Knicks News, 7/2: Kawhi Leonard a realistic option in free agency as opt-out imminent

The Knicks will have their fair share of free-agent players to target this off-season, and one superstar is Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, who missed the last two games of the Western Conference series against the Phoenix Suns, is apparently frustrated with the way they handled his injury, and there is some belief that he will require surgery this off-season. The extent of the injury is unknown, and if it requires a lengthy rehab, the Knicks could stay away from Leonard, considering they need a superstar player ready for the start of the 2021-22 regular season.

However, Leonard pushed to make a return against Phoenix, but the medical staff simply wouldn’t allow him to do so. The Clippers had Leonard listed with a right knee sprain, which would suggest he avoided significant structural damage to his knee.

“I have been told by a very good source that the first issue became Kawhi was unhappy with the Clippers medical staff, because he felt that they, early on, misdiagnosed and underplayed the extent of this knee injury,” Bayless said on Friday’s episode of “Undisputed.”

If this issue is far more serious than initially diagnosed, the Knicks would have to sign Leonard with hopes of him returning at some point during the regular season next year, which ultimately might not be the most efficient move. However, the belief is that New York will pursue any superstar available on the market, especially if it doesn’t require parting ways with significant draft capital and/or young talent in a trade.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer believes the Knicks will be pressed to pursue any superstar in free agency, and Leonard arguably represents the best of them all.

The Mavericks and Heat plan to make a hard push to acquire Leonard, league sources say. The Knicks will also pursue any superstar that becomes available, and a long list of other suitors would at least make an attempt if he hits the market. Who wouldn’t want a 30-year-old two-time Finals MVP still performing at an All-NBA level?

Kawhi is coming off a three-year, $103 million deal but does have a player option for next season at $36 million. The 30-year-old small forward is expected to opt-out of his deal and take his talents elsewhere, but there is a strong possibility he tries to stay in California, where he grew up. If he is looking for a change, the best small forward in basketball is coming off a season where he averaged 24.8 points, 5.2 assists, 6.5 rebounds, and shot .512 from the field. He also connected on nearly 40% of his three-point attempts, averaging 4.9 per game.

Pairing a strong and physical defender like Leonard with Julius Randle would be phenomenal, but the Knicks still need a solid point guard to spread the ball around. Ultimately, the retention of Derrick Rose might be enough to get the job done, especially with so much fire power. Again, as long as Leonard hits free agency, the Knicks will be in the picture, but they might have to overpay for Leonard if they want to convince him to move to the West Coast.

What do you think about the next pursuing Kawhi Leonard? Would that be a good move? Comment below!