As the New York Knicks meandered through a deflating 17-win season—their second such horror show in five years—there was finally reason for optimism. Remember when the Knicks thought they could be getting Zion Williamson, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, all in the span of a few weeks?
All these years of ineptitude and dysfunction, not to mention a run of only six playoff appearances since the turn of the century, were finally about to pay off.
Except some not-so-funny things happened on the way to the draft lottery and all the wining and dining of shiny free agents. The Knicks, who had the NBA's worst record, wound up with the third pick. Then, their top free-agent target, Durant, ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, likely putting him out for the entire 2019-20 season and turning his impending free agency upside down.
Anthony Davis, another pie-in-the-sky option for the team that so ineffectually occupies the World's Most Famous Arena, was reportedlytraded to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks had struck out again.
And so when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, as widely expected, announced that the Knicks were selecting Duke's RJ Barrett with the third pick Thursday night, it was easy to view it as another gut-punch for a franchise that just can't get out of its own way.
"RJ is the biggest star they are getting this summer," one prominent agent told Bleacher Report. "Assuming he is a star."
The Knicks took a big swing at the summer of 2019, and there's a real possibility they'll miss by a mile. But before we dissect where it all went wrong, let's not blame this on Barrett, who could very well be the most complete, NBA-ready player in this draft, according to one Eastern Conference personnel man.
Plus, unlike wave after wave of free agents, Barrett actually wants to be a Knick. Those who know him well say he not only has the talent for it but also the temperament.
What he evidently won't have is a perennial All-Star teammate or two as the Knicks originally planned (albeit for another Dukie named Zion).