The Knicks-Nets rivalry is back on. Tipoff of their next matchup is at 6 PM on June 30 - the start of NBA free agency.
Brooklyn's trade with the Hawks on Thursday puts them in position to battle with New York for top free agents this summer.
The Nets dealt Allen Crabbe, the No. 17 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and a lottery-protected first round pick in 2020 for SF Taurean Prince and a 2021 second-round pick, SNY sources confirmed.
The deal, which was first reported by ESPN, leaves the Nets with enough cap space to sign one max free agent -- and a clear path to create enough money to sign a second max star. The Nets will have $46 million in cap space and can create enough space to sign two max free agents if they rescind their rights to point guard D'Angelo Russell and make a few other minor moves.
The Knicks also have enough cap space for two stars, and the two teams will be competing for the services of top free agents this summer, Kyrie Irving in particular.
Several opposing executives, speaking generally, said a team wouldn't surrender two first round picks to clear cap space - such as the Nets did on Thursday - without an indication that they have a strong chance to land at least one top free agent.
"Sean is going for it. The Nets are all in," one opposing assistant GM said shortly after the trade.
Irving's situation, in particular, bears watching.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said Irving has "given every indication" that Brooklyn is where he prefers. People around Irving said recently that he hadn't ruled out any potential suitors - including the Knicks - but that the probability of the point guard returning to Boston was 'low,' per SNY sources.
Other teams with interest in Irving are operating as if Brooklyn is the odds-on favorite to land him at this point, per sources.
Of course, free agency is still three weeks away. So there is still time for Irving to change his mind.
But if the Knicks don't land Irving, it could have a significant impact on their free-agency plans.
The Knicks are also expected to get strong consideration from Kevin Durant if he chooses to leave Golden State in free agency. Irving is one of the players who was viewed as a potential star running mate with Durant if he came to New York. If Irving goes to Brooklyn, that means the Knicks would have to look elsewhere to find a co-star for Durant.
Kawhi Leonard is also a priority for the Knicks this summer. The Knicks will not be shy in their courting of the Raptors star. But the Clippers and Raptors are widely seen as the most logical options for Leonard in free agency. But people close to Leonard viewed New York as a potential destination for the star two-way player when he was engineering a trade out of San Antonio. So the Knicks should at least get a meeting with Leonard once free agency begins on June 30. But it's unknown if Durant and Leonard have any desire to team up.
Russell's free agency now becomes even more pivotal for the coming offseason.
And the point guard is reportedly already developing a market. The Jazz, Timberwolves, and Pacers are all teams that have interest in the lefty floor general, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
Even if Russell stays in Brooklyn, the Nets still have enough cap space to add a max free agent, which is why Thursday's deal was a significant one for both NBA teams in the Big Apple.
It's worth noting that the Nets had to part with two first-round picks to shed Crabbe's contract (4-years, $74 million). The Nets acquired Crabbe in a trade for Andrew Nicholson. Though, according to ESPN, if the lottery protected 2020 draft pick doesn't convey, it rolls over as a lottery protected pick in 2021 and 2022. If it doesn't convey at that point, it turns into two second-round picks.
It's also worth noting that Brooklyn on Thursday acquired a young, talented player in Prince. The 25-year-old averaged 13.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists over 28.2 minutes per game per game last season. His best season, though, came in 2017-18 when he averaged 14.1 points, 4.7 boards and 2.6 assists with a perfect 82-game season.