New York Knicks: ‘Consolation’ prizes are not ideal for free agency

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

If the Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and even the Kemba Walker doors close on the New York Knicks, there is a risk.

The “worst case” scenario for the New York Knicks in the 2019 NBA Draft is the fifth overall pick. It is not the first spot and Zion Williamson, but the front office can still select one of this class’s top names.

The same does not apply towards free agency.

$70 million in cap space to sign two max contracts can align superstars in one destination. They can pursue a championship in the still wide-open Eastern Conference and return the New York Knicks to relevance. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler will all hit the open market and become coveted names.

Uncertainty stems with each player, though:

  • Kevin Durant: Plays for the Golden State Warriors and could win a third straight title. If not, the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets have money to offer.
  • Kyrie Irving: The Boston Celtics have a talented, young roster. It might be his best situation.
  • Kawhi Leonard: Los Angeles was once Leonard’s preference. Now, he plays for a contender to make the NBA Finals and has a strong unit around him.
  • Kemba Walker: The face of the Charlotte Hornets for eight years.
  • Klay Thompson: Does anyone think he will leave Golden State?
  • Jimmy Butler: Philadelphia might be Butler’s best situation, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons around for years to come.

It is realistic for each of those players to stand pat or play elsewhere, which deters the Knicks. That leaves them with the “leftovers,” providing talented players but not ones who will take this franchise over the top.

Bleacher Report’s Ken Berger highlighted this notion, as a Western Conference executive said DeMarcus Cousins, who suffered a torn quad 14 months after a ruptured Achilles, is the Knicks or Lakers’ “consolation prize.” Obviously a talented player when healthy, Cousins’ injury history creates more risk, but at a potentially lower rate than the aforementioned players and for a high reward.

Can Cousins even become that dominant player of the past? Healthy or not, the underlying injury factor will always exist, and even for the start of the 2019-20 season, who knows if he will be ready? Signing him and, not the others, probably means the Knicks will not be ready to compete, so they could wait, but is, hypothetically, 40-to-50 games from “Boogie” on a one-year deal worth it?

Other “consolation” prizes include Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic. All have quality situations to return to, though, on young, talented playoff teams.

Next. 2019 NBA Mock Draft as the lottery nears. dark

The situation is not an overwhelmingly positive outlook if Durant, Irving or the other top players stay away from New York. General manager Scott Perry told The New York Post, this summer is not the “end-all or be-all,” and they can save this cap space for a rainy day, but in one of the greatest free-agent classes ever, striking out might not be an option.