Kevin Durant has a little more than five months to make a decision on where he’ll play basketball next, whether with the Warriors, the Knicks, or somewhere else. He’s offered little or no breadcrumbs about his decision – and this early in the process, he may not even know himself – though whatever team Durant picks will shape the league like never before.
Yes, more than LeBron’s three moves.
Durant’s departure would make the Warriors mortals again, and instantly vault another team into contender status. The NBA wouldn’t quite have parity, but the playoffs should be much more competitive than the very predictable last two years.
There’s a silly sentiment out there that Durant “ruined” the NBA when he left the Thunder for the Warriors. Folks who’ve said that continue to be embarrassingly wrong; but sadly, Durant is hearing this kind of nonsense daily on social media.
NBA commish Adam Silver has fielded dumb competitive balance questions for two years now. He now has to deal with sagging TV ratings that don’t totally have to do with the Warriors, but they’ll be blamed by the unwashed masses anyway. What really ails the NBA on TV is not having a bankable star in a marquee city on the East Coast. Kyrie Irving doesn’t quite count; yes he’s a star, one who can crossover and do movies. But what the NBA really could use is a megastar in New York or Chicago.
This is where Durant comes in. As I’ve discussed on my radio show, the Knicks tanking for Zion Williamson and taking their time bringing back Kristaps Porzingis from injury are moves being made with next season in mind.
On July 1 the Knicks can pitch this to Durant: We’ll make this your team, one that’s long on the perimeter, with five players who can defend multiple positions – promising 19-year old Kevin Knox (12.3 ppg, strong candidate for 1st team all-rookie), Porzingis, potentially Zion, you and Tim Hardaway Jr (19.6 ppg, 35 percent on 3-pointers).
On paper, it’s a team that could win 50 or more in the East depending what happens in Toronto (Kawhi Leonard), Boston (Kyrie Irving) and Philadelphia (Jimmy Butler). The Knicks could be a serious contender.
There is, however, another team in New York that can afford two max players. The Brooklyn Nets. They’re currently better than the Knicks, and currently in the Top 8 in the East. Their roster, even after losing D'Angelo Russell to free agency in the offseason, has the role players you want – Caris Levert, Joe Harris, Allen Crabbe ($18.5 million is steep), Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie – and if you add Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler, that’s a better, more experienced team in the East than the Durant would have with the Knicks.
If Durant wants his own team, as many have theorized, perhaps the better New York fit for him is the Nets, not the Knicks.