The Nets’ mess could be the Knicks’ gain if Kevin Durant is truly on his way out. How does New York go about it?
Does Kevin Durant regret not going to the Kniiicks?
Probably not. But after the Kyrie Irving saga, that dragged on longer than Roman Roy’s infatuation with Gerri Kellman on Succession. Unfortunately for Durant, the crescendo of the Irving debacle was not nearly as hilarious. The Brooklyn Nets and owner Joe Tsai had finally enough of Irving’s crap and turned down better offers to send the problematic point guard to the Dallas Mavericks.
That leaves Durant in Brooklyn alone — well, Ben Simmons is still there, but he might as well be alone. Durant already asked for a trade over the summer, which did not materialize into anything meaningful. Durant is not Irving. The Nets will make sure they get the best possible deal this time around.
At 34 years old, winning a championship should be the only thing on Durant’s mind. The key word in that previous sentence? Should. Durant has already reached the mountaintop twice. There are still trolls that point out Durant’s two rings came with the two best shooters in league history on a squad referred to as “unfair” and “a superteam” but 20 years from now will anyone even remember that, or care?
There will be no shortage of suitors ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. Any team not focused on Victor Wembanyama should be focused on Durant. It is not every day that the best scorer of our generation is attainable. The Phoenix Suns have emerged as the most ambitious suitor, you have to imagine the Los Angeles Lakers will find a way to throw an offer in and the Philadelphia 76ers who are one-third shy of a devastating big three.
Then there are the Knicks. For the record, the Nets and Knicks agreeing to any deal feels farfetched. There is legitimate bad blood between these two organizations, especially after the Nets pulled off the free-agent sweep in 2019. Bad blood aside, though, this is a business deal, where emotions should be sidelined. Again, the key word here is “should”.
The Knicks are a solid basketball team these days. Jalen Brunson has been the ideal bedrock for the starting lineup, and the team at large. It has freed Julius Randle up considerably, which has led to a second All-Star appearance for the noticeably more spry Randle. But there is still something holding the team back from being a dangerous team come playoff time.
Aside from Brunson and Randle, the team is stockpiled with young players, which has been a gift and a curse. The curse is the inconsistency of play, particularly with the team’s most prominent young player, RJ Barrett. History tells us Barrett will be fine in the long run. He is too relentless to not figure it out.
This does not necessarily mean the team should view Barrett as untouchable – a thought that may not even exist among team brass, it should be remembered that Barrett was the centerpiece of an offer for Donovan Mitchell before the Knicks pulled the offer to extend Barrett. A few months later, and after a few recent bad games, suddenly a future without Barrett is not the craziest thought in the world.
Any offer the Knicks would make to the Nets would have to start with Barrett. He is locked into an extension, and is still just 22 years old. If the Nets wanted an accelerated rebuild, Barrett as a centerpiece is appealing. The other things could be Obi Toppin — the highflyer that Tom Thibodeau refuses to play — Cam Reddish and a lot of first-round draft picks. Such an offer would give the Knicks their own trio of Brunson, Randle and Durant while keeping defensive anchor Mitchell Robinson and hopefully Quentin Grimes and/or Immanuel Quickley.
That is the pitch to the Nets. Pitching Durant is another story. The pitch to Durant could be having the same role and power as he does in Brooklyn, giving Durant carte blanche.
In the first go around, Durant’s manager (and big Knicks fan) Rich Kleiman being involved in the front office was a common idea. With rumors that the Knicks are paying attention to the availability of Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers, it is plausible Leon Rose could be open to a successor. And Durant himself has said Kleiman should run the team.
It seems farfetched, but Durant could be more than fine hooping in New York in the final stages. And if it turns out Durant and the Nets have no interest in a deal, the Knicks still have their full chest of assets for the next available superstar.
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