It was (yet another) dark day on the long, winding, oft-groan inducing road that is the life of a New York Knicks fan. At approximately 8:45pm on Tuesday May 14th, 2019, the island of Manhattan let out a collective sigh of anguish as the New York Knicks discovered that the consolation prize for their abysmal season was not Zion Williamson. As the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the odds (a 2018-19 record of 33-49 compared to a measly 17-65 for the Knicks), Knicks fans felt the all too familiar agony of their franchises shortcomings. The Knicks were awarded the 3rd pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. While not the pick us entitled Knicks fans were hoping for, the potential prospects available at that position are far from slouches. The Knicks will more than likely select fellow Duke superstar R.J Barrett at the three spot. Barrett is not the high-flying behemoth that dominates both opponents and ESPN’s instagram page alike as his teammate is. However, many people are quick to forget Barrett’s colossal impact on the floor. Going into college, R.J Barrett had already been touted as the number 1 prospect in the country and had been making scouts and coaches drool with his ability to score and pass the basketball from his early high school career. Yes, going into Duke, RJ Barrett was seen as a better basketball player than Zion Williamson.
This is not to console Knicks fans. Zion Williamson is the obvious number one pick in the draft for good reason, but the fact of the matter is this: RJ Barrett has a higher floor than any of the potential players selected before him. Zion Williamson has monumental expectations to live up to. He is seen as the man who could become a franchise cornerstone for years to come. With this LeBron James-esc hype surrounding him, failure becomes more and more imminent. If Zion ends up becoming a good starter on a team, it will be perceived as a failure because of what’s expected of him. This, however, is a blessing for the unassuming RJ Barrett. With far lower expectations surrounding him, Barrett will have the freedom to be his own player and carve out his own legacy, not the legacy fans have decided for him.
But enough on the Knicks most recent failings.
But enough on the Knicks most recent failings. There are two people on everyone’s mind that could finally make this the summer Knicks fans have waited year after year for: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. After Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors, he became an undisputed supervillain in the NBA. Clearly this is not a persona he relishes. When Kevin Durant moved his company, Thirty Five Ventures to a new headquarters in New York City and tensions between fellow Golden State Warrior Draymond Green became clear around mid-season, the obvious speculation on Durant’s upcoming free agency began. While not the ever-despised antagonist Durant is, Kyrie Irving had his own difficulties this season. The Celtics, who advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals just last year while Irving was out with an injury, badly underperformed this year, getting eliminated by the young-and-hungry Milwaukee Bucks in just the second round. Irving, who has the tendency to wax poetic, was unusually vocal about his dissatisfaction with the team. When the Knicks traded the formerly-beloved Kristaps Porzingis (as well as a few overpaid players) to the Dallas Mavericks, they opened up two max slots, enough to spend on two superstars this summer. Despite the initial disgust surrounding the Porzingis trade, the Knicks fanbase and front office alike were keen to the opportunities that could be knocking on the door come July. If everything goes as planned, the Knicks could make this the year they finally appease their long-suffering fanbase and turn one of the most iconic franchises in sports into the title contenders we know they can be.
When asked about what the signings of these two superstars would mean for the franchise, lifelong diehard Knicks fan Jake Goldsmith ‘19 said “It would immediately instill a winning culture in the city. We would finally make the switch from a rebuilding team to a title contender. When your hometown team starts winning, especially a treasured franchise like the Knicks, you can feel it in the air, the positive effects are palpable.” I asked him about the extent to which the certainty of the superstars’ destination being New York was wishful thinking and to what extent it was a reality. “I don’t want to jinx anything because we all know that we’ve struck out on big-name free agents in the past, but I will say this: all signs are pointing towards the Knicks for KD and Kyrie. And it makes sense. LA already has LeBron, and there’s only one other city on the same caliber: New York. As a storied franchise in the greatest city in the world, I would be surprised if KD and Kyrie weren’t ecstatic to rock the blue and orange and turn around the culture in New York”, said Goldsmith ‘19.
It is worth noting that I could not faithfully give a preview of the Knicks offseason without scratching the one itch that is on the back of everyone’s mind: Anthony Davis. Davis, a top 5 player in the league when healthy, requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans earlier this year (Yes, the same New Orleans Pelicans who walked away as the victors in the Zion Sweepstakes), and has reportedly remained steadfast in his conviction despite the Pelicans draft pick. The Knicks have recently emerged as frontrunners to land Davis in a trade due to their plethora of young talent and trade assets. This would also mean trading away the third overall pick and a potential perennial all-star in RJ Barrett. However, I think I speak for most fans when I say that we would gladly wager the potential of Barrett for a chance at a big 3 of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis. As New Yorkers, we have a reputation to live up to.
Jim Dolan, Steve Mills, Scott Perry, and everyone else in the New York Knicks front office: MAKE THIS HAPPEN. We’re tired of waiting.