New York Knicks owner James Dolan recently made headlines. After being heckled by a fan telling him to “sell the team!”, Dolan threatened him with a ban from Madison Square Garden.
The exchange shows the frustration among Knicks fans. Currently at 14-57, the Knicks have the worst record in the NBA, and are in the Zion Williamson sweepstakes.
Since taking over the team in 1999, Dolan’s ownership has been chaotic and produced little results. While he inherited a Jeff Van Gundy-coached team that made it to the NBA Finals and had success in the playoffs after, the franchise has been an almost total disaster.
Despite some mild playoff success with the core of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks have had losing seasons throughout most of Dolan’s ownership. The Knicks have finished in the bottom five of the Eastern Conference 12 times since Van Gundy departed, and are on their 12th coach in the same time period.
While not entirely, the Knicks struggles fall on Dolan. Appointing NBA legends like Isiah Thomas and Phil Jackson to leadership positions has proved to be awful for the franchise. Poor management has led to some terrible free agent signings and trades. The franchise even traded away their most valuable asset, Kristaps Porzingis, earlier this year.
In short, Knicks fans have a right to feel like their team deserves new ownership. Under Dolan, the once storied franchise has become the butt of many NBA jokes.
Despite the dysfunction, the Knicks are still heavily rumored to be a landing spot for many of this summer’s marquee free agents. After the Porzingis trade, the Knicks freed up tons of cap space at $74 million.
In a loaded class, could this be the offseason that gets New York back on the winning track? Here are the names that the Knicks should go after in the summer of 2019.
The most talked about name for the Knicks heading into the offseason is Kevin Durant. With rumors swirling, KD jumping ship from Golden State is a real possibility. Durant will have potentially won a third championship, and New York is a place where he can have a team to himself with minimal pressure.
KD to the Knicks would give them a superstar they desperately need, and land them the best player in the history of the franchise. If he gives the Knicks the time of day, they need to sign him at all costs.
Durant is only 30, and still has multiple years of prime basketball ahead of him. This season, he is averaging roughly 27 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Durant is the perfect player to bring the Knicks back to relevancy. If the rumors are true, New York could be back in the playoff picture next season.
One struggling owner could benefit from another, as Hornets point guard Kemba Walker could choose to depart from Michael Jordan’s ownership in Charlotte. Walker is one of the league’s more underrated stars, making his third All-Star appearance this season.
A Bronx native, Walker’s New York connection could sway him away from Charlotte.
“MSG is a special place, the Knicks are a special team,” Walker said in 2018. “Of course I was a Knicks fan growing up. But like I said, I really can’t see myself in a Knicks jersey, only because I’ve only been in one jersey.”
While the Knicks have been rumored to be after Kyrie Irving at the point guard position this summer, signing Walker is a more likely scenario, given Boston’s promising future and potential playoff run.
With or without KD, the Knicks should offer Walker a max contract this summer. Currently, at $12 million per year, Walker’s stellar play deserves a bigger contract. Walker is averaging a career-high in scoring this season with 25 points, along with 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
Jimmy Butler/Tobias Harris
After two big trades this season, the 76ers now have four players that could potentially earn max contracts in the future. The two newest additions, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, aren’t locked-in long term yet. Butler has a player option after this season, and Harris is a restricted free agent.
Since Philly will no doubt want to retain Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in the future, one of the newest 76ers may have to leave in free agency. The Knicks should try and steal one of these players away from their division rival if they hit the market.
Harris may be the more attractive option, as he is three years younger than Butler at 26 years old. Harris is averaging a career-high in scoring this season at 20.6 points along with 7.9 rebounds per game.
Butler’s numbers have slightly dipped on his new team, but is still playing productive basketball. He is averaging 18.7 points per game, as well as 5.2 rebounds and 4 assists.
What happens with Philly this offseason largely depends on how they do in the playoffs. The 76ers are third in the Eastern Conference right now, with Indiana and Boston close behind. If Philly’s ‘big four’ breaks up this offseason, the Knicks should sign one of them.
Dolan’s last chance?
In addition to the star names, there are many other great players in this summer’s free agent class. Patrick Beverly, Nikola Vucevic, Marcus Morris, Isaiah Thomas and others are all players that the Knicks could sign in addition to one or two star players.
The Knicks also have a good chance of getting the number one pick in the draft. Zion Williamson is projected by many to make any team instantly better, even as a rookie. Head coach David Fizdale, who was a successful assistant in Miami before coaching Memphis, will continue to get better in his role with the team.
With lots of cap space and interest from stars, a potential number one pick, and a promising head coach, the Knicks have to make this offseason successful. If the Knicks come up empty-handed at the end of free agency, it will be proof of Dolan’s impact on the franchise with the biggest market in the NBA.
If Dolan and the Knicks can’t have a successful offseason with everything going in their favor, fans should demand an owner who will turn the team around.
Featured image courtesy of the New York Times.