Zion To The Knicks? Yes, We're Doing This Again
Whether you lived in the NYC area or are just an NBA fan, you heard the rumors of how the Knicks were supposed to draft Zion with the #1 pick two drafts ago. Ahh, delusional Knicks fans.
The lottery balls didn’t bounce their way & statistically speaking, they were more likely to not get the #1 pick than to actually get it. They ended up taking RJ Barrett at #3. He’s looking like a stud, putting up 17.4 points on 45% from the field & 39% from Curryland. Zion made his first all star appearance as he averages 26 ppg and 7 boards on 62% shooting.
Zion To The Knicks?
Zion’s Pelicans fell to the Knicks last Sunday at the Garden in overtime. The Knicks are absolutely on fire as of late. After the game, Zion and RJ did their handshake they created while they were roommates during their one year in Durham. Zion was asked about whether he liked playing at the Garden, grinned from ear to ear and started his answer saying he was glad to be asked that question. He elaborated by saying he loved playing at the Garden in college, NY is the Mecca of basketball, and he plays pretty damn well there during his time in the NBA. He goes on to say it’s his favorite place to play other than N’awlins.
New Orleans Pelicans & Their Wasted Talent
Why does this make sense? I mentioned Zion and RJ were college roommates. I mentioned Zion loves playing at the Garden. What big time player doesn’t? New Orleans has been a disaster of a franchise considering the star power they have had. Their best teams revolved around a young point god in Chris Paul and young Tyson Chandler before his defensive player of the year campaign. The Pels squandered Anthony Davis’ talents during his time in the bayou and similarly wasted Jrue Holiday’s time. They did get large hauls for both players. JJ Redick was traded by the Pels to the Mavericks at the deadline this season, after promising to trade him to a team in the northeast at the beginning of the season. This would indicate to current or future Pelicans players that the front office doesn’t care about them. JJ Redick and Zion have the same agency representing them and definitely had conversations over their shared year plus. New Orleans is clearly going to do everything possible to make Zion stay.
It Makes Sense
Most of the reasons for Zion going to the Knicks are speculative and outside the realm of on the court basketball, yet still important to players. Here’s the timeline for Zion. He’s eligible for a rookie max extension after the 2022-23 season, and if he turns that deal down and takes a qualifying offer instead, he will be an unrestricted free agent the following offseason. The Pels could certainly follow the AD model and sign him to a rookie max deal with the promise that they will build a contender around him. Signs point to that being a pipe dream. The Knicks have similarly been unsuccessful other than the two seasons they were exciting with Melo.
The Knicks can play the waiting game for Zion to sign his rookie max extension and then steal a page out of AD’s playbook and force his way out of New Orleans. This leaves too much time for the Pels to get their house in order and build a contender around Zion. The Knicks can hope he turns down the extension, takes the qualifying offer, and becomes an unrestricted free agent. The best way to acquire Zion as quickly as possible in order to limit the possibility of severe injury is to offer him the largest max contract possible in restricted free agency. The offer would have to be large enough to make the Pels not want to match since they are a smaller market team.
Although I like to think I know everything about basketball, I’m not entirely sure if that is possible under the contract structures dictated by the CBA. But it sure would be incredible to see Zion playing with his buddy RJ at the Garden on the largest second NBA contract in the history of the league. Who better for that to happen to than Zion? And what better place for it to happen for the game of basketball than New York, New York.
What Does This Mean for the Knicks?
The Knicks team with Zion should look like Zion at point, RJ at the two, Reggie Bullock or some similar style of player at the 3, Julius Randle at the 4, and someone fitting the mold to Nerlens Noel (maybe a healthy Mitchell Robinson) at the 5. Zion has been playing more and more point guard as this season has progressed and has performed extremely well in that situation. I outlined RJ’s stats so far this season. Randle is putting up better numbers than Curry during his first MVP campaign, a difference of .3 points, more rebounds and more assists.
We all know a few Knicks fans who are just as convinced Zion will be on the Knicks as they were before Zion’s draft. This plan is rather circumstantial and improbable. It’s not entirely impossible.
Knicks Need to Play Their Cards Right
The Knicks shouldn’t go all in for Zion, as great as that would be to see, at least not yet. They are exceeding all expectations for this season and are comfortably sitting in a place where they can avoid the play in tournament. They have one of the best defenses in the league. They have an all star in Julius Randle. Imannuel Quickley is one of the better rookies this year. My very first blog couldn’t have been more correct with the addition of D Rose hurting his ROY campaign. The Knicks are poised to make the playoffs and be a difficult opponent for whoever they're matched up against. Robinson and Obi Toppin have missed large portions of the season with injury. They’re playing so well Nkitilina and Kevin Knox are afterthoughts rotting away on the bench.
Hopefully this isn’t a one year fluke under Thibs’ first year at the helm. The Garden is rocking with limited capacity. The Knicks have now won 9 straight games, have covered 12 straight, and are playing their best basketball since Linsanity. New York basketball is back.