The 2021 NBA Free Agent class isn’t as loaded as years past, but there is still some very good talent to be had. Leading this class is two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has a player option for the 2021-2022 season and there is speculation he may opt-out and hit the open market. Similar to the Leonard-leaving speculation, there is the same amount of speculation he could join the Knicks. I’m going to list some pros and cons of the Klaw joining the Knicks.
Why Kawhi Would Work:
There are tons of positives. Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of Year, two-time Finals MVP, leader, and bonafide superstar. All of these are qualities the Knicks need and were missing this past season. Leonard is the perfect player for the Knicks and an even better leader for this young team. 2020-2021 was one of Leonard’s best seasons, as he had a career-high in minutes, 24.8 points, a .398 percent from three, and a career-high offensive rating at 126. The craziest part about these stats? Leonard isn’t even considered a scorer–he’s better known for his defense. He had 1.6 steals per game this season, which is over half a steal more than any player on the Knicks.
When Leonard is on the floor, you know the opposing team’s best player is in for a long night. In his entire NBA career so far, he has locked down top scorers and will continue to do so. The Knicks needed a defensive presence on the perimeter desperately this season. Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock are serviceable for that, but if you have a chance to get Kawhi you have to take it.
Leonard has developed into the definition of a 3-and-D, but he’s also a proven winner–he hasn’t missed the playoffs. As I said before, he has won multiple Finals MVPs, Championships in the East and West, and has a great track record. Head coach Tom Thibodeau and Leonard is something I’d love to see. Having a player that prioritizes defense and can take over is Thibodeau’s wildest fantasy. Not to mention, adding Leonard would make the Knicks a real player in free agency during his tenure.
Why Kawhi Wouldn’t Work:
Unfortunately, Leonard joining the Knicks would have a couple of downsides. He is coming off a knee injury that nobody really knows the extent of. Some reported it’s a torn ACL and others say it’s just a sprain. As we saw this year with Kevin Durant, you can come back from these bad injuries. Yes, Durant’s was different, but it still could be a bad knee injury. The Knicks do have a lot of cap space to sign Leonard, but do they have the pieces around him? I think they’re a few years away, but maybe Leonard could accelerate that process. Signing him would be an enormous investment, and you know he won’t play every game. If you’re Leon Rose, is that a chance you’re willing to take?
Down the line, signing Leonard could affect the Knicks in resigning current players such as Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and RJ Barrett. Also, if you sign Leonard, you plug one hole while still having two to three more holes and way less money.
I want the Knicks to sign Kawhi Leonard. Do I think they will? Unfortunately, I don’t. I think the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks have a much better chance. New York is a big city like LA, but New York doesn’t have any significant ties for Leonard. Right now I’d put the Knicks at third with the Miami Heat to acquire Leonard’s services.
The Knicks are more than a Kawhi Leonard away from competing. That along with New York not having another superstar is what leads me to make this decision. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but let’s just see what the front office is able to do this time around.