The New York Knicks have gone from the perceived front-runner to sign Kevin Durant to perhaps the biggest long shot among teams with the means to do so. That could quickly change if Kyrie Irving chooses the Knicks, but the leader to land him remains the Brooklyn Nets. It appears the Knicks are already organizing their Plan B should they strike out on Durant, and it could mean a “considerable” one-year offer for DeMarcus Cousins, per Marc Stein of The New York Times.

The Knicks are weighing the prospect of extending a considerable one-year offer to Warriors free-agent big man DeMarcus Cousins if they miss out on top target Kevin Durant, league sources say

The Knicks have remained steadfast that if they miss on their primary targets they will not overspend on second-tier free agents like Tobias Harris or even Kemba Walker, who the Knicks reportedly view as a “situational” max player rather than one who can carry a contending team and warrant a major financial commitment on his own.

New York’s contingency plan to getting Durant or Irving or Kawhi Leonard is to sign short-term deals to keep their cap space and overall flexibility in place for upcoming free agent classes. Cousins was relatively decent in 30 regular-season games for Golden State, averaging 16 points and eight boards as he made a respectable effort to adapt his game to the Warriors’ style of play while working his way back from his torn Achilles at the same time.

Cousins’ production fell off in the playoffs after he suffered a second significant injury in the first round against the Clippers — this time a torn quad. By the time he returned for the Finals, he clearly wasn’t 100 percent and fluctuated between unplayable and surprisingly useful when the Warriors were in desperate need of anything that even resembled productive minutes from their bench.

All told, Cousins did not do nearly enough in his one year with Golden State to warrant a long-term commitment from anyone, meaning wherever he goes will effectively be another short-term tryout for one last run at a big contract before his prime passes him by.

You could understand the move, if you’re the Knicks and you strike out on the big free agents. You don’t commit any money beyond this year and maybe Cousins pops. If he doesn’t, you wash your hands and start again next summer with cap space in place. That said, even if Cousins does pop, what else does New York have that would even make it a playoff team? Perhaps if Cousins did play to somewhere near a max level he would give them a leg up in re-signing him the following summer.

That, of course, is the new trend in the NBA: Bring in guys on short commitments and use the year to sell them on something longer and bigger — only in this case, Cousins would have to sell the team on his abilities as well.


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