NBA free agency updates: Where will Paul George go after opting out?

The Empire State Building lit blue and orange Tuesday night, officially celebrating a Mets victory. But the lights sparked into those same colors for the Knicks mere minutes after news broke that New York sent a staggering five first-round picks across the East River in order for Brooklyn to finally part with defensive stalwart Mikal Bridges.

Rival teams were sensing Brooklyn’s growing willingness to part with Bridges in recent days, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Utah and Houston were two of the other teams league personnel had mentioned were actively involved in pursuing Bridges. The Nets had swept away offers for Bridges in previous transaction cycles that compiled as many as four first-round picks, sources said. And through Monday, none of Brooklyn’s conversations with those three teams or others were considered anything close to serious, sources said. That is until the Knicks came back with four unprotected first rounders — beginning in 2025 — plus a protected first-round pick from the Bucks, and then the rights for Brooklyn to swap firsts with New York in 2028, league sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports.

It all equates to six total years of draft capital, one of the largest — if not the largest — returns for a player never to be named an All-Star in NBA history. Bridges is arguably worth more to the Knicks than any other team, a chance to bring a fourth Wildcat from Villanova’s three-year run behind Jalen Brunson that netted national titles in 2016 and 2018. Bridges also marks as one of the best options New York could have found to counter Boston’s lineup of two-way wings that just claimed this year’s championship. Bridges always had an eye for New York, sources said, especially after the Knicks added Donte DiVincenzo last summer following the February 2023 trade deadline deal that brought Josh Hart through the door. These Wildcat connections run deep, and Kyle Lowry has even been mentioned by NBA figures as a target for New York in free agency, sources said.

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