The likelihood of Kawhi Leonard leaving the Los Angeles Clippers is low, but rumbles have occurred in recent days suggesting that the possibility is increasing. In the case that Leonard declines his player-option and leaves Los Angeles, the New York Knicks could target him as a high priority.
Marc Stein said on a Spotify Green Room event on Friday that Dallas, Miami, and New York would chase Kawhi Leonard in the event of a departure from the Clippers:
“The Mavs will try to do everything they can to get Kawhi Leonard. The Knicks and the Heat will try as well. The situation with Kawhi is no longer a safe assumption he’s staying with the Clippers.”
Leonard underwent surgery to repair a “partially torn ACL,” but there is no timetable for his return at the moment. The probability is that Leonard will not be available for the start of the 2021-22 season, in fact, he might miss a good chunk of it.
Considering the timing of the injury, Leonard could very well miss the entire season, coming off a campaign where he averaged 24.8 points, 5.2 assists, 6.5 rebounds, and shot 51% from the field. He also connected on 40% of his shots from range, averaging 4.9 attempts per game. At 29 years old, Kawai has earned five All-Star appearances over the past six seasons, showcasing his quality and impact.
Based on Kawhi’s injury situation, the Knicks would have to be content with the fact that he might not play next year, signing him to a contract nonetheless. Currently, he is on a three-year, $103.1 million deal but is headed into the final year of the contract, which includes a player option.
If he elects to decline, he can take his talents anywhere, which would open the door for the Knicks and others to pursue. However, accepting the player option and guaranteeing his money seems like the more intelligent move.
If I were the Knicks, looking elsewhere for a player who can make an impact immediately and isn’t coming off a significant injury might be more efficient, but the opportunity to secure a generational talent is always a consideration.