by Jesse Liptzin, special to NY SportsDay
For basketball fans, the highly anticipated offseason is in full swing following last Thursday’s NBA draft, when stars like Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett were ready to find their teams. The Pelicans won the May 14 NBA Draft Lottery, so their first pick in Zion was not a shocker to anyone. Morant found himself getting taken second by the Grizzlies and then came the Knicks at number three where it was likely Barrett, though in the past, they have been notorious for going other routes when looking at what many saw as a fairly easy decision.
Still, Barrett came off the board at number three where New York hopes he can continue his excellence into the big leagues. After the three big names were taken teams like the Atlanta Hawks made some trades to acquire De’Andre Hunter from Virginia Tech at four and then with the 10th pick they took former teammate of Barrett and Zion, Cam Reddish. The three Duke stars were all selected in the top 10 for the first time since the ‘07 draft when Florida sent three guys. This draft also had a total of 17 trades, five more than last year, which made for an interesting rest of the night.
The Knicks did what they had to do and that was draft Barrett at three. They needed a star and they got one and—importantly—one that wants to be there. At the conclusion of a press conference Barrett shouted, “wow, I’m a Knick”—if that doesn’t get Knicks fans happy, I don’t know what will.
When asked how he will be able to deal with the pressure of playing in the New York market he stated, “I don’t think that playing on a big stage is pressure, you know. Pressure is like when you don’t know what you’re gonna eat. It’s just playing basketball. Definitely playing in The Garden would be exciting.” Barrett was the #1 recruit coming out of high school and also played for the Duke Blue Devils in some of the highest rated college basketball games this past season.
The Knicks also drafted Ignas Brazdeikis from the Michigan Wolverines with the 17th pick in the second round to cap off their night. This night was hopefully the start to a busy offseason for the Knicks front office—one that could have everyone on the hot seat with the recent years of criticism from fans and media.
Although the draft for the Knicks seemed quiet their offseason should be the polar opposite. With the cap space they have and the leverage of playing in the Garden, the Knicks need to land a top free agent especially with the players that will be available this summer. Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker are among the notable players available, and the Knicks are in need of one badly.
The Brooklyn Nets on the other hand didn’t have a crazy pick in the top five; actually their two lone draft picks were in the second round where one went to Nic Claxton from Georgia where they took him with the first pick in the second round. Claxton should have an impact on this Brooklyn squad that is supposed to be adding former Celtic Kyrie Irving to the team. The Nets found themselves also getting the trade rights to Jaylen Hands who also can make an impact on this rising Nets team. Second-round picks don’t generally affect cap space so not getting a first rounder sets their cap up for this free agency. After a quieter draft from Brooklyn they still have their sights set on the offseason where they hope to finalize a contract with Kyrie and in doing so can potentially convince Kevin Durant to call Brooklyn home as well.