The Knicks expect to have meetings with Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard early in free agency before heading west to Los Angeles to meet with second-tier free agents, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic (Twitter link).
A report earlier today indicated that Durant is officially turning down his 2019/20 player option in order to hit the open market this Sunday. The Warriors, Nets, and Clippers are expected to be among the Knicks’ top competitors for the two-time NBA Finals MVP, who will likely receive long-term, maximum-salary offers from multiple teams.
As for Leonard, his free agency has long been viewed as a two-team race between the Clippers and Raptors, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reiterated during the network’s TV special on Tuesday night (video link). Wojnarowski indicated that Kawhi’s camp is also keeping an eye on the Lakers, though Chris Mannix of SI.com says people close to Leonard are skeptical that he’d join forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Knicks haven’t been mentioned much as a probable landing spot for Leonard, but they’re known to have interest and it appears as if they’ll get their shot to make a pitch.
In other Leonard news, Ian Begley of SNY.tv hears from league sources that multiple teams have expressed interest in adding the duo of Kawhi and Jimmy Butler together in free agency. Leonard isn’t believed to be seeking a team-up with another free agent, but league sources tell Begley that there are clubs who believe that playing together would appeal to the two star forwards.
The list of teams that could realistically acquire two maximum-salary free agents is slim. Begley doesn’t specifically identify any of the clubs that have interest in a Leonard/Butler pairing, but the Knicks have the cap room, so it’s possible they’ve discussed the possibility as an alternative to Durant.
The Clippers and Sixers are among the other teams that might realistically have a path to signing both players, though both clubs would have to make additional moves to create the necessary cap space. The Nets could easily open up enough room, but have been linked more strongly to Kyrie Irving and Durant than Leonard and/or Butler.