The Knicks Didn’t Lose the NBA Draft Lottery

Knicks fans were crushed when New Orleans won the NBA Draft Lottery and the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. But there's no reason to think New York took an L.

Patrick Ewing NBA Draft Lottery 2019 David Griffin
USA Today Sports

May 14, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum reveals the number two pick for the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery at the Hilton Chicago. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Ewing NBA Draft Lottery 2019 David Griffin

I made the joke on Twitter, so I’m not going to recycle it here. But if you didn’t see the Knicks failing to land the No. 1 pick during last night’s NBA Draft Lottery, you’re beautifully delusional.  As a Knicks fan, I kind of envy you.

Bless up to all the members of Knicks Nation who expected to hear the league announce New York had won the lottery and the right to draft the basketball savior known as Zion Williamson, despite just a 14 percent chance of it actually happening. After the worst season in team history, and on top of nearly two decades of futility under their current ownership, the Knicks were due, the fan base rationalized. The city of New York, with its professional sports scene enduring another championship drought, was due. The Mecca of Basketball, Madison Square Garden, was due.

only a beautifully delusional Knicks fan would tell you that drafting No. 3 this year counts as an L.  

Only it didn’t work out that way, of course, as the basketball gods felt it wasn’t time to throw a bone to the fans of the franchise that hasn’t won an NBA championship since 1973. But for the all the long-suffering Knicks fans who think their squad lost Tuesday’s draft lottery, falling behind the Pelicans and the Grizzlies in the draft order, I’m here to say: Think again.

Missing out on Zion surely sucks because, god damn, it would’ve been fun to have him rattling the rims at MSG 41 times a season. And when’s the last time the Knicks won anything that mattered? Missing out on Ja Morant, the bouncy point guard from Murray St., who will most likely go to the Grizzlies at No. 2, also sucks, since the Knicks point guard situation isn’t 100 percent settled. But in a draft widely considered to be extremely top-heavy, at least the Knicks didn’t get royally screwed and bumped out of the top three, so they can still select R.J. Barrett. You probably know by now that Zion’s teammate at Duke has a ton of upside and was actually the more heralded pro prospect a year ago. So it ain’t all bad, Knicks fans.

Every NBA squad covets Barrett’s skills these days, since he’s a wing who stands 6’7” and poured in 22 a night in college as a freshman. Yeah, he needs to improve from the perimeter, but so does Zion. Scouts consider Barrett to have a high basketball IQ and be great in transition, and he just happens to be the godson of future Hall of Famer Steve Nash. The Knicks, as every fan can attest, need all the help they can get after they were the laughing stock of the NBA last season. Barrett’s young, talented, and shouldn’t be close to his ceiling. At the very least, he’s a very valuable asset.

And I bring that up because perhaps the best news of the night for Knicks fans came from Shams Charania—at least we saw it from him first, so he gets the credit. The NBA insider for Stadium—and previous Complex Sports profile subject—tweeted that Anthony Davis hasn’t changed his desire to seek a trade, despite New Orleans’ good fortune. While new general manager David Griffin is reportedly going to do everything to convince the top five NBA player to stick with the Pelicans, the Knicks should throw all their assets—Barrett, last year’s first-round draft pick Kevin Knox, their two future first-round draft picks received in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, and whatever else it takes—to bring A.D. to New York.

Zion Williamson 2019 NBA Draft Lottery Name Tag

More than a few NBA observers think Tuesday’s proceedings hurt the Knicks’ chances of trading for Davis, but consider me skeptical. If A.D. wants out after all these years in New Orleans, how is Zion going to change that? And even if the Knicks won the Zion lottery, I’d make the case he should be shipped to N.O. for a player who is only 26 and reportedly willing to sign an extension in New York. A.D. is ready to carry a team now. Zion or anybody else in this draft ain’t. Plus, you’re telling me the Knicks wouldn’t be more attractive to free agents like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with Davis on the roster compared to Zion?    

And, crazily enough, as ESPN’s Jay Williams speculated, maybe not having a rookie of Zion’s wattage sucking all the attention normally reserved for superstars could be a good thing for the Knicks in their free agent recruiting efforts. It seemed kind of crazy and laughable when Williams said it on ESPN’s telecast of the draft lottery, but he knows NBA players’ egos better than most.

So bitch and moan all you want that Zion isn’t coming to New York, Knicks fans. You’re certainly entitled to. But only a beautifully delusional Knicks fan would tell you that drafting No. 3 this year counts as an L.  

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