According to multiple reports, the New York Knicks are becoming more and more interested in Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland. They scheduled a last-minute interview for this week and he is reportedly a genuine consideration with the third pick.
Before I really dive in here, I should mention that Ian Begley reported that this is largely a situation where the Knicks are just doing their due-diligence. This very well could all just be smoke and mirrors.
With that said, though, I have never in my life had reason to believe/trust that that is what the Knicks are doing. I have to lean towards this being real.
To be clear, I like Darius Garland quite a lot. I think his ceiling is higher than, say, Jarrett Culver. I’m likely in the minority there, but the hot goss on the streets is that Garland has the potential to be the next Kyrie Irving, and I like what we got to see in just a five game sample last season. I’m a noted RJ Barrett fan (which you would know if you listened to Talkin’ Knicks the last few weeks, check it out), though, and I think he is the obvious choice at three.
Garland has emerged as the consensus fourth or fifth best player in this draft. The top three are fairly solidified as Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and Barrett in that order (though I think I’ve convinced myself I’d take Barrett at two, but I digress). Garland and Culver are 4/5, with Deandre Hunter likely not far behind. The 4-12 range is very subjective, however, so every team could have different opinions on these guys depending on what their evaluators say and what their franchises need.
Basically what I am getting at is that the Knicks would be making a grave grave error by selecting Garland at three. I view drawing the third pick in the lottery as a blessing in disguise, because this way we don’t have to rely on the Knicks to make a choice between RJ and Morant, they just take whichever is left with the third pick. The way I see it, there are three sets of situations/circumstances that must be followed for the Knicks to wind up selecting Garland Thursday night.
The Knicks just really want Garland
This is very possible. Sometimes you just fall in love with a guy (see: Daniel Jones, Giants) and you lock into him as the player you want. That’s fine. Don’t pick him at three, though. After the Anthony Davis trade, the Pelicans have the fourth pick in the draft (or will have it, depending on when the trade becomes officially official) along with No. 1. They’ve made it quite clear that they’re interested in pairing up college teammates and roommates Zion and RJ in New Orleans.
If the first two picks go as planned, and Garland is truly the guy the Knicks want or they’re at least ambivalent between Garland and Barrett, trade down to four with New Orleans, who in this scenario want Barrett more than you, and say if they don’t trade you’ll just take Barrett. NO just received a metric buttload of draft picks from the Los Angeles Lakers. Make them give you some future first(s) to get it done and move up a spot. Don’t do this:
Pelicans trade up to No. 2 to take RJ Barrett
In this situation, I would personally just take Ja Morant. He has special potential as well and it is the common sense thing to do. Perhaps this is the situation that prompted the Knicks to take a larger look at Garland in the first place. It is being reported that this is what the Pelicans want to do since the Knicks are unlikely to budge at three under current circumstances. Of course, they should be listening to offers since you never know what will be offered. I’m sure they’re doing just that. We know about the Cleveland and Atlanta rumors for potential trade-downs already.
In the situation where Memphis and New Orleans swap 2 and 4, the Knicks should still be able to make a deal with the Grizzlies to slide back to four and pick Garland while Memphis slides up to three and pick Morant, who they want at two, by most indications. They’ll still make out with the guy they seem to want plus some extra asset(s) that they wouldn’t have if they just took him with the second pick straight-up. The Knicks likely get less here than in the straight-up 3-for-4 with New Orleans scenario, but they still make out alright, especially if they, in fact, prefer Garland to Morant.
Memphis [or some other team trades in and] takes RJ Barrett at No. 2
Not all that unlikely of a scenario. Memphis has not gotten to have a meeting with RJ Barrett, but perhaps they’ve fallen in love anyway and take him regardless. Moreover, perhaps another team gives the Grizzlies an offer they can’t refuse and trade into the second pick since they’d need to leapfrog the Knicks to get there and take RJ.
This would be the worst scenario for the Knicks, right? I think they end up the least well-off if this happens and they trade out of three here. I would just take Morant, again, but if they love Garland that much they should trade down to four. New Orleans would almost certainly still be willing to give something to draft Morant over anyone else. If not, then suck it up and take Morant, or trade down further to the highest bidder (someone is going to give up a lot for Morant) and pray Garland lasts past picks 4, 5, 6, etc. until wherever the Knicks are selecting. In all likelihood, I’d assume you’d be able to get some small compensation in this scenario to swap 3 and 4 with the Pels so they can take Morant. I would guess they’re high on him as well, we just know that they want to pair Zion and RJ.