The annual National Basketball Association game of free agent musical chairs took place last month, and the conventional wisdom was that the Brooklyn Nets were big winners while the New York Knicks were total losers.
The Knicks have not had the best of luck during the offseason but some of the finger pointing is unfair. Yes, it would have been nice had they landed the top pick in the draft, which would have netted them Zion Williamson but statistically they only had a 14 percent chance of getting the first choice. Right after the New Orleans Pelicans won the pick, many callers to sports talk radio stations and even some journalists made it sound as if they had a 14 percent chance of not getting the first draft choice.
It’s not fair to blame Knicks owner James Dolan, who has never been reticent to spend money on players, for refusing to shell out over $160 million over four years for Kevin Durant who everyone knows will miss the entire season recovering from an injury, while there’s no guarantee he’ll return to his dominant form after that.
The Knicks aren’t going to win an NBA title next year but they won’t be a joke either. Newly signed forward Julius Randle is a star and Dennis Smith Jr., who was acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, is a solid point guard. Forward Kevin Knox and center Mitchell Robinson, who both enjoyed good rookie seasons, will be able to further develop in the upcoming season.
The Nets had a very glitzy offseason signing the aforementioned Durant, along with guard Kyrie Irving and center DeAndre Jordan. While Nets General Manager Sean Marks generated great buzz with those moves (as did ex-Nets GM Billy King in 2013 when he acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics in an ill-advised trade) it is still questionable how good they’ll be next year.
Is Irving significantly better than D’Angelo Russell, who had a breakout season with the Nets last year and was then jettisoned by them? Not in my book.
Ironically the free agent who may best help the Nets is former Knicks center Jordan, who can mentor Jarrett Allen. The Nets’ future depends more on the development of Allen, guard Spencer Dinwiddie and forward Caris LeVert than on the big names for whom they just dropped a king’s ransom.
The best golfers in the world are back in our area as the Northern Trust, the first leg of the PGA Tour playoffs, gets underway at Liberty State Park today and runs through Sunday. Brooks Koepka, who has become golf’s most dominant player, will probably be the favorite while Tiger Woods will certainly have the biggest galleries following him around.