The anxious buzz around New York is whether or not Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant sign with the Knicks in free agency. Both are unrestricted free agents seeking max contracts, which is something New York can afford with nearly $70 million in cap space.
However, Irving is “fully focused” on the Brooklyn Nets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, while Durant is rumored to want to team up with Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers. If both of these options fall through, where will the Knicks turn to fill out the backcourt?
Right now, point guards Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay are close to the chopping block. The former has been a part of trade negotiations since February, while the latter is a “backup option” per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
Without these two, who is next on the list for New York? Here are three cheap options that provide plenty of breathing room to purchase some more expensive players in the frontcourt, such as DeMarcus Cousins.
D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets
In terms of options on this list, Russell is a no-brainer if Irving heads to Brooklyn. The 23-year-old just earned his first All-Star appearance for the Nets, meaning he would bring talent and longevity from one borough to the other.
He averaged over 21 points last season while dishing out seven assists per game. He provides range with his nearly 37 percent shooting from behind the arc.
In addition, New York could have a ton of room to operate in cap space with Russell on board. He was set to earn over $9 million next season with the Nets, but his max contract would top out at $27 million a year. That means over $40 million of remaining cap space.
In terms of value, Russell might even be better than Irving. The former is an ascending player that is four years younger and will be cheaper. The Knicks need to avoid saddling themselves with hefty contracts from veterans, and this would be the opposite of that.
Also, he would be the man in New York and able to thrive as a high-usage point guard. He won’t get that same treatment if he returns to Los Angeles for LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers.
Seth Curry, Portland Trail Blazers
As Forbes’ Tommy Baer points out, the brother of Seth would be an ideal fit for New York.
The Knicks badly need 3-point shooting, and there aren’t many shooters more accurate than Curry. The only issue for him has been staying on the floor; when healthy, he’s been remarkably reliable. In fact, dating back to the start of the 2015-16 campaign, among players who have attempted at least 300 3-pointers, Curry has the highest percentage in the league (43.9%). The only other player to have shot better than 43.2% is his older brother, Steph.
Back in the summer of 2016, the Mavs snapped up Curry at a discount ($5.8 million over two years) and Curry responded by starting 42 games and averaging 14.7 points, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals, while posting a True Shooting percentage north of 60%.
Curry earned under $3 million with Portland last season, meaning he’s a high-value, low-cost option. Should Russell join the Knicks, Curry would be a tremendous bench option.
Isaiah Thomas, Denver Nuggets
Last season in Denver, he backed up Jamal Murray en route to 8.1 points per game on 27 percent shooting from deep. That’s the bad part. The good part is that when healthy, he’s still an effective scorer and distributor.
Over 32 games between Cleveland and Los Angeles in 2017, he averaged around 15 points per game and just under five assists. The year before in Boston, he tallied 28.9 points (on 38 percent 3-point shooting) and 5.9 assists per contest. This led to his first of two All-Star appearances (2016, 2017).
Moreover, the Knicks can get away with a cheap, 1-year contract for the 30-year-old. He earned just $2.02 million with the Nuggets last season. As a flier, he’s a cheap option that has the potential to provide instant offense.