Ever since the Nets relocated to Brooklyn in 2012, they have been in a constant battle with the more-established and popular Knicks to win the hearts of New York. And while that may never happen, it’s easy to say that the former has been the more successful franchise and the latter has wallowed in its own ineptness.
But with Phil Jackson slowly trying to build a winner – in his own triangular vision – and the Nets’ front office seemingly at a crossroads with rumors that owner Mikhail Prokhorov would be interested in unloading the franchise, the tide may turn sooner than many think.
Of course, neither team is a championship contender. And the Knicks still may be a year away from even making the playoffs. But within the confines of New York, the Knicks are slowly closing the on-court gap.
Metro takes a look at the futures of both franchises, and compares and contrasts their fates.
Who will be better in 2015-16?
The gap is still there, even with the Nets buying out point guard Deron Williams – who is now in Dallas. The Nets still have the very capable Jarrett Jack running point to go along with the recently re-signed Brook Lopez at center and Thaddeus Young at forward. Shooting guard Joe Johnson still could be moved, but even if he is, the Nets still have enough weapons on the offensive end. The Knicks, however, are being built in the mode of the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers, as they have one primary scorer (Carmelo Anthony) and a bunch of good role players who play defense and hustle – two qualities that evaded the team in last season’s moribund 17-win season. They still have five spots open, with some additional cap room – including a $2.8 million exception and minimum salaries to offer free agents. That may be enough to squeeze out at least 35 wins, but not enough to be a legit playoff contender – even in the parity-filled Eastern Conference. Advantage: Nets
Who has the better young talent?
Ever since Prokhorov took over in 2010, the Nets’ model has been to acquire veteran talent to stay competitive – at the risk of eschewing draft picks. There’s some young and unknown talent like Sergey Karasev, Bojan Bogdanović, Markel Brown, and athletic journeyman Thomas Robinson, as well as rookies Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough. But those guys aren’t franchise-turning talent. The Knicks are in the same boat, as outside of rookie Kristaps Porzingis, there’s not much young talent to be excited about – unless Knicks fans are pinning their hopes on the likes of Cleanthony Early, Kyle O’Quinn, Derek Williams, and Langston Galloway. Advantage: Push
Who has more trade chips?
The Nets won’t have a first round pick until 2019. And other than Johnson’s expiring contract, they don’t have any real trade chips to use to recoup some of those lost first rounders. Brooklyn has four trade exceptions to use before they expire in Feb. 2016, while the Knicks have five. New York won’t have next year’s first round pick, as that’s going to Denver. But they do have a huge ace in the hole should things continue to go south and Anthony removes his no-trade clause. That would free over $24 million in cap space. Advantage: Knicks
Who will reach the Eastern Conference Finals sooner?
The Nets are built to make the conference finals much sooner, as their starting five can still compete with every team in the East, save for the Cavs and Bulls. But outside of those big two, the conference is wide open. Brooklyn added a couple of nice offensive pieces in shooting guard Wayne Ellington and former Knick Andrea Bargnani. The Knicks also added role players who will provide unselfish play and defense to offset their franchise player’s ball dominance. The Knicks are still trying to formulate their roster – and adding center Robin Lopez, shooting guard Arron Afflalo, and talented rookies Porzingis and point guard Jerian Grant is a good start. But after being spurned by every conceivable star, the Knicks will look to load up for next summer’s free-agency class that is headed by Kevin Durant. But if the previous star players jilted the Knicks, it’s not wise to pin hopes on wooing Durant to help get them back into championship contention. Advantage: Nets