The New York Knicks exited the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery with the No. 3 overall pick and, while much was made about the team not acquiring the No. 1 slot and the right to draft Zion Williamson, things actually went pretty well for the Knicks from a value perspective. Even if (as expected) Williamson and Murray State point guard Ja Morant are off the board when the Knicks are on the clock, New York has interesting options and perhaps the most commonly projected choice is to select Duke wing R.J. Barrett.
With that in mind, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that Barrett will visit with the Knicks within the next week so that New York can take a closer look.
It is incredibly common for a top-flight player to visit multiple teams in his projected range and that could be the simple explanation for Barrett spending time with the Knicks. After all, Barrett is considered by many to be a top-three talent available and, like a few of his highly touted peers, the former Duke standout did not go through the combine process in Chicago. It is interesting, however, to view New York’s options through the prism of what might happen if they choose not to tab Barrett on June 20.
A report circulated in late May that the Knicks could be exploring trade-down options, with the Atlanta Hawks as a potential partner with the No. 8 and No. 10 overall picks. While that buzz was refuted in at least one prominent place, the theory is intriguing. If, in fact, New York is able to lure a couple of high-profile free agents in the mold of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in July, it might make sense to target multiple assets, rather than a player in Barrett that profiles as more of a primary, on-ball option on the offensive end. Beyond that, there is a thought process that this draft could be flatter than a normal class, leading the value proposition to move toward multiple swings, rather than the relatively safety of top-five picks.
Barrett is considered a top-three prospect in this class for a reason, as he was highly productive at the highest levels of college basketball, all while playing in less than optimal circumstances from a floor spacing perspective. His fit alongside established superstars may not be ideal, however, and even if the Knicks view him as the top available prospect New York could envision better ways to build their roster through trade avenues, particularly if they are uber-confident in their upcoming free agency work.
In the end, R.J. Barrett might land at No. 3 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft (though that isn’t a full-blown lock in the way it may seem) and the Knicks might be the team selecting him. The upcoming visit between player and team could go a long way to determining how likely that marriage is, however, and that makes things quite interesting.