CHICAGO — The Knicks’ front office contingent had already completed their interviews with the top prospects for their No. 3 pick as they arrived at the NBA Draft Combine Thursday afternoon, talking with 10 players to get a feel for what the measurements and games would not show.
And it might have seemed that what really stood between now and the June 20 NBA Draft was to wait for the two teams ahead of them to make their selections and see who was left among what most consider a draft that falls off after the trio of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett.
But the real question may hinge on whether the third pick will belong to the Knicks by draft night or if it will be a chip in a deal to try to pry Anthony Davis from the Pelicans. New Orleans jumped to the top of the draft Tuesday, securing the top pick and the chance to pick Williamson, but there are still plenty of questions whether that will be enough to create a peaceful and long-term existence with Davis, who asked for a trade last season and ended his season walking out of the arena with a T-shirt that read, “That’s all Folks.”
“I think it was tough for everybody,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Thursday. “The fans. The team. Ownership. It was just a tough situation. I think that’ll be rectified and we’re bringing [VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin] aboard and we’re headed in the right direction as a franchise.”
While the line for Davis’ services figures to be long with some able to offer better packages, any Knicks deal would likely begin with the No. 3 pick as well as some of the young players on the roster — think Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. — as well as some of the six first-round picks the Knicks possess over the next four drafts.
“I don’t believe anything or anyone is untouchable in our business,” Griffin said minutes after the lottery Tuesday. “There’s a value for everything. I think there’s a situation in our league where most people try to shy away from big decisions because you can be wrong. That’s not how our organization’s going to operate. We’re going to do what’s best for us long term, whatever that looks like.”
Asked if he had a chance to talk to Davis since the lottery put them in position to draft Williamson — a player who had figured to be pursued by New Orleans in a trade if another team had secured the top spot — Gentry was vague.
“That one will be taken care of in time,” Gentry said. “It’s going to be fine. Everything is going to work out the way it should.”
The Knicks executives were on hand for the workouts but did not speak with the media. But plenty of executives from other teams were willing to talk off the record — mostly to inquire about the constant rumors they were hearing about Kevin Durant possibly signing with the Knicks this summer.
If the Knicks were to get Durant and another star to team with him this summer on the free-agent market, it would make a deal for Davis more sensible — abandoning their youth movement they talked of last year in place of finding pieces to put around Durant, who will be 31 at the start of next season, and make a run at contending while he is in his prime.
It was the Pelicans who sounded as if they were ready to start building the right way around Williamson now.
“We are building something here,” Gentry said. “And it’s going to be something special. And it’s going to be something sustainable...Something where we’re going to be good year after year after year. It’s not, you’re good for two years and then that’s it. And Griff has done it before. He’s been in that situation. I think he’s really smart and he really knows how to build a team.”