Kawhi Leonard Rumors: Knicks 'Plan to Aggressively Pursue' Raptors Star in FA

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2019

TORONTO,ONTARIO - JUNE 10:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors warms up prior to action against the Golden State Warriors in Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 10, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The New York Knicks are reportedly looking to be part of the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes in free agency during the offseason.

According to SNY.tv's Ian Begley, the Knicks "plan to aggressively pursue" Leonard provided he opts out of his deal with the Toronto Raptors as expected.

Begley noted that New York remains interested in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency as well and that the team has had at least one discussion with the New Orleans Pelicans regarding a trade for Anthony Davis.

With Leonard and the Raptors just one win away from an NBA championship, there is seemingly a growing belief that the superstar forward will re-sign with Toronto.

The Los Angeles Clippers have long been viewed as the biggest threat to sign Leonard away from the Raptors since he is a Riverside, California, native. Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported last week that the Clippers are preparing for him to re-sign with Toronto.

Leonard, who turns 28 near the end of this month, is a one-time NBA Finals MVP, and he is in line to win another if Toronto is able to close out the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 or 7 of the 2019 Finals. Not that he needs it, but being named MVP would give Kawhi even more leverage on the open market.

Aside from a bigger media market and potentially more sponsorship opportunities, the Knicks can't offer Leonard much more than the Raptors. Toronto can give him significantly more money and is a far superior team than the last-place Knicks (17-65).

New York desperately needs a player of Leonard's ilk, but it may have to look elsewhere in order to land one.

With Durant potentially set to miss the entire 2019-20 season if his Achilles injury is diagnosed as a tear, KD can't provide an immediate boost. Also, those within the Knicks reportedly believe Irving favors the Brooklyn Nets if he opts to leave the Boston Celtics.

As for Davis, it can be argued that New York doesn't have the assets needed to land him. Would a package involving some combination of Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft on June 20 be enough to entice the Pels? Perhaps not.

Given the obstacles the Knicks are facing in terms of making a big splash in free agency or on the trade market, making a big run at Leonard may be their best chance at becoming a competitive team next season and turning around their moribund franchise.


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