It would take guts, but the Knicks should draft Murray State’s Ja Morant over Zion Williamson.
Most of the basketball world believes it’s already written in stone that if the Knicks secure the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft — which is very likely considering their league-worst 14 wins — the struggling franchise will select highly-heralded Duke freshman Zion Williamson, who ESPN analyst Dick Vitale says, “saved the college basketball season.”
Zion Williamson Makes Duke Hype Machine Go – The Shadow League https://t.co/ooAkl8r74d
— LA MAQUINA DE SOMBRAS (@FANalyst1) December 3, 2018
Zion is the obvious pick, as he is the most popular person in sports right now and sure to bring electricity, hope, national interest and stature back to Madison Square Garden. We know of all the athletically freakish things Zion can do on a court, but we also know his potential shortcomings as a 6-foot-7 forward with limited range, who will be asked to guard bigger players.
Knicks brass has got to be reconsidering their pick after watching Murray State phenom Temetrius Ja Morant rip a formidable Marquette team to shreds with an efficient and lethally effective triple-double (17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds) in an 83-64 win in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at the XL Center.
It’s gonna take guts, but the Knicks risk missing out on the real generational player in the draft.
Morant is the eighth player to record a triple-double in the NCAA tournament and the first since Draymond Green did it twice with Michigan State in 2011 and 2012, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The sophomore combo guard is also the first player with 15 pts and 15 assists in NCAA Tourney game since Earl Watson in 2000.
“He’s as good as any guard that I’ve coachesd against or played against,” said Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski, who played in the loaded ACC for Duke. “And I’ve played against and coaches some outstanding ones.”
Morant has been touted as a Top 3 NBA Draft pick all season long. Players have been known to ride the winds of March Madness to unthinkable heights. With Zion, RJ Barrett and Duke not playing until Friday, Morant had the national stage to himself. He captured and blew people’s minds in the process.
NBA championship teams these days are built from the outside in. The guard is the most impactful player on the court. That can’t be lost in the Zion Williamson hype machine that has suffocated college hoops.
If Kevin Durant is truly considering signing with the Knicks in the offseason, then teaming him with an explosive scoring guard — who draws comparisons to Russell Westbrook and is also a facilitator first as evidenced by the fact that he took just nine shots against Marquette — would be the best move.
Even if Kyrie Irving agreed to join Durant, Morant is talented enough to play off the ball a bit more and he can take over ball-handling duties when Kyrie is not on the floor. If Kyrie doesn’t work out then the Knicks could put a full court press on Kemba Walker and try to get him in a sign and trade or something along those lines.
It might be at Dennis Smith Jr.’s expense, but why not bring Kemba home?
ESPN’s Jayson Williams doesn’t think the idea is far-fetched. The Bronx baller rose to stardom at UConn during The 2011 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden and continued his dominance in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think Kemba Walker will be a New York Knick next year,” Williams said on ESPN this morning.
Durant, Kemba and Morant/Kyrie is a hell of a championship nucleus for the Knicks.
Williams thinks Morant’s game is perfectly tailored for the NBA level. Especially after watching the 6-foot-3 guard become the third player in NCAA Tournament History to drop a triple-double as an underclassmen. The other two are Cole Aldrich in 2009 and the incomparable Magic Johnson in 1979.
Williams joins a small, but increasing contingent of basketball heads who also agree that Morant will have a more immediate impact on the league than Zion. The NBA’s most lethal players are combo guards who can do a combination of things on the floor. Morant fits that mold.
Knicks brass is at a crossroads concerning this NBA Draft. They don’t want to be the guys who took Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan or Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony.
The best case scenario would be for them to get the second or third pick in the Draft and be forced to take Morant. His father let everyone know what he felt about the NBA Draft after Murray State’s win.
Whoever the Knicks choose, he better be an instant stud player. The franchise can’t afford to miss. Steve Mills, Scott Perry and co. have to decide if they want to make a splash or make championship history.
It starts with landing Morant in the draft.