There’s a simple fact to Kevin Durant’s impending decision on where he will take his exponential talents for the next five years — the team he joins must be ready to win. The New York Knicks, however, might not be in that position next season, but it won’t matter.
Signing Durant comes with a caveat – he will likely miss all of the 2019 season due to a torn Achilles that he had surgically repaired earlier in June. This gives the Knicks a better chance at signing him, and they can utilize his experience in the meantime to mentor the younger players.
The New York Knicks can still extract value from Kevin Durant even if he’s not playing:
RJ Barrett would benefit significantly from Durant as a mentor. The issue will be this — if the Knicks do manage to convince Durant to sign with them, they will need to bring in another high-profile player to help him succeed once he returns. Persuading another max-contract player to sign and essentially forfeit a season of contention to wait for Durant’s return could be problematic.
They must insist that the current team has the talent to compete and bringing in a solid tier-two player like point guard D’Angelo Russell would be transformative. It’s seeming unlikely that both Durant and Kawhi Leonard both sign with the Knicks — reports have stated that Leonard is only willing to give the Knicks a phone-calls chance at signing him. He’s more keen on staying in California.
The Knicks need to approach Durant carefully, basing their negotiation around youth and the potential they have. Players like Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Barrett, Damyean Dotson, Dennis Smith Jr., all have the flash and potential to be the next wave of greats in the league. If Durant wants to complete his legacy, leading a young team to the playoffs is certainly the way to do it.
In Leonard’s case:
It doesn’t seem as if joining an already competitive team is a driving force in his decisions, given his recent Finals victory with the Toronto Raptors. Widely thought of as the best player in the league at the current moment, joining a youthful Knicks team would solidify his desire to lead a team of his own and help bring the best out of young talent.
It will be interesting to see how he goes about free agency, but if Durant is convinced to come to New York, it will certainly be a catalyst in bringing others as well.