With Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler rumored to have interest in teaming up, the New York Knicks should make a play for them as the alternative.
The New York Knicks’ Plan A is out the window with the Kevin Durant injury, which has turned everything on its side. Durant can still re-sign, take a max deal with Warriors and be traded next summer or join Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, where the 2016 NBA champion has been linked to.
Plan B should be to entice the other superstar, Kawhi Leonard to take his talents to the Big Apple. Los Angeles and Toronto are nice but the Knicks should offer him the chance to play with Jimmy Butler and enough cap to go fill the roster with secondary players and compete for a championship.
According to SNY’s Ian Begley, teams have actually explored pairing Leonard and Butler this summer, with the need to clear two maximum contract spots to fit them.
These two have interest in playing on the same team, as Begley noted. If that interest is high enough, it could leave the Raptors behind and set up an arrival with, hypothetically, the Clippers.
"“This doesn’t suggest that Leonard is seeking to team up with any other player; that doesn’t fit his persona. But teams interested in pairing Leonard and Butler believe they would have interest in playing together.”"
A pairing of Butler and Leonard could be the second coming of Dwayne Wade and LeBron James in Miami. They both may play on the wing but both are comfortable playing with or without the ball. The best part is that they both are terrific defenders, so on nights they struggle they can still provide an impact on the game. Most fans can accept a Leonard signing after we saw what he did this past year, carrying the Raptors to the title. But pairing him with Jimmy Butler? Is he even a star or worth a max contract?
For all of the issues with Butler in Minnesota or the red flags that he could be on his fourth team in the last two years, the numbers have stayed steady at any destination. The numbers, especially in the playoffs, were productive. The Sixers were a staggering 114.5 offensive rating with Butler on the court, without him it dropped down to 97.9. That is Plus-16.6.
On defense, the Sixers were a 103.7 defensive rating with Butler and without him they plummeted to 116.6 rating, which is a net Minus-12.9 rating. The Sixers were a Plus-10.8 rating with Butler on the court and a Minus-18.7 without him.
Butler may lack in the three-point department, but he is one of the best iso players in the league and one of the top defenders in the league. His value really shows up in the playoffs when the game is tighter and more half-court oriented.
All doubters of Butler’s talent look at the teams he left, as neither the Bulls or T-Wolves have made the postseason without him, and he helped with Sixers succeed this season as they were one bounce away from going to the conference finals.
Pairing Butler and Leonard together should be Plan B for the Knicks. The New York Knicks offseason took a hit with Irving looking to Brooklyn and Durant not decided about his future. The Knicks can offer Leonard the chance to play with other stars with their immense amount of cap space. This is one difference the New York Knicks can offer that most teams cannot match without shedding players.
The idea of pairing Leonard and Butler, using the rest of the cap to add important role players plus ammo to trade for another star should be the plan and the picture they should sell to Leonard this summer.