The NBA Draft Lottery was held on Tuesday. For longtime Knicks devotees, the annual event has been akin to hoping for a Christmas gift that is never placed under the tree. The odds of the Knicks getting the first pick entering the 2022 lottery was 2%. They had a 77.6% chance of landing 11th pick. Of course, the latter was the outcome.
So now, Knicks president Leon Rose and his staff will have to decide if they will use the asset in a trade package to acquire an established impact player if one is available on the market—Utah Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell is the name most prominently referenced—or keep the pick with the optimistic outlook that whoever they draft at that spot will develop into a critical piece of a contending squad. Last season, rookies Quentin Grimes (25th) and center Jericho Sims (the 58th pick) emerged as rotation players who can potentially become mainstays of the lineup.
The Orlando Magic wound up with the top pick, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 2, the Houston Rockets No. 3, the Sacramento Kings No. 4 and the Detroit Pistons rounding out the top 5. The Knick haven’t had the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft since 1985, when they selected Patrick Ewing.
In 2019, when they finished the regular season with the league’s worst record at 17-65, Knicks fans were certain the team was eternally cursed after the ping pong balls awarded the New Orleans Pelicans the first pick and the Memphis Grizzlies the second. Both had ended the 33-49, 16 games better than the Knicks, who wound up in the third spot.
The Knicks drafted R.J. Barrett, who has shown promise, but the two players selected ahead of him have displayed superstar ability. When healthy, Zion Williamson, taken No. 1 by the Pelicans, has been a ferocious force. His critics will point out that the 6-foot-6 Williamson has only played in 85 games in the three seasons. But the 21-year-old’s 25.7 points per game average on 60% shooting suggest he’s a budding franchise player with maintaining good health as the disclaimer. Williamson missed all of this season with a foot injury.
Ja Morant is already one the NBA’s best players. His dazzling regular season play in which he averaged 27.4 points per game, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds was exceeded by a remarkable playoff run as the 6-foot-3 point guard posted numbers of 27 points, 9.8 assists and 8 rebounds over 9 games.
It will be a consequential summer for Rose and the Knicks. The team finished 37-45 for 11th place in the Eastern Conference and a non-playoff campaign. They can improve through free-agency and likely will make a strong run at current Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson, who will be an unrestricted free-agent.
Yet acquiring a star player, a singular talent who will be the foundation on which to build a sustained contender, should be the primary objective.