich, just to name a few), it isn’t the end of the world for the Knicks. For once, as Knicks fans, you can actually say it could’ve been worse. On one hand you have RJ Barrett or Ja Morant – depending on who the Grizzlies select at 2nd – so it’s really a win win either way.

So if Ja Morant is selected by the Knicks, he slots into the guard positions next to Kyrie or Kemba Walker (just suspend your disbelief for this part, I’m about to write as if the chips all fell in the Knicks’ favour…) leaving KD and Kevin Knox as your forwards, with Robinson and DeAndre Jordan as your big men.

Now, it may not come to this at all and maybe the Knicks sign Kawhi Leonard as a forward next to KD, leaving one of RJ and Ja as guards next to Allonzo Trier or Damyean Dotson, which wouldn’t be the most balanced of teams in terms of experience but it would be incredibly exciting.

From a personal standpoint, it looks smarter to have one superstar in the frontcourt and one in the backcourt, just so it isn’t lopsided when it comes to clutch-ness and experience in tight positions. A team in the form of Ja/RJ/Trier, Irving, Knox, Durant, Robinson/Jordan looks very good and looks very exciting – the polar opposite of the Knicks since… forever – and it opens up a world of possibility. But another world that has been opened since the draft has been the Anthony Davis stakes, and the Draft Lottery hasn’t helped proceedings in any direction.

Let’s work under the assumption that the only three teams that are in for AD are the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, two of which have a top four pick alongside the Pelicans’ 1st pick. Davis is still keen to leave New Orleans despite the upcoming trade of Zion and isn’t swayed by the thought of staying at all.

So, where does that leave the teams who want AD?

The Celtics were worried that if the Knicks or Lakers got the 1st pick, that would be enough to win Davis, but seeing as neither one got it, the Celtics have nothing to worry about. Instead, they’re focusing on trading for Davis because they have the most assets available.

They have a good group of players who could be used as bait alongside six first round picks from 2019 to 2022 – including three in the 2019 Draft.

The Lakers have the 4th pick and would be able to give New Orleans the chance to reunite Zion with Duke teammate Cam Reddish, setting themselves up nicely for the future but the Pelicans may not be interested in dealing with the Lakers have the debacle that occurred during the 2018/2019 season when the Pelicans rejected every offer the Lakers threw at them.

So, with Davis and his family not entirely keen to deal with the Celtics and the Pelicans rumoured to not be very interested in dealing with the Lakers, where does that leave the Knicks? They’ve got good young pieces in Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier and Dennis Smith Jr and have a good amount of draft picks for the future that the Pelicans would love to have. Could they even send away the 3rd pick from this year? A lot of noise coming from around the NBA are linking the Knicks with Davis because of the very reasons mentioned above.

Deteriorating relationships between New Orleans and other franchises, the amount of assets the Knicks have to offer and the rumours that AD is apparently keen to resign in New York once his contract comes up. Can you imagine a team containing Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant AND Kyrie Irving? Well, I’m going to have to stop you there. Why? Because it would be so detrimental to the New York Knicks that it wouldn’t even be worth trying.

Davis is a top 5 player in the NBA, of course he is, but trading all of your decent assets away for a guy who, despite what he’s reportedly said in the past, may sign elsewhere once he becomes a free agent? If he’s so keen on New York, surely he can wait it out another year, see what happens in the 2019/2020 season and then sign in his free agency year instead of the Knicks making the same mistake they did with Carmelo Anthony where they traded basically their whole team for a guy who was a free agent the following summer? Any team would love to have Anthony Davis and any team would love to pair him up with KD and Kyrie, but is it worth it at the expense of your entire young core?

I’m sure people will disagree, which is 100% understandable because no sane person turns down Anthony Davis, but in this situation it is slightly different. If KD and Kyrie sign on in July, then maybe the situation changes but for the time being, it isn’t worth exploring.

This Draft Lottery has opened up a lot of doors that were going to be opened anyway, but instead of creaking open they’ve been flung wide open for the basketball world to see what was inside. It’s why we love the sport and why contemplating all the different scenarios and trades that could happen.

But for once in a blue moon, the Knicks actually seem like they have a plan and they seem like they’re going to stick to it. It’s like Doctor Strange from Infinity War. There are fourteen million six hundred and five outcomes for the next decade or so of the NBA, and there’s only one where the Knicks can win. By sticking to their plan.

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About Tom Scholes 10 Articles
Tom is a sports writer covering NBA, MLB and MLS for Franchise Sports, as well as writing his new book "Stateside Soccer: The Definitive History of soccer in the United States". Tom has been writing for 5 years and has experience in podcasting and video production to back up his writing chops.

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