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The Knicks won’t sign a big free agent next summer. That’s OK.

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There’s more than one way to build a winner.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

MMiranda: Who’s the biggest free agent signing in Knicks history? I’ll wait.

Reader, there was no free agency for most of the NBA’s existence. Ergo, riddle me this: who’s the biggest free agent the Knicks have signed in your lifetime? My “big three” def deserve to be lowercase.

Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire and Allan Houston combined for zero rings, one Finals and four All-Star appearances in 16 full seasons. Their best chances of entering the Hall of Fame are the same as yours: buying a ticket.

A lot of Knick fans’ favorite narrative this season is the stuff of fairy tales, organized religion and power bottoms: take a pounding; it’s worth it. Verily, brethren and sistren, all ye shall inherit is the blustery wind of public relations. Kevin Durant is not signing here. Be real. Why would he?

New York City doesn’t mean what New York City used to. It’s more and more a playground for the rich, and if you’re filthy rich there are nicer playgrounds to play in. NYC means winters and taxes. What’s the value in being a global media capital when the internet makes all the world a stage for receiving and transmitting media? KD wouldn’t be leaving Oklahoma for New York. The Bay Area ain’t exactly a small pond.

Think about Durant’s NBA experience. He’ll never be loved here like he was in OKC. Never be the key that unlocks a dynasty like he’s been in Oakland. New York means more media and more criticism while facing the nearly impossible mission statement of title-or-you-suck.

His prime is past. Durant is 31 next season. I recently completed 10 years of intensive empirical research and can attest your 30s are not nearly as easy breezy on the body as your 20s. KD was a god in Oklahoma City, then was Golden State’s Prometheus, bringing the fire that brought an apotheosis. For all the crap he took about taking the easy way out with Golden State, remember: the Warriors were 1-1 in the Finals without him, and even before blowing a 3-1 lead to Cleveland were down 3-1 to OKC. We talk about them now like they’ve always been this inevitable machine. Nope.

Despite the individual and team accolades, he is the most sensitive, burner-account-having superstar in Creation. Does this strike you as a man who’d be comfortable facing more scrutiny as he ages and declines?

He just wants to be loved; despite all his success, he still feels in need of more love. That’s unlikely in New York. There’s one reason he’d sign here: because you want him to. Bubbalah, you know you never get what you want.

Shwinny: Well, that was...........depressing.

I don’t think Durant signing with the Knicks is likely. If you’re going to bet on Knicks or notKnicks for which NBA team he’ll rain death from above for, notKnicks is the more realistic choice.

However, there are differences in the Knicks’ current roster makeup in advance of a free agent star chase armed with max space compared to previous similar forays into the arena. They have a potential franchise cornerstone caliber player in Kristaps Porzingis, assuming the Latvian makes a full recovery. They have all of their first round picks moving forward with a high likelihood of adding Zion another lottery talent to their current young core of Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Damyean Dotson, and Allonzo Trier. They even have a halfway decent starting two-guard on the roster who hasn’t entered his prime yet in Tim Hardaway Jr.

There’s genuine potential for the team to improve internally with the development of said young talent. This isn’t a situation the Knicks have been in previously where young talent and picks were jettisoned in order for the Knicks to clear enough cap space to make big free agent splashes. Thus far the Scott Perry/Steve Mills combo has resisted such an urge, although there have been murmurs of that not being entirely set in stone of late.

If this young team can win around 30-35 games, similar to the Lakers last year, on the strength of the pieces in place, perhaps KD (or Kawhi Leonard) looks at the situation as one where they have the chance to get in on the ground floor of something special. Probably not, though, and that’s fine.

Ideally the Knicks would be able to land a star, but for the first time in a long time there’s reason for optimism moving forward even if there’s no deus ex machina on the immediate free agent horizon. Young talent with upside, picks and cap flexibility provide multiple options and avenues to improve the roster and get another star to pair with Porzingis in an East suddenly coursing with talent.

Developing one among the current roster candidates is ideal, but also uncertain. I love Frank’s defensive chops, but he’s far far away like Dorothy offensively. Knox could certainly develop into a versatile scorer, but he’s 19 and likely more than a few years away from actualizing potential into consistent plus production. MitchRob? ISO Zo? Dot? Unknown 2019 first round pick? It’s dicey!

So how can the Knicks acquire another star with the assets at their disposal and by leveraging their cap space if they can’t sign one outright this summer in free agency? WHAT DO WE DO WITH ALL THIS CAP SPACE IF WE CANNOT SIGN A STAR RIGHT NOW???

Well, it’s important to look at the stars that have moved over the last few years. Kyrie Irving? Traded. Paul George? Dealt. Jimmy Butler? Sent packing. Twice.

I think you get an idea of where I’m going with this...

M: I think so. And just like hearing “President Trump” always sounds wrong, where we’re going may sound wrong, but could be — could be — the new normal.

How often does a big-time talent become available in a trade, and the Knicks are immediately out of the running ‘cuz they’re over the cap and/or have no draft picks and/or have no reasonable contracts and/or have no appealing young talent? Now imagine if Emmanuel Mudiay establishes value as a young guard, or Noah Vonleh as a versatile big. Trier on a team-friendly deal has value.

Hardaway is a certified scorer who’s slowly but steadily expanded his game. If the Knicks were to re-sign Mudiay or Vonleh to a deal averaging $10M per, slightly below what the better-but-older Spencer Dinwiddie just got from Brooklyn, that plus Hardaway would be about $30M.

Anthony Davis might be looking for new home soon. If Giannis Antekounmpo ever bats an eyelash the Knicks’ way, we’ll forgive the Porzingis injury and forget the Mario Hezonja stepover quicker than Mitchell Robinson gets in foul trouble. Nobody saw Kawhi going to Toronto till it happened. Just over a year ago Butler led the Timberwolves with 38 points against the 76ers. Neil Gaiman and Haruki Murakami high on PCP could never have imagined Blake Griffin a Piston. Trades are like the lotto: you gotta play to win. Young talent on reasonable deals + younger cheaper talent with upside + draft picks, the youngest cheapest most upside-ing-ist talent of all = a lotto ticket.

S: We agree a trade for a star TBD is possible down the line. We disagree on what Mudiay should get paid even if he keeps up his current level of play. He’s just not worth an eight figure per year salary unless he significantly improves his playmaking or defense. The former is possible, the latter...not likely.

I don’t think even this improved version of Mudiay would get more than $6-7M per, and probably not for more than two years guaranteed. Him being an RFA probably depresses his market too. Who the fuck is going to try to fix their PG problem by attempting to make an unpalatable offer the Knicks are reluctant to match? Yeah, not happening.

Whatever, the point stands. I get what you’re saying. I’d say more than Mud, it’s Vonleh who could potentially be retained on a not-too-lucrative-and-therefore-becomes-valuable contract. If he sustains this level of play for the rest of the year you almost have to bring him back. He’d be such a good foil for Kristaps and we know he dovetails nicely with Mitch. Hell, he can even play some small ball five and he’s just 23. Say you can get him for 3 years, $30M. Seems reasonable, no?

So now the Knicks have Frank, Knox, Trier, Dotson, Mudiay, Vonleh, 2019 lotto pick X, Tim (potentially in the last year of his deal, has a player option for 2019-20 worth about $19M) and all of the team’s first round picks moving forward. Assuming Kristaps is realistically not going to be involved in any trade offer for another star, that’s at least a collection of rookie scale players, young vets and contracts that could be of interest to a team looking to replenish their cupboard by dealing a star.

Still, the Knicks could potentially have even more in the bag to deal if they can get off Courtney Lee’s contract without sacrificing any major asset. There are plenty of good players available this summer aside from the top-end stars we’re all familiar with. Players like Khris Middleton, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, D’Angelo Russell, Tyreke Evans, Tobias Harris, JaMychal Green, etc. will be on the market.

Even if the Knicks are able to deal Lee for nothing after inking Vonleh and Mudiay to the deals I suggested above, it may not create enough space to sign everybody on that list, but good players fall through the cracks and end up signing for less than you’d expect all the time. A perfect example is Lou Williams signing for three years, $21M in the summer of 2015 with the Lakers. During a summer when the league was throwing around money like Michael Jordan at a poker table, Sweet Lou, perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate and one of the all-time great bench scorers, signed for a relative pittance.

The contract was so valuable that by the trade deadline of the first season of his deal the Lake Show was able to flip him for a late first round pick from Houston, where he played so well they were able to use him as one of the primary pieces to land Chris Paul. That’s how a good contract for a good player can return value over and over again.

The NBA is ultimately an asset game. Your goal is to acquire as many good and attractive assets as possible and turn them into superstars when possible. The Knicks have rarely had the chance to explore all avenues playing the asset collection game due to a lack of patience, planning and foresight. For once, they find themselves in a position where all paths could lead to Rome, not just one or another. It would behoove them to view it that way even if they can’t convince a Durant or a Kawhi to sign this summer.

M: If a business projects $1B in profits and earns $750M, it’s considered disappointing...even though they made $750,000,000.00! That’s clearly insane. But we do something similar with the Knicks. Conventional wisdom says teams need tons of cap space or tons of high draft picks to succeed as title contenders; failure to pursue one or both of these avenues is failure. Sign a recently discarded 21-year-old lottery pick from a few years ago who’s shown growth and confidence and put up 30+ points and 6+ assists in two of their last three games and all our corporate eyes see is an asset to be assessed and maximized in pursuit of a future and bottom line that’s easier to imagine.

As for conventional wisdom: how many good teams, now or recently, are built around max-salaried signings and top lottery picks?

Toronto traded for Kawhi in a deal centered around DeMar DeRozan, whom they selected 9th in 2009. Boston collected its spoils from a pair of one-sided trades with division rivals and nabbed Kyrie Irving from Cleveland just before purgatory hit. Milwaukee drafted Antetokounmpo 15th. Indiana traded for Victor Oladipo and drafted both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner 11th. Golden State drafted Steph Curry, Klay and Draymond Green 8th, 11th and 35th. The Thunder traded for George. Houston traded for James Harden and Chris Paul. Utah selected Donovan Mitchell 13th and Rudy Gobert 27th.

The Knicks are giving youth the chance to learn on-the-job. Nothing wrong with that. They probably won’t sign any of the big names we dream about. Nothing wrong with that. Remember about 15 years ago when Phoenix became good, and were renowned for their medical staff? It was a feather in their cap that everyone around the league knew their medical department seemed to treat or heal players better than other teams. That makes you a destination.

David Fizdale and company have already done more with players like Mudiay and Vonleh than anyone would have dreamt six months ago. Building a culture doesn’t just mean signing a superstar or coach to berate co-workers. It can be alerting the Association that you’re a professional development hub.

Nothing wrong with watching a team build up young players. We’re not stockholders. Whatever your dreams are for Ntilikina, what he puts up in year two won’t validate or invalidate them. Progress is progressive. It’s OK to build a team around improving young players and diverse talent spread across a range of reasonable deals. That way when that star no one’s thinking of yet suddenly becomes available, you’ve got a seat at the table, ticket in hand, eye on the prize.