After finishing the season with a league-worst 17-65 record, the New York Knicks were awarded the third overall pick in the draft.
Although some Knicks faithful mourned the realization that Zion would not be coming to the Big Apple, others rejoiced the team secured a top-three pick. The franchise hasn’t selected so early since taking Patrick Ewing first overall in 1985.
Sharing an equal NBA-high 14% chance of getting the first overall pick with the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Knicks fared better than both teams, who received the No. 6 and No. 5 picks respectively.
The Pelicans and Grizzlies are almost certainly going Zion Williamson and Ja Morant with the first and second picks. Rumors have been circulating that the Knicks are exploring trading the pick, whether it be part of a potential package for superstar Anthony Davis or trade back in the draft to acquire more assets. Although it makes sense for the Knicks to explore trade options, ultimately, the best course of action for the future of the franchise is to stay put and select RJ Barrett.
Although a potential trade for Davis would be intriguing, it does not make sense for the current state of the Knicks. For the first time in forever, the Knicks own their future draft picks and an abundance of cap space to sign free agents. Knicks management has made it clear that they intend to build their team through the draft for years to come. Straying away from this would completely derail the plan that they have so strongly expressed. It would be foolish for the Knicks to package the No. 3 pick for Davis, as the trade would require them shipping off pieces of their young core (Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, etc.) and multiple future first-round picks. As good as Davis is, he is currently 26 years old and has been injury prone throughout the entirety of his NBA career. Instead, the Knicks should stay pat and select Barrett, which still gives them an opportunity to sign other free agents and hold onto their valuable assets.
There’s a reason why most NBA mock drafts have the Knicks selecting Barrett. It’s a no-brainer.
Entering the 2018 college basketball season, Barrett was regarded by many to be the top overall selection. However, with the breakout campaign of teammate Williamson, Barrett became second-fiddle. Zion’s monstrous campaign captivated everyone’s attention, while Barrett quietly had one of the most productive college basketball seasons in recent memory.
Barrett averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while shooting 45% from the field. This success also came during a season where Zion missed six games due to a knee injury.
Let’s take a look at the strengths/weaknesses of Barrett.
In just one season with Duke, the 6-7 forward showcased his talents and made a case for why he warrants a top-three selection. On the court, Barrett’s versatility was on full display, as he played the 1-4 positions for a Duke team that was one of the top-ranked teams in the nation.
At the ripe age of 18, Barrett’s offensive talent is quite impressive. His explosiveness and athleticism are off the charts. He’s shown a strong ability to get to the basket and finish contested shots or draw fouls in the process. In almost every game last season, Barrett showcased a highlight-reel play whether it be a spinning drive or ferocious dunk. This, alongside with his ability to knock down mid-range jump shots and the three-ball makes him a special offensive talent.
An underrated aspect of Barrett’s game is his court vision. Although not known as a passer, Barrett averaged over four assists per game at Duke and often tried to create open looks for his teammates.
As for his defensive ability, Barrett is a true two-way player who showcased his terrific defensive skillset in his lone season at Duke.
Although one of the top prospects in the NBA Draft, Barrett is certainly not a finished product.
At various times last season, Barrett’s streaky shooting became an issue for a Duke team that depended heavily upon him on the offensive side of the ball. He often struggled with consistency in his mid-range and three-point game, and especially struggled off-the-ball.
Barrett’s inconsistent shooting translates to his free throws as well, which he struggled with immensely last year, shooting just 66.5% from the charity stripe.
Entering the NBA, Barrett remains on the thin side for his 6-7 frame, weighing in at around 200 lbs. As a result of his small weight for his position, Barrett would sometimes struggle with physical battles down low. It’s imperative that Barrett bulks up at the next level in order to fulfill his potential.
At pick No. 3 the Knicks and Barrett seem destined for each other. This is especially evident after Barrett reportedly turned down an individual workout with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Barrett appears to be the go-to scoring option that the Knicks desperately need. Although some red flags are raised regarding his consistency on the offensive side of the ball, his experience and ceiling at the ripe age of 18 make it all but foolish for the Knicks to pass on him.