Jake Brown | Twitter |
With LeBron James going to the Lakers, the Eastern Conference is now wide open.
The Celtics and 76ers are the two favorites, but after that, the rest of the playoff spots areup for grabs. One of those spots likely isn't going to be the Knicks this season as they wait for Kristaps Porzingis to return from a torn ACL. But they could strike in the summer of 2019.
Next summer could be the beginning of the Knicks' return to relevance in a conference that anyone can win. The team will have plenty of cap space to go get not only one superstar, but two. The names that should be atop their list that could be a reality? Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Durant can opt out of his two-year deal next summer, and a recent report said the Knicks are planning around him. When the Warriors inevitably win another NBA title this year after adding DeMarcus Cousins to form a Western Conference All Star starting lineup, Durant may want to take his talents elsewhere and make even more than the $30+ million he is making there.
The summer of 2019 gives Durant the chance to go out and get a long-term deal for max money. It also gives him the chance to play in New York City and the biggest market possible, helping expand his brand even more. He would be embraced in New York more than anywhere, after the Thunder fans turned on him for leaving. He's not disliked in The Bay, but he is second-fiddle to Steph Curry. If Durant wants to play in New York, the Knicks will finally have the cap space to give him the money and contract he wants. He will be 30 when next summer arrives, meaning this will be the last max contract he will likely get.
The prospect of potentially adding Irving would also be appealing to Durant. Irving is making around $20 million with the Celtics and will likely choose to become a free agent next summer. He's from New Jersey and has always wanted to be a Knick. That dream can become a reality next summer and he can get paid handsomely to do so. It's not out of the realm that the Knicks could put together their own Big Three of Irving, Durant, and Porzingis mixed with some youth in Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, and a few others in there.
LeBron bolting West surely makes it an intriguing thought and a strong possibility. That trio would be right there with the Celtics and 76ers atop the East and would likely start a couple rivalries that the NBA could use right now. The NBA is better when the Lakers are relevant, but it's even better when the Knicks are too. It's been too long since that was the case. The sport needs Los Angeles and New York City back to an elite status, and it has been since 2000 since that were actually the case. This year is going to be another wash for the Knicks, but with a well-respected GM in Scott Perry and a well-respected coach in David Fizdale, the Knicks can't screw up next summer. All eyes are going to be on the Big Apple with money to spend and big name free agents on the board.
Those two are the cream of the crop, but other names will be available to turn this thing around for the Knicks. If Irving doesn't work out, New Yorker Kemba Walker will be a free agent. As of now, Kawhi Leonard will be a free agent next summer. Kenneth Faried will be available. There is a chance Karl-Anthony Towns is available. Tobias Harris will be a free agent. That's a strong list of names that the Knicks can't miss out. Durant and Irving should be the top of their wish list, but Walker and potentially Leonard should be right there as well.
Can the Knicks return to relevancy in 2019-2020? It's time they do.