Basketball

Knicks get No. 3 pick in NBA draft as Pelicans win Zion Williamson lottery

It wasn't a Zion-level victory, but landing in the top three is hardly a disaster.

The Knicks drew third in the draft lottery on Tuesday night in Chicago, giving them a path to picking – or shopping – whoever remains after the first two picks, likely either Murray State point guard Ja Morant or Duke wing RJ Barrett.

The New Orleans Pelicans won the Zion Williamson sweepstakes, and the Memphis Grizzlies will pick second.

The Knicks, who finished with the worst record in the NBA last season, had just a 14 percent chance of winning the lottery, a 13.4 percent chance of picking second and a 12.7 percent chance of taking third. Considering their greatest odds were finishing fifth at 47.9 percent, Tuesday night was a success.

Scouts believe there's a drop-off in talent after Williamson, Morant and Barrett in the 2019 class, so landing in the top three was imperative. It's also a significant trade chip should the Knicks, as expected, try to pry Anthony Davis out of New Orleans.

Nothing is certain in the draft. The Knicks had seven former lottery picks on their roster last season and finished with the worst record in the league at 17-65, tying the franchise mark for defeats in a season.

Sitting on the dais for the Knicks on Wednesday was Patrick Ewing, who in many ways represents a symbol of both hope and frustration.

The last time the Knicks moved up from their seed in the lottery was in 1985. That year, they took advantage of their luck to draft Ewing No. 1 overall, which jump-started the franchise's second golden era in the 1990s. Those Knicks could never quite get over the hump – or Michael Jordan or Hakeem Olajuwon – and Ewing was traded in 2000.

Since then, the Knicks have been the worst team in the NBA, a model of mismanagement and dysfunction. Trading Ewing, who is now the Georgetown coach after being passed over multiple times for Knicks openings, has been labeled the turning point that cursed the franchise. The downfall can also be tied to James Dolan, who took over the team in 1999.

The Knicks have a big summer on the horizon, one of the most significant in their history. Their biggest target in free agency is Warriors superstar Kevin Durant, who will miss at least the first two games of the Western Conference finals with a calf strain. Should they sign Durant, there's still enough cap space for a second max-level free agent, like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker.

They could also trade the No. 3 pick as part of a deal for Davis. The Pelicans' All-Star has the Knicks on his wish list, which is noteworthy because he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020. If the Knicks are confident that Durant will sign in free agency, they'll be highly motivated to push for Davis, according to sources.

One thing to keep in mind, however: despite reports to the contrary, the Pelicans are not fans of Knicks forward Kevin Knox, according to a source. That could make it harder for the Knicks to put together an offer to beat Boston, the Lakers or other Davis suitors.

If the Knicks do use their draft pick, the rookie will join a roster that currently includes Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier.

A lot of work remains.

  Comments