Zion Williamson believes RJ Barrett will thrive in the NBA.

Williamson and Barrett were team-mates at Duke and both were selected in the top three – by the New Orleans Pelicans and New York Knicks respectively – of the 2019 NBA Draft.

Williamson was asked about Barrett during a recent interview with SNY.

"[Knicks fans] can expect that they're getting a killer," Williamson said.

Barrett averaged 22.6 points per game as a freshman for the Blue Devils in 2018-19. But, he shot just 30.8 per cent from three-point range and was inconsistent during summer league last month, leading some to speculate he will struggle with New York.

"For the people that are trying to look down on him, RJ's been through worse," Williamson said.

"He knows how to battle through it and he's going to bring the city everything he's got."

The Knicks' roster underwent a major overhaul this offseason. They had reportedly been pursuing stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, however, both signed with the cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets.

New York then went on to sign Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis.

"When it comes to everything on the court with the fan base and everything, I just feel like I went to Duke and we got a lot of attention," Barrett told reporters in late June about playing in New York.

"Being in New York there's going to be a lot more, but I've just been built this way to handle it.

"I'm a player that plays with a lot of passion, competitiveness and excitement, so to be able to go in a home arena [Madison Square Garden] that has such a great fan base like that is going to make the game so much more fun. It's going to be great."

The Knicks finished 2018-19 with a 17-65 record and missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

The NBA summer league is winding down, as the preliminary round of games ends on Thursday.

Only the top eight seeds will advance to a single-elimination tournament set to begin on July 13, so quite a few prospects will have to wait until the preseason begins in October to return to the court.

Some players have surpassed expectations in July while others have not. Success in the summer league does not necessarily translate to the regular season, but let's take a look at who is hot and who is not so far.

 

Hot

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

Herro's criticism ahead of the 2019 NBA draft was based on his poor defense and lack of efficiency, despite his reputation as a sharpshooter. The summer league has allowed him to showcase that he has more to offer than shooting, though.

The 6-5 guard initiated the Heat's offense early and often and helped lead the team to a 3-1 record in the preliminary round. He showcased his playmaking ability out of pick-and-roll sets and has averaged 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.5 steals.

Herro probably is not close to becoming a primary option for the Heat, especially since Miami already have Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow on board. But Herro's versatility is a good sign.

Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio Spurs

Walker had his rookie season derailed by a meniscus tear, but he appears like he is poised to have a great sophomore campaign.

The 6-5 guard entered Thursday tied for first in the summer league in points per game (30.0) and he has been ridiculously efficient. Walker shot 58 per cent from the field in his two appearances.

His team went 2-2, so it is not likely he will play again in the tournament.

The Spurs will have some serious battles in their 2019-20 backcourt, as Walker will compete with the likes of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan for time after playing in just 17 regular season games last season.

Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have found yet another diamond in the rough.

Boucher, 26, has played in 29 regular season games and is routinely dominating the summer league by averaging 22.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest. Toronto have the NBA's reigning Most Improved Player in Pascal Siakam, and Boucher could be up next. 

The 6-10 big man is fresh off a season in which he was crowned MVP and Defensive Player of the Year of the G-League, playing for Toronto 905. He won his second straight NBA title with the Raptors in 2018-19, as he played for the Golden State Warriors in 2017-18.

The departure of Kawhi Leonard could clear space for him to break into Toronto's rotation.

Not

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

New York were initially favoured to win the summer league championship but went an underwhelming 1-3.

Barrett, the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, averaged 14.0 points and 8.8 rebounds but shot 30 per cent from the field with genuine rotation players around him.

The Knicks could be in a lot of trouble if his shooting struggles linger.

Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers

Many felt Portland got a steal when they selected Little with the 25th pick in 2019 but he definitely has some work to do.

The 6-7 wing has tallied 22 minutes per contest through three games. He is averaging 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 33 per cent from the field. 

Little has shown flashes of his athleticism and is still figuring out how to fit in offensively.

Dean Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers

Wade went undrafted after four years at Kansas State, so there were not lofty expectations for him.

However, the Cavaliers have not received much from him in the 27 minutes he has averaged through three games.

The 6-10 forward is averaging 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds but is only shooting 26 per cent from the field. That is a big drop off for a player who was the first option in college and hovered around 50 per cent shooting.

The Oklahoma City Thunder appear to have entered rebuild mode - and Russell Westbrook could be the next star out the door.

With Kawhi Leonard having persuaded Paul George to leave the Thunder and join him at the Los Angeles Clippers, eight-time All-Star Westbrook is understood to be open to the idea of ending his stay with the franchise.

The 30-year-old point guard, who has undergone a series of operations on his right knee, could prove difficult to move on, though. He has four years and over $160million remaining on the mammoth contract extension he signed in September 2017.

Still, we take a look at the teams that could offer Westbrook a new home.

 

New York Knicks

After trading away franchise player Kristaps Porzingis, losing out on top free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets and missing the chance to draft Zion Williamson, the Knicks will no doubt be keen to get a star on board.

They would have to wait until December to put together a package including players who they have recently signed, however.

 

Miami Heat

Having already signed Jimmy Butler in free agency, Miami is understood to be a destination that appeals to Westbrook.

The Heat have already got Hassan Whiteside off their books and could offer the favourable contracts of talented duo Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, but a lack of draft capital to offer may prove troublesome.

 

Detroit Pistons

A move for Westbrook would likely require the Pistons' All-Star center Andre Drummond to head the other way. Still, Detroit's issue is the other salaries they could use in any deal; those contracts run for longer than the Thunder will surely have in mind for any new arrivals.

However, combining the former MVP with Blake Griffin would offer them a greater chance of success in a much-changed Eastern Conference.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves reportedly narrowly missed out on signing D'Angelo Russell, who joined the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Durant to the Nets.

Exchanging Andrew Wiggins' contract, which has four years and more than $120m remaining, for Westbrook undoubtedly presents them an improved chance of contending this season.

Yet such an agreement would again rely on significant draft picks being offered.

 

Other contenders

Putting Westbrook on a team with two other ball-dominant players in James Harden and Chris Paul sounds like a crazy idea, but that has not stopped the Houston Rockets reportedly taking an interest. The Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to trade Kevin Love and focus on a rebuild at some stage, though they could scrap that and pair him with Westbrook to make themselves relevant once again.

Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett were pitted against each other in the NBA Summer League on Friday.

Former team-mates and the number one and three overall draft picks respectively, Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans faced Barrett and the New York Knicks.

However, Williamson's debut was cut short. The rookie did not play in the second half of the game – which was eventually suspended due to an earthquake – after taking knee-to-knee contact, according to the team.

Before Williamson left, he and Barrett showed off a number of highlight-reel worthy plays that followed them from college into the league.  

While expectations should not be too high – it is Summer League after all – soon after tip-off, Williamson impressed.

It did not take long for Barrett to show off his skills, either. He hit a long three-pointer for his first points.

But it continued to be Williamson's show. He dropped 10 points in the first quarter.

However, it was not all pretty. Williamson did show some growing pains and struggled from three-point range. Mitchell Robinson was giving him the most trouble, blocking several of Williamson's shots. 

Williamson finished with 11 points on four-for-nine shooting from the field and 0 for two from long distance before his early exit.

An earthquake interrupted play as the NBA Summer League began in Las Vegas on Friday.

During the highly anticipated New Orleans Pelicans-New York Knicks matchup, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake occurred in Ridgecrest, California – about 140 miles from Las Vegas.

A 6.4 magnitude quake struck California on July 4.

The impact was felt during the game.

The Pelicans were leading 80-74 when play was stopped.

The New York Knicks missed out on top free agents like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving due to a "toxic situation" at the franchise, according to Charles Oakley.

Durant announced on Sunday he has decided to leave the Golden State Warriors for the Brooklyn Nets, where Irving is set to land after two seasons with the Boston Celtics.

Former Knicks star Oakley suggested the organisation's culture is the reason for their failure to sign top free agents this offseason.

"Why are they missing out? New York ain't New York no more," Oakley told WFAN Sports Radio.

"There's a lot of stuff going on. It's not a smooth operation and players don't want to be around a lot of that stuff going on.

"They want to be somewhere they can relax, have fun - it don't have to be a big city no more.

"You can have all the money you want, under the cap, but you have to have everything else in the house tight too.

"For the fans, New York is New York, but for the players now, it's just a different ball game. I mean, they don't want to be around a bad, toxic situation."

Oakley was involved in an altercation at Madison Square Garden with Knicks owner James Dolan in 2017. He was thrown out of and later banned from the arena and he believes the incident has left a sour taste for many in the game.

"I've talked to a lot of guys, and I've talked to a lot of guys representing too, and a lot of them are upset about what happened two years ago," Oakley said.

"People respect me. A lot of stuff that went on wasn't right, and from the commissioner on down, nobody has tried to address it, but the players have seen it for themselves.

"They're not trying to go to an environment where someone says something, and somebody is going to come talk to him with an axe, or someone is going to come and put handcuffs on him. They don't want that kind of environment.

"I just feel bad for the city of New York, the fans that give their heart and soul and sweat and tears to come to games, and they have to keep going through this."

The Knicks have reportedly agreed to terms with Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Reggie Bullock, Taj Gibson and Wayne Ellington.

The New York Knicks claim they are not worried despite missing out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

New York have cap space to sign multiple top-level players but appear like they will not land a star this offseason after Durant and Irving reportedly agreed to max contracts with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

Knicks president Steve Mills addressed the team missing out on the pair in a statement.

"While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight's news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents," Mill said in a statement, via SNY.

The Knicks were not willing to offer Durant a max contract because of concerns over his ruptured Achilles, according to an earlier report from ESPN, which cites unidentified league sources. He suffered the injury in Game 5 of the NBA Finals while playing with the Golden State Warriors and is expected to miss most, if not all, of 2019-20.

New York later reportedly agreed to a three-year, $63million deal with forward Julius Randle and a two-year, $20m contract with veteran Taj Gibson.

"Our plan wasn't to create $70m in room to go after free agents this summer," Mills told the Undefeated earlier this week. "Our plan was to organically build this team through teamwork, drafting well, getting high-character guys that want to compete. The [salary cap] space was a byproduct of that. If the right guys are there for us, great, because we still have all the young pieces and draft picks to move forward.

"And if they're not, we're going to keep building our plan, drafting our guys, playing well and potentially being trade partners. We feel really good about where we are going."

The Knicks finished 2018-19 with a 17-65 record and missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

They selected former Duke star RJ Barrett with the third pick in the 2019 draft.

Kevin Durant is reportedly set to sign a four-year, $164million deal with the Brooklyn Nets.

Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the Golden State Warriors' NBA Finals series defeat to the Toronto Raptors and is expected to miss all of next season.

According to a report from ESPN, which cites unidentified league sources, the 30-year-old has opted to join the Nets.

Durant has yet to confirm the report and he will officially announce his decision on 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday.

Kyrie Irving, Durant's close friend, will also reportedly agree to a deal with the Nets.

Durant averaged 26 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists for Golden State last season, shooting 52.1 per cent from the field and 35.3 per cent from three-point range.

The 10-time All-Star won two championships and was named Finals MVP twice during his time with the Warriors.

Durant won the MVP in 2013-14 while with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has also been linked to the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and a return to the Warriors.

The Nets are also thought be about to land DeAndre Jordan - another close friend of Durant's - to a deal, and agreed to a two-year, $10million contract with Garrett Temple.

Remember when the Toronto Raptors created history by winning the NBA title? You should do, as it was less than three weeks ago when the Finals finished.

However, with the playoffs over and the draft done and dusted, it is now time for the NBA to move on to the next major event - free agency.

At 18:00 ET (22:00 GMT) on Sunday, the negotiating can officially begin. Those out of contract get the chance to hold meetings with prospective new employers, and this year's list of available players includes some of the biggest names in the league.

The Los Angeles Lakers created waves by acquiring Anthony Davis, and now it is time to sit back and see how that blockbuster deal ripples through the rest of the NBA. It only takes one big trade – or two major injuries to deposed champions – to create a completely different landscape.

So, before the madness starts, we look at those who can expect to be making the headlines in the coming days and weeks.

 

THE TEAMS

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have grand plans but are light on numbers. Trading for Davis came at a high price and they have gutted the roster with the clear aim of another superstar to combine with Davis and LeBron James. However, the desire to hit the jackpot has forced them to mortgage their long-term future.

Los Angeles Clippers

Yes, that's right, there are two teams hoping to make it big in LA. The Clippers reached the playoffs last season and landed a couple of haymakers on the Golden State Warriors in the first round, yet that was all a welcome bonus. In the shadow of their city rivals, they want to land one of the big fish in the free agency pond.

Brooklyn Nets

Like the Clippers, the Nets surprisingly reached the postseason. They did so with a collection of players cobbled together through trades and the draft. There is room to add superstars (note the plural there) to those still under contract in Brooklyn, but that will alter the dynamic of a group that gelled so well together.

New York Knicks

The Knicks are hoping the lure of New York can help add a star to make them a headline act again. But, much like the Lakers in Los Angeles, they suddenly have noisy neighbours. It will be a major blow to the Knicks if any of their leading targets opt to relocate to Brooklyn instead.

And the rest...

While Kyrie Irving failed to pan out as planned, the Boston Celtics still have young talent and enough cap room to work something out. Then there is the New Orleans Pelicans, minus Davis but with top draft pick Zion Williamson and a number of the Lakers' cast-offs. Watch out for the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers as well, two teams with serious title aspirations.

 

THE PLAYERS

Kevin Durant – The ruptured Achilles suffered in the NBA Finals could cost him an entire season but will not hurt him in terms of his next contract. Long linked with the Knicks, he could still yet opt to stay with the Warriors. Even with his injury, Durant is going to be in high demand.

Kawhi Leonard – Toronto's gamble to trade for Leonard paid off in spectacular fashion. The lure of defending the title with largely the same roster may sway Leonard to remain in Canada a little while longer, though Los Angeles has always been rumoured as his likely long-term destination.

Kyrie Irving – The point guard did not perform as expected in Boston, but that will not deter teams from showing interest. Could he join up again with LeBron at the Lakers? Possibly, though Brooklyn are thought to be heading the queue to secure his signature.

Kemba Walker – Irving is not the only All-Star point guard up for grabs. Charlotte can offer Walker more money to remain a Hornet, yet their former first-round pick could decide the time is right to buzz off. Boston and the Dallas Mavericks are reportedly keen.

Jimmy Butler – The 76ers leaned heavily on Butler in the playoffs, and the presence of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons makes Philadelphia a genuine contender in the East. Both Los Angeles franchises could call, while the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat are rumoured to be exploring sign-and-trade possibilities.

Klay Thompson – After Durant went down in the Finals, Golden State suffered a second serious injury blow when Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. So, could we have seen the last of the Splash Brothers in tandem? The Warriors will be loath to lose Stephen Curry's back-court partner, particularly to a Western Conference rival.

And the rest…

Malcolm Brogdon, Kristaps Porzingis and D'Angelo Russell are all restricted free agents, giving their teams the chance to match any offer they receive. Khris Middleton, JJ Redick and Bojan Bogdanovic are shooters who can expect to be well paid, while big men Al Horford and Nikola Vucevic will not go short with their next contracts. Then there is DeMarcus Cousins, who showed flashes with Golden State after returning from injury.

Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard have been discussing potential scenarios that could put them on the same team next season, it has been reported.

Ten-time NBA All-Star Durant and reigning Finals MVP Leonard are expected to be the most sought-after talents in free agency – which starts on Sunday – and have spoken about potentially teaming up, according to ESPN.

The outlet also claimed the two teams that could sign them are the Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks.

The Athletic also reported the Clippers believe offering the chance to play alongside Leonard is how they will be able to secure Durant, despite competition from the Brooklyn Nets. 

Durant declined his $31.5million option with the Golden State Warriors to become an unrestricted free agent. It has been rumoured he will sign with a different team in free agency, but his long-term future became complicated when he ruptured his Achilles during the Finals defeat to Leonard's Toronto Raptors.

The 30-year-old had surgery, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr said it was likely he will sit out the entirety of next season. 

At one point, the Nets were considered frontrunners to land Durant, but it was reported on Friday they were no longer the favourites.

The Knicks are understood to think they have a good chance to sign Durant, but team owner James Dolan reportedly urged team executives to use "caution" regarding the 2014 MVP's injury and wants to see test results and a projected prognosis before committing to a deal.

Leonard, on the other hand, opted out of the final year of his contract with the Raptors. He reportedly is set to meet with teams around the NBA and has been linked to the Nets and Los Angeles Lakers, though it has been suggested he could stay at Toronto after winning the NBA championship.

New York Knicks president Steve Mills said the NBA franchise will do "everything we can to attract free agents" amid links to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Golden State Warriors star Durant and Irving of the Boston Celtics have both emerged as targets in the upcoming free agency period.

While the Knicks have cap space to entice star names, New York – who have not made the playoffs since 2012-13 – are only focused on retaining players who are committed to building toward success.

"We're going to do everything we can to try to attract free agents, as long as they're the guys that buy into what we're trying to do as an organisation," Mills told The Undefeated on Tuesday.

While New York have two max slots that could be filled by All-Star calibre players, Mills insisted this was not the initial plan.

"Our plan wasn't to create $70million in room to go after free agents this summer," Mills said. "Our plan was to organically build this team through teamwork, drafting well, getting high-character guys that want to compete. The [salary cap] space was a by-product of that. If the right guys are there for us, great, because we still have all the young pieces and draft picks to move forward.

"And if they're not, we're going to keep building our plan, drafting our guys, playing well and potentially being trade partners. We feel really good about where we are going."

The Knicks drafted Duke's RJ Barrett with the third pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and have promising young assets in Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Mitchell Robinson.

But they traded away star big man Kristaps Porzingis in February and missed out on a chance to land New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis, who has reportedly been moved to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Knicks finished with a league-worst 17-65 record last season and were not able to land top prospect Zion Williamson, so failure to upgrade their roster could lead to more suffering in 2019-20.

Durant and Irving are reportedly interested in teaming up and the Brooklyn Nets are in contention to land the duo. Nevertheless, the Knicks are looking for players with drive who want to bring glory back to Madison Square Garden.

"The opportunity to put a banner in that building? You're not a competitor if you don't want that," Knicks head coach David Fizdale said.

Andre Iguodala believes Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will remain with the Golden State Warriors as he dismissed the possibility of the pair joining the New York Knicks.

Warriors stars Durant (Achilles) and Thompson (ACL) both suffered serious injuries in the NBA Finals and the duo could be set for free agency this offseason.

Durant – who has a player option for next season – has been linked to the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, while Thompson will be an unrestricted free agent.

However, Warriors veteran Iguodala is certain neither of his team-mates will call Madison Square Garden home anytime soon.

"I think they'll both be back with the Golden State Warriors," Iguodala said on Monday. "We're like brothers. We keep in contact.

"But regardless of any of that, if both decide to leave, then they would both still be my brother[s]. I'll still keep in contact with them as much as possible.

"I just wish the best for both of those guys. They come back full strength… Nobody's going to the Knicks, sorry."

Golden State entered 2018-19 as the two-time defending champions but fell to the Toronto Raptors in six games in this year's Finals.

Durant and Thompson combined to average 47.5 points per game in 2018-19 and will miss a substantial portion of 2019-20.

The Warriors averaged 117.7 points per contest throughout that season, so they will have to replace some vital firepower. 

RJ Barrett is not worried by the scrutiny of becoming a New York Knicks player, pointing out that he was already a media sensation at Duke.

The 19-year-old was selected by the Knicks with the third overall pick in Thursday's 2019 NBA Draft, having seen ex-Duke team-mate Zion Williamson go to the New Orleans Pelicans with the number one selection.

New York have not won a championship since 1973 and last made the playoffs in 2012-13, meaning there is significant pressure on the highly rated Barrett to deliver at Madison Square Garden.

But the interest in Duke - with Barrett, Williamson and Cam Reddish on the same team - means the new Knicks star believes he is ready.

"I call New York just a bigger version of Toronto," Canadian Barrett said. "I'm kind of used to it already.

"When it comes to everything on the court with the fan base and everything, I just feel like I went to Duke and we got a lot of attention.

"Being in New York there's going to be a lot more, but I've just been built this way to handle it. Yeah, I'll be fine."

Barrett is now desperate to get started at MSG.

"I was fortunate enough to play there once this year with Duke," he said. "That was one of the craziest environments I've ever been in.

"I'm a player that plays with a lot of passion, competitiveness and excitement, so to be able to go in a home arena that has such a great fan base like that is going to make the game so much more fun. It's going to be great."

The New York Knicks selected RJ Barrett with the third pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

He followed Duke team-mate Zion Williamson, who was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans at number one. The Memphis Grizzlies then took Murray State guard Ja Morant.

New York were "locked in" on the former Blue Devil despite hosting Darius Garland, who ESPN said the Knicks were seriously considering after a private workout on Wednesday.

Barrett had previously worked out with the Knicks and repeatedly said he wanted to be in New York.

"If that ends up and I'm still there at three, I'd love for [the Knicks] to take me," Barrett said during a recent interview. "This is the place I want to be, so I hope they draft me."

He averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists at Duke this past season. He struggled with his three-point shooting and hit just 30.8 per cent of his shots from beyond the arc, which impacted his draft stock.

The Knicks (17-65) finished the 2018-19 season with the worst record in the league and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.

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