Knicks a ‘Prime Candidate’ for Blockbuster Trade to Finally Add Kevin Durant: NBA Exec

In the spring of 2019, the Knicks were all set up for a monumental NBA offseason. They had gone 17-65 the previous year, a terrible record that, at least, left them in line for one of the top picks in the NBA draft, which would likely yield either forward Zion Williamson or guard Ja Morant. They had few long-term commitments, and had created $70 million in cap space.

That was enough to add two max-contract free agents. And it was a good summer to be in that position, because Warriors star Kevin Durant was set to hit the free-agent market, and with a full-blown plan in place to market Durant, much of that offseason was focused on Durant landing in New York.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith even declared it was a “95% chance” that the Knicks would get both Durant and star guard Kyrie Irving.

Yes. From everything I’ve heard, KD and Kyrie are planning on coming to New York. 95% Chance they say! Only potential hiccup is KD changing his mind

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) May 11, 2019

It didn’t work out that way, of course. Durant and Irving went to Brooklyn, which turned into a disaster that ended with Durant traded to Phoenix. The Knicks dropped to No. 3 in the draft and picked R.J. Barrett. Sitting on an acre of cap space,  the team signed Julius Randle and Bobby Portis.

But now, five years later, there is a chance for the Knicks to turn that history around. The woebegone Suns, having imploded in their first-round sweep against the Timberwolves, might have little choice but to trade Durant. And the Knicks would be high on the list of suitors if they do.

One Western Conference exec pointed out that the Heat would be a suitor. But he said of the Knicks: “You would have to consider them a prime candidate, too.”

Kevin Durant Comes With Baggage

Durant is 35, and that will give any team pause before making a blockbuster trade. But he is one of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA, averaging 27.1 points on 50% shooting last year. He is 6-foot-11, able to play all three wing positions and providing switchability on defense.

Another concern with Durant is his recent history. If he is dealt from Phoenix, he will have been with three teams in the past two years, and he will have left each team under a cloud of negativity.

“He makes you nervous because as good as he is, he now has some baggage and it is easy to blame everyone else for what has happened in his last few stops, but at some point you start to say, ‘Wait, he is the common factor here,’” one Eastern Conference GM told Heavy Sports. “There are a lot of teams that he’d be a great fit, maybe all of them, right? He is that good.”

The baggage is a worry, though.

“You have to ask, ‘How much of this baggage is his, how much is just the bad circumstances he was in?’ Because it seems like a long time since Kevin was happy as a player,” the GM wondered. “He’s disgruntled all the time. So then you have to ask, ‘If he is unhappy, can we take it, do we have the coach and the locker room to shrug that stuff off?’

“That is a question you have to ask with him now. It is not going to be ‘Yes’ for every team and that would limit his market.”

Knicks in Position to Handle Durant

But the rebuilt Knicks could handle Durant, grouchy disposition and all. This is a team that has played with an increased edge and toughness this season, bolstered by the acquisition of not only stars Jalen Brunson and OG Anunoby, but role players like Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein and Donte DiVincenzo.

The Knicks are a very good team, but not a championship contender. A guy like Durant would put them over the top, and there is little doubt they will be on the hunt for a star this summer.

The Knicks have the pieces to make a deal work, too, with Julius Randle as the centerpiece. Miles McBride could be added as a young piece, and the Knicks could also send Mitchell Robinson. The real prize, though, would be the Knicks draft picks—a package of three or four picks going to Phoenix would likely top any other offers the Suns would get.

There has been talk about the possibility of a Devin Booker-to-Knicks trade, but the Suns very much want to keep Booker in place. He’s only 27, after all. Durant, though, can be had. It might be five years later than expected, but now, he makes sense as a Knick.

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