Williamson would have been icing on the cake. Luckily for the Knicks, they still have the cake.
It seemed to be fate. The same year the Knicks had their worst season in franchise history, Zion Williamson emerged as the franchise-altering talent the world envisioned. It didn’t matter that both Phoenix and Cleveland had the same 14-percent odds at the No. 1 overall pick as New York. Williamson to the league-worst Knicks, who desperately yearned for an otherworldly talent to lift them out of the gutter and into NBA prominence, was etched in stone.
But it was etched in pencil, then erased and replaced with Pelican blood. New Orleans became the unlikely beneficiary of the league’s first lottery in the anti-tanking era. The Pelicans had just a six-percent chance to win the lottery, but leapfrogged six teams to get the No. 1 pick. Williamson will reign supreme on Bourbon St., not Times Square.
Instead, the Knicks will pick third, behind both the Pelicans and the Grizzlies. Barring any unlikely movement, New York will miss out on both Williamson and lightning-quick Murray State point guard and soon-to-be Mike Conley understudy Ja Morant. Prayers to the basketball gods fell on deaf ears. Dreams of Williamson dazzling at Madison Square Garden, one coast-to-coast, rim-rocking flush at a time, will only come at the Knicks’ expense.
But this isn’t the end of the world for New York.
In fact, it is only the beginning of a new era. The Knicks are still in play for an Anthony Davis trade. Now, they can entice New Orleans with the possibility of pairing Williamson with his Duke teammate, R.J. Barrett.
Had the ping pong balls fallen in New York’s favor, it would have only been the icing on the cake of what’s expected to be a sensational Knicks offseason. New York is banking on Kevin Durant joining them this summer, and many signs have pointed that dream becoming a reality. The Knicks also have a second slot for a max contract if Durant chooses to join them. In theory, Durant can choose whoever he wants to go with him to New York, just like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh teamed up together in South Beach in 2010.
That player could be Kyrie Irving, whose friendship with Durant was on full display during All-Star Weekend. It could also be Kemba Walker, the New York product who desperately wants to win after more losing seasons than not in Charlotte. Free agency is full of stars, from Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard to Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler.
If Durant chooses New York, stars will line up to go with him. That is still the case even with this lottery defeat.
The Knicks may have lost on Zion Williamson and may be subject to social media ridicule as a result, but general manager Scott Perry and president Steve Mills are still on track to bring their team back to relevance. If the Knicks decide to keep their pick, the best available prospects are Barrett, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, or Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter. Those aren’t bad consolation prizes, even if Durant doesn’t come.
So don’t worry, Knicks fans. If anything, your team’s summer just got a little more interesting.
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