Most assumed the top three of the 2019 NBA draft were set. Zion Williamson to New Orleans, Ja Morant a pick later to Memphis and RJ Barrett rounding things out in the third slot for the New York Knicks.
Darius Garland thinks otherwise. The Vanderbilt product said Wednesday he believes the Knicks will consider him at No. 3 after having him in for a late workout.
"If they called me in for a workout, I believe so," Garland said, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv.
It's possible the Knicks are working out Garland in case they get a trade package that entices them from moving off the No. 3 spot. There has been longstanding speculation about the Cleveland Cavaliers wanting to draft Barrett. They could offer the Knicks a package built around the No. 5 and a future pick, much in the same way the Dallas Mavericks traded up last year with the Atlanta Hawks.
That would require Garland to still be there at the No. 5 slot, which appears likely. The New Orleans Pelicans acquired Lonzo Ball from the Los Angeles Lakers to be their point guard of the future and seem more likely to take a Jarrett Culver type.
Barrett has expressed a desire to play for the Knicks.
"RJ will flourish here in New York," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters Wednesday. "He wants to be here. He is so mature. He just turned 19 last Friday, but he's been a part of the Canadian basketball program since [he was] a little guy, always played up."
Of the two players, Barrett is the far more accomplished player. He set an ACC freshman record for scoring, with only Trae Young, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley scoring more points during their freshman seasons in NBA history. Despite some criticism about his shot selection, Barrett was the consensus No. 1 pick at this time a year ago and has clear star potential in the right situation.
Garland, meanwhile, suffered a knee injury five games into career at Vanderbilt and missed the remainder of his freshman season. He averaged 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists, impressing scouts with his ability to knock threes down off the dribble.
Garland said the prevailing sentiment that this is a three-player draft will be a motivation in the pros.
"It's going to drive me to another level," Garland said. "I think when I played five games, a lot of people didn't get to see a lot of me or see a lot of film or anything. But that's really going to drive me to another level. Them saying this is a three-person draft. There's a lot of good players in this draft; there's not just three players that are highly talented."
The overwhelming odds remain in Barrett's favor going into Thursday night. That said, Garland may know something we don't.