The New York Knicks are betting big time on next year. For a team with just 13 wins and 48 losses, the Knicks have set themselves up to be huge players in the 2019 free agency class following their trade of Kristaps Porzingis. Boston Celtics’ point guard Kyrie Irving and Golden State Warriors’ forward Kevin Durant are both set to become available, and the organization has set themselves up to make runs at both players. The Knicks have a chance to become immediate contenders if they play their cards right, but they also could have set themselves back for years to come if it doesn’t play out in a certain way. Here are the best case and worst case scenario for New York this upcoming offseason.
Knicks’ president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry gambled by trading Porzingis alongside the contracts of guards Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. to facilitate two max contract slots this summer with the clear intention of going after the biggest names – specifically, Durant and Irving.
In the best case scenario, New York agrees to mega max deals with the two stars and accelerates their rebuild. Durant becomes the Knicks’ best scoring threat since Carmelo Anthony averaged 28.7 points per game in 2012-13, while Irving, still just 27 years old, becomes the team’s best point guard since Walt Frazier. The rest of the Knicks’ roster is made up of talented returning youngsters (Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson) and a bunch of winning vets on one-year contracts.
Bringing in Durant and Irving isn’t the only move that’d change this team into must-watch basketball. Since the Knicks are primed to finish with one of the three worst records in the league, maybe they ultimately land the number-one pick and land Duke’s Zion Williamson. The tank works and the 19-year-old becomes the future and the present for the Knicks, creating a lethal big three alongside KD and Kyrie.
With Durant, Irving, and Williamson on board, the Knicks regain relevancy and challenge for an NBA championship for the first time in decades. The trio all have top-selling NBA jerseys and change the team’s woeful culture. Good luck getting a ticket at Madison Square Garden, because it’s the hottest ticket in town.
This is the Knicks we’re talking about. So, the chances things will unfold the way they’d like would go against the recent history of the failing (at least on the court) franchise.
Despite opening up the cap space to sign Irving and Durant, both superstars pass on New York in free agency and join Western Conference teams. Instead of bringing in a marquee free agent, management scrambles and decides to spend money on someone like small forwards Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Not landing one of Irving or Durant sinks public perception to rock bottom. The Porzingis deal was for naught, even if it leads to some B-level free agents coming to the team.
In the draft, the Knicks’ first-round pick falls outside the top three and the team misses the chance to draft Williamson or other Duke teammates like R.J. Barrett or Cameron Reddish. Instead, Perry opts for a long-term project and brings in a project a player like Oregon center Bol Bol who won’t make an immediate contribution, despite having a tantalizing skill set.
Young players continue to receive big minutes under David Fizdale, but the wins don’t come at the rate most fans in New York want. Harris and Butler help the Knicks challenge for the playoffs, but neither helps them rise above being just a ‘good not great’ team. Seeing Porzingis tear it up alongside Luka Doncic with Dallas is another dagger in the long history of wounds Knicks’ fans have endured in the last two decades. Ultimately, New York misses the postseason, ties up most of its cap space witho Harris and Butler, and doesn’t have help coming. The Knicks remain mediocre and largely directionless for seasons to come.
Realistically, the Knicks are probably going to fall somewhere in the middle of the best-case and worst-case scenarios. They’ve got too much cap space and future assets to turn a potentially great situation into a bad one. However, this is the Knicks we’re talking about so failing spectacularly, isn’t out of the question. Bringing in talent to give fans hope is a must, and New York is on the clock. It’ll be fascinating to see how the situation plays out.