Despite “negative” circumstances of this off-season, options for New York Knicks can still lead to a parade.
The New York Knicks have been a part of every speculative conversation as a destination for many of the upcoming free agents this off-season. Headlined by a now sidelined Kevin Durant, who tore his right Achilles in a heroic Game 5 return, this free agent class is filled with “max” contract players such as Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and Klay Thompson (torn left ACL) with other notable free agents with superstar and all-star talent also looking to cash in.
Knicks brass led by president Steve Mills, general manager Scott Perry and head coach David Fizdale were rumored to draft Duke’s Zion Williamson with the first pick in this month’s 2019 NBA Draft, but they drew the third pick in the Draft Lottery placing behind the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies, respectively.
With the top two picks projected to be Williamson and Murray State’s Ja Morant, the Knicks have turned their attention to another Blue Devil R.J. Barrett, who some say will be a beneficial component to the culture change within the Knicks organization. Needless to say, they missed out on Zion Williamson and there hopes to pair him with two max worthy superstars.
The Knicks flirted with the idea of trading the third pick and a package of players to the Pelicans for disgruntled star forward Anthony Davis, but their assets were deemed insufficient in comparison to what potential deals the Celtics and Lakers could offer. Los Angeles swept in and made the deal earlier this week, shutting the door on the idea of the Knicks pairing him with any superstar available.
With Kevin Durant, the ultimate target for New York, expected to miss anywhere between 8-12 months while recovering from surgery to repair his torn Achilles, the Knicks’ plan of providing fans with a championship roster for the 2020 NBA season has quickly turned bleak.
However, what if Durant spurns the Warriors and accepts the Knicks’ four-year max deal he’s for which he would be eligible? What if eight months is all Kevin Durant needs to recover and rehab?
That would bring arguably the best player back in the fold for a mid-February return. The Knicks get to keep their young talents, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., and Allonzo Trier, who already have a year of NBA experience to improve, and draft Barrett or the best available player with the No. 3 pick Thursday night. But that wouldn’t be enough, would it?
Mills and Perry need to do whatever it takes to make it evident to the fans, Durant, and whomever he’d like to join him that they’re serious about winning. Any decisions the team makes this off-season are predicated on doing just that for the long-term. There are two max slots available for the taking and if K.D. has his reserved, what would the Knicks be if they sign Leonard, Irving, Walker, or even Jimmy Butler in 11 days?
Besides Kawhi Leonard, none of those free agents will take the Knicks from possessing the worst record in the NBA to Eastern Conference champs in one season. They can keep this young, hungry, and talented team afloat until K.D. makes his return in enough time to make a run — a run that can make history, championship history.
Draft R.J. Barrett. Sign Kevin Durant. Everything else will follow… including championships.