The New York Knicks pulled off a blockbuster deal involving franchise face Kristaps Porzingis. Does it alter their 2019 NBA Draft plans?
The NBA, at its core, is a business. We all know that. Still, that doesn’t make it easy when it’s time to say goodbye to the face of your franchise.
And it sure as hell doesn’t ease the sting of reports saying he requested his own exit. New York Knicks fans, the Kristaps Porzingis era was fun while it lasted. Hell, it was the most fun we’ve had in years.
Yet as far as years to come, the fun is only beginning. The true festivities won’t commence until June when New York selects the next name with whom they entrust their future.
New York’s rebuild began with Kristaps Porzingis. Now, in light of his dramatic exit, it must make the seamless transition that is maintaining their current trajectory.
Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and newly acquired Dennis Smith Jr. highlight the Knicks’ youth movement.
Who will join them this June when New York is on the board at the 2019 NBA Draft? More importantly, does Porzingis departure alter the Knicks’ strategy?
New York was already facing some holes in any potential starting lineup. Noah Vonleh and Enes Kanter are both on expiring deals and spent the majority of the Knicks season in a starting role.
That leaves the power forward and center slot as viable options ahead of draft night. Porzingis can play either, but he cannot play both. At 7-foot-3 and 240 pounds, he’s best suited at the five.
So, New York’s projection with Porzingis had them on track to draft the upcoming rookie pool’s best power forward. One young, nationwide phenomenon of a forward comes to mind.
Zion Williamson, the current projected No. 1 pick and Duke product. At just 18 years old, he’s averaging 22.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Williamson has displayed everything you’d want in a first overall draft pick, aside from–you guessed it–a jump shot.
There are some similarities between Williamson and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, a former first overall pick seemingly terrified of the three-point line. But there also disparities.
At LSU, Simmons attempted just three shots from beyond-the-arc, making just one.
Williamson, on the other hand, is showing a willingness to adapt to today’s style. He’s made 14 shots from deep on an overwhelming but very true 48 attempts.
If you’re tracking, that gives him both more attempts and makes than Simmons’ lone college year and NBA career combined.
A frontcourt featuring Williamson and Porzingis side-by-side would have not only been formidable, but primetime NBA every single night. Now, it’s just a pipe dream amidst the nightmare that was the Kristaps Porzingis saga.
In all honesty
New York will absolutely draft Williamson if they win the lottery sweepstakes, regardless. They’d have to be insane, even more than we give them credit, to pass him up.
But one has to ask if the Porzingis deal at least stirs up some curiosity about what else might be out there. After all, Williamson is just one fish (in this instance, more like a killer whale) in a vast sea of talent.
Free agency will play a large role in the Knicks decision. New York has been tied to Kevin Durant among others. (Just don’t mention it if you see him around.)
A Durant signing wouldn’t make a future with Williamson obsolete, but it does raise flags about a potential lineup. The Knicks could look elsewhere (and undoubtedly will have to if he’s off the board) to fill in gaps in the rotation.
New York now faces a crossroads. Two paths lie ahead, and the Knicks front office has already started a slight jog towards one.
In trading Porzingis, New York attached Tim Hardaway Jr.’s monstrous salary and cleared the cap space for two max salary slots. It’s their infamous “all our eggs are in one basket” chess move, which never comes back to bite.
Nonetheless, you have got to admire the front office’s bold and unmistakable signal to star talent. I think?
New York made the move months before free agency begins, planting a seed in the minds of all players set to hit the free agent pool. It’s rash, and it’s almost rude to other teams.
But that’s New York.
In the event that the Knicks whiff on all and every big name free agent, which I have to remind you is extremely likely, the draft will provide an opportunity to invest even further long-term.
Williamson stands at the top of all names of interest. But there’s a need at other positions, like the shooting guard hole that’s troubled the Knicks nearly as long as their point guard woes.
This season, Dotson, Knox and Trier have floated in and out of the two-slot. Smith’s arrival changes the dynamic of New York’s backcourt, and they’d be wise to find him a partner.
But none of the aforementioned three are suited at the position.
Trier is a plus ball-handler and has flashed court-vision worthy of the backup point guard job. Dotson and Knox are both more than lengthy enough to be doing defensive work on threes and fours.
So maybe the Knicks look to draft a shooting guard out of the lottery pool come June. After all, they’ve got a dynamic new point guard in DSJ. Between Indiana’s Romeo Langford and Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson, there are some options.
Johnson is a 6-foot-6 and 211-pound two-guard out of Kentucky. He’s shown defensive flashes that could compliment Smith’s deficiencies and can knock down the three ball when given the green light.
Check out this 23-point performance in a win over the North Carolina Tar Heels that saw Johnson knock down four of seven attempts from deep:
He’s shooting a .414 clip from three this year and has recorded nine games where he connected on multiple three-pointers.
Johnson’s length and three-point cannon make him an ideal complement to Smith’s offensive liabilities, and New York’s overall inability to knock down the three ball.
Langford, on the other hand, is an even more dominant scorer in a lesser conference with Indiana. He’s averaging 17.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game with the Hoosiers.
Langford has a knack for attacking the basket, and can really work some magic in the pick-and-roll. He and Smith would make for a dangerous duo who can score efficiently on all three levels.
The 19-year old Indiana product is shooting the three-ball at a lowly .268 shooting split, but hasn’t shown the same timidness as Ntilikina to pull the trigger when open.
New York’s trading of Kristaps Porzingis doesn’t change their draft plans. Zion Williamson must be had if he’s available.
But it makes their selection, and summer, all the more significant. New York’s lost their franchise face but in his stead gained an opportunity at an even more vast range of opportunity.
That begins with the upcoming draft and the next youngster who’ll be brought into the fold. For a franchise that’s seen as little success as any over the last decade, it’s a welcomed sight.