The New York Knicks are in a rare situation where they actually have a number of avenues to build a team. They have cap space, no bad contracts, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft, a number of young players on cheap deals and future draft assets. What the Knickerbockers do with the third pick is critical to what they do once free agency starts.
Our esteemed panel of the greatest Knicks writers in the blogiverse had an entire conversation of the multiple options the team can take this off season centered around what the team does with the third pick. This is part one of a three-part series. Let’s begin.
Shwinnypooh: Alright guys, I’m gonna start this off because clearly I have to carry the weight around here. So, let’s begin with the following take and go from there: the New York Knicks should select Jarrett Culver with the third pick in the draft.
Yes, I know that this has been labeled a three player draft, but I don’t see that at all. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a one player draft (Zion) followed by another tier 5–8 guys deep, depending on how you feel. I have Culver at the top of that tier. Is there a case for R.J. Barrett? Yes, absolutely.
I think R.J. is almost certainly going to be a “starrier” player in the NBA. He’s more of a natural high-usage scorer, whereas Culver was forced into that role due to the dearth of offensive talent on Texas Tech’s squad. If the Knicks absolutely want a guy with the game and upside to become first or second option type then sure, R.J. is the guy they should go with.
But I’m not sold that R.J. will ever be good enough to operate in that capacity on a true contender. I see him as a DeMar DeRozan-level of scorer and playmaker, where a team with him could become very good, but caps its ceiling short of contender.
I’m also not certain he has the mindset or adaptability to lower his usage and play a tertiary or supporting role. He certainly doesn’t bring the defensive chops to the table that Culver has often flashed.
Culver is more of an all-around wing who would slot in nicely in a supporting role. If the confidence the Knicks have projected in their ability to land stars in free agency is legit and they plan on keeping the pick, Culver is a much better fit.
Stingy: My good friend Shwinny. I couldn’t agree more with you about the Knicks selecting Culver.
Here is the thing, though: I’m a Knicks fan. And being a Knicks fan and such, the only thing I know deep in my core is that I never get what I want. So I’ve decided to want R.J. Barrett. I do not — repeat: not — want the number two prospect on my board: Jarrett (rhymes with Barrett) Culver. That’s a negative. I want Rowan Alexander Barrett Junior! He’s the one for a Knicks fan like me. I also would really hate to trade down for say... Nicolas Claxton and Talen Horton-Tucker.
Cancel that. I want to draft R.J. Barrett at three and that’s that. If I had the first pick, I’d select Barrett. If I had the first pick last year, I would draft Barrett. Do you understand?! Haha, yea. I want two things: to grin and Barrett at three. Ok, I’m prepared to be disappointed now.
MMiranda: My esteemed colleagues unabashedly cheer and revere this Culver chap, whereas I wouldn’t know him from a hole in the wall. Call me simple-minded. Call me an unimaginative lunk — some days I just wanna go with the current rather than against it. But my sincere desire is for the Knicks to pick R.J. Barrett. No matter what happens with free agency, I’m hoping this is the Knicks’ last high draft pick for a long time, so I want them maxing out on talent.
Let’s say Shwinny is right, and Barrett’s upside is DeMar DeRozan. We know DeRozan shouldn’t be the number one option on a title contender. But if he’s your number three option, you’re cooking. And I’m not entirely sure it’s fair to cap Barrett’s ceiling as DeRozan. R.J. was a far better three-point shooter in one year at Duke than DeMar was in one year at USC. Barrett also averaged triple the assists per 40 minutes. Check out DeRozan’s assist percentage over his pro career. If he can grow like this, what might Barrett become?
Nobody questions R.J.’s drive or motor. It stands to reason he’ll improve over the next 7–10 years. Barrett’s floor feels like “solid starter on a contender.” His ceiling could end up in 20–6–6 territory. Them cats don’t grow on trees.
I keep coming back to the 1999 draft. Then, as now, the top pick was a blue-chipper out of Duke, followed by a couple explosive point guards. After Elton Brand, Steve Francis, and Baron Davis, the Clippers took Lamar Odom. He was never the first option on a contender, or even the second. Odom never averaged 20 points or six assists a game. But he was an integral part of two championship teams. If the Knicks, on the verge of signing multiple high-priced free agents, land a young DeRozan or Odom on a rookie deal, I will happily ride the current all the way out to sea.
Joe: You made a compelling argument, Miranda, but I’m on Team Culver with Shwin and Stingy. I feel like the Knicks’ front office bet big on high-scoring upside last summer by picking Kevin Knox, and that bet doesn’t look so good (at least so far). I’d like to see them focus on more well-rounded players this year.
Barrett can dish the rock and rebound, but his defense scares me. He could very well end up being a player who needs to reach his absolute offensive peak just to be a positive contributor. The Knicks did much better in the draft when they focused on defense with the Mitchell Robinson pick. Let’s pair Mitch with Culver and shut down some fools.
Alex: I’m nothing if not susceptible to peer pressure, and since it seems like most of the basketball world is handing me a glass of 80 proof R.J. Barrett neat, I’m tossing that back and getting a lil’ R.J. buzz going with my good friend Matthew Miranda.
Look, I get the minuses with Barrett — I really do. It’s fair to question his basketball IQ, he often played hero-ball on a team with Zion Freaking Williamson, and he may not be the cream of the crop athletically. But this kid was the top player in his draft class since, like, forever, until Zion came in and killed it at Duke this year. His jumper looks pretty clean, even if the percentages don’t really bear it out. He’s a hell of a finisher when he builds up a head of steam, even if he needs to work on finesse around the rim against bigger, more capable NBA defenders. He’s shown the ability to make some pretty nice passes, even if he didn’t always make the right read at Duke.
Notice how each of those positives came with a negative qualifier? Barrett’s certainly not perfect. But as far as the all-important intangibles go, I feel pretty good about Barrett. He has a lot to work on, but he has some undeniable gifts in basketball and he seems to eat, sleep, and breathe the game. I’ve seen “lefty Andrew Wiggins” thrown around a lot as kind of a joke comparison for Barrett since they’re both Canadian wings with top pick pedigrees, but I think those two are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum as far as actually giving a shit about basketball. Give me the kid with the all-world potential and a drive to match, even if he’s not a complete product right away.
Drew: I gotta say that I’m surprised by these responses. Where was Stingy’s argument for the subtle nuances of Sekou Doumbouya’s offensive game? Where was Miranda trying to sell us on Bol Bol like Gil Gunderson trying to sell me a Ford Pinto with 200,000 miles on it? Why didn’t Alex try to argue that Tacko Fall is actually better than Zion?
Anywell, all you guys are wrong. Every. Single. One. Of. You. It doesn’t matter who we as fans want or who in the Knicks upper management want, but rather who David Griffin wants or whatever team wants to get suckered into R.J.’s “potential.”
This is a one-player draft and the Knicks missed out on him
because the NBA rigged the lottery in favor of the Pelicans because Anthony Davis is going to be traded and they don’t want to move the team out of New Orleans for whatever reason. Whether it’s trading back with a team like the Cavaliers or Suns for a future asset or picking whoever the Pelicans want to pair with Zion in an Anthony Davis trade, the Knicks need to trade this pick.
Stay tuned as the gang responds to Drew as he decided to not be a team player and participate in the “who should the Knicks pick at three” discussion. It’s probably because his knowledge of the draft and prospects leaves much to be desired. No matter the reasoning, stay tuned for part two.