Any dreams of Jimmy Butler suiting up for the Knicks or Nets are officially dead and each team has one less potential free agent target.
It’s no secret that the Knicks and Nets are both interested in bringing in a top free agent in 2019. Both teams are managing their salary cap to ensure they’ll have the space to pursue the best of the best. But one of those stars is effectively off the market.
According to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, the Minnesota Timberwolves are finalizing a deal that would send Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton to Philadelphia in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick.
The Sixers whiffed in 2018 free agency and they weren’t about to leave 20119 up to chance. They took matters into their own hands and made sure no one else will have the opportunity to woo Butler. The likelihood of Butler re-signing with Philly is high according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
That leaves the Knicks and Nets with one fewer option next summer. Moreover, Kyrie Irving seems fully committed to the Boston Celtics and the Raptors chances of signing Kawhi Leonard increases with every win. With Irving, Leonard, and Butler potentially off the market, who does that leave for the New York teams to target?
The obvious name that comes to mind is Kevin Durant. It’s no secret that both teams will show interest in Durant this offseason. He’s one of the best players in the game and there’s a growing feeling that he’s likely to move on from Golden State after this season. Knicks fans are already courting KD with the obligatory billboards. Meanwhile, Durant is offering effusive praise of Caris LeVert, one of the brightest young players in Brooklyn.
After Durant, the 2019 free agent class begins to thin out. Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, and DeMarcus Cousins are a few of the other free agents set to test the market. Tobias Harris, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle, and Paul Millsap are the next tier among free agents. Will the Knicks or Nets be willing to dish out major dollars to any of these free agents? That remains to be seen.
There’s no crystal ball to help us look into the future of NBA free agency. But if the Jimmy Butler saga taught us anything, it’s that the Knicks and Nets are committed to the long-term plans they have in place. Trading for Butler would have been a “quick fix” for both squads. That being said, neither the Knicks or the Nets really need a “quick fix” right now.
The Nets may be a playoff team as early as this season and the Knicks will surely contend for the playoffs with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis next year — whether they make a splash in free agency or not. Both teams are in the stages of a rebuild, but they are much farther along in their respective rebuilds than most people will give them credit for.
On the other hand, both teams could strike out in free agency and regret sitting out the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes. They already missed out on Kyrie Irving and potentially Kawhi Leonard as well. Regardless, the Knicks and Nets are maintaining a steadfast commitment to their long-term vision. There are no shortcuts in New York these days.