Since Kawhi Leonard’s transfer request blew up sports social media, everyone has been clamoring to know where the superstar forward will go. Of course reports have it that “people close to Leonard” would like him to play in New York. To me that does not necessarily say too much, other than that his family and friends would like to exchange the dusty desert of Texas for the bright lights of New York City. In basketball terms that does not mean there is any sort of deal to be done. That’s a good thing.
The New York Knicks have finally committed to a full rebuild from the bottom up and a short cut now won’t do them any good. Superstar grabs are no sure thing and only one team wins the NBA finals this year. In order to have a shot of landing Kawhi they’d have to mortgage away their entire future right now. That would include their first round pick, Ntilikina, Kanter, and more. It would be an all chips in, now or nothing championship attempt. Do they really believe that they would have the best shot at winning a championship of all the current teams in the NBA just because they had Leonard?
Again I say, only one team wins a championship and it has to be a team effort. Getting rid of your entire base for the addition of one superstar is not worth it. The Warriors just won the NBA finals because they have a team. It may be a team of superstars, but they still play well with each other and compliment the others well. Throwing a disgruntled Kawhi Leonard in, on a one year contract where he can bolt if things don’t work out immediately, is not a smart move. As much as I love Kawhi Leonard and Kristaps Porzingis, and especially the idea of them together, that is not a team capable of beating the best teams out west. The Warriors are still significantly better organized and more talented. Never mind the Rockets, Wolves, Jazz, and the Celtics and 76ers, plus whatever team LeBron wants to join. Slapping Kawhi onto a gutted Knicks team will certainly get them into the playoffs but that’s it. In a year or so when he’s gone for a better opportunity and this team will be bereft of young talent, draft picks, and hope.
Right now the most important thing to do is continue the rebuild. This team has a lot of upside right now with this year and (very very likely) next year’s pick. In a couple years they could assemble a talented and cost-effective team. That is the key right now. The Knicks are just over the NBA salary cap right now and need to find a way to save some money to potential go after a star free agent in 2019 to add to this team or prepare for a Porzingis contract extension. Adding Leonard to the team just throws the team into chaos and confusion without forming a true superteam at the cost of their future.
That’s all relatively irrelevant though, as the Knicks don’t have the best offer on the table by far for Leonard’s services. The Lakers and Clippers got the hometown appeal, youth, and money. The Celtics have got Kyrie and a potential dynasty on the horizon. Unless Leonard is obsessed with making a name for himself in the Big Apple, no one should be expecting his appearance at MSG in a home jersey.