Jake Brown | Twitter |
With the trade deadline just two weeks away, there's no question Knicks GM Scott Perry should be working the phones as much as possible. Everyone will talk about the Knicks potentially being sellers, and at 21-27 and four games back of the final playoff spot in the East, that makes all the sense in the world.
One rumor that has circulated is the Knicks not exactly being sellers, but being buyers and getting Kemba Walker. The Hornets point guard only makes $12 million a year and has one year left on his contract. That's pretty affordable for an All-Star caliber player, who is from New York, and who usually lights it up at MSG.
But the one thing the Knicks should go all-in on is trying to swing a deal with the San Antonio Spurs to land Kawhi Leonard.
There clearly is some dysfunction between Leonard and the Spurs. That organization usually stays away from any sort of tabloids and they handle things the right way. It doesn't seem like Leonard and his camp are getting along well with the Spurs, though. The timetable and treatment and playing and not playing seem to be an issue with the two sides. The Spurs don't usually deal with nonsense, which makes you believe they might just listen to what teams would offer them for their star (and underrated) small forward.
Leonard has about $21 million coming to him next season and he has a player option for 2019-2020 for around the same amount. It's really not a terrible contract and would give the Knicks potentially two full seasons with him in the starting lineup. Insert Leonard into a lineup with Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., and likely Enes Kanter, and we're talking about a brand new Knicks team. That's a lineup that when you add a point guard would be a dangerous team.
Leonard would give the Knicks a much-needed defensive presence and give them another option to go to late in games. Their woes from downtown and their defensive issues would essentially be solved. Leonard is also coming off the best season of his career before getting hurt in the playoffs and before the season. 25.5 PPG with his defense ain't too shabby.
So how can the Knicks get it done?
The Knicks have the type of players that Gregg Popovich and the Spurs organization love. First off, the Spurs already said that they like Frank Ntilikina. With Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili's days almost ending in the backcourt, the Spurs are looking for young guys to step in and replace them. Adding Ntilikina would help, and under the tutelage of one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, he could be a perfect fit in San Antonio.
Willy Hernangomez is another European player that fits perfectly into what the Spurs like. He's still a bit raw, but has shown potential and could really excel in San Antonio. That's another position the Spurs will need help with since Pau Gasol's days are numbered and LaMarcus Aldridge can use some frontcourt help in the paint. Hernangomez would fit right in and could learn under the fellow Spaniard in Gasol. Both Ntilikina (play under Parker) and Hernangomez (play under Gasol) make perfect sense for the Spurs.
Will the Knicks give away both of their young pieces? It's hard to say, but it's worth taking a look. If they aren't going to even play Hernangomez, he's expendable. Ntilikina is so young and they hope he can get better as the years go along, but he's a work-in-progress. He may never be an All Star point guard. If I'm the Knicks, I'd rather deal both of them than deal a first round draft pick this season. You understand not wanting to get rid of your youth, but Leonard is a special player -- and Hernangomez and Ntilikina aren't going to become Hall-of-Famers.
The Knicks would also have to deal a bigger contract to make a trade work. Courtney Lee is the first name to come to mind. Lee is owed over $12 million each of the next two seasons. Pair Lee with Hernangomez and Ntilikina, and the money matches up for Leonard. But the Knicks would almost certainly rather do Lee, Hernangomez, and Ron Baker. Baker and his hard-nosed style of play would also work with the Spurs, so that isn't out of the realm of possibility. With Baker in the deal, though, the Knicks would likely have to throw a first round pick in there.
There wasn't much of a point to throwing Joakim Noah's name in there over Lee, simply because it's very difficult to see the Spurs taking on the $18.5 million Noah is owed next year and the over $19 million he is owed the following season. If the Spurs did, consider it the Madison Square Miracle.
It seems like Lee, Baker, Hernangomez, and a first round pick or Lee, Ntilikina, and Hernangomez and maybe a second round pick are the best deals that could be made. Will it be enough? Will the Spurs want to trade their star for these young players? That's yet to be seen, but there's absolutely no reason the Knicks should not do all they can to make a trade for Leonard happen. The fan base would be ecstatic if they landed Leonard, and it would set a tone that this team means business next season.