From the very start of the season, Knicks fans were eyeing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. And that is exactly what the team could be looking at, holding the worst record in the NBA by 2.5 games with only a few to go.
But, of course, the NBA Draft lottery only allows a 14 percent chance for New York to get that first selection. The second- and third-worst teams in the league also have the same percentage to land the pick that would more likely than not be spent on Duke's freshman sensation Zion Williamson. The only perk for landing the league's worst record is not falling further than No. 5 when the ping pong balls are chosen.
That worst case scenario for the Knicks is nightmare fuel for fans, but what about falling into the second or third slot after the lottery? Would it be that much of a loss for the franchise?
Now, hear me out: the No. 1 overall pick is ideal and fans should pray to the basketball gods over and over for it. Williamson is as NBA-ready as prospects come, and he would be a great fit to the Knicks system while bringing massive amounts of hype back to The Garden.
But, after watching the performance Ja Morant put on in his NCAA Tournament debut, I wouldn't feel too deflated about moving slightly back in the draft.
Morant lived up to the hype against a good fifth-seeded Marquette squad in the tourney's opening day with a triple-double. He willed his Murray State team to an 83-64 statement win with 17 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes on the hardwood. And in doing so, Morant showed those who haven't been watching him all season that he is the Top-5 talent experts have been projecting him to be.
At the moment, the 6-foot-3 guard is projected as the No. 2 overall pick, according to Tankathon. So, if the Knicks were to miss out on Williamson with that first pick, drafting Morant wouldn't be a major fall off in talent. He's being compared to Russell Westbrook, and he fit the bill perfectly with the triple-double magic and high-flying athleticism Thursday night.
And even if you aren't sold on Morant or his potential fit in the Knicks lineup, another Duke freshman in R.J. Barrett could be there at two or three as well. Barrett may take a backseat to Williamson, but he isn't quietly averaging 23.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists heading into the Blue Devils' first tourney matchup on Friday night. His ability to score anywhere on the floor as well as seeing the floor in the passing game has been on display all season, especially when Williamson went down with his knee injury.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has praised Barrett's NBA readiness since the start of the season, and his stamp of approval should go without saying in the basketball community. Being a natural two-guard, Barrett would fit in the Knicks' scheme perfectly, especially if they were to land Kyrie Irving or another top point guard in free agency.
In fact, shouldn't free agency be more important for Knicks fans? The front office will have two max slots to work with, and the established players they hopefully land will be the main cogs leading the way to a playoff contender right away -- not necessarily the rookie learning the NBA game in his first season.
Landing the Irving-Kevin Durant combo would be much more of a win than seeing Williamson don a Knicks snapback on draft night.
If you don't believe me now, watch Morant back on the court Friday against a tougher team in Florida State. He already promised "I'm not done yet" on Instagram. And Barrett will have much more basketball in store for him unless a major upset happens.
Just know the No. 1 overall pick isn't the end of the world if it doesn't have the Knicks name next to it on June 20.