After getting selected No. 3 in tonight’s NBA draft by the Knicks, R.J. Barrett sobbed on his father’s shoulder. It was a touching moment for the Barretts – Rowan, a former professional player who’s now general manager of Canada Basketball, and R.J., who built himself into an elite prospect.
“We’re just scratching the surface of who he’s going to be,” Rowan Barrett said, “and hopefully who he’ll be for New York.”
That’s the catch.
R.J. Barrett is the Knicks’ new franchise player. For now.
It could change in a couple years if New York, once again, moves in another direction. It could change in a couple weeks if Kevin Durant signs.
But history suggests it’ll change relatively soon.
David Lee (No. 30 pick in 2005) was the last player to spend his first five full seasons with the Knicks. Charlie Ward (No. 26 pick in 1994), was the last player to spend his first six seasons with the Knicks.
The Knicks just haven’t shown aptitude in identifying good young players then patience in building around them. Since Mark Jackson made the 1989 All-Star game, David Lee and Kristaps Porzingis are the only players to get drafted by the Knicks and became an All-Star with the team.
Both Lee and Porzingis were off the team within a year.
Maybe Barrett will be different. He immediately raises New York’s ceiling after six straight losing seasons. There’s absolutely value in that. Will he eventually become a good player on a good team? That’s more questionable. But his physical driving and playmaking will be immediately welcomed.
Knicks fans at the draft in Brooklyn certainly didn’t share Barrett’s tears. They were overjoyed with the selection. No New York fans cried in misery, as one infamously did upon Porzingis getting selected a few years ago.
But, as that Porzingis examples showed, everything can change quickly with the Knicks.