Zion Williamson

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Schmeelk: Lottery Night Is The Knicks' Most Important Night

John Schmeelk
April 18, 2019 - 10:15 am

The Knicks’ offseason will be everything but boring. Whether it is lottery night, draft night, a potential Anthony Davis trade or free agency, there will be a number of ways for the Knicks to improve their team. As important as landing someone like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Davis or Kyrie Irving might be, free agency still pales in comparison to lottery night when the Knicks learn if they will have a chance to draft recently declared Zion Williamson.

Tuesday, May 14th will be the most important day of the year for the Knicks. Whether or not they hit their 14% chance at the top pick and take Williamson will impact every other aspect of the summer. Williamson is not as good of a player and might not ever become as good of a player as any of the veterans the Knicks could trade for or land in free agency but he is still the most important piece for the Knicks to land this offseason.

It starts with his salary, which on a rookie scale for at least four years will not significantly hinder the Knicks ability to add two max-level free agents in July. Unlike in free agency, where the Knicks can roll any money they don’t spend into the summer of 2020, the Knicks won’t get another shot at picking a player of Williamson’s quality. They have to select a player with a lower chance of success like Ja Morant and RJ Barrett, or players with significantly lower ceilings like DeAndre Hunter or Jarrett Culver.

If the Knicks do land two stars in free agency, or even one, the chances they’ll have in the future of landing a player of Williamson’s caliber near the top of the draft becomes infinitesimal. This could be a one-shot chance for them to select a homegrown player that can be the centerpiece of the franchise years after whomever they add in free agency retires.

Williamson’s presence would also make the Knicks a far more attractive destination for free agents. Durant might want to be in New York for his legacy and off-the-court reasons, but Williamson would give him a true on-court reason to come to the Knicks. It would be no different for Leonard, Irving or the other available free agents. He is also versatile enough to play with or without the ball and still be a winning player on the court. He would fit with any other players the Knicks add in free agency.

Related: Knicks Have Hopes For Lottery, Free Agency

Whether the Knicks get the top pick in the draft will also determine how much of a factor they will be in a potential trade for Davis. It’s possible (and perfectly reasonable) that the Knicks decide moving Williamson for Davis doesn’t make sense. If such a deal was made on draft night or prior to free agency, the Knicks would lose not only Williamson but also the ability to add two other max players in free agency. It might not make sense for them.

If the Knicks land any of the picks from 2-5, they might not be able to put together a good enough package to lure Davis from the Pelicans even if they wanted to land him. They would have Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr. and even Mitchell Robinson or the acquired first-round picks from the Mavericks to offer if they so desired. It also begs the question whether it is worth adding Davis if it completely tears down the roster. But if Davis’ arrival is the cost of acquiring Durant or Irving, does the trade then become worth it?

If the Knicks select second and take Ja Morant, what is the future of Dennis Smith Jr.? How might it alter their desire to add a point guard in free agency, like Irving or Kemba Walker? The draft, since it comes before free agency, will impact everything. All of it depends on May 14th, NBA Draft Lottery Night. It will be the first clue as to how the season is going to go.

You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports You can also check out my Knicks podcast, The Bank Shot, which you can subscribe to on iTunes here: https://t.co/kmPo2AXb9x. You can also listen to the latest episode with Chris Iseman, Beat Reporter for the Record, here: https://t.co/A3CXwegK5S