Knicks officials are highly optimistic in their chances of landing Kevin Durant in free agency should he opt out of his player option and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, according to The Athletic's Sam Amick.
The Knicks, who cleared enough cap space to sign two free agents to max contracts this summer with Thursday's blockbuster Kristaps Porzingis trade, are considered to have a "strong chance" at landing the 30-year-old former MVP.
Of course, that is reliant upon Durant opting out of his $31.5 million player option with the Warriors, who are seeking their third straight championship with Durant. A max deal with Golden State would be a five-year, $221 million contract, while a max deal with any other NBA team would be a four-year, $164 million contract.
Because Durant will be a veteran with at least 10 years of NBA service, Durant qualifies for a maximum starting salary of up to 35 percent of the salary cap, meaning he would earn $38.15 million in the 2019-20 season as the max. The Warriors can offer him an extra year and a higher annual raise compared to other teams (8 percent vs. 5 percent) because of the NBA's current collective bargaining agreement structure.
In December, NBA reporter Chris Haynes asked Durant about what was next between him and his business partner Rich Kleiman. Durant responded, "I just want to make sure I get as much money as I can on my next deal so I can stack up my money and figure it out. That's just the plan: Play basketball and stack money."
Knicks fans have been hopeful that the franchise can land Durant this summer as well, setting up billboards and posting Photoshopped images of Durant in a Knicks jersey to try to lure him to New York. To that, however, Durant said, "No disrespect, but I'm not really impressed with that type of stuff," when the Warriors played at Madison Square Garden in October.
Adter trading Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke to Dallas, the Knicks are expected to have at least $74 million in cap space this summer, meaning they can sign both Durant and an NBA player with five to nine years of NBA service time -- like Kyrie Irving -- to max contracts.
Plus the Knicks, who have the NBA's worst record at 10-40, are banking on a lottery pick that could see them land Duke phenom Zion Williamson.
Nothing is certain, of course. And the Knicks took a major gamble on their future by creating so much cap space in hopes of turning the franchise around.
But that hasn't stopped the Knicks from being optimistic.