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Battle of the Boroughs: 2019 could tell which team has brighter future?

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NBA: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks will meet for the third time this regular season. The two teams have a split record of 1-and-1 against each other this season and a 1-and-1 record during the preseason.

But that’s beside the point.

The two teams are in the midst of rebuilding, hoping a serious rivalry emerges between them ... more serious than when in preseason some words were exchanged between Spencer Dinwiddie and Enes Kanter over which team is the team of New York. Who has the brighter future. Who owns New York ... over the next decade.

Both are in the same situation in terms of their rebuilding efforts, getting the most out of draft picks and free agents that had been cast off by their previous employers. Both teams also have high hopes to land some high talent in the 2019 off-season, not just in free agency but in the Draft. The Knicks and Nets both have their own picks and the Nets have the Nuggets first — and the Knicks second.

With that said, who has the brighter future; the Brooklyn Nets or the New York Knicks? The next eight months could be crucial

Both teams are hoping to make at least one big signing during the 2019 free agency period. The Knicks are hoping to land Kevin Durant this offseason. After teammates Durant and Draymond Green had a heated argument, rumors started to swirl regarding Durant signing with the Knicks in 2019.

Not everyone is convinced they can. On 90.7 WFUV, the Fordham University student radio station, Adrian Wojnarowksi talked about whether the Knicks do have a shot at landing Kevin Durant this off-season. It won’t be easy.

Their focus is trying to get Kevin Durant and try to convince him to leave Golden State,” Woj said. “I think it will be a consideration for him whether it’s the primary one or whether that is what he is going to do. In years past, they were not able to get a meeting with Kevin Durant. I think that it is still an uphill climb for New York to lure a player like that but it is not out of the realm.

“Getting a player like Durant takes years of building up a program, building up an infrastructure, building credibility with what you’re doing and history kind of shows you that it doesn’t get short-circuited by a guy who’s a big free agent,” said Woj. “If you’re talking about Kevin Durant, some people say he may be the best player in the league.

“History also tells you that that player usually either stays where he is or he goes somewhere where something’s been established there and has been building toward this. The Knicks may not fit that description.”

As Woj also noted, the Knicks do have one big — very big— advantage, the All-Star talent of Kristaps Porzingis, as long as he’s healthy ... and wants to stay with the Knicks. Because of his injury, the Knicks chose not to extend him his off-season... the first time an All-Star on his rookie contract was so treated.

Still, David Fizdale, the New York Knicks head coach, has high hopes to land a star like KD. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Fizdale made his latest comments on the possibility during Thursday’s morning shootaround at TD Garden on whether the Knicks can land any star in 2019.

“That’s the first step in getting people to come to New York. When they see we have a really tight ship, really take care of our guys, our guys get better and get a lot of attention. Hopefully all of those things, with the combination of the understanding we have Kristaps Porzingis there, too, this team isn’t necessarily what our record is when you put him in the mix. We have something free agents will like.”

But as Woj noted, the Knicks are focusing so much of their off-season plans on Durant.

On the other hand, the Brooklyn Nets would also like to land a high-star caliper player but the focus is more incremental ... and much, much less public.

They will have to decide whether to keep free agents Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell, both of whom are going to be free agents. If the Nets don’t sign Dinwiddie between now and June 30. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019 while they can’t talk to Russell until July 1. when he will become a restricted free agent. Woj believes that the decision will come down to the numbers behind the deal.

“Usually in these instances, it’s going to come down to what’s the number on an extension that gets it done,” Woj said. “The Nets would very much like to keep him (Spencer Dinwiddie) and keep him long term.”

Still, said Woj, don’t expect any big deal. “Right now, Brooklyn’s got a young core I think they’re going to try to build with. I don’t think it makes sense for them to cash in those young players and draft picks to go get an established player. I think they will keep growing the way they are.”

If Dinwiddie does not reach an extension with the Nets, he will certainly be targeted by multiple teams. The Phoenix Suns have expressed interest fairly recently and during last season’s trade deadline, the Nets turned down a deal which involved the guard with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Orlando Magic are another team that has been trying to figure out their point guard position and have interest in Dinwiddie.

On the other hand, Russell’s value has yet to be determined. He has stepped up since Caris LeVert went down, is showing he wants to be the point guard for the future. Russell, who is still only 22 years old, is showing signs of potential and is playing like a second overall pick player.

None of this means the Nets won’t be a player in free agency. They may not have a Porzingis, but they do have a lot more cap space than the Knicks.

The Nets will have over $50 million in cap space for the 2019 off-season. Brooklyn only have seven players on their current roster locked up for the 2019-20 season.

Shabazz Napier ($1.85 million team option)

Treveon Graham ($1.7 million team option)

Rodions Kurucs ($1.7 million) (signed four-year $6.6 million)

Dzanan Musa ($1.9 million) (signed four-year $9.15 million)

Caris LeVert ($2.63 million team option)

Jarrett Allen ($2.38 million team option)

(Keep in mind, Allen Crabbe has an $18.5 million player option in June and the Nets will also be paying Deron Williams $5.5 million for the 2019-20 season, the last year of his four-year stretch deal.)

The main question is do the Nets have the ability to land a big market player in 2019. Luis Scola, who spent the 2016-17 season with the Brooklyn Nets, said in 2017 that Brooklyn can land whoever they want under one condition…

“Once they win, they can get whoever they want.”

Well, winning has jumped for the Nets since Kenny Atkinson took over the team but by small margins each season. That’s unlikely what Scola is talking about. Brooklyn are currently sitting at 9-18 on the year tied with the Knicks for 11th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Moreover, Caris LeVert will be out for a substantial part of the season. How will that effect free agent recruiting?

You’d think Tobias Harris, who is having a career year with the red hot Los Angeles Clippers, will likely be a free agent target for Brooklyn in 2019. The Long Island native is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and could be expecting a big contract come July. And no one can offer him what the Clippers can.

With trade season approaching in the NBA, Brooklyn could attempt to make deals for these players to benefit their future. Remember, Marks never talks about going after free agents the way the Knick brass does. He talks about “flexibiity,” that the ability to move in different directions.

Brooklyn could look into trading for Otto Porter Jr as well. In 2017, Porter Jr. signed a four-year $106.5 million deal with the Nets but the deal was matched by the Washington Wizards to bring him back to the nation’s capital. The Wizards, who have struggled this season, are open to trade talks but Marks may look to stay away from bringing on huge contract for an above average player. Still, it was the Nets who set his value and believed he is more than above average.

Another trade the Nets could make that could put them in the situation to better their future is trading for Markelle Fultz. Fultz, who was selected with the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, was diagnosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome and will be rehabbing for at least six weeks. With Fultz banged up, the Nets could make a gamble on the 76ers guard hoping he can play like the high potential guard he was at Washington in college.

Since landing a BIG market player might be out of Brooklyn’s reach, should they focus on landing a high pick in the 2019 NBA Draft? With things not going well for the Nets as of late, testing their odds in landing a high draft pick could be their answer.

The 2019 NBA Draft is expected to be one of the most anticipated draft classes in recent years with such names as Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett headlining the class.

If the Nets do strike a high pick, they will have the chance to draft a star player to their organization. If that is the case, this can increase the Nets chances of landing a star in 2020, assuming the pick shows promise in his rookie year.

The New York Knicks, who currently have the same record as the Brooklyn Nets, are also likely to get a high draft pick for the 2019 NBA Draft. Both teams still hold their rights to their own first round picks through 2025. The Nets have an extra first, the Denver pick this June.

It’s not hard to imagine Nets fans and Knick fans set up in rival bars for the May 14 Draft Lottery, then refreshing Woj in the weeks after.

It’s easy to argue that this is the “moment” for both franchise’s dreams. If the Knicks get Durant and pair with Porzingis, that’s going to be hard to top. On the other hand, if the Nets get Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett (okay, particularly Zion), it would draw a lot of attention to Barclays.