I fear I’ve fallen victim to my own optimism in speaking Kawhi Leonard to the Knicks as a possibility this offseason. I wish he were a definitive option, I just can’t foresee him declining his option with the Clippers to leave and join a middle of the road team in the Eastern Conference… that is, without another star present.
Julius Randle is a quality option on today’s New York Knicks — a star even — but he needs help, preferably in the form of players that are better than him and that can expand his game even further.
He’s, in my opinion, the beginning of a team heading toward building a trio much like the Golden State Warriors’, but the right pieces need to join forces with him.
Kyle Lowry. K. L. Kawhi Leonard. Obviously sharing the same initials doesn’t imply a “let’s team back up” is on the way, but maybe it’s possible?
Lowry is an unrestricted free agent this summer, whereas Leonard, as I mentioned, may be declining his player option to pusure a) more money or b) a new contract elsewhere… with more money.
Signing Lowry, in a perfect world, makes Leonard heavily consider New York, and vice versa. They won the 2019 Finals together as members of the Raptors, and Leonard, in hindsight, was indisputably the best teammate of Lowry’s career.
Put two and two together, and you get a recipe for another team up, this time aiding a fringe playoff team in getting over the hump. Lowry is 35, having an off year in a city that isn’t even home to his team, but is still a viable candidate for starting point guard of the Knicks, granted, the competition isn’t all that great.
Aside from a hefty price tag, the reward may outweigh the risk.
Perhaps Lowry, in a new setting, could do the same. It’s not the most foolproof idea, and all the right cards would have to fall into place, but Lowry and Leonard joining together would be nice!
Chris Paul is one of the highest paid players at the age of 36, and yet the man seems to defy the rules of aging in the NBA. He’s just as good as, if not better than, his Los Angeles Clippers days.
He went from a Rockets team that made the Western Conference Finals to a Thunder team expected to “rebuild” and brought them to the playoffs as a 5th (!!) seed. Now he resides on a Phoenix Suns team on its way to possessing the best record in the league.
I in no way mean to discredit Monty Williams or the improvements from guys like Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, and DeAndre Ayton, but the CP3 Effect is ever present on this roster.
A team that hasn’t changed much from last year is suddenly out of the ditch they were in, and not by coincidence.
Paul, too, would have to decline a player option, but it’d make acquiring him that much more worthwhile. Trading assets for him last summer would have been a mistake at the time, but then Randle became an All-Star and improved beyond expectations. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Knowing what we know now about the Knicks, pursuing him in free agency may not be the worst idea.
And last but not least, the newest member of the All-Star brigade: Mike Conley.
Conley is the youngest of the options here, and still one of the better point guards available in this free agent class. Likewise, he does have an injury history, and I’m not always the biggest fan of injury histories.
But he seems to have survived this season while being pretty durable along the way, no doubt because he’s had to shoulder much less of a load with guys like Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and even Jordan Clarkson, the favorite for Sixth Man of the Year, continuing to improve upon themselves.
His defensive impact is unquestionable, he provides a good supply of 3PT shooting, and he facilitates with the best of them.
Though he’s an unrestricted free agent, I imagine it’d be hard to pry Conley from Utah. That is, unless he hopes to make being an All-Star a regular occurrence and would enjoy a much less saturated conference as far as elite teams are concerned.
Typically, I’m a fan of patience with this franchise. However, this year proved that patience may not be as much of an option anymore.
And don’t get me wrong, these guys are just my primary choices for the Knicks’ free agency plans; there are a number of other players to pursue that still fit the goal of finding a better floor general.
Thibodeau has this team in the top ranks for defense, and they’ve shuffled around the Eastern Conference standings a number of times. The Knicks are mere pieces away from being a serious squad, and they have young players, namely RJ Barrett, vastly improving before their very eyes.
The point guard position is quite literally the weakest part of the Knicks’ roster as we speak. Immanuel Quickley is a long way from being a de facto option, Frank Ntilikina struggles to remain in the rotation, and Derrick Rose isn’t going to be an MVP again anytime soon.
Capitalizing sooner than later won’t be as big of a deal as it was a few seasons ago. Unless fans want to endure more roller coaster seasons, they should be hoping the Knicks fill some of that juicy cap space with capable players.