Although the New York Knicks entered Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery with a 14 percent chance of landing the first overall pick, that selection went instead to the New Orleans Pelicans, with the Memphis Grizzlies, another team that won more than 30 games in the regular season, getting the No. 2 pick. The Knicks, who finished with a league-worst 17-65 record, will be picking third overall, and reports are now suggesting that the team will soon be meeting with the player many expect to be selected at that point in the 2019 NBA Draft — Duke wingman R.J. Barrett.
The Pelicans are now expected to use their No. 1 overall selection on Barrett’s teammate, forward Zion Williamson, with Murray State point guard Ja Morant likely going to the Grizzlies as a prospective heir to Mike Conley as the team’s playmaker. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-7-inch Barrett is likely to join forward Kevin Knox, guard Dennis Smith Jr., and center Mitchell Robinson as part of the Knicks’ young core. However, Adam Zagoria of The New York Times tweeted that per a league source, the Knicks will first meet with Barrett in Chicago to take a closer look at their likely top prospect ahead of next month’s draft.
As a freshman on a Duke Blue Devils team that made the Elite Eight in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, R.J. Barrett averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists and made consensus All-American honors, as noted by Bleacher Report. While Barrett had some issues with efficiency, the outlet added that the Canadian forward/guard’s skills as a college player could “translate well” to the pros, as he also showed an ability to create his own shooting opportunities.
Furthermore, it was pointed out that Barrett actually ranked ahead of Williamson as the No. 1 recruit in the freshman class of 2018, according to a previous report from 247Sports.
Although it’s almost given at this point that New York won’t be able to draft Zion Williamson with their third overall pick, some Knicks fans have remained hopeful that the team will end up with the better Blue Devils product come June 20. Bleacher Report shared a tweet from OddsShark’s Nick Kostos, who said that the Knicks will be “getting the better player” if they draft Barrett, as he was the “presumptive #1 pick until the Zion dunk hype started.”
Meanwhile, other fans have some skepticism about Barrett’s potential to adjust to the NBA game, as one user tweeted that Duke would have become this year’s NCAA champions had Barrett been able to show some shooting ability. Another Twitter user commented that the Knicks should draft Barrett, then trade him along with Knox and veteran center DeAndre Jordan to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis. According to the fan, this would allow for a “win/win” situation where New Orleans has two promising rookies surrounded by quality veterans, and the Knicks have enough cap space to sign superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as free agents.