There have been quite a few whispers and rumors that Warriors star Kevin Durant will end up in New York this summer with the Knicks. It doesn’t look like a return to Golden State is likely, especially with the turmoil they’ve encountered. Despite their attempts to downplay it, you can’t help but believe it won’t play into Durant’s decision. I mean, when your teammate is telling you they don’t need you, it’s hard to believe you completely forget something like that.
The Knicks have been heralded as the favorites to land Durant because of their immense cap space and a rumored package deal that would include Kyrie Irving signing with the squad as well. The idea of playing in New York, reviving a cursed franchise, and leading them to the promised land is the popular narrative for why Durant is heading to the Knicks. He could rewrite his legacy, in the eyes of fans who still hate on him for signing with the Warriors, by joining a struggling franchise and lifting it to new heights.
All that sounds nice, but the reality is if you’re a big free agent and you want to play in the biggest market, in the bright lights of New York City, the Knicks aren’t the right option. Kevin Durant should be taking his talents to Brooklyn over Manhattan. In fact, he would fit in perfectly with the Brooklyn Nets.
He wants to cement his legacy, and what better place than New York? But let’s not act like the Knicks are a better fit than the Nets.
Everyone has pinned the Knicks as a top destination for free agents, but let’s not ignore that the Nets are in a better position for future success than their rivals. Only delusional Knicks fans think their team’s more attractive for Durant than the Nets. Because if we’re being realistic here, the Knicks only have Madison Square Garden as their edge over the Nets. The Nets have cap space, too—this summer, three of the first 31 picks in the draft—and really are superior to the Knicks from the roster to the front office when you analyze both franchises top to bottom.
Let’s compare. Talent? Brooklyn’s better. Coaching? Brooklyn’s better. Front office? Brooklyn’s better by a landslide. To add to that, the Nets have a system that is perfect for Durant. They have an uptempo offense that takes the fifth-most threes per game and relies on the pick-and-roll heavily. They’re third in the NBA in percentage of made unassisted threes, which caters to a guy who feeds off pull-up threes in transition. Defensively, they’d benefit with KD serving as an additional shot blocker next Jarrett Allen and bolstering a weak defense.
The Nets have young talent that has proven they can win now and only improve. You have a 24-year-old budding star in Caris LeVert, who’s proven he’s without a doubt the best player in Brooklyn when healthy. You have a 21-year-old elite rim protector in Jarrett Allen; the second-best bench scorer in the NBA in Spencer Dinwiddie; the NBA’s three-point percentage leader in Joe Harris; and a young 23-year-old All-Star in D’Angelo Russell, a restricted free agent this summer. Add in Durant and that team could very well be the favorite in the East now that it has some playoff experience under its belt.
It’s also worth noting that LeVert and Durant are pretty close. Russell could receive a max or near-max contract from Brooklyn this summer to consume one of their slots, but if he’s your third-best offensive option, that’s still scary. If the Nets let Russell walk, then you’re in the same situation as the Knicks, with room for two superstars. LeVert, Dinwiddie, and Russell are one of the best groups of guards in the NBA. We saw this team make the Sixers work in the playoffs, and, if not for their inexperience, the Nets probably would’ve dragged out the series. They needed an elite go-to scorer as their offensive execution faltered in the big moments. Add Durant as the head of the snake—no pun intended—and the Nets would be virtually impossible to guard on the perimeter and off the dribble.
A lineup of Russell, Harris, LeVert, Durant, and Allen, with one of the best benches in the league, is a more stable roster than potentially teaming up with Kyrie Irving and the Knicks. Because if Durant and Irving went to Manhattan, they would eat up almost all of the Knicks’ money, depleting the roster of a solid supporting cast. Those two, along with a Zion Williamson, can carry a team in the East, but you’re one Kyrie injury away from being average. Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier, Kevin Knox, and company aren’t cutting it as role players. And we can’t even factor in Zion yet, since the Knicks could very well end up with a Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, or Jarrett Culver. That’s not moving the needle.
If part of KD’s desire to play for the Knicks is to lead the franchise out of a longtime drought and regain the respect and love from an NBA fan base, he literally has the same opportunity in Brooklyn. The franchise has NEVER won an NBA title. Yes, of course, the Knicks are one of the most famous franchises in sports, but if KD signed with the Knicks, there certainly would be way more pressure and higher expectations. There will be no off-court lifestyle differences between playing in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The business opportunities will remain the same because he’s Kevin Durant and it’s New York. In terms of the fan base, Knicks fans are certainly more passionate, but that has its negatives as well, as they’ll be quick to jump on you if you fail. The postseason atmosphere in Barclays Center was the loudest it’s been since the Nets moved to Brooklyn. Fans were actually interested in the team because they were performing well beyond expectations. According to The Sports Business Journal, the Brooklyn Nets increased 22% from 2017-18 to 2018-19 in regular-season TV ratings on YES Network. When you’re good, the fans will come.
You also can’t forget the biggest issue with joining the Knicks: ownership. While the front office seems to be settled these days, there has been a track record of meddling that can’t be ignored. Since Sean Marks arrived in Brooklyn as GM, the Nets have been a first-class organization that everyone would love to play for. They’re cohesive, from the general manager to the last person on the bench. Marks charging the refs’ locker room to complain and every player and staff member backing him up, including owner Joe Tsai, is an example of the camaraderie the Nets have built. They’re all on the same page.
Regardless of his decision, Durant has put together a first-ballot Hall of Fame career, but it’s clear he also wants to get back in the good graces of NBA fans. He wants to cement his legacy, and what better place than New York? But let’s not act like the Knicks are a better fit than the Nets.