The New York Knicks have been looking forward to this summer of free agency for quite some time, dreaming of one or even two NBA stars landing in the Big Apple with intentions to guide the storied franchise back into the championship conversation.
There were rumors of a potential Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant pairing for most of last season, but the free agent landscape has shifted tremendously since then, with much uncertainty surrounding what the Knicks can do with their $69.8 million in cap space.
Earlier this offseason the Knicks didn’t surprise anyone, drafting RJ Barrett out of Duke. Barrett was the consensus No. 3 pick behind Ja Morant and his Blue Devils teammates Zion Williamson. He’ll be a key piece — along with fellow young guns Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Dennis Smith Jr. — for the team to build around in the immediate future.
Here are three of the top targets for the Knicks as free agency opens at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Knicks Want a Superstar in Kevin Durant
At one point, Durant to the Knicks was considered a done deal by some insiders, which is obviously no longer the case. Durant’s ruptured Achilles in the NBA Finals altered his free agency plans.
But there’s a reason Durant — a perennial contender for the MVP — is one of the most highly sought after free agents, even considering he’ll be sidelined for most, if not all of next season. He’s a sure-fire top three player in the league, averaging 27 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists over his 12-year career.
The Knicks are reportedly one of four teams that Durant will engage in talks with this offseason, the other being the Nets, Warriors and Clippers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Knicks are Looking at DeMarcus Cousins as an Option
Like Durant, Cousins also saw an Achilles injury alter his free agency plans. However, things haven’t played out quite the same for the boisterous big man. He signed a one-year, $5.3 million deal with the Warriors last offseason coming off the injury, deciding to pursue a championship as he rehabbed back to 100 percent.
The Golden State experience was met with mostly mixed reviews for the four-time All-Star. Cousins averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals during the regular season with the Warriors, but had a roller coaster postseason where he was hobbled by yet another injury — a partially torn quad.
The Knicks are a serious contender to add Cousins, while several teams have reportedly showed varying levels of interest for the former Kentucky standout. While there’s significant risk with his injury history, he ever gets back to his previous level, Cousins could end up being a free agency steal.
Cousins, 28, has averaged 21.2 points and 10.9 rebounds for his career.
Kawhi Leonard Firmly on Knicks Radar
Leonard is the crown jewel of free agency after leading the Raptors to their first title in franchise history while averaging career-highs in points (26.6) and rebounds (7.3).
But do the Knicks have a shot to land the reserved superstar? Odds-wise, the Knicks are not close to the Lakers, Clippers and Raptors to land Kawhi. However, the conversation might be taking a turn in the Knicks’ favor with reports coming out that he and Durant are discussing possibly teaming up at their next destination. The Knicks have the cap space to sign both to max deals.
Leonard is expected to meet with the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks and Toronto Raptors when free agency opens.