What if the Knicks don’t get the first pick?

Oh, hello there. Welcome to 6th grade math! Please put away the headphones. Now.

I can still see them.

We can do this all day, really.

Thank you. Now class, on each of your desks is a quarter. No, you don’t get to keep the quarter. On the count of three, I want all 28 of you to flip it. 1…2…3…flip!

Now raise your hand if you got heads.

(15 hands go up. Wait…scratch that…14. One kid was picking his nose.)

That’s half of you. Now everyone who got heads gets to flip again. Everyone else, keep my money where I can see it. Ok…1…2…3.

Raise your hand if you got heads again.

(Seven hands)

OK, last time…flip.

Who got heads a third time?

(Four hands go up)

That’s it? Only four of you managed to get heads three times in a row? Out of 28?

You all suck.

Welcome, boys and girls, to the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, where thanks to the 17 wins they achieved this season, the New York Knicks have roughly the same odds of landing the first pick as one of you just did getting heads three times in a row1.

Despite this, we’ve all allowed ourselves to dream of Zion for months now, and why the hell not. We’re Knick fans; dreams are as much a part of our sports life portfolio as anything else, whisky included.

With that understanding, we at Knicks Film School don’t want people jumping off bridges or ingesting unhealthy amounts of rubbing alcohol tonight, so we thought we’d try to calm everyone’s nerves a bit. What follows is our staff talking out the options for what New York should do if they don’t land heads three times in a row.

Remember, this is for your own good.

Topher Demitris, @IVTheKnicksFan

I still don’t know which player would be the best fit on this team.

In the modern NBA, floor spacing and shooting have become so important. Zion was undoubtedly the best show in college hoops, but I have concerns over his shooting and long term health, so I’m not in the “We need Zion or the team is doomed” camp (I also admit the kid has a ridiculous skill set. Two things can be true at once).

Given a top five pick and what Mills & Perry have done with talent scouting, I’m confident they will make the most of any draft position. Personally, I think we need more capable defensive-minded playmakers on the wing. Mills and Perry have been very transparent about their approach to the rebuild. Regardless of ping pong balls they will continue to develop internally, focus on player skills (shout out to Craig Robinson) and take measured steps toward success while maintaining cap flexibility.

Remember: banking on random chance isn’t a plan, it’s a wish. What matters most right now is that the Knicks stick to a slow rebuild combined with a willingness to make power moves only when necessary. These are the characteristics of a healthy, functional front office. In that kind of environment, Zion or no Zion, we should be prepared to welcome fresh new talent to a team on the rise.

Tiffany Beamen, @TiffStarr815

While as a fan, I would do anything to get Zion in the blue and orange, in reality (and in the world of Knicks), it would be easier to suggest it’s not happening.

Right now we have the best chance to end up with the #1 pick. With that said, I think most of us are banking on free agency as the linchpin for the organization and beyond. As the season goes along you realize there are some big names that we haven’t been mentioning. KD is still number one on my wish list but names like Kawhi and AD are absolutely on my radar as well. And for all the craziness, Kyrie is still Kyrie.

So yes, there’s a huge chance we strike out on Zion, but there are other guys out there. Ja Morant is looking like the player Coach Fiz would want to run his system, crazy explosive and athleticism through the roof, good shooter, and can easily get to the basket. Plus, coming from a mid major like Murray State he has a lot to prove. Why not make The Mecca his stage to prove he belongs?

So without providing trade scenarios, the simple answer for me would be that we would be ok if we don’t draft Zion. Just stay the course, continue to develop our young guns, and prepare ourselves for the huge summer ahead.

Michael DeStefano, @DebateBBall

If the Knicks don’t get Zion, I want them to TRADE DOWN.

I don’t like Barrett or Morant.

Some of my favorite guys – Reddish, Culver, Garland, Hunter- are slated in recent mocks to go past 3, which I think it points to this draft being a little bit deeper than some have given it credit for.  You can get a player in the mid-to-late lottery.  I would like the Knicks to take advantage of this.

Let’s say, for example, they end up at #2 (or 3).  Is there a team out there that likes Barrett enough to move up?  What would ATL trade to move up a few spots?  The 5 and the 9?  Too much?  What about the 5, 35, 47?  Or future considerations?  The Celtics have (potentially) four first-rounders this year. Would Danny Ainge flip some of his assets to move up and pounce on the guy he wants?

This is all fluid.  Prospects will rise and fall between May 14th and June 20th, but this is how I want the Knicks thinking:  if not Zion, take advantage of a team primed to move up and add to this stable of young talent.

Suada Cee, @SuYork_1023

Oh if only we did this before the draft formatting changed…

Not winning Zion is something I try not to think about, but you have to face reality and prepare yourself. If we miss out? We still got cap space (LOL) and future picks. Landing in the top 4 is not bad. Remember that one guy we drafted at number 4 a few years ago? He tuned out to be a promising player. (Ok, ok…bad example.)

I expect the Knicks front office to do as they did before and pick the best talent available. You know in a crucial year, the Knicks are taking their scouting reports more seriously than ever. If you need a little hope, Perry was a part of the team that drafted Kevin Durant. He is a wise man. I think if Knicks don’t get Zion, they might just get lucky with a hidden gem.

If we are not too thrilled with our pick and other teams – aka the Pelicans – are interested in a possible deal this summer for Anthony Davis, I’m for trading this pick. Other than that I am preaching patience more than ever before. Knicks do not need to rush anything. An opportunity will come to them. They’ve set themselves up pretty well so far. Please DO NOT MESS THIS UP!

David Early, @DavidEarly

The only appropriate answer here is a cop out but we all need to say it: It depends. Four years ago today, Jahlil Okafor was a presumptive number 1 overall pick. Things change, people change.

The luxury the Knicks have is that they’re a major market team that gets a seat at the table when MVP’s want a change of scenery no matter how disgustingly they play. My default position is to draft the best player available after Zion. But if Kevin Durant, Klay, Kyrie or Kawhi says “trade your 3rd overall pick for my boy Damian Lillard and we’ll see you at Dallas BBQ in Times Square,” I ask “how many shall I make a reservation for?”

It’s all about A-Listers. if KD wants to stay in San Fran than I pivot to Kyrie, Kawhi, Klay. That’s it. After those three I use my cap space to buy draft picks. No Kembas. No Butlers. No Middletons. No Harris’s. Maybe we buy 2 or 3 draft picks and run back the tankathon with Reddish in tow.

Stephanie Enriquez, @Stephy_825

If we don’t get Zion I trust the front office to pick the best talent available…just look what they did this past draft. I don’t really watch college basketball, but the Zion hype is real. It even had me watching him. Nonetheless, we can’t put all our hopes and dreams on a lottery pick because we might not hit the jackpot, especially since the front office could also trade our pick for AD.

I don’t want to do that because trading for him would also require us to literary give up all the young guys we have, along with the draft picks we recently acquired. He’s a free agent in 2020, so I’d rather they hold onto what we have and wait. I desperately want our front office to not get desperate and keep operating how they have since Scottie P (shout out DSJ) got here. In the meantime, I’ll keep praying for Zion and for the universe to finally conspire for us and give us a marquee free agent!

Alex Collins, @MrAlexCollins

If the Knicks don’t get Zion nothing changes.

Zion is clearly the best prospect but there are still players who will be available that have potential to be excellent if developed properly. The goal of any team entering the draft should always be to take the best prospect available at your spot, while taking into account positional need where the talent difference between prospects is minimal.

Right now the Knicks should be focused on planning a swoop for Kevin Durant in free agency. Should they convince KD to come to New York, expect the Knicks to begin offloading young assets in trades for an established star to pair with Durant (assuming one doesn’t come in free agency). The Knicks should choose the best asset available to them in the draft and be open to including him in any trade opportunities for a legitimate star player like Anthony Davis.

In the scenario that the Knicks miss out on Durant in free agency, the Knicks should continue to develop their young players for another season, while being prepared to make a move should any top 10 player become available through trade. The plan doesn’t change regardless of who the Knicks draft.

Jonathan Macri, @JCMacriNBA

I’ve read what my compatriots above have said, and there’s a large part of me that wants to agree with them. If they don’t win, it’s no biggie. Totes cool. Perry seems to have an eye for talent. I get it. All of it.

Here’s the thing though: I’m just not in love with any of these guys. Ja Morant seems to have separated himself in the second slot, and there’s a line of thinking that getting the No. 2 pick is no great loss.

I’m not buying it. When the second best prospect in the draft is a guard who can’t defend and doesn’t yet profile as a plus shooter, I have issues. Barrett is…who knows what Barrett is. Inefficient Kobe impersonator? Sure, why not. Culver? I wish the Final Four had left a better taste in my mouth.

And yet, despite all this, I’m cool with whatever happens. Why? Two reasons:

  1. We have decades worth of evidence that teams are always capable of talking themselves into a top five pick. If the Knicks want to trade down or trade out, an opportunity should be there to pick up an extra goodie and still potentially get the guy they want – perhaps someone better suited to help them win now, like a DeAndre Hunter or a Brandon Clarke. Or…
  2. They keep the pick, which is a sign to me they really like the guy they’re getting.

Ultimately, what leaves me feeling ok is that this front office seems to be able to put one foot in front of the other without tripping. Will this summer be like going from two balls to seven in their little juggling act? You betcha. Somehow I still feel confident. They won’t know how July 1 is going to play out when they make (or trade) this pick, but they’ll know enough to have a good feel for the lay of the land. Whatever they do, they’ll do because they believe in the choice.

And hey, for as bad the fifth pick might feel in the moment, how would you like to be the Bulls, who won five more games than we did and have to worry about potentially falling to eighth. This, above all, is the benefit of finishing last. The worst case scenario isn’t actually that bad.

(ok but for real though…can we just win the damn thing for once?)

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