Zion Williamson of Duke University is one of the hottest generational-talent prospects to come into the NBA draft since LeBron James — possibly since Michael Jordan — with a ceiling as high as both, according to many NBA scouts.
So it should probably come as no surprise that the New York Knicks, being the Knicks, are already talking about trading him.
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium broke the news Tuesday.
If the #Knicks land the No. 1 pick, hold off on ordering those Zion Williamson jerseys.
— Stadium (@Stadium) May 14, 2019
As Krieger put it, “The Knicks stink, and they want to improve. They have the practical cap space to do some crazy things this summer, and landing a superstar like Anthony Davis is at the top of their To-Do List. They’ve been linked to going after players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, so imagine pairing one of those guys with AD. They’ll do whatever they can to make something like this happen.”
The whole thing is reminiscent of the 2008 Boston Celtics, who traded the fifth pick in the 2007 draft to Seattle for Ray Allen, then used Allen and Paul Pierce as the draw to convince Kevin Garnett to agree to a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Celtics, 24-58 in 2006-07, went 66-16 in 2007-08 and won the championship.
For the Knicks, they’re likely hoping for a similar result if they’re able to trade for Davis, which could be the catalyst for luring Irving and Durant to Gotham.
The Knicks have been building toward this moment since the trade deadline back in February.
They traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks for Dennis Smith Jr.’s rookie contract and the massive salary cap space that came with it. New York has up to $72.9 million to spend, and that’s enough, if they can convince Durant and Irving to structure their contracts in a way that may not be the “supermax” that they can get from Golden State and Boston, respectively, but more along the lines of the contracts that LeBron James and Chris Bosh signed to join Dwyane Wade in Miami in 2010, to put together an instant contender.
The Knicks won 17 games in 2018-19. If they improve by 42 wins, a 59-23 record would have been good for the No. 2 seed this year and no worse than second in every non-lockout season since 2009.
Of course, New York would be under no such salary constraints if they simply kept the pick and drafted Williamson, counting on his enormous ceiling and comparatively paltry $8.1 million rookie-scale salary plus the money that would then free up to offer more to Irving and Durant to put together a Big Three.
But even though Williamson’s name has been all but engraved on the trophy for the Rookie of the Year, Davis is an established All-Star and known quantity, and he won’t have the growing pains that even some of the best rookies in NBA history face during their first year.
Sure, Michael Jordan led the league in points scored in his rookie season, but with three years at North Carolina, he was an exeptional case. LeBron’s rookie numbers were far more pedestrian, and the advanced stats that “King James” put up were consistent more with a sixth man like Domantas Sabonis or Lou Williams than the guy who 15 years later is now mentioned in serious debates about the “greatest of all time.”
But on the other hand, how good is Davis, really, when the teams he’s been on have only been to the playoffs twice in his seven seasons in the league? Unlike James, who dragged some terrible Cleveland Cavaliers teams to the Finals by himself, or someone like Russell Westbrook or Kobe Bryant, who put G-League teams on their backs in 2016 and 2006 respectively to get to the playoffs, Davis has never done anything like that in New Orleans.
Ian Begley of ESPN wrote in April that, “It’s easier to find street parking in Manhattan than it is to find an NBA executive, player or coach who doesn’t think Durant is going to sign with the Knicks in July.”
But what if the Warriors win another title and Durant wins another Finals MVP, his third in a row? Would he really leave Golden State to play for one of the league’s most infamously badly run franchises, whose owner, James Dolan, is regarded universally with scorn by media, fans, and players alike?
And, of course, there’s the simple mathematical fact that all of this is completely moot unless the Knicks win the draft lottery, something they have just a 14 percent chance of doing.
But the idea of trading away one of the most hotly touted generational talents in the history of the sport is on the table, something that would normally be regarded as unthinkable.
The playoffs aren’t even over yet and we’re already in for a completely bonkers offseason.
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