Kevin Durant‘s next opportunity to reach free agency is nearly nine months away, but speculation about his decision has already begun. And according to various reports compiled by Dan Feldman of NBC Sports, the Knicks are viewed by many insiders around the NBA as a legitimate candidate to challenge the Warriors for Durant.
“The New York Knicks have a very good shot at luring KD away from the Bay Area,” Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said during an appearance on FS1’s Undisputed (video link). “His business partner, Rich Kleiman is based in New York, huge New York Knicks fan. Their business is located and based in New York. KD’s dad is a big New York Knicks fan. The same allure that LeBron [James] had toward the Los Angeles Lakers – just the building, the culture – is the same thing, the same way, I know, that KD feels about the Knicks.”
Having named New York as a viable landing spot for Durant, Haynes cautioned that the Warriors will still “obviously” have the edge to re-sign him. Golden State will hold Durant’s Bird rights at the end of the 2018/19 season, and because he’ll have 10+ years of NBA experience, he’ll be eligible to earn a starting salary worth 35% of the cap.
Based on current cap projections, that means the Dubs could offer a five-year deal worth up to $221.27MM, giving them a significant upper hand. Any rival suitors with the cap room necessary to sign a maximum-salary free agent could only offer a four-year contract worth a projected $164.05MM.
Still, Haynes isn’t the only national NBA reporter hearing buzz about the Knicks and Durant. As Feldman details, Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post and Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports both conveyed similar sentiments during Bontemps’ recent appearance on Mannix’s podcast.
“I’ve been really surprised at how many people are – NBA types that I talk to on a regular basis – are convinced it’s going to be New York,” Mannix said. “There are a lot of people, Tim, that believe the Knicks are a prohibitive favorite to land Durant.”
If the Warriors win their third straight championship next spring, it’s hard to imagine Durant jumping ship. Of course, if Golden State falls short of a title, leaving also may not be a great look for the two-time Finals MVP, who was criticized for leaving the Thunder after they blew a 3-1 series lead against the Warriors in 2016. Throw in Golden State’s ability to offer the most years and money, and it makes sense that the Dubs would still be considered the odds-on favorites. Still, it sounds like Durant’s 2019 free agency won’t be a mere formality like it has been the last couple summers.