Knicks Rumors: NY Expected to Pursue Kawhi Leonard in 2019 NBA Free AgencyJune 6, 2019
Kevin Durant reportedly isn't the only franchise-changing star on the New York Knicks' radar for the upcoming offseason.
According to Steve Popper of Newsday, a source said the Eastern Conference team "is expected to push hard" for Toronto Raptors small forward Kawhi Leonard during free agency. Leonard has a player option for 2019-20, and declining it would allow him to become a free agent this offseason.
Popper acknowledged a pursuit of Durant is certainly in New York's plans but pointed out "there is a contingent in the Knicks front office that is enamored not just with Leonard's two-way talents on the court, but with the fact that he would bring little drama with him."
Marc Berman of the New York Post reported "Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry fully expect to get a meeting" with Leonard.
Popper suggested that convincing Leonard to come to New York "will be a hard sell for the Knicks" given the fact they are competing against a young and talented Los Angeles Clippers core and a Raptors team in the NBA Finals that made Leonard feel welcome all season.
New York missed the playoffs each of the last six years and traded franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis during the 2018-19 season. This is a critical offseason, as the Knicks could potentially chase after multiple max-salary players in a free-agency class that includes Durant, Leonard and Kyrie Irving, among others.
Leonard is the type of player who could immediately propel the Knicks back into contention. He led Toronto to its first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history during his inaugural season with the team and has the Raptors up 2-1 against the mighty Golden State Warriors after Wednesday's Game 3 victory.
The San Diego State product has already built the early stages of a Hall of Fame resume with three All-NBA selections, three All-Star appearances, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, five All-Defensive nods and the 2014 NBA Finals MVP with the San Antonio Spurs.
He averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals this season for Toronto and has the ability to take over a game on both sides of the floor.
It should come as no surprise a desperate Knicks team is interested in adding him to the roster.