It’s now way past July 6, when the basketball world was finally alerted of Kawhi Leonard’s free agency decision. The NBA has had one of its busiest free agency periods ever, with notable superstars leaving for new teams in a league-wide shakeup. One main headline of this summer’s offseason was Kevin Durant’s and Kyrie Irving’s decision to join the Brooklyn Nets. It had been rumored throughout the entire season that Durant had his summer sights set on the Knicks, but fans and sports analysts alike were shocked by his decision to join Brooklyn. And despite his move to one New York team, people can’t seem to stop talking about New York’s other team.
The Knicks recently just came off a 17-win season—one of the worst in franchise history. After trading away star player Kristaps Porzingis in a salary dump, the Knicks looked ahead to this summer’s free agency and the draft. Drafting R.J. Barrett, a prolific two guard from Duke, created some buzz, but eyes were still set on the players leaving for New York. What was believed to be a complete turnaround for the Knicks turned out to be a disappointing week full of stars signing elsewhere. As usual, the Knicks were the butts of countless jokes on social media and sports networks alike for their failures.
I’ve been a Knick fan since 2010, and I have watched all the highs and lows of New York’s teams. Am I disappointed Kevin Durant didn’t come to the Knicks to save us from mediocrity? Of course. But Knicks fans shouldn’t see this summer as a complete failure. Here are three reasons why the Knicks actually had a successful offseason.
The Knicks, despite not signing a max contract, have used up the bulk of their cap room on players like Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Marcus Morris and Elfrid Payton. They may not be all-stars, but these hard-nosed pros can help make the team competitive. Better yet, these pickups come with favorable contracts. Each deal (except Randle’s) is a “1+1” deal, where the players are signed for two years with a team option in the second year. This gives the Knicks flexibility with how they can use their cap room, giving them the opportunity to chase after stars again in the 2020 and 2021 free agency classes. The Knicks have long suffered from a lack of cap space as a result of poor management (looking at you Phil Jackson). Having the ability to recruit free agents in summers-to-come will be a huge win for the Knicks.
Scott Perry and Steve Mills, the two main actors in the Knicks’ front office, spent this summer chasing after guys seen as physical and hard-nosed. Bobby Portis was in the news last year for punching his teammate Nikola Mirotic at a practice, and Julius Randle has been seen as a bruising, fringe All-Star player. Couple their recruitment with the return of defensive beast Mitchell Robinson and the recently-improved Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr., and the Knicks could have themselves a playoff spot. These promising recruitments could boost morale for the team and improve views of New York as a free agent destination.
Kyrie Irving is one of the league’s most talented guards. There’s no denying that. However, Irving is also one of the moodiest players in today’s game. Reports of Kyrie’s unhappiness while in Boston has been well-documented, and rumors of Irving avoiding Cavaliers players the year before his exit only adds more fuel to the fire. Irving could’ve possibly came to the Knicks and spoiled the Knicks’ young core, further damaging the locker room and the organization. Additionally, Kevin Durant will miss a year as the result of an Achilles injury. By the time he puts on a Brooklyn Nets jersey, Durant may never be the player he formerly was. Missing out on these two may end up being a blessing in disguise.
Original image courtesy of Chris Eason via Flickr