As we have started to hear over the last week, the Clippers have now emerged as a serious suitor for the services of Kevin Durant next season. Current betting odds place the Knicks as favorites (+120) with the Clippers close behind (+150).
Nobody really knows if the links to the Clippers are true, or if they are a coverup tactic. Last week many reports emerged that the Knicks and Durant have a ‘handshake’ agreement and sponsor deals already are in place. Could the links to the Clippers be a way to take off the focus from the Knicks reports and avoid tampering charges? Nobody really knows. However, the Clippers should be viewed as serious threats. Doc Rivers, Steve Ballmer, and Jerry West will headline any and all meetings they have with free agents. That’s certainly some steep competition.
Regardless of whatever rumor comes out next, what’s certain is that July 1st cannot come soon enough. There’s going to be a lot of smoke over the next 6 weeks, with some rumors true and others completely off base. What we do know is the Knicks have been considered a favorite to sign Kevin Durant since the start of the season. Now, this isn’t to say this is in the bag. Far from it actually. There’s still plenty of time and until a player of KD’s caliber signs on the dotted line, nothing is done. Now if the Knicks are lucky enough to sign the generational talent, what should they do with the 3rd pick in this year’s draft?
Keep The Pick
With the first 2 picks of the draft likely Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, the Knicks are looking at RJ Barrett. Barrett is an absolute stud but with holes in his game, just like any 19 years old. A lot of people might say that this pick should immediately be traded if KD signs. However, with a cap hit of roughly $5.8 million in his first season, a player like Barrett could be bargain alongside a player of Durant’s stature. Assuming the Knicks do draft Barrett, they would be staring at quite a talented young core. Barrett, Robinson, Knox, Trier, Dotson, and Dennis Smith Jr would be a great young core to have.
Any trade involving the trade of the 3rd pick would likely be part of a bigger package to bring in a star such as Anthony Davis or Bradley Beal. That would gut the roster completely. That young core mentioned above plus KD still leaves the Knicks with a max slot open to signing another star or multiple players that fit around KD. This would give the Knicks a complete team without gutting the roster like we saw in the past trade for Melo. And that’s nothing against Melo, huge Melo fan here. But if a player is going to hit free agency in a year, it might be smart to wait. This route would allow the Knicks to add much-needed talent to the roster while keeping all their assets.
Trade Back In Draft
Some reports have stated that the Knicks have Ja Morant rated higher than Barrett. This really means nothing, with the Grizzlies already ‘locked in’ on Morant as their pick at 2. However, what this might signal is that the Knicks aren’t as enamored with Barrett as other teams might be. While the top 3 players in this year’s draft are considered the elite prospects, the draft as a whole has a lot of talented individuals. There could be an opportunity for the Knicks to trade back and acquire more draft picks.
This scenario is admittedly not very likely if the Knicks knew KD was going to sign. Gaining assets to stash away for later doesn’t do anything for the roster currently. If Durant signs with New York, he’s going to need a competitive team built around him. This scenario could become a reality if the Knicks find out through back-channels that KD is going elsewhere.
Use It In Anthony Davis Trade
One scenario that has picked up some steam lately is the Knicks trading for Anthony Davis. With KD on the roster, a move like this makes sense from the outside. Pairing KD with AD would give the Knicks one of, if not the most fearsome duos in the NBA. The issue here would be the final cost of trading for AD. It would certainly cost the Knicks the 3rd overall pick but would likely include the 2 Dallas 1st rounders as well. Additionally, to match the salaries, almost all young players would need to be traded to New Orleans. It remains to be seen if the Pelicans demand Mitchell Robinson in any trade package. The Knicks would probably balk at that with all the picks and other players likely to be included.
While this is pricey to pay for one player, the potential the Knicks would have if this came to fruition would be sky high. Assuming nobody else has signed with KD at the time of the trade, the Knicks would still maintain almost one max spot.
A trade for AD if the Knicks have already signed 2 max free agents would make the roster bare. The cap space would be used up from the max players and then most, or all of the Knicks young core would have to be dealt for AD. This avenue is more pricey for the Knicks, without much flexibility left over. However, a team that employs KD, AD, and one more elite talent would certainly be contenders right away.
Call The Wizards About Beal
Washington ended up having some poor luck on lottery night, falling to 9th while seeing teams with fewer odds shoot up the draft board. Washington likely doesn’t want to part with Beal. But the team is at a crossroads and Beal is their only star. Wall’s contract is going to be stuck on that payroll until the end, as he’s completely untradeable at this point.
Washington would likely be open to moving into the top 3 of this year’s draft and the Knicks can provide additional draft capital. The Wizards would get what they need in terms of rebuilding. The Knicks would get themselves a premier wing talent that simply doesn’t become available that often in the NBA.
With Beal missing out on making an all-NBA team, he’s not eligible for a supermax extension. This makes the Wizards chances of keeping him long term less likely. Beal doesn’t have incentive financially to stay with Washington when he could get similar money per year and better endorsements elsewhere.
Beal averaged 25.6 pts, 5 boards, and 5.5 assists per game this season (basketball reference.com). He also shot 38.4% from 3 and a solid 80% from the line. He would be the perfect fit next to KD, potentially better than AD. In an era of increased emphasis on the outside shot, he would get a lot of open looks next to KD and flourish.
Regardless of what the Knicks do, they have options. And that’s important to be able to pivot in this upcoming summer with things still in the air. The draft capital that the Knicks possess including this year allows them to make a variety of moves.
If the franchise is lucky enough to sign KD, then trading for AD and Beal become likely solutions. The roster would have to be in a win now mode and these players would allow KD to lead a team that can win immediately.
The NBA draft is upon us in less than a month as well, with the draft scheduled for June 20th.
A lot of the situations and hypothetical scenarios presented will be answered very soon. Hopefully, the Knicks are wildly successful and ready to compete heading into next season.
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