NBA Draft 2019: Looking at Knicks' options for No. 3 pick, and how Kevin Durant likely factors into their decision
New York will reportedly meet with presumed No. 3 pick RJ Barrett early next week
The New York Knicks were really hoping to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, but it didn't happen. New York, which shared the highest odds to get the top pick with Cleveland and Phoenix, wound up with the No. 3 pick. Most mock drafts have RJ Barrett out of Duke going No. 3, , courtesy of Gary Parrish. The Knicks are reportedly set to meet with Barrett early next week.
Barrett looks like the pretty clear pick if he's there at No. 3, according to scouts who've spoken with CBS Sports and virtually every mock draft you see. I wouldn't call it completely unreasonable that Memphis makes a last-second call to take Barrett over Ja Morant, but that's a long shot with Memphis likely to try to move Mike Conley and Morant being the logical point guard replacement for the next decade.
The bigger question for the Knicks is whether to keep the No. 3 pick, and likely take Barrett, or move off the No. 3 pick, perhaps to trade down in the draft for multiple picks or to forget the lottery altogether and move the No. 3 pick for an established star, should the right deal become available. This is where Kevin Durant, and to a lesser extent a handful of other top free-agent targets, come into play.
If the Knicks continue to feel good about their chances of landing Durant (or, better yet, if they get a little wink-wink from Durant's camp before the draft), moving that No. 3 pick becomes a much more viable option as they would move quickly into super-team mode and Barrett would likely not be ready to contribute at that level right away.
Could the No. 3 pick be used along with Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and perhaps future picks to lure Anthony Davis from New Orleans? Could Bradley Beal be in play from a Washington team that could certainly use a high lottery pick to jumpstart its future with John Wall likely out for next season with a torn Achilles? Whoever the target, there are a lot of teams that would entertain an offer for the No. 3 pick, though it's worth noting that Barrett isn't seen as a surefire star but perhaps more of a high-floor player who's a very good bet to be at worst a solid NBA player.
But again, trading the No. 3 pick for a star player is likely dependent on New York's confidence that it's going to get a big-name free agent -- if not Durant, then Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler or even Kemba Walker. Kawhi Leonard hasn't been credibly connected to the Knicks, but, certainly, his name would also be on that list. Getting one, or certainly two, of those guys, and another star to make New York a contender becomes the logical priority.
Trading back in the draft for multiple picks is an option with or without a star free-agent commitment. If they get Durant or someone else, it could just be about adding more solid players, and perhaps players who fit better as peripheral parts (shooters, for instance) to fill an immediate and specific role on a team ready to win now.
At the same time, even without a star commitment, Barrett, as mentioned above, isn't necessarily seen universally as a sure thing, and if you can get two players with similar upside for the price of one, that's something to consider. There have been reports that New York likes Cam Reddish, who will likely go later in the lottery, and indeed scouts who've spoken with CBS Sports see Reddish as a potential future star, though he carries more boom-or-bust potential with his motor and tendency to disappear from games is a real concern.
There are a lot of players between Barrett and Reddish, too. The Hawks took this approach last year when they fancied multiple lottery picks over Luka Doncic, trading the No. 3 picks to Dallas for the No. 5 pick (where they took Trae Young) and a 2019 first-round pick. So now Atlanta has two lottery picks this year, Nos. 8 and 10. The draft is an uncertain thing. Rebuilding teams like the idea of having multiple swings at landing a star.
But are the Knicks a rebuilding team? That's the question. If they get Durant and/or another star free agent, they aren't rebuilding. They're going or a title. If they don't get Durant, or if it's somewhere in the middle like a Kemba Walker, the decision of what to do with the No. 3 pick becomes much more difficult. It's a good problem to have, but one the Knicks need to figure out nonetheless.
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