Knicks Rumors: Kawhi Leonard is an option, but other teams are likelier

Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks have been linked to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for the past year, but where does another top free agent like Kawhi Leonard fit into the mix?

Despite $74 million in cap space this summer, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been the only names from a stacked class linked to the New York Knicks. No Jimmy Butler. No Klay Thompson. No Kemba Walker.

What about Kawhi Leonard? The star who departed for the Toronto Raptors after a trade request, he will also become a free agent, but what are New York’s chances with him?

Per ESPN’s Ian Begley, while Durant and Irving are the likely targets, the Knicks “could go after” Leonard, as people close to him think this organization is a “possible destination.”

However, Begley noted the “general feeling” around the NBA is Leonard will return to the Raptors or sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, who have ample cap space to spend and offers a hometown residence.

Executives also did their “homework” on this free agent class, Begley added, and they think Durant signs and takes Irving with him. That would all but rule Leonard out for arriving, given the cap space needed to add two max contracts.

Dating back to the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year’s time in San Antonio, Leonard spent a chunk of his quadriceps injury rehab in New York in the 2017-18 season. Familiarity exists, and Leonard’s famed uncle from last year’s saga, Dennis Robertson, reportedly wanted his nephew in New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles.

Toronto eventually became the destination by the Spurs’ choice, but Leonard led the Raptors to the NBA’s second-best record and, so far, a spot in the second round of the Eastern Conference.

If Leonard leaves, the Knicks have the same package to offer him as they do for Durant, Irving and the other top names: the chance to sign another superstar free agent, wherever they land in the top five of the 2019 NBA Draft, head coach David Fizdale and a roster with a handful of intriguing, young players headlined by Mitchell Robinson.

Even with that, it’s all about where these star players are comfortable playing. It goes beyond winning, which Durant can do in Golden State, Irving in Boston and even Leonard in Toronto for a few years. These players have brands to establish and grow to make money, which is even past just general basketball. The big markets receive attention for a reason.

Maybe Durant, Irving and Leonard are just fond of playing in New York. Madison Square Garden is “The Mecca” of venues, entrenched in the middle of Manhattan. There is a legacy behind wearing the blue and orange that extends to Walt Frazier, Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing.

Next. 2019 NBA Mock Draft as the lottery nears. dark

Leonard’s situation, perhaps, has the least clarity of the top names. His silent persona leaves a laundry list of questions and no answers, much like the saga in San Antonio that never had a satisfying end. So if he likes the New York Knicks, no one will know until he signs the dotted line.