But, for a minute, let’s pretend that the ultimate worst-case scenario happens (and let’s be honest: it’s the Knicks, so it might) and Durant and Irving opt to go elsewhere or stay with their respective teams. Then what?
New York would still have a ton of cap space, so even if it misses out on Durant and Irving, it can still go out and sign a couple of max free agents.
The good news for the Knicks is that this free-agent pool goes far beyond KD and Kyrie, so they can still pull a couple of really good players out of the free-agent market even if Durant and Irving spurn them.
So, here is a list of three Plan B free agents New York should pursue if the bottom falls out:
The Knicks just traded their franchise big man in Kristaps Porzingis, so why not try to add another one through free agency?
Nikola Vucevic is one of the most underrated players in the league and is coming off of a season in which he averaged 20 and 12 off very efficient shooting, and contrary to popular belief, he is not a bad defender. No one will excuse him for Rudy Gobert, but he’s passable.
Vucevic is also just 28 years old, and given his style of play, he likely has a lot of really good years left in him, so he will end up being a really good free-agent pickup for someone if he doesn’t stay with the Orlando Magic.
If New York misses out on Durant and Irving, Vooch would be a really good signing, and you know what? Let’s say Durant comes but Irving doesn’t. Then, you can pair KD with Vucevic, which is still really, really good and actually arguably a better fit overall.
2. Jimmy Butler
This is almost like Kevin Durant lite.
While Jimmy Butler is not even remotely close to the player that Durant is, he is still a guy who can get you 20-25 points a night while playing good defense and running an offense at times.
Yes, you will be missing out on the dead-eye three-point shooting, but Butler remains one of the best wings in the game and, in conjunction with another max free agent, would instantly make the Knicks a much better club.
Of course, there are some caveats with Butler. He will be 30 years old at the start of next season, he has some rather persistent injury issues and he does not exactly have the best track record as a locker room leader, but hey; he’s pretty good, and if the Knicks strike out on Durant and Irving, they are going to need to get somebody, right?
1. Kemba Walker
That brings us to the guy who is probably the best non-Durant, non-Irving option for the Knicks: Kemba Walker.
It almost seems too good to be true. Walker is from New York and forged a legendary collegiate career at the nearby University of Connecticut, and who could forget his magical Big East Tournament run at Madison Square Garden back in 2011?
Honestly, Walker is not much worse than Irving, as he is a dynamite scorer who possesses a clutch gene that few other players in the league have. Plus, Walker is a much better locker room guy, so maybe he will end up being an even better signing than Kyrie for someone?
Knicks fans shouldn’t even think of Walker as a consolation prize to Kyrie: he is nearly every bit as good, and if they are able to pair him with someone like Butler, they will be well on their way to building a legitimate contender.