Just when it appeared that Patrick Ewing would finally win the big one for the Knicks, when you could even conjure up an image of his honorary participation in a championship ring ceremony not too far down the road, the lottery gods chortled and said, \u201cStep aside, Big Fella, you had your turn 34 years ago.\u201dNobody kidded themselves about the Knicks\u2019 statistical chances of landing the No. 1 pick \u2014 to be used on Zion Williamson, the would-be generational talent \u2014 before Tuesday night\u2019s draft lottery. But what transpired during the stage show in Chicago once the Knicks had reached the final round of four felt like a kick in the groin, a blown lead late in the fourth quarter. The promise of Zion was summarily ejected from Madison Square Garden like a taunting fan in the face of its owner, James L. Dolan.With a 14 percent chance, the Knicks were suddenly the heavy favorite against the competing odds of New Orleans and Memphis at 6 percent and Team LA-Bron, otherwise known as the Lakers, at 2 percent.Finishing third, behind the Pelicans and the Grizzlies, was not a disaster \u2014 and one day it may even be considered a blessing. But not this day, a deflating reminder of how long it has been since the Garden, the self-proclaimed World\u2019s Most Famous Arena, actually was the center of the N.B.A. universe.[N.B.A. draft lottery recap: Pelicans win No. 1 pick.]The draft experts insist the Knicks are still well positioned with the third pick because there are three prospects \u2014 Williamson; R.J. Barrett, his running mate at Duke; and Murray State point guard Ja Morant \u2014 who rate far above everyone else.Of course, these experts artificially manufacture a cutoff line for those who \u201ccan\u2019t miss\u201d every year. Almost always it doesn\u2019t work out that way, as Kawhi Leonard (No. 15 in 2011), Giannis Antetokounmpo (No. 15 in 2013) and Donovan Mitchell (No. 13 in 2017), among many others, would argue.Heartening are two recent No. 3 selections: Dallas\u2019s Luka Doncic, this season\u2019s likely rookie of the year, and Boston\u2019s Jayson Tatum, drafted from Duke in 2017. Disheartening is the specter of Jahlil Okafor, another Dukie, who would have been a Knick had Philadelphia not spared then-president Phil Jackson from drafting him fourth (instead of Kristaps Porzingis) in 2015.Projections are fun. Knowledge requires patience. Nothing definitive can be said about this class \u2014 Williamson included \u2014 until sometime next season at the earliest. But for the moment, the Knicks\u2019 failure to land the big prize at least momentarily dulls the sheen of their rising superpower status.[The legend of Zion Williamson? That started long before he got to Duke.]Without Williamson as a centerpiece, they may be hard-pressed to assemble a package that would make them serious contenders for a deal with New Orleans for Anthony Davis, if that was even part of the Knicks\u2019 plan. But their lack of appealing assets raises another compelling question: What, exactly, will they be selling Kevin Durant and other impending free agents besides a famously tax-abated building when the season of shameless groveling begins in July?You watched the Golden State Warriors share the ball so selflessly while beating Portland in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals after the lottery game show and wondered: Durant is really going to leave all that precision to come run with Allonzo Trier?You watched the Warriors harass the Blazers\u2019 often-indomitable Damian Lillard into a 4-for-12 shooting night with seven turnovers, and mused: Durant wants to fall back on defense with the likes of Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Knox?You see how many contributors, in addition to the so-called max (salary) players, it takes to play deep into spring, and you have to stretch the imagination to name just one on the Knicks\u2019 current roster who could honestly be considered a solid rotation guy on a serious playoff contender.Maybe the lure of the Garden and Midtown Manhattan will be enough for Durant to try what LeBron James never considered \u2014 the opportunity to resurrect N.B.A. basketball just off Broadway. But it also stands to reason that Durant, even in tandem with Kyrie Irving, is too smart to take that plunge without at least doing his homework, and asking hard questions of Dolan himself.If that is the case, then Chairman James will have some explaining to do, given the treatment of aging Knicks stars not only during his volatile era but going way back across the decades.Rare has been the Knicks luminary who left the Garden without some rancor. Walt Frazier was traded to Cleveland. Willis Reed was canned as coach 14 games into his second season. Bob McAdoo was traded in the dead of the night. Earl Monroe was unceremoniously dropped. Bernard King was cut after diligently rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. Ewing asked to be dealt and, presumably as payback, was never invited back to work \u2014 not until the Knicks needed him Tuesday night as they tried to restage the 1985 inaugural lottery that landed him in New York.A forgiving soul, apparently, Ewing, in a Knicks-blue suit, played along with the endless network hyping of the potential Knicks-Zion marriage. It was shameless and patently unfair to the other teams that tanked for the occasion and especially to Williamson, 18, whose impressionable head was prematurely filled with visions of Big Apple grandeur.The only time he didn\u2019t smile on camera was when he learned where he had landed. Someone might want to inform him that he probably lucked out. The TV networks are sure to follow him to New Orleans the way they chased after LeBron in Cleveland. Nor is being ordained a Knicks savior the world\u2019s most desirable appointment. For the most recent historical example, call Porzingis in Latvia and ask how it worked out for him.