Zion Williamson Ja Morant
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery is the first big day of the offseason for the New York Knicks, but it won’t be the last.

Danny Small

Tuesday, May 14, 2019, is one of the most important days in the last quarter-century for the New York Knicks. Perhaps that’s slight hyperbole, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery is upon us and the fate of the Knicks hangs in the balance.

The 2019 offseason is going to be the most important summer for the Knicks since LeBron James was a free agent in 2010. Free agency is coming down the pike, but the draft—and the lottery come first.

The Knicks have a fraught history with the lottery. The first ever lottery in league history offered up an all-time great Knicks moment. The Knicks secured the first overall pick and were able to draft Patrick Ewing in 1985. He would go on to become one of the greatest players in NBA history. Of course, there were some conspiracy theories about how the Knicks were able to win the lottery. But we can chalk that up to NBA drama.

Tuesday night will offer the Knicks the opportunity to land the first overall pick for the first time since 1985. In fact, they’ll have Ewing on the deas representing the organization. Perhaps he can bring some positive mojo.

Despite whatever mojo Ewing might bring, the Knicks only have a 14% chance at landing the first overall pick. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns also have a 14% chance at landing the top pick. New York finished with the worst record in the league, but the lottery is operating under a new standard this year. In an attempt to curtail tanking, the odds were more evenly distributed.

The redistribution is bad news for Knicks fans and that means the orange and blue have a 47.9% chance at falling all the way back to the fifth overall pick. It’s essentially a coin flip as to whether or not the Knicks are picking in the top four picks. Hence, the tension and the anticipation amongst the fanbase has been brewing for some time.

New York Knicks

Moreover, this top-heavy draft has some scouts questioning the depth of the class. Zion Williamson—have you heard of him?—is the consensus top pick and he has the potential to be a generational talent. Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett are two intriguing options if the Knicks drop to two or three. Additionally, the Knicks have reported interest in Cam Reddish who could be an intriguing option at four or five.

But we all know that dropping to four or five would be a disappointment, even if the organization won’t admit it.

“We’re going to be prepared for whatever happens (Tuesday) in that room with the ping-pong balls,” Perry said on ESPN’s Golic and Wingo. “We know that we’re going to be able to add a good basketball player into an environment that we think is very suited and conducive to developing young players as we were able to do this year with the strong draft class that we had last year with Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Allonzo Trier.”

However, it’s safe to assume that the Knicks already have their hearts set on Williamson. Head coach David Fizdale tried to play it coy in an interview with Dan Patrick, but his poker face didn’t hold up. The Knicks want Zion and there’s no blaming them for that.

Obviously, if the Knicks land the first pick, elation will follow. There will be no angst between now and the draft. However, if the Knicks drop down—even to the fifth overall pick—this isn’t the time to panic.

Should the lottery gods fail to reward the Knicks for their admirable tank, the offseason won’t be lost. Sure, have a drink, listen to some sad music, or do whatever it is you need to do. That being said, the sky is not falling.

If they fail to land the first pick, trading this year’s pick and some assets for Anthony Davis becomes an option. If the Knicks acquire the disgruntled New Orleans Pelicans star, they should have superstar free agents lining up on July 1 to play alongside the All-NBA star.

While the lottery feels like the most important day in history for the Knicks, July 1 is far more important. The lottery is a stepping stone towards acquiring superstar free agents and immediately turning the Knicks into title contenders. Landing the first overall pick could help Perry and company make their pitch. But dropping down to two, three, four, or five (gasp!), won’t obliterate their free agent hopes either.

Elite Access