RJ Barrett, Scott Perry, Jarrett Culver
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The New York Knicks have some big decisions to make regarding the third overall pick in this month’s NBA Draft. To trade or not to trade?

Josh Benjamin

New York Knicks fans love the NBA Draft. It’s like our version of the NBA Finals, something of a Loser’s Ball. On one night, just for a few minutes, fans get to enjoy either the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. The draft offers no in-between.

And the Knicks hold the coveted No. 3 pick for a draft class which, save for its projected Top 3, is largely a gamble. Assuming GM Scott Perry goes by most experts’ big boards, Duke wing RJ Barrett will be wearing a Knicks uniform next season. Heck, one of his coaches from his youth in Canada even told Ian Begley of SNY Barrett “wants New York.”

However, there is a new catch. Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting the New Orleans Pelicans, who own the No. 1 pick, are now listening to offers for star forward Anthony Davis. Seeing as how Davis asked for a trade back in January, chances are a deal will be made before free agency hits at month’s end. Reports have also mentioned the possibility of the Knicks trading down with the Atlanta Hawks, who own the No. 8 and No. 10 picks.

This put the Knicks in an interesting position. Davis, despite his injury troubles, is the star player New York needs. A package of the No. 3 pick and a mix of talent like Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and additional draft picks could be enough to convince the Pelicans to make a deal.


The New York Knicks are thus indeed in a position to trade the No. 3 pick, but should they?

Pros

Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, the New York Knicks do trade the third pick for Davis. The man averaged 25.9 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game in 2018-19. He is a six-time All-Star and an absolute force on both ends of the court.

Davis has also posted a career VORP of 27.6 despite his injuries. He has never posted a negative mark in win shares or Box Plus/Minus. Simply put, the man can play.

But let’s move away from the stats and focus more on just what acquiring Anthony Davis could mean for the Knicks in the long run. Specifically, let’s discuss what he would mean for New York’s plans this summer.

This year’s free agency class is stacked from top to bottom with both Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard hitting the market. Key players in Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker are also expected to land max contracts. By trading the third pick, young players, and probably at least two more picks to the Pelicans, the Knicks are suddenly in a better position.

It wouldn’t be asking a top player to come and play with a bunch of inexperienced youth. No, in trading for Davis and subsequently signing him to a max deal, the Knicks now have a new free agency pitch. Don’t worry about Perry’s ability to add another star, because he already did! The prospect of playing alongside Anthony Davis could be too hard to turn down, especially with a max deal on the table.

Assuming Perry’s pitch works, it makes trading the third pick for Davis immediately worth it.

Cons

However, the New York Knicks trading the third pick for Davis also comes with potential consequences, as does every trade. The difference is trading for Davis could wind up harming the Knicks more than it helps them.

First is Davis’ injury history. Sure, he’s a great player, but has only twice played in over 70 games since debuting in 2012. Meanwhile, New York is looking to become a regular playoff team again. Can Davis be trusted to stay healthy over the course of a long season and postseason?

Now, let’s go back to the draft picks, specifically Barrett. He isn’t a perfect prospect by any means but still averaged 22.6 points and 7.6 rebounds at Duke last year.

New York Knicks

It’s also worth noting versatile Murray State guard Ja Morant could be an option at No. 3. He recently had a minor knee surgery, which could scare some teams off, but Marc Berman of The New York Post recently reported the Knicks aren’t convinced Morant is a “shoo-in” for the Memphis Grizzlies at No. 2.

The point is the Top 3 of this year’s NBA Draft features some mindblowing talent and the team is, despite planning to be active in free agency, rebuilding. Why trade the chance at landing a hotshot rookie for a star who, though talented, comes with major injury concerns? And what if New Orleans asks for several more draft picks on top of the No. 3, especially the two acquired from the Dallas Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade?

Anthony Davis is worth the price for pure basketball reasons. However, the Knicks need to consider those as well as the long game before pulling the trigger on any deal.

The Verdict: No deal

Sorry, Knicks fans, but trading the No. 3 pick should not even be considered. No, the front office needs to be Twin Peaks and Scott Perry the Log Lady, holding onto that pick tight the same way she did a random piece of wood. RJ Barrett and Ja Morant are just too good to trade, even for a star player in Anthony Davis or anyone else.

And even if the New York Knicks keep the pick and don’t sign any key free agents, it isn’t the end of the world. As ESNY’s own Danny Small recently endorsed a backup plan focused on patience, which could be a big help if Perry whiffs on Durant and the other big names on the market. Rebuilding via short-term deals and future drafts is a viable model, albeit not an ideal one. It allows New York to keep this year’s pick and future ones.

Such is not the case this year. New York needs that third pick lest they trade for Davis and whiff in free agency, only to be stuck with him long-term and without draft picks.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is not worth the risk and why a trade should not be an option.

Perry, your move.


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