Bryan and Charlie are back to talk about what could be an extremely profound free agency for the New York Knicks…or a disappointing one.
Bryan Gibberman: What’s next for the New York Knicks?
This question was cut and dry less than a month ago. In the simplest terms, the Knicks’ future had two potential paths to embark on—with Kevin Durant and one without.
The decision was going to come from KD, it was his choice whether he wanted to lead the franchise back to respectability or not. Now, the question of what’s next for the Knicks is more complicated than anyone expected.
Plan A for the offseason went from obvious to uncertain the moment Durant was diagnosed with a torn Achilles. An easy call became difficult, with all eyes focused on what president of basketball operations Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry will do next.
Is it still prudent to offer Durant a four-year, max contract to sit out a year and return at age 32 with over 35,000 career minutes between the playoffs and regular season?
Will Durant’s approach to the offseason change due to the type of injury he suffered, and the not-so-pretty history of players returning from it?
What is the best way to build around Durant if he decides to come to New York? Let the youth develop during the upcoming season and park your cap space? Cash in your chips now to have a more veteran core in place when KD steps back on the court? The front office evaluating the young talent on the roster in a sober and honest fashion is of the upmost importance as they ponder this conundrum.
If Durant doesn’t come, are Perry and Mills content to put another season up to chance on the youth?
Would they be O.K. using cap space to acquire pieces that will help the Knicks incrementally improve rather than become an immediate contender? There’s a segment of fans/analysts that would judge the Knicks harshly if they landed here, but there’s more ways to build a championship contender than to tank or sign a free agent superstar.
With a very narrow view the Kristaps Porzingis trade was done simply to attack the ’19-’20 offseason aggressively. Between trading a potential star, deciding to amnesty Joakim Noah, and dumping the contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr, and Courtney Lee, it’s hard to argue any other way.
If things don’t go according to plan, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways for Perry and Mills to keep the Knicks trending in the right direction.
Once upon a time, the Golden State Warriors attempted and failed to sign DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, and Tyson Chandler. Things ended up O.K. for them. The Rockets hoped to sign Chris Bosh and trade for Pau Gasol, but neither move materialized. Houston ended up alright.
Just because the Knicks’ top plan might not come to fruition, doesn’t mean all hope is lost. The Knicks have cap space, a stockpile of draft picks, and a handful of young players on rookie contracts with varying values across the league.
With or without Durant, the Knicks have put themselves in a position for success. Scott Perry and Steve Mills have the chance to show their aptitude for their high profile jobs beyond relying on one player to save a franchise.
What’s next for the New York Knicks?
An opportunity for the two men leading the organization to prove they are up to the challenge that’s ahead of them.
Charlie Zegers: To me, there’s one thing that’s absolutely required of the Knicks in the season ahead:
The quick turnaround that everyone seemed to expect is out the window now—unless, by some miracle, the Knicks manage to sign Kawhi Leonard, and I don’t see that happening. Anyone who placed a really early bet on the Knicks to win the 2020 title is going to be disappointed. That’s O.K. Things happen. You adjust.
I imagine they’ll still offer Kevin Durant the moon. If he accepts, he and Rich Kleiman will have an awful lot of say over what happens after that. The Knicks could treat the 2019–20 season like the Spurs did the year David Robinson was hurt, and look to add another lottery pick to Durant and R.J. Barrett, and whichever kids on the roster play their way into a rotation spot long-term. Or they could try and find the complementary players for Durant now.
(Dream scenario: sign KD, add a veteran or two, qualify for the playoffs and then get KD back for the 2020 postseason.)
Honestly, I have a hard time believing he’d sign under the current circumstances, but who knows? Maybe he’s that disenchanted with the Warriors’ medical team.
So what’s the backup plan?
I have no idea.
Maybe they commit to rebuilding around Barrett. Maybe they can find a free agent or two to fill out the roster without compromising their flexibility, or bring in a quality veteran or two by absorbing a deal into their cap space. These are the moves that a good front office would be making under the circumstances.
Bryan: How about a little of column A and a little bit of column B?
The Knicks are going to have almost $70 million to spend. Even if when they don’t land Durant or Leonard, I’d like to see them get a second tier star locked in while keeping long term flexibility with the rest of the cap space. Tobias Harris, Julius Randle, Jimmy Butler, D’Angelo Russell or Al Horford (if you don’t want him because of age, I totally understand) all would make sense. You add that player to the mix, take on a bad contract for a pick, and fill out the roster with one year deals.
That course of action improves the team this year, leaves you with max cap space going forward, and gives you an additional asset to work with in trades. It would be a very solid offseason.
Charlie: Maybe? Depends on the person.
I’m not at all sure I’d want Jimmy Butler—not on a team that will be comprised almost entirely of kids. I don’t know how many of those “Jimmy in Minnesota” horror stories are true, and I’m not keen to find out.
Horford, on the other hand, has already played the role of “grizzled veteran” that teaches a very young team to win role. He makes a lot less sense age-wise, but I bet he’d help the team more in the long run as a mentor to Robinson, Barrett, Knox and the rest.
I keep thinking back to the Yankees of the early-to-mid ’90s. Sure, they drafted guys like Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter, but they also had a bunch of solid pros who helped turn the team around: Wade Boggs, Mike Stanley, Jimmy Key, and others.
The 2018–19 Knicks had exactly the wrong type of veterans. Enes Kanter didn’t want to sacrifice even a minute of his playing time to the younger guys. Joakim Noah just wanted to party. I don’t think you can underestimate how important a guy like Jared Dudley was to the Nets last year; the Knicks could use two or three guys like that.