The New York Knicks shocked the NBA world Thursday afternoon, by trading Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Dennis Smith, Jr., Wes Matthews, DeAndre Jordan, a 2021 1st round pick (unprotected), and a 2023 1st round pick (1-10 protected). On the surface, this is a bad look for the Knicks, and NBA Twitter cascaded into a monsoon of melancholy and menacing rage as soon as the trade was announced. This was later tempered with the clarification of future draft assets acquired by the Knicks, but this trade should be looked at as a much bigger win for the Mecca of basketball. Kristaps Porzingis was not happy in New York, and is a 7’3″ big man coming off an ACL tear, which left the Knicks at a crossroads with him. In theory, the Knicks could have found a taker to absorb Courtney Lee’s expiring contract this offseason at minimal cost, giving them enough cap space to go after a max player to pair with KP6, before re-signing Porzingis to a long term deal. A team of Porzinigs, Hardaway, Knox, Trier, Robinson, Nitlikina, their 1st round pick (which currently cannot fall below #5), and a legit superstar like Durant or Kyrie would have easily made them a contender in the East. However, if they had failed to acquire that superstar player in free agency, their best player would have been an injury prone, disgruntled, big man, and their cap flexibility would have been severely hampered for the foreseeable future. With this trade, the Knicks managed not only to get three solid assets in DSJ and two future 1st round picks, but also free up a clear path to two max roster spots this offseason. Enter Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving …
Kevin Durant has been long rumored to be a very viable free agent target for the Knicks. His manager, Rich Kleiman, is a native New Yorker, and lifelong Knicks fan, and his influence could go a long way towards selling Durant on joining the Knicks this offseason. Durant is in a great market, and the appeal of staying put is obvious; try to continue the greatest dynasty since the Russell Celtics. With that being said, New York has three distinct advantages in its own right. While the Bay area market is great, there ain’t no market like the New York market, short of L.A. And when it comes to Los Angeles, does KD really want to team up with LeBron, and if not, does he really want to play for the Team B Clippers? I find either of those to be unlikely. Another thing going for New York is the ire Durant has received since joining the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. Durant can say it doesn’t bother him all he wants, and maybe it doesn’t, but it takes a rare breed of person to be comfortable with that level of hatred from fans, critics, and even peers. Finally, Durant is the best player on his team, and the team is still viewed as Steph Curry’s team, as it should be. If Durant goes to New York, the Knicks would be his team, or if he’s joined by another star player, their team.
Kyrie Irving seem to squelch any rumors of him leaving the Celtics at the beginning of this season, by verbally announcing his long term commitment to an arena full of Celtics fans. And why wouldn’t he? The Celtics made it to within one game of the NBA Finals, and were adding Kyrie and Gordon Hayward into the mix. It was a no-brainer. Four months later, Hayward has been undeniably bad this season after returning from his injury, Brown has taken a huge step back, Tatum hit a small sophomore slump, Horford seems like his age is catching up with him, and Rozier has struggled to be consistent in a reduced role. The only core players not failing to meet expectations are Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris; the latter probably being on the move this offseason, in search of a big contract. When asked Friday about his commitment to the Celtics and if he still feels the same, Irving said, “Ask me July 1st.” Later he added, “I don’t owe anybody shit.” That certainly sounds like a player keeping his options open. Irving reportedly wanted out of Cleveland to the be The Guy, but has seemingly been frustrated by the Celtics’ young players throughout the season; so much so that he even called LeBron to apologize to him about his actions as a young player with LeBron in Cleveland. And though Kyrie is certainly The Guy on the court; make no mistake; the Celtics are Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens’ team. Kyrie could stay put and wait for the Celtics to trade for Anthony Davis this offseason, but teaming up with KD in New York could be a much better option.
Durant and Kyrie together would be viewed as Batman and Superman; neither really falling into the role of Robin. Both have Championship experience, and both are viewed as marquee talents. Plus, winning a Title together in New York, which would be the Knicks first since 1973, would mean way more than Kyrie leading the Celtics to their 18th or Durant continuing to be the best player on a Dynasty he joined; not created. By no means is this a certainty, and Knicks fans shouldn’t get too excited, too soon; and they won’t. They’ve seen way too many meetings turn into nothing to do that. But their odds of landing both of these guys are far better than their odds were of landing one of them to pair with Porzingis, and they acquired assets while simultaneously improving their odds at being a Championship contender. That’s nothing to frown upon. And as a side ray of continued hope, if the Knicks miss out on one or both of these guys, they have bought themselves an additional offseason of max cap space.
The long term ramifications of the KP6 deal are yet to be seen, but if the Knicks can land both Kyrie and KD, the dominoes that would fall would be far-reaching, and change the NBA landscape for the next decade! If the Celtics lose Kyrie Irving, rest assured they will no longer include Tatum in any Anthony Davis discussion, and will probably drop out altogether. This restores the Lakers as the frontrunner, and gives other teams like Denver, and even possibly the Knicks a shot at him. Also, if the Knicks don’t trade for AD (I hope they don’t, nor should they), the league will see parody not seen since the 1970s. Eight different teams won a championship in the ’70s, and we could easily see that throughout the 2020s. By weakening the best team in the West and the team with all the assets in the East, the league would be wide open once again! If you’re not a Warriors or Celtics fan, you should be rooting for the Knicks to pull this off, for the sake of the league. I know I am!
Nick Smith is one of the founding members of GVN, host of the NBA podcast, Full Court Press, regular panelist on the flagship podcast, Geek Vibes Live, and a writer for the website.