The Brooklyn Nets are heading to the playoffs.
The New York Knicks are heading home.
Is this a sign that powers have shifted in New York, or do the Knicks still own Big Apple basketball?
“Good for us, good for our brand, good for Brooklyn basketball,” Williams said this morning before the Tuesday night’s Knicks-Nets season finale in Brooklyn. “It’s part of the takeover.”
Is the takeover that Williams refers to really happening?
If only for a year or so, yes.
From a success standpoint, Brooklyn clearly has the upperhand. The Nets are 44-38 after losing their final game of the regular season against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks are 37-45 after a home win against the Toronto Raptors. The Nets got off to a terrible 3-10 start to the year, but are an impressive 17-9 since the beginning of March. The Knicks have been awful pretty much all season, with a few minor win streaks thrown in here and there.
Both rosters are loaded with expensive, veteran players with little room for tweaking. The Nets and Knicks already have at least $80 million in committed salary for next season, well above a cap that should come in around $60 million. Neither can go out and sign a big free agent and both will have to rely on internal improvements instead.
For the Nets, this isn’t a big deal. Brooklyn has proven it can win with the roster as currently constructed. They should also be getting center Brook Lopez back next season following foot and ankle surgeries. Lopez was leading the team with 20.7 points and a 25.5 PER in his 17 games this year before surgery.
While the Nets will be getting a star player back, the Knicks may lose theirs.
It’s well known that Carmelo Anthony can opt out to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and has remained noncommittal about a return to the Knicks. Losing Anthony would be devastating for New York, as the All-Star forward averaged 27.4 points and 8.1 rebounds a game this season.
The Nets roster looks to remain mostly intact, with Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston being the only rotation players set to hit free agency (per shamsports.com). Both have played major roles for Brooklyn this season, but neither leaving would cripple the franchise the way Anthony leaving the Knicks would.
The real test for a true “takeover” will happen next summer.
In 2015, the Nets will only have Deron Williams and Joe Johnson under guaranteed contracts. This will also be the first time Brooklyn could have some available cap space to spend. Still, Williams and Johnson’s salaries will be a combined $46 million, leaving little room to sign a third star. If Brook Lopez accepts his $16.7 million player option for the 2015-16 season, the Nets may not have any space to add another impact player.
The Knicks, on the other hand, will be in great shape. After the 2014-15 season, New York will see the contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire ($23.4 million), Tyson Chandler ($14.6 million) and Andrea Bargnani ($11 million) all come off the books. Even if Anthony signs a max contract with the Knicks, they should still have close to $30 million in cap space to spend. It’s worth noting that players like Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge can all become free agents that summer.
So has Brooklyn taken over basketball in New York?
For now, it would appear so. Looking just a year down the road, however, and the Knicks could easily be back on top.
-Stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.