It has to get worse in order for it to get better. At least that rule applies to the New York Knicks.
With the NBA’s worst record just the latest debacle in the last 20 years that has become the James Dolan ownership, things got even drearier around Madison Square Garden when the Knicks opted to trade Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks.
The return was decent enough, headlined by Dennis Smith Jr. and future first-round draft picks. Smith, a second-year guard out of NC State, was on the Knicks’ radar during the 2017 draft, though the team opted to pick the arduous project that has become Frank Ntilikina.
Also coming from Dallas, Wesley Matthews isn’t expected to stay a Knick for long while DeAndre Jordan’s future with the team is just as much in the air.
So begins the rest of the season, which couldn’t possibly worse than the first four months, right?
No, seriously, I’m asking you because I don’t think it can possibly get any worse.
As first-year head coach David Fizdale and his rag-tag group of Knicks play out the remainder of their 2018-19 season, there is somehow reason for sheer optimism, even if many consider it to be a longshot.
The Knicks are on the cusp of getting better and there seems to be plenty of avenues in order for them to do so.
As odds-on favorites for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, the Knicks will be getting a big-time young talent in the likes of Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett, both young standouts from Duke.
The Porzingis trade seemingly solidified that the Knicks would keep the pick, seeing as the Latvian was considered by many to be the key piece in a prospective deal for New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis.
Yet the Knicks’ links to the 25-year-old star center, who requested a trade from the Pelicans toward the end of January, persist. As he’s set to become a free agent in the summer of 2020, Davis has a huge say on where he will be traded. The promise of signing a contract extension with the right trade partner will maximize the Pelicans’ return for him.
While the Los Angeles Lakers are overwhelmingly tabbed to pull off a deal for “The Brow” before Thursday’s trade deadline, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski listed the Knicks among the four teams that Davis would sign an extension with.
The problem is the Knicks don’t have the same kind of assets the Lakers could offer New Orleans, but the No. 1 pick and the possibility of Williamson in New Orleans could pique the Pelicans’ interest. It would be a huge gamble to make that deal though as we won’t find out how the draft lottery plays long after the trade deadline.
So put the Knicks chances of getting Davis highly unlikely.
Luckily for them, they won’t be short of superstar options this offseason as New York is poised to have around $71 million in cap space available. That’s enough for two max-salary contracts that will bring in premier talent the organization hasn’t seen in quite some time.
As it stands, the Knicks are favored to sign Golden State Warriors star and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant as the two have reportedly been linked since last summer.
The nine-time All-Star is averaging 27.5 points per game this season. Since 1961, only four Knicks have averaged that many points per game.
Bringing on Durant would obviously bring some legitimacy to the long-time dysfunctional franchise, and if the Knicks are smart, they’ll ask Durant which other free agents he’ll want to play with and do everything in their power to get them.
That could very well be Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving, who has reneged on the notion that he’ll sign long-term with the C’s. Growing up in West Orange, NJ, Irving was just 15 miles from Madison Square Garden and admitted that he’s been “impressed” with how the Knicks have positioned themselves after the Porzingis deal.
Irving would supply the Knicks with their best point guard since Walt Frazier and ensure Durant has a second playmaker to dominate alongside.
The prospect of such moves has coaxed many to ask why the Knicks would appeal to big-name free agents given the franchise’s track record over the past 20 years under Dolan.
Sure, the team may be dysfunctional, but the idea of bringing an NBA title back to one of the epicenters of the basketball world would make any star man of said team immortal in the Big Apple. Just ask the 1973 Knicks or Mark Messier and the 1994 Rangers.
And yes, playing every night at Madison Square Garden with a refueled, rabid fan base would be more than enough of a pull.
Should this all happen, the Knicks would suddenly have two superstars to go with a young, developing team that could make plenty of noise in the Eatern Conference. Should they, in fact, win the No. 1 pick, then suddenly New York’s starting 5 would look incredibly imposing on paper, at least.
Knicks 2019-20 projected starting 5
PG- Kyrie Irving
SG- Dennis Smith Jr.
SF- Kevin Durant
PF- Zion Williamson
C- DeAndre Jordan