Schmeelk: 10 Possible Scenarios For If Knicks Miss Out On Both Durant, Leonard

John Schmeelk
April 21, 2019 - 9:00 am
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The Knicks prepared themselves for the offseason by clearing cap space and acquiring future draft picks from the Mavericks in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis. There are two paths the Knicks can choose that are obvious.

It’s a no-brainer to support signing Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard and another star in an effort to make a run at a title. The other obvious path is to pass on all potential free agents if one of the top two doesn't come (Durant and Leonard) and instead use cap space to take on players with big contracts in exchange for more future draft picks.

The first path is win now, and the second path would be a fuller 76ers process option that would take years to see through with no guaranteed results. Both paths are unambiguous and clear. No one (smart) would argue the Knicks spending their hard-earned cap space on B-level players who would max the team out at 40 wins is a good idea. But is there another middle ground that makes sense?

Here are some scenarios I’ve cooked up that I hope make Knicks fans think long and hard about their offseason plans. I haven’t included any involving Durant or Leonard because plans involving those players would likely be no-brainers. I also include where the team will pick in the draft since it impacts decision making.

Scenario 1:  Pick 4 or 5 in the draft, sign Kyrie Irving, no second star

If he opts out of his deal with Boston -- as he's expected to do -- Irving would arguably be the third best star on the market this summer after Durant and Leonard, but he has problems in his own right. He has an injury history, did not handle a low level of losing with the Celtics this year very well and does not seem ready to grow slowly with young players. If the Knicks land Duke star Zion Williamson in the draft, I might think differently, but I don’t like this formula otherwise.

Verdict: Pass.

Kyrie Irving
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Scenario 2: Pick first in the draft, sign Kemba Walker and Klay Thompson

This is where things get interesting. The Knicks would have an elite rim protector in Mitchell Robinson, Zion Williamson as a scoring four, a two-way shooting guard in Klay Thompson and a good point guard in Kemba Walker. They would have some money left over to add another free agent, too. I like this combination.

Verdict: Do it.

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Scenario 3: Pick second, sign Jimmy Butler and Khris Middleton

The team would set up with a lineup of rookie point guard Ja Morant, Butler, Middleton, Robinson and then a fourth player the team could add with remaining cap space or an exemption. This would be a fun team to watch, but not quite good enough to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference. By the time the young Knicks get good enough, Butler will be on the downswing.

Verdict: Pass

Scenario 4: Pick third, sign Irving and Thompson

This is another tough one. Irving and Thompson complement each other very well and could be paired with Robinson, Knox and the Knicks' draft choice of RJ Barrett, DeAndre Hunter or Jarrett Culver. Would Thompson keep Irving happy enough and help the team win enough games to make this worth it?

Verdict: It’s very close, but I’ll pass.

Scenario 5: Trade rights to Zion Williamson, 2021 first-round pick and Dennis Smith Jr. for Anthony Davis, sign Walker and Bojan Bogdanovic

Walker, Davis and Bogdanovic are a nice trio, especially when put together with Robinson. It is a very balanced lineup that could win some games in the Eastern Conference. Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier would make up the eight-man rotation. Is it enough to get the team into the top three in the Eastern Conference? Maybe not.

Anthony Davis
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Verdict: I wouldn’t trade Zion for Davis in this scenario so I’ll pass.

Scenario 6: Trade third overall pick with Smith, Knox, Ntilikina and two future firsts for Davis, sign Irving, Danny Green and Terrence Ross.

The Knicks would be able to run out a starting five of Irving, Green, Ross, Davis and Robinson, which is a pretty good group. The bench unit would consist of Dotson, Trier and whoever else the team could scrap together.

Verdict: It’s a good team that would win 50 with two real stars and good helpers, but will this group win a title? Probably not.

Scenario 7: Pick first overall, sign Thompson or Walker but no other big-money player

Thompson gives the Knicks a veteran, excellent two-way player to teach a young starting lineup featuring Williamson, Robinson, Dotson and Smith how to win. Walker plays the same position as Smith, making it less attractive. Knox would come off the bench with Ntilikina and Trier. The Knicks would use the remaining space to take on an expiring contract in exchange for some future assets such as a first-round pick.

Verdict: Let’s do it with Thompson, but pass if it’s Walker.

Scenario 8: Pick second overall, sign Julius Randle, use remaining cap space to get future assets/maintain flexibility

Randle is the type of young player who makes sense for the Knicks to go after, except for the fact that he plays the position I believe Knox must eventually occupy. I’m also not sure he is a great fit next to Robinson long-term. The theory is good, but the player doesn’t make sense for me.

Verdict: I’ll pass.

Scenario 9: Trade fourth or fifth overall pick plus Knox, Smith Jr, three future first-round picks for Davis, sign Walker and Trevor Ariza

The Knicks roll out Walker, Dotson, Ariza, Davis and Robinson in what would be a fantastic defensive team with Ntilikina coming off the bench. But the team would lose too many future assets with two 30-year-olds added to the mix without the team becoming real championship contenders.

Verdict: I’ll pass.

Scenario 10: Sign Walker and Middleton or Butler, then trade Williamson, Smith, Knox and Ntilikina to the Pelicans for Davis

This is an all-in maneuver to win now with nearly all the young talent on the team leaving in an Davis trade. Dotson, Robinson and Trier would remain, and the team doesn’t sacrifice any future picks. In 2020, the Knicks could send out Walker, Butler/Middleton, Dotson, Davis and Robinson, which would be one of the best lineups in the Eastern Conference. This is very tempting.

Verdict: Don’t make me choose.

You can follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports You can also check out his Knicks podcast, "The Bank Shot," available on RADIO.COM, iTunes and other places where you find podcasts. You can listen to the latest episode with Chris Iseman, beat reporter for The Record, by clicking here.