The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets have plenty of potential free agent targets to watch in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are both positioned to make noise in free agency this summer. While the Knicks have the salary cap space to sign two max free agents, the Nets have enough room to sign a superstar of their own.
Although the Knicks were the worst team in the NBA this season and the Nets were bounced by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, both teams should be invested in the playoffs. Nearly every major free agent on the market is still fighting for a championship in 2019.
Out of the realistic targets for the Knicks and Nets in free agency, five who are still alive in the playoffs have stood above the rest. Here’s how those five should rank based on their playoff performances.
5) Tobias Harris
There’s no shame in Tobias Harris clocking in at No. 5 on our list. He’s been a huge reason for Philly’s playoff success so far. He’s averaging 15.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Harris has been a rock for the Sixers on offense and defense thus far in the postseason.
However, he’s only shooting 32.1% in two games against the Toronto Raptors. Furthermore, he put up a dreadful performance in Game 1 of Philly’s first-round series against the Nets. He would bounce back in the rest of the series, but the rest of the guys on this list have been far more consistent.
Obviously, the Nets have long been interested in Harris and now there are rumors that he will at least consider Brooklyn. If Harris ends up with the Knicks, it’s going to be as the second star behind one of the next guys on this list.
4) Jimmy Butler
One could certainly make a case for giving Harris the slight edge over Jimmy Butler so far in the playoffs. Butler’s disappearing act in Game 1 against Toronto was the type of performance that should make the Knicks and Nets think long and hard about pursuing Butler.
However, his Game 2 performance reminded everyone why he’s one of the best players in the league. His 30 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists led the way to a crucial road victory for the Sixers. As Philly’s head coach Brett Brown puts it, Butler is “the adult in the room.”
He’s a cold-blooded killer in close games. We all know he has his flaws, but he’s come up big for the Sixers in big spots. Perhaps he can do that for the Knicks or the Nets next year.
3) Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving always seems to have another gear for the playoffs. When the lights are shining bright, he tends to deliver. Irving led the Boston Celtics to a convincing first-round sweep over the Indiana Pacers. He finished that series averaging 22.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game.
He picked up where he left off in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks with 26 points, seven rebounds, and 11 assists. However, he finished Game 2 with nine points on 4-for-18 shooting. Irving was a non-factor in the loss and undoubtedly the worst game his played during this postseason. Expect him to bounce back from the only blemish on his current playoff run.
Obviously, the Knicks and Irving have been linked multiple times over the course of the last year. Irving has always been mysterious about his offseason plans, but it’s possible he ends up coming back home.
2) Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard knows how to take his game to the next level once the regular season is over. He is putting up monstrous numbers so far and it’s abundantly clear why Toronto took on the risk of trading for Leonard. He’s a downright dominant player on both ends of the floor.
Thus far, he’s averaging 31.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. His best performance of the postseason came in Game 1 against the Sixers and Butler. Leonard calmly put up 45 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Philly had no answer for Leonard who only needed 23 shots to put up one of the most dominant playoff performances in recent memory.
Leonard always seems like a bit of an afterthought in free agent discussions. Perhaps it’s his quiet nature, but Leonard should be near the very top of the wish lists for the Knicks and the Nets.
1) Kevin Durant
The reason Leonard’s Game 1 against Philly is only one of the most dominant playoff performances in recent memory is because of Kevin Durant. You know who the most dominant player in the world is right now. It’s Kevin Durant.
Those pesky Los Angeles Clippers wouldn’t let the Golden State Warriors off easy in the first round. After winning two games in Oracle Arena, the Clips welcomed the Warriors back to LA for Game 6. Durant wasn’t playing around. He dropped 50 points on 28 shots.
There was no Pat Beverley gimmick that could stop KD on that night. Moreover, Durant had previously put up 45 in Game 5, 33 in Game 4, and 38 in Game 3.
He’s scored at least 29 points in his last six games and he’s averaging a ridiculous 34.3 points per game on 50/40/90 shooting splits.
There is no one on the planet who can touch Kevin Durant right now. There should be no doubt in the front offices of the Knicks or Nets. Durant is the golden goose. He’s the first player both teams should look to pursue as soon as the calendar turns to July.