Draft night was the only moment when the Knicks had any control during this highly-anticipated offseason of options and planning.
The Knicks selected Duke guard RJ Barrett with the third pick overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. Hear reaction and analysis from Alan Hahn, John Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Monica McNutt and Bill Pidto.
They also made a move up the board in the second round to land Iggy Brazdeikis, a brash, multi-skilled wing from Michigan who was the Big 10 Freshman of the Year.
Barrett has been saying all the right things from the moment the Knicks wound up with the 3rd pick and he was tethered to them in every mock draft.
“I’m so happy to be a Knick,” Barrett said moments after he was selected, “and can’t wait to play at Madison Square Garden.”
An emotional RJ Barrett speaks to the media and expresses his excitement about being draft by the New York Knicks 3rd overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Barrett, 19, who is Canadian but his family has deep New York roots, said he used to sit with his grandfather in Brooklyn and watch Knicks games. They also watched some of the old games from the 1990s. “His favorite player was Patrick Ewing,” Barrett said. “I liked John Starks.”
The talented lefty, who was first team All-America at Duke and Mr. Basketball USA as a prep star at Montverde (Fla.), was perhaps the easiest pick the Knicks have made since Ewing went No. 1 in 1985.
“He’s just a tremendous competitor,” Knicks President Steve Mills said. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really wanted to be here, and feels he’s built to take on what we’re trying to do here in New York.”
Scott Perry raved about Barrett as a “high-level competitor” and feels he is an “under-appreciated rebounder and under-appreciated passer.”
Knicks general manager Scott Perry speaks to Alan Hahn, Bill Pidto and Wally Szczerbiak and explains the reasons why the franchise decided to select Duke guard RJ Barrett with the third pick overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.
All that said, he will be a teenager throughout his rookie season. So when asked by a member of the New York media if he had big enough shoulders to carry the franchise, even Barrett had to laugh.
“That’s funny…carry,” he replied calmly. “I wouldn’t say ‘carry’, I’d say it’s going to be a great group of guys that’s going to be together and we’re all excited to play for Coach [David] Fizdale and this is the biggest stage. So, yeah, I’m excited to be here and excited to play, but, you know, I haven’t even played a game yet. So why are you gonna ask me a question like that?”
He laughed, and the others on the dais did too.
That’s when Fizdale and Mills, simultaneously, said, “Welcome to New York.”
Next to Barrett was Brazdeikis, who also laughed and then looked down to wait for his turn. Barrett spoke glowingly of his fellow Canadian, also a lefty (though he is actually naturally right-handed) while Brazdeikis looked like he’d be ready to fight anyone who had an issue with the Knicks top pick. And it was Barrett who was going out of his way to make sure the media and fans knew about the guy sitting to his left.
John Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak break down Knicks' second-round pick Ignas Brazdeikis on how he should improve going into his rookie year.
The two grew up in the Canadian basketball circuit in Toronto and have been teammates in the national program. Barrett told the story of Brazdeikis scoring 51 points in a youth game when he was 11.
“I don’t know how many 11-year-olds were doing that,” Barrett said, “but he did it.”
Brazdeikis sheepishly confirmed the story, saying the competition wasn’t all that great. However, he was quick to add, “I loved getting buckets when I was little.”
And while Barrett’s mentality and drive were often at the top of his scouting reports from those who know him – Zion Williamson called him “cold-blooded” – Brazdeikis let people know he wasn’t the type to back down from anything or anyone, either.
His approach was reminiscent to a famous line by Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1989 version of Batman:
Wait ‘til they get a load of me.
“We both bring that same type of mentality,” Brazdeikis said. “He brings that, what he calls, the ‘Maple Mamba’ mentality and I bring a little [Conor] McGregor mentality, I would say. We’re both aggressive players who attack the rim hard . . . We’ve got that fire in us, that competitive in us, to win games.”
It should make NBA Summer League this season a fun watch, regardless of what happens in free agency. The foundation of youth includes Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier and now Barrett and Brazdeikis. Out of this group, the Knicks need to find their future star.
The Knicks open the Summer League on July 5 and the schedule-makers knew what they were doing. It’ll be the Knicks and the Pelicans – yes, RJ vs. Zion – at 9:30 pm. (ET) in a game that will be nationally-broadcast on ESPN.