In certain NBA circles, it is considered a given that Kevin Durant (pictured) will be joining the New York Knicks next season. Ric Bucher has already reported it as practically a done deal, and Ric simply does not get things wrong.
The identity of the second free agent that New York will go after remains much more of a mystery, with Kyrie Irving of the Celtics the popular speculative choice … even though the Knicks already have Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina playing point guard.
New York will have the most salary cap space in NBA history when this summer’s of free agency frenzy kicks off, and there are players who make much more sense than Irving — Kawhi Leonard is one — who could turn the worst team in the NBA into a legitimate championship contender in the space of one season.
That is why the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas came out last week with odds for to win the 2020 NBA championship and listed New York at 16-1 — tied for the sixth lowest odds behind Golden State, Milwaukee, Boston, Houston and Philadelphia. The Clippers also are listed at 16-1, while LeBron James and the Lakers are 20-1 along with the Raptors.
2019-20 NBA Championship winner
Phi, Hou 10/1
NY, LAC 16/1
Tor, LAL 20/1
Den, OKC 25/1
Utah, Por 40/1
Orl, Atl, Chi, Sac 100/1
Det, Char, Mia, Wsh, Cle, Min, Mem, NO, Phx 300/1
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) May 4, 2019
Most curious are the odds on the Portland Trail Blazers.
The team that got Jokic’d Sunday night in Denver, tying their Western Conference semifinal series at 2-2, is 40-1 … pretty much the same odds that have been on the board to win the 2019 championship throughout the first three weeks of the playoffs. But that is a topic for another column.
This is about the Knicks
New York’s fan base has bought into the rebuild program with the same amount of zeal that they display when discussing their contempt for Jim Dolan.
“We’ve only taken one ticket for $10 at those 16-1 odds as of this time,” Jeff Sherman, VP of Risk Management at the Superbook, told TheLines on Monday. “We took one $1,800 ticket on the Lakers at 20-1, and one $700 ticket on the Lakers at 60-1.
“We’re the only ones on the market with this up, and this year we got it up a little later than usual,” Sherman said.
Knicks fans are quite articulate in ping-pong ball math, the relative merits of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Ja Morant and Jarrett Culver, and the impending appearance of Patrick Ewing on the dais when the draft lottery is held.
What they are less informed about is the plethora of free agency options that will be available to them once July 1 arrives.
Williamson is clearly the No. 1 overall pick in the minds of most draft prognosticators, with Morant a lock for No. 2. And if the Knicks get the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, they will take one of those two players — and then reassess their rebuild strategies.
To throw a bone to Knicks fans on the first warm sunny day New Yorkers have enjoyed in eons, let’s assume they get Williamson with the overall No. 1 pick, then get Durant on a max contract. Who would they then want to add?
Offseason spending spree?
Leonard would seem to be an odd fit alongside Durant, although his defensive abilities would make up for Durant’s deficiencies in that area. If Williamson started the season coming off the bench, Leonard could play the 3 and Durant the 4, with Smith at point guard and a player to be determined at shooting guard. (With the amount of cap space New York has available, a second-tier free agent can be signed as well, so long as the rights to DeAndre Jordan are renounced.
Nikola Vucevic is going to get max money (I am hearing that Dallas is super-interested), but DeMarcus Cousins has already shown that he will sign at a discount, so putting him in as the starter and bringing Mitchell Robinson off the bench would make sense.
There is a school of thought that states Kemba Walker, a native New Yorker, would be capable of playing alongside Smith Jr. as a sort of combo guard, so he could be the second max player.
Lesser lights who could fill the shooting guard/glue guy hole via free agency include Jeremy Lamb, Wayne Ellington, Austin Rivers, Tyreke Evans, Patrick Beverley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Terrence Ross, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Seth Curry, Rodney Hood, Danny Green, Thabo Sefolosha and Trevor Ariza, among others.
The Knicks’ own free agents include Jordan, Mario Hezonja and Noah Vonleh (unrestricted), Emmanuel Mudiay, Isaiah Hicks and Luke Kornet (restricted), and Alonzo Trier (team option). They are pretty much all expendable, with the possible exception of Jordan if his asking price drops precipitously from the $20 million he made last season playing for the Mavs and Knicks.
Let the rumors and speculation begin.