Kyrie Irving may not land with the New York Knicks, but they can swipe the crosstown rival’s point guard instead.
The New York Knicks have roster decisions to make over the next month, but their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, have franchise-altering choices ahead after clearing enough cap space to sign two max free agents.
One of them is potentially Kyrie Irving, who is no longer linked as often to the Knicks in reports. If so, the Nets will have their next point guard, clouding the incumbent, D’Angelo Russell‘s status; per SNY’s Ian Begley, the Ohio State product is unlikely to return if Irving joins Brooklyn.
Hypothetically, if Irving goes to Brooklyn, Kemba Walker stays in Charlotte and Ja Morant becomes the No. 2 pick, the Knicks have a case to keep Russell in New York City, just in a different borough.
The top of the point guard market may dry up quickly, starting with the draft, which the Knicks have no choice but to see what Memphis does. Even then, RJ Barrett seems like the guy. Cross that off the list.
Walker’s comments have geared towards staying with the Hornets, rather than ambiguous statements like Kawhi Leonard in his championship post-game. He can take less money, but the chance to make over $200 million guaranteed will never reappear in his career.
That leaves an uninspiring group of free agents, including Ricky Rubio, Darren Collison, Patrick Beverley and Rajon Rondo. Each player has their respective strengths, but none are long-term backcourt fits.
Turning the attention to Russell, maxing him out is potentially necessary, as Begley’s aforementioned report noted Indiana’s interest, among other suitors. Teams will undoubtedly want a 23-year-old All-Star who just averaged 21 points and seven assists per game for a playoff roster, so the Knicks will have to ante up a max slot or close to it.
If the Nets do not rescind Russell’s rights and maintain his restricted free agent status, a max offer sheet is all but guaranteed to compete with other suitors. That takes a chunk of the cap for four years, using the spot once thought for a higher profile player.
However, a deal takes Russell through just his age 27 season, and if he builds on what was the best year of his career, there may be little question on New York’s decision to pry him away. This could be the point guard needed since Stephon Marbury‘s decline over 10 years ago, and younger than all of the superstar free agents on the market. The prime years are ahead.
The New York Knicks still have Dennis Smith Jr. and can just plug him in. This is another athletic point guard with his own shooting questions early in his career, along with defensive woes, but no guarantee of becoming what Russell grew into in his fourth season. Smith enters his third year in 2019-20.
At the same time, committing four years and north of $100 million is risky for a player whose averages were 40.9 percent shooting, 34.4 percent on three-pointers, 14.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in his three prior seasons. 2018-19 was a dramatic rise, and the Nets would bank on no replication, opting for the more proven Irving.
That ties to the “Why let Russell walk?” question when he was just their best player on a team that took five steps forward, when everyone expected another 20-30 win season. That is for the Nets to answer if the decision arrives.
The choice to make or not make an offer to D’Angelo Russell might never arise this summer for the New York Knicks, but it can change if they seek a point guard upgrade and feel the former Laker is worthy of committing a long-term contract to. If not, back to the drawing board.