The New York Knicks‘ chances of adding an elite point guard this off-season have just taken a huge boost.
According to Shams Charania of The Atheltic, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are at an impasse regarding a new contract, and the superstar guard is now considering testing the free agency market – with the Knicks being listed as a likely destination should he choose to leave Brooklyn.
Irving, 30, has a $36 million player option on the table for the upcoming season, but it’s looking increasingly likely that he will opt out of his current deal in the search of one final payday. Considering Irving has played in just 103 regular-season games over the last three seasons, his choice of suitors may be slimmer than what he’s currently expecting.
The Path to Signing Kyrie
Let’s assume that Kyrie opts out of his current deal, and the Knicks are the first team on his list of destinations, how would they get a deal over the line? According to Charania, there are a couple of ways New York could go about making the deal work.
“For the Knicks, the likely path to acquire Irving depends on what the Nets prioritize. New York is even with the salary-cap line for 2022-23 so it could clear enough space to sign Irving on a maximum contract by offloading salaries such as Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, and Kemba Walker. But the Knicks could also offer some or all of those players to the Nets or a third team in a possible sign-and-trade” Charania wrote on June 20.
In a vacuum, any deal to bring in a seven-time All-Star without giving up any of your young core is an ideal situation. But, taking a step back, the Knicks would suddenly be lacking depth, and if they went down the sign-and-trade route, would be limited in how they fill out the remainder of their roster due to being hard-capped – which occurs when acquiring a player via sign-and-trade.
Still, those are problems the front office would be happy to have. Regardless of his off-court persona, and his perceived lack of interest in playing throughout the regular season, Irving is still one of the best guards in the NBA and would instantly raise the Knicks’ ceiling while filling their biggest roster need.
Irving is Still Elite
Even when playing a bit-part role throughout the 2021-22 season, Irving displayed a level of scoring ability few will ever reach. In 29 games, the six-foot-two guard averaged 27.4 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 41.8% from deep and 46.9% from the field.
Those numbers decreased slightly in the playoffs, as the Nets were swept by the Boston Celtics, but the Melbourne native still averaged 21.3 points, 5.3 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game on 38.1% perimeter shooting and 44.4% shooting from the field.
Simply put, Irving is still a bucket, and can often create offense in the slimmest of margins. For a Knicks team that has been desperate for a lead guard, adding Irving would be the ideal scenario – except, they would have to feel confident about keeping him engaged with the team’s long-term project.
We’re still 10 days away from the free agency period opening on June 30, but one thing’s for sure, if Irving is available, the Knicks will likely be at the front of the line, regardless of the potential headaches that come with his signature.