RJ Barrett and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plan to be playing together this summer for Team Canada at the Olympics.
The Knicks will get a look at what could have been had they picked a different Kentucky product.
In the 2018 NBA Draft, the Knicks grabbed Kevin Knox with the ninth overall pick. Two slots later, the Hornets scooped up his college teammate, Gilgeous-Alexander, and traded him to the Clippers on draft night.
Nearly two years later, Gilgeous-Alexander is on the rise as a starting combo guard for the playoff-contending Thunder while Knox is muddled in a sophomore slump with the basement-dwelling Knicks — who, by the way, are still looking for their point guard of the future. On Friday, he finished with 18 points, five assists and three rebounds in the Thunder’s 126-103 blowout win over the Knicks at the Garden.
Gilgeous-Alexander, after coming to Oklahoma City in the Paul George trade last summer, entered Friday’s game averaging 19.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while thriving in the backcourt alongside Chris Paul — a relationship that has played a role in his second-year development.
“I just think they’ve spent a lot of time together,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said before the game. “I think it started in the summer. They’ve developed a really, really good relationship. Shai’s always been a guy that’s been eager to learn and get better. Not only being gifted and talented, Shai works at it. So I think having a guy like Chris around him, I would imagine he’s picking his brain and talking to him about a lot of different things. How to get better, how to improve, different things defensively, offensively.”
“They’ve had a great relationship right from Day 1. They spent some time in the summer working out together before training camp started. We’ve got an interesting mix of some older guys and younger guys. Those younger guys can learn a lot from Chris because Chris puts the time in, in terms of trying to help those younger guys learn and get better.”
The Knicks may have dreams of Paul having that influence on their young locker room next season, with his former agent Leon Rose now running the show as president. For now, they’re left thinking what could have been with Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Knicks would have seen plenty of Gilgeous-Alexander while scouting Knox on the 2017-18 Kentucky squad that lost in the Sweet 16. Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander were the Wildcats’ leading scorers that season as freshmen. But Gilgeous-Alexander did not work out for the Knicks in the pre-draft process.
The day before the draft, Gilgeous-Alexander told The Post’s Marc Berman he was told not to share who he worked out for, but it is believed his agent steered him toward the Clippers.
Knox was just as impressive as Gilgeous-Alexander last year when both were rookies, but Gilgeous-Alexander has taken off since joining the Thunder. The Knicks, meanwhile, are left looking for better days ahead for Knox, who entered Friday averaging 6.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game this season, most of it coming off the bench.
“[Gilgeous-Alexander] doesn’t need to evaluate his performance based on how well he scores,” Donovan said. “Scoring’s going to come and go. He had a really, really good offensive night against Detroit the other night [27 points]. But there’s so many other things he can do in terms of playmaking and rebounding and defending. Those are constants. If we can get him where he really becomes a consistent guy, where he’s getting between seven and 10 rebounds a game, that’s only going to help him and help our team.”