After a season filled with drama and frustrations, Kawhi Leonard is expected to part ways with the San Antonio Spurs this summer. Numerous teams with a plethora of trade assets have already been linked to the disgruntled superstar, and according to Ian Begley of ESPN, one of the potential trade destinations of Leonard is the New York Knicks.
Most Knicks fans will surely love the idea of trading for Kawhi Leonard as long as the face of the franchise, Kristaps Porzingis, is not included in the trade package that will be sent to the Spurs. Unfortunately, according to Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report, it could be the only way the Knicks could beat other interested teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and the Philadelphia 76ers from acquiring Leonard.
“Knicks fans, no doubt, would like to imagine a world in which New York could nab Leonard for a package of draft picks and young players while still holding on to Kristaps Porzingis. But if Perry and Mills can pull that magic off, then the Knicks are clearly in better hands than many previously thought. More than likely, the Knicks would need to part with Porzingis to acquire Leonard. They’d probably also be looking at a package that includes the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft and, say, Courtney Lee, to match Leonard’s salary.”
In the suggested trade scenario, the Knicks will be sending Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee, and the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard. The deal works on ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine. If the proposed trade becomes a reality, it will help both teams in filling up the needs to improve on their roster.
The Knicks will be acquiring a legitimate superstar that can be the center of their plan to build a title-contending team. When healthy, Kawhi Leonard is undeniably one of the best two-way players in the league. His arrival in New York could make the Knicks a more attractive destination for incoming free agents.
Before making any deal, Weitzman suggested that the Knicks should first get a commitment that Leonard plans to stay long-term with the team. The 26-year-old power forward has a player option on his contract that will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. However, the Knicks could only reach a verbal agreement with Leonard since the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement prevents a player from signing a contract extension for six months from the time he is traded.
Meanwhile, the deal will give Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich another project, Kristaps Porzingis, who could be the reincarnation of Tim Duncan in San Antonio. Porzingis isn’t expected to play next season but has shown a massive improvement in his rehabilitation. The Spurs could also use the No. 9 pick to find Kawhi Leonard’s replacement in the loaded 2018 NBA Draft.