NBA Rumors: Latest Free-Agent Buzz on Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Knicks

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 25, 2019

TORONTO, CANADA - NOVEMBER 29: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors look on during the game on November 29, 2018 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
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While the NBA free-agent market won't officially open until 6 p.m. ET on Sunday to kick off the moratorium period, the starting date is close enough to send the rumor mill in a frenzy.

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this summer.

Marquee talents like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are all up for grabs, and the league has prepared accordingly. Several clubs have carefully created or preserved max-contract space, and a couple of them have room for two.

In other words, the amount of attention on this subject is more than warranted, so let's break down the latest buzz.


KD, Uncle Drew Partnership?

NBA defenses beware. Durant and Irving, who averaged nearly 50 points per game combined last season, could be coming to a hyperpowered offense near you.

The former U.S. national team running mates have reportedly "met twice in recent weeks to discuss their desire to continue their careers on the same team," sources told Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher. They reportedly met once in the Bay Area while Durant was sidelined by a strained right calf and later in New York after his ruptured Achilles was surgically repaired.

A divorce between Irving and the Boston Celtics feels inevitable after the team flamed out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in unspectacular fashion. A split between Durant and the Golden State Warriors has seemed a distinct possibility all season and might have become more likely after his injury.

Sources told Bucher that Durant "is not happy with the team," presumably over the handling of his return to action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and subsequent injury.

Should the two electric scorers come together, it seems one already has a preferred destination in mind. Sources told Bucher that Irving is "pressing" Durant to join him with the Brooklyn Nets and trying to loop in DeAndre Jordan, another of Durant's close friends.

Not coincidentally, the Nets are now "exploring the feasibility" of adding Jordan, sources told Marc Stein of the New York Times.

If Durant and Irving want to join forces, the opportunity is there.


Kawhi, Clippers Scheduled a Date?

Brace yourselves, Toronto Raptors fans.

The Los Angeles Clippers, long viewed as the biggest threat to poach Kawhi Leonard in free agency, will get a chance to shoot their shot at the reigning Finals MVP.

The team and star free agent are "tentatively scheduled" to meet July 2, per The Athletic's Frank Isola.

The Raptors have always known Leonard is a possible flight risk. The Southern California native reportedly sought a homecoming for months, per a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski in December, but Toronto's run to its first NBA championship has given Leonard plenty to think about.

Over the weekend, sources told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes that Leonard "is believed to be seriously considering re-signing with the Raptors."

Toronto can offer a ready-made contender. Should he opt for a short deal, he could try to make another run and then search for a new city in a year or two.

L.A. can give him the comforts of home, plus a strong supporting cast. With a little maneuvering, the Clippers could also open a second max slot and theoretically allow him to pick his preferred running mate.

This won't be an easy decision and feels like a coin flip at this point.


Patience Is Knicks' Plan B?

The New York Knicks are dreaming as large in free agency as their major-market home says they should.

Their largest contract guarantee for next season is under $5 million. They can bring multiple elites together, and if that happens, the 'Bockers could become basketball's next superteam.

But they plan on being picky.

They believe they're in the running for Leonard, Irving and/or Durant. But if they can't snag one of those A-listers, they "will punt their $70 million-plus in cap space," a source told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. In other words, if they can't sign a megastar this summer, they'll instead hand out one-year contracts to save space for next summer's biggest and brightest stars.

Being diligent is never a bad idea. The last thing the Knicks want to do is leave this offseason with the equivalent of their $72 million mistake on Joakim Noah.

There is a catch, though. The 2020 free-agency market doesn't offer much star power, especially if Anthony Davis sticks with the Los Angeles Lakers. Ben Simmons and Pascal Siakam will both be restricted free agents if they aren't extended before then. Draymond Green and DeMar DeRozan will each be on the wrong side of 30, and neither is capable of carrying his club to a title.

So, while the Knicks should be overly cautious about an overpay this summer, they must bring that same mindset to the next if they're still sitting on a mountain of cap space.