There are times to make bold moves, but the New York Knicks don’t need to take a big risk. They need to take RJ Barrett at No. 3.
Keep it simple, stupid. This phrase—also known as the KISS principle—is exactly what the New York Knicks should have written on the big board in their draft room on Thursday night. Well, they should have that phrase and RJ Barrett in big block letters.
There was never any question about who would be the first overall pick this year. When the Knicks fell to the No. 3 in the draft, the obvious first reaction was to lament missing out on Zion Williamson. This draft class is widely regarded as a very weak draft class. However, there are three players who are a cut above the rest according to the vast majority of evaluators—Williamson, Barrett, and Ja Morant.
There’s no need to overthink this one. Out of those three players, Barrett is the most likely to drop. I’ll eat my shoe if the New Orleans Pelicans take anyone other than Zion. Moreover, on Wednesday, the Memphis Grizzlies traded Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz. With a void at the position, it’s almost a given that the Grizzlies go with the natural point guard—Morant.
Everything points to Barrett falling to the Knicks, and everything coming from his camp points to the Duke University product wanting to be in New York. There’s no need to read the tea leaves with Barrett. After his workout with the Knicks, Barrett told reporters that he wasn’t meeting with any other teams and he declared that he wants to be in New York.
“I won’t be meeting with any other teams,” Barrett said. “It’s this and then the draft. Hey man, if that ends up and I’m still there at three, sure, I’d love for them to take me.
“This is the place I want to be so I hope they draft me.”
Again, there’s no need to try and get cute with this pick. Barrett is a potential All-Star who is begging to come to the Knicks. Whether or not he pans out is still a mystery, but he definitely won’t be afraid of New York. His head coach from Duke, the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, believes that he’s already mature enough to handle the bright lights, big city. He spoke about Barrett on SiriusXM radio and couldn’t say enough about him.
“RJ will flourish here in New York,” Krzyzewski said. “He wants to be here. He is so mature. He just turned 19 last Friday, but he’s been a part of the Canadian basketball program since [he was] a little guy, always played up.”
It’s not bad to see general manager Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills doing their due diligence. They worked out Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish, and Darius Garland, causing some to speculate that they might surprise everyone and pass on Barrett. Furthermore, they have been the subject of trade speculation although Jonathan Givony of ESPN has reported that the Knicks rebuffed a trade from the Atlanta Hawks.
New Yorkers have been blindsided by draft picks countless times by New York teams. Daniel Jones by the Giants is the most recent example of that.
However, there’s good news for Barrett fans. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Knicks are still “locked on selecting” Barrett.
The smartest move right now would be to stick to the gameplan and add Barrett to a promising young core. This front office does not seem stupid. They’ve spent the last two seasons developing young players, clearing salary cap space, and stockpiling draft picks. Drafting Barrett is another step forward in building a sustainable contender.
Expect them to keep it simple on Thursday because it’s the right move.